Three months ago, Maven launched our social innovation arm, “Access for All” a vehicle through which our health and wellness practitioners provide free health services, via our existing platform, to lower-income women.
Figuring out how to do social good as part of our larger for-profit company was not easy, and I was surprised to find that launching a basic philanthropic effort within a socially-minded business can seem far more complex than launching the company itself.
I wanted to share the story behind our efforts – and share the playbook for how to do it – to help other entrepreneurs who want to grow their own business’ social impact.
The Maven Story…
First, a bit about Maven. Maven is a digital clinic for women. We provide on-demand appointments, by video, with a wide range of women and family health practitioners. We have hundreds of highly-vetted practitioners working on our system – mostly women, strongly mission-driven to help other women navigate health challenges. We help college girls get birth control prescriptions and understand sexual health; we help girls and women access affordable mental health appointments from the comfort of their home; we help women navigate fertility, prenatal, postpartum, and early pediatric care – on their busy schedules.
Given our broader mission of empowering women everywhere to take control of their health and well-being, it felt like a no-brainer to launch the Maven Foundation and Access for All.
As soon as I called my lawyer to discuss this concept, I started to see the challenges. To set up a 501(c) non-profit was expensive, time-consuming, with too many tax burdens for a young company to handle. My lawyer described these challenges and, in a nutshell, advised me to park the idea. I couldn’t believe how tedious it sounded… so I called a second lawyer for a second opinion. I got the same answer – don’t think about this again until we’re a larger company. But I didn’t want to give up on the idea…
A few months later, I was having dinner with an entrepreneur friend Roland Lamb. I expressed frustration at the challenges I faced setting up a social innovation arm. He suggested I create a foundation – the non-traditional way.
Thanks to Roland, 4-weeks later, the Maven Foundation and “Access for All” was born. We had spent little time and no money setting it up.
Here are 4 tips for setting up a Foundation when you are still a start-up, so that you can concentrate on driving your business while doing good at the same time:
1. Start a Donor Advised Fund
You don’t have to start your own non-profit at all! Access for All is a donor-advised fund housed inside the non-profit, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. It took just a few phone calls to set up. Amazingly, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation helps tech companies house their foundations.
If you didn’t know, a donor–advised fund is a charitable giving vehicle administered by a public charity created to manage charitable donations on behalf of organizations, families, or individuals.
2. Find Donors
In our case, some of our angel investors donated small amounts of money to The Maven Foundation to get us started. It’s enough to last us for awhile so we can concentrate on growing our business. And when we need more, by that point, we can host a fundraiser. If you don’t know any individuals who would do this, you can look to crowd-funding platforms.
3. Find Excellent Not For Profit Partners
Our mission with Access for All is to provide quality care to all women – not just women who can afford our product. So while we have women’s health providers who work on our platform and a way to deliver video-based appointments, we didn’t have an efficient way to reach lower-income women. So we partnered with four organizations who work with lower-income pregnant women.
4. Be Patient
Like everything you launch, there will always be kinks in the first few months. But that’s ok! As you grow and your brand grows, so does your foundation and social innovation arm. So just make sure you have good partners, who are in it for the long term.