A new Cincinnati-based social media platform called Mi People is launching this fall, pioneering innovations in social media and philanthropy. CEO Natalia Cristo is on a mission not only to help the social sector leverage 21st-century tools, but also to “fundamentally change social media.”
The interface is seamless and intuitive, styled after a platform like Facebook rather than a crowdfunding format. Mi People users go about their social media business as usual — connecting with others and posting things they care about — but in an environment that is free of ads, data-mining, and knee-jerk “over-posting.”
The network is free to join, but users must load a minimum of $10 onto their account and then throw at least one dollar behind each of their posts, comments and “likes.” All posts are linked to a Mi People-vetted nonprofit of the user’s choice.
In this way, users get to initiate “threads” that raise awareness for a cause or organization that they care about, while giving others the opportunity to rally around it with their input and dollars. All dollars go directly to the non-profit in question, through a traceable and transparent transaction, and are 100% tax deductible.
Cristo is a philanthropist at heart, with fifteen years of involvement in philanthropy and fundraising for local nonprofits such as the Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Cincinnati Ballet. She is also the mother of three, ages 15 and younger, which contributes to her passion for shaping the next generation of social media.
What would it look like to create a social media network that empowers its users to build up rather than tear down or simply self-promote?
Having tested the market, Cristo notes that teenage users seem to take pride in what Mi People empowers them to do — research nonprofits, make their own choices for giving, and then watch their initial donation multiply as others “like” or comment on it. In the process, they are developing international networks centered on common interests and goals.
And global networks are no small part of the Mi People story. Having first come to Cincinnati from the Ukraine by way of a student exchange program, Cristo has experienced first-hand the benefit of international friendships and partnerships. At the same time, she has experienced the frustration of being an expat trying to give back to her home country, only to find this easier said than done.
Many nonprofits around the world do not accept donations online, and it can be complicated figuring out how to be a donor. Transaction fees, tax laws, lack of transparency, and giving requirements can create additional barriers for potential donors.
So with the help of partners in Moscow and Brussels, Cristo created a way to make global philanthropy more user friendly, while simultaneously helping nonprofits reach a broader base of donors, including millennials. And somewhere along the way, she became passionate about reinventing the social media experience as well.
The app already has English, Spanish and Russian language options, and the list of nonprofits vetted by Mi People thus far includes organizations in South America, Great Britain, Russia, Australia, Canada, and the U.S., with an emphasis on Cincinnati.
Mi People also seems to expand the notion of who can be a philanthropist. Cristo believes you are a philanthropist when you raise awareness, when you donate even a very little, and when you give of your time and energy.
The Mi People tagline, “I’m with you,” gets at the best potential of social media —solidarity, community, support and connectedness. Cristo expresses big hopes for what can happen on a global scale when that potential is nurtured and channeled for good.