Founder of the Month: Sandra van Beest and The Social Handshake

We want to talk, listen and tell together inspiring stories of founders, who decided to kick off with their own business: this month has been dedicated to Sandra van Beest, founder of The Social Handshake. A fintech company, that makes doing good easy. Indeed the social handshake offers LoonGift, a new fringe benefit for progressive companies. LoonGift is a direct donation from your salary to one or more charities. Often also with a tax benefit.

Looking at Sandra van Beest’s LinkedIn profile you will surely notice a curious background, spanning from the NGO sector to being a business consultant strategist at Boston Consulting Group, passing previously through an academic path in Law, conflict studies, and International relations. Intrigued by her background, but above all by her startup, The Social Handshake, which among other things recently celebrated its 2nd year anniversary, we took the opportunity to have a chat with Sandra, who shared with us a lot of interesting insights.

The charity girl

Originally from the NGO sector, Sandra since her time at university has always been involved in social non-profit projects, which is why she is a true charity girl by heart. Although she also experienced the world of big numbers.”I wanted to get out of my bubble and I was interested to see also how the world of Economics works, that’s why I became a strategy consultant” admits Sandra.

Though enjoying her job as a strategy consultant, she realized soon it wasn’t her thing for the long term. While she started at BCG as the charity girl, her commitment became overtime less, until one day:

I had a very busy job, when my son was born. So life was just very busy. But then the wake-up call was once my daughter was born, when I saw images from Syria broadcasted on television.

Struck by what was happening in the Middle East, Sandra realized that while she was once the charity girl, after 5 years at BCG, little was left of her social commitment.

From the Syrian revolution to her personal evolution

After realizing, she was hardly doing anything anymore, Sandra started to talk with the people in her network, encountering a common feeling. “So then I thought but if so many people have the same feeling I am having, there is an unmet potential here” continues Sandra.

Indeed there was. From her research emerged that while there was often a possibility to volunteer within companies, there was nothing yet around giving, which led her to reflect on which could be the most effective way to have an impact by engaging a highly busy audience. Often too overwhelmed to engage in charity activities, or even to think about it. The spark came one evening while discussing with her husband.

One evening I was talking to my husband, and I literally said to him if I only could give a part of my salary, then at least I would be doing something.

9 months after she quit her job, and took a year to set up the start of The Social Handshake.

Receiving and giving

Having a diversified background turned out to be useful in setting up her own startup. Sandra studied law for her bachelor, but never had the opportunity to put it into practice. “The first steps were mostly diving into legal and fiscal documents to be able to arrange with tax authorities, so having a legal background did help to interpret the laws” explained Sandra to Equals (formerly known as We Rise).

Similar case with her business experience: skills such as Excel and creation of Canvas business models helped her throughout the market analysis for her own business idea. Not to forget, her extensive knowledge about NGOs, which are today the main benefactors of her startup. But of course, she wasn’t left alone.

Obviously I didn’t do everything on my own. First I spoke to different people. Then PwC and De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek got on board. Together we made an agreement with Dutch Tax Authorities and that’s how we started.

Today, 2 years later, the Social Handshake, not only has a successful team, but it works together with the most varied organisations and enterprises, offering payroll giving. For those who don’t know, payroll giving is a way to donate money to charities, directly subtractable from the salary and often with a tax benefit.

We make doing good easy

The Social Handshake can offer the benefit of Payroll Giving to any organization in the Netherlands. Even though, as mentioned by Sandra, the ones offering payroll giving are often organizations that care for sustainability. “We do notice that organisations who are a B-core or are aiming to become a B-core, are more involved with employee engagement” she specifies. The benefits are many, not to mention the 39% higher retention, coming from people being more proud of their organizations.

Who is on the receiver side of the payroll giving, instead, is selected thoroughly with experts in the field, taking into consideration transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness. On the website, you can scroll down the list of registered charities, rigorously only ANBI.

From Nature & Environment to animal care, and refugees, the list is long and in constant growth.If we would make a pie chart with our data, you would notice how one-third of the people choose nature-related organisations, says Sandra.

Sandra is optimistic: “within the next 8 years we want to generate more than 100 000 000 for charities, to make sure to get a more healthy world to live in”. Once The Social Handshake is up and running in the Netherlands, the possibilities of expanding further where there is demand is definitely among her goals.

What do we learn from Sandra and the Social Handshake?

“You cannot get it always straight away from the beginning“: you will always get some bumps along the route, especially in a startup. But if your path is uneven it doesn’t mean you won’t get where you want.

“Failure is not a fixed state, but it’s temporary”: you don’t have to deliver everything alone. Each of us is fitting in something, you just need to know what you are good at and where you can use it. Surround yourself with who complements you: teamwork is the key!

“If I am 70 and I look back on my life, would I wish I have tried?”: whenever you are scared about a choice or a path to take, try to identify yourself with an older version of yourself and think if you wish you had tried or given up, just because you were scared.

Last but not least, “if you are passionate about something, it comes natural and it feels less like work” concludes Sandra with a beaming smile, lighting up her whole face.