The Challenge

Everyone needs health care. And everyone should have access to the care they need, regardless of their income, the color of their skin, or the language they speak. 

Enter the California Health Care Foundation’s Innovation Fund

For the last decade, the CHCF Innovation Fund has served as a bridge between emerging health solutions and technologies, and the health care providers who can use the solutions to improve care for those living on low-incomes. By investing in emerging solutions and providing mission-aligned companies with needed support to scale, the Fund has helped improve care for over five million Medi-Cal patients. 

Despite this track record, the CHCF Innovation Fund’s team has struggled to tell their story and expand visibility with the audiences who are crucial for the success of their mission. These audiences include entrepreneurs with promising solutions, Medicaid plans and providers who might adopt new technology solutions, and investors who might provide further funds to solutions to help them scale. 

Heartwired Insight and Strategy

The CHCF Innovation Fund’s existing messaging emphasized that a primary reason to invest in innovations being developed by health entrepreneurs was the profit opportunity presented by California’s safety net. The Fund’s team was nervous that while this messaging might be great for investors and entrepreneurs, it might not resonate with health care providers who were more mission-focused. The Fund was also rolling out new programs to reach more entrepreneurs who are women, who are Black, and who are Latinx. They needed a brand story that emphasized to private investors why diversifying who they funded was so important to improving health care.  

In fact, Wonder’s research uncovered that profit was not a primary motivation for any of the Innovation Fund’s three priority audiences. It was especially surprising that profit was not the primary motivation for investors. Instead, the types of investors who were most interested in partnering with the Innovation Fund were drawn to their social impact—rather than profit as a primary motivation. By making the connection between entrepreneur’s lived experiences and potential for social impact, audiences were motivated to work with the Fund.

“What I appreciated about (CHCF) is … that they had a focus on Medicaid, and the underserved population. That resonated with me.” –Investor

“[My first impression of the Fund is] good people, really good people. They truly believe — they want to improve healthcare and that is their mission.” –Investor

Wonder’s research also uncovered that the most powerful messengers for activating their audiences were stories from purpose-driven entrepreneurs that the Fund has invested in. We developed messaging prototypes including a story featuring Nathan Pelzer, the founder of Clinify Health, which we tested during in-depth interviews with the Fund’s audiences:

Nathan Pelzer, CEO of Clinify Health, credits his drive as an entrepreneur in the health system to his mom. “Watching my mom bust her butt as a nurse to take care of two boys, I saw the passion health care providers have for their jobs. She instilled in me the character of helping others.”

“Being a Black founder, I didn’t necessarily get the same opportunities as other people. I don’t have a family member that I can go ask for $200,000 to get my idea off the ground. The people I had to ask for money didn’t necessarily look like me.”

Nathan faced a lot of noes before getting his first yeses. “I started Clinify with nothing more than an idea. I put the idea on a pitch deck and printed out a bunch of PDFs. I rented a car, threw my print-outs in the trunk, and drove to South Side hospitals in Chicago. I had to persevere through the noes and take their feedback while staying true to the mission.”

Clinify Health now supports five health center organizations at 35 sites with improved care. Reflecting on this growth, Nathan shared, “For the longest time, people said it was impossible to improve Medicaid. But look at us — together with the amazing health care providers with whom we are partnering — we are doing it.”

Throughout Wonder’s research interviews with other entrepreneurs, investors and providers, we listened to understand the elements of the story and new messaging prototypes that helped them to untangle the psychological and emotional knots that interfered with their support of the Innovation Fund’s mission.


After reading Nathan’s story, entrepreneurs, investors and Medicaid health providers were much more likely to want to engage with the CHCF Innovation Fund team. As one representative of a Medicaid plan said, “It makes me want to partner with Clinify Health.” Wonder worked with our partners at CHCF to craft and publish additional stories of CEOs in the Innovation Fund portfolio that could engage various partners. 

We also partnered with the Innovation Fund to provide strategic counsel as they worked to implement this new brand story. Wonder also developed messaging guidance and a brand video that was based on messaging insights.

Combined with visibility and awareness efforts, these materials are helping to grow support for solutions that can improve health care for those living on low-incomes.