Natalia Cristo has put in a lot of time and effort to promote a philanthropy based social media network which has now become an international project, supporting various non-profits worldwide. With just a simple click, it allows users to make a difference around the globe and encourages others to do the same. Today, her social media platform Mi People (formerly Mainpeople) has over 6,000 users and is growing strongly. She works tirelessly to bring this platform to an even bigger audience and strives to ensure that the money donated gets distributed with a lot of care and oversight and goes quickly to where the need is. She has been also actively involved in supporting the Peruvian village of Cuncani, which has profound issues with rural poverty.
Here she tells her story.
|CEO of Mi People and Philanthropist|
|Philanthropic Social Network|
QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY
|It is only with the heart one can see rightly; what is essential, is not visible to the eye - Little Prince|
|ROLE MODEL||Jonathan Greenblatt, US Social Entrepreneur and CEO of Anti-Defamation League|
How did you start your philanthropic journey?
When I got married, had my first child and stopped working, I was looking for something to do that was meaningful and fulfilling, but not really a full-time job. My first philanthropic cause was a major fundraising involvement with Red Tie Gala, which is the largest private event for Greater Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House, where I served on their corporate giving committee for 5 consecutive years. At the same time, I offered my services to the Cincinnati Art Museum where I helped out with their fundraising initiatives. A few months later I was asked by the museum to be on the steering committee of ‘Future’ where the focus was on engaging with the younger generations to encourage them to visit the museum and become involved with art philanthropy. Being on this committee was pretty much a full-time commitment where I began working on a lot of major fundraising events such as: “Wedding Perfection” an exhibition of weddings around the world, bringing a gardener for a private luncheon lecture from Giverny France during the Claude Monet exhibition, orchestrating an exclusive private tour of the museum’s underground facilities followed by a cocktail party in the early 70s London Underground movement style, and the museums major Gala “Farm to Table” that raised more then USD 2 million in one night.
Could you share with us some more about your philanthropic work?
My main philanthropic activity right now is of course “Mi People” and a newly established Donor Advisor Fund called “Post 4 Good Foundation” curated by fellow philanthropists and myself.
As an avid traveller to Europe and Russia, I met a lot of interesting people including many philanthropists and discovered many new initiatives to make a difference in society. After attending both the Non-Profit Leadership Institute and the Philanthropy Innovation Summit at Stanford University and doing substantial research on global philanthropy, I realised there is a public need for an easy technology or mobile application that could be also fun and rewarding at the same time making a substantial impact on philanthropy when used worldwide.
After becoming good friends and partner with a Russian philanthropist and the founder of Mainpeople project Oganes Pogosyan, I immersed in this new technology and realised that it has the potential not only for philanthropic activities but also to change the whole social media landscape as well. Currently I am the CEO of Mi People LLC (formerly Mainpeople) and the President of Post 4 Good Foundation and we already support a lot of amazing philanthropic organisations all over the world.
I also still have a seat on the Young Leaders Board at the Cincinnati Art Museum as well as serving as a Global Communications Specialist (Advisory Board) to a Paris based company called Connecty, founded by theoretical physicist to share global knowledge and scientific research.
How did you go about getting involved in helping a village in Peru?
I have been to South America and I knew about the extent of the poverty there. However, I didn’t really know much about Peru. It was while I was at the Stanford Non-Profit Leadership Institute when I met CEO of Nexus Comunitarious who taught me a lot about village life in the highlands of Peru that I didn’t know before; it is almost like stepping back in time. I also learned that some Peruvians are simply not interested in helping people in the highlands as they consider them to be a lower class. In fact, 80% of the funds coming to support the people in the highlands are from foreign donors.
How many times per year do you travel to Peru and what are your main activities there?
I just went there once and I am planning to go again in October. However, we have been supporting them financially through Mi People from September 2017. We send them donations every three months, but I want to go there and personally see and experience how people live. It was also important for me to check on how the money donated is spent. Being there in person gives a much better sense of how the donations make a real difference in practice to improving the lives of people who are in desperate need of it.
The village of Cuncani is located in the Peruvian highlands 5,000 m above sea level. People who live there have no proper nutrition, access to clean water or electricity. Most of them don’t speak Spanish (they speak native Catchwa) and have a very difficult time acclimating to Peruvian society. The village has one school where kids have to walk up to two hours one way at high altitude with no warm cloth or proper nutrition.
We support two non-profits Nexus Comunitarius and Baika, who provide hygiene supplies, medical care, build green houses and educate the locals on nutrition. In addition, Baika provides children in all Peruvian highlands with bicycles to get to school in a shorter time.
You are running the repositioning and relaunch of Mi People. Could you share with us what to expect from this new app?
The biggest change is that we have added many global non-profit organisations and it will be run through our non-profit organisation. All donations received will go to the Post 4 Good Foundation, which is a specialist donor fund established to allocate payments to global organisations. Anyone who is in the US and Europe can obtain a tax deduction. In addition, we have made a lot of technological improvements to make the site more user friendly and we now offer an English and Spanish version. By September, we expect to add Mi Story, which will have a similar layout to Instagram. With this, we hope to keep people engaged, without always having to contribute as postings will only be up for 12 hours to encourage users to open the app more frequently.
We are also developing a market place where Mi People users would be able to purchase cause related products, as well as an Auction Section, where non-profits can list any items that are donated to them (i.e. trips, tickets to events, art, etc) and Mi People users will be able to bid on them through the app.
Did philanthropy change you as a person?
Of course, it changed me from the very beginning when I became involved with the Roland McDonald House. Giving back is one of the best feelings in the world and it is so much better than receiving. And then there is the reward of seeing how you can change people’s lives with just a little bit of an effort. It can change environments and bring a bit more equality and stability to the world.
Are your kids involved in the philanthropic work you do?
In American schools you take part in community service starting from middle school and get involved in many non-profit projects. My kids are pleased to help out with such projects through school but yes, they also play their part with Mi People by posting and telling their friends about it. I want my kids to understand how helping others matters. It’s something that I hope will shape their lives far into the future.
What does your typical day look like?
Having three kids, you get up, make them breakfast and get them ready for school. As I work with Europe and Russia very closely and with the time change, I get on the phone right away and just get started taking care of all the logistics and all the things that have to be addressed with Mi People. And as soon as it hits 5pm in Russia, which is noon in America, I start my American meetings until around 3.30pm when I have to pick up my kids from school. With so much to do and think about, I am really in work mode until I finally fall asleep in the evening.
What advice would you give to a person who would like to get involved?
I believe that you can be a philanthropist no matter what you do and it is perfectly possible to help in many ways. There is no need to give a vast amount of money and a huge amount of time to call yourself a philanthropist. You can start with simply two hours per week volunteering. Most importantly, you have to feel good about it and it is better to help in the areas where you can deliver the greatest benefits. For example, if you are an accountant, it would be more impactful to give two hours of your time in the accounting department rather than in the soup kitchen. Think where you can be the most effective but at the same time it has to be rewarding for you to have the motivation to continue.