Starting a Non-profit

You know that feeling when you have an idea and it’s about something so deeply personal that you can’t stop thinking about it? Then you notice that, through a series of events in your life, the stars have been quietly aligning for years to make it possible. It’s a great feeling.

Just over five years ago, I had a minor surgery that would set life-changing events in motion. A little over three years after that, I’d amputate my left leg below my knee. The three years leading up to amputation was a blur of research, meeting with doctors and prosthetists, and reading biographies by amputees. The two years since amputation became heavily about research, trial, and error with life hacks for thriving with an amputation.

None of it was easy. There’s information out there, sure, but none of it takes much into context. As an amputee, I have a lot in common with other amputees, but there are countless factors that make each amputee’s situation vastly different. Right or left? Above knee or below knee? One limb or multiple limbs? What are your goals? What activities do you wan to do? How far out from your amputation are you? What’s your current health situation? Do you need financial assistance? Do you have a support network to help with your recovery?

The list goes on and on. And each and every question has an impact on what information is useful to you. If your goal is to be able to walk 2,000 steps a day, an article about amputee marathon runners isn’t of much help. And vice versa. If you want to participate in a triathalon, you need different information than someone who’s focused on marathons.

As an amputee, the information is out there in pockets of knowledge or through the grapevine, but there’s not a single source of information that makes it easy to find information relevant to an amputee’s individual context and goals. What products can help? What financial assistance options are out there? What adaptive programs are in my area to help get and stay active? What socket/suspension options are out there? What are some ways to mitigate sweating, and thus slipping, with a socket?

There are countless questions and even more answers. And every answer is entirely dependent on context. Imagine for a second if you could provide some basic high-level information like your amputation level, location, and goals and get curated details about books, grants, adaptive programs, products, and so much more organized based on your specific needs and interests. That’s what we’re setting out to create.

Lauren, my wife, and I have begin to set things in motion to bring this to life. By necessity, we’ll be starting small and keeping costs low with simple newsletters and a focus on amputees, but that’s only the beginning. Long-term, we’re exploring a lot of ideas, but we want to start off with a focus on the most cost-effective options to lay a solid foundation. Then, someday if things go well, we could hopefully even expand beyond amputees and begin building sites for other groups facing disability. For now, though, we have to focus.

As a founder of a previous for-profit business, this is all new territory. With a good business model in a for-profit business, financial stability is built-in. With a non-profit organization, there’s no guarantees. That requires being even scrappier and keeping costs low to grow it in a sustainable manner. It’s a bit scary to create an entity without a built-in business model, but after conversations with other amputees and people who work with amputees, there’s a clear need for something like this. So we’re taking a leap of faith to make it happen.

Despite a little fear on the financial sustainability side, one exciting upside about non-profits is the implicit transparency. With a business, tranparency is optional, but with a non-profit, it’s part of the deal. So we’ll be fully embracing transparency with everything. So, for anyone starting a non-profit or curious about it, we’re going to share as many details about the process as possible both financially and operationally.

We’ve acquired a really great domain, and we’ve almost wrapped up assembling a board. We’re about to get the ball rolling on the non-profit paperwork so we’ll have 501(c)3 status and can begin raising some funding to really help things get rolling. So far, the work has been high-level, but as things get going, I’m excited to share more insights about our experiences and challenges with creating a non-profit.