Established in the mid-1960s by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and is among the largest private foundations in the United States with an asset base of approximately $2 billion. Kauffman, a military veteran and self-made man raised in Kansas City, got his start in sales but was frustrated with the restraints and limitations he faced under the thumb of Lincoln Laboratories.
At age 33, he became an entrepreneur, starting his own pharmaceutical company, Marian Laboratories, out of his basement.
Kauffman’s business grew steadily and he departed from common practice by introducing a profit-sharing plan to all his associates. By the business’s first decade, the company reached annual sales of $1 million, and in February of 1969, after many years of exponential growth, the company went public on the New York City Stock Exchange. That same year Kauffman made a bid to bring a new baseball team to Kansas City. The Royals played their first game that same year. The front office of the Royals was the first in baseball to offer benefits and pensions.
The common thread between Kauffman’s work in baseball, sales and his future philanthropic efforts is his desire to share the rewards and treat others with respect. It is also in his approach to winning. Kauffman was a voracious reader and believed in the power of numbers. He applied baseball analytics to find the best players for his baseball team and spent his career analyzing marketing from the perspective of how people like to be treated.
When he began working with charitable causes, he wanted the problems researched. He didn’t want to patch it; he wanted to fix it.
Early Kauffman efforts focused on public health and drug prevention, but the mission of the organization crystallized early on to focus on education. In 1992 the Kauffman Foundation devoted itself to the second half of its current mission, establishing the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and allocated half of its then-$50 million annual endowments to the initiative.
Since its earliest work, The Kauffman Foundation has acknowledged inequity in education and entrepreneurial opportunity and their initiatives work to decrease these “market gaps” and increase access to financial resources and social capital.
According to the Foundation’s research, 83% of entrepreneurs lack access to venture capital or a bank loan. Capital Access Lab, started with $3 million from the Foundation provides early capital to those that make investments to underserved entrepreneurs. By funding those that provide the capital, the Foundation is hoping to create new habits of lending and spur new models of investment.
The Kauffman Foundation also supports organizations directly in communities that work against demographic, socio-economic and geographic barriers.
The Kauffman Foundation also seeks to increase feedback and community among entrepreneurs with its 1 Million Cups Program, currently in over 200 cities. The nearest location is in Central New Hampshire and meets the 1st Wednesday of the month at 8 a.m. at the Hotel Concord. Each meeting, two presenters tell their entrepreneurial story and receive feedback from the community.
Just as the Kauffman Foundation still retains its most powerful relationship with Kansas City, the Foundation encourages a vested interest with the community at hand, ending each Q and A with this final thought to the entrepreneur, “What can the community do you for?”
Paige Lindell is a freelance writer from Rindge, New Hampshire. Sierra Hubbard is a staff writer with The Keene Sentinel.