As the Honors Cohort’s April 5th exhibition night approaches, a group of the 21stclass has taken a new approach to the program’s annual impact project, a charge to make a difference in the community. “We did not want to create yet another program,” junior accounting student Jenny Zheng says. “Margie Pizzuti, CEO of Goodwill Columbus, assured us that there are plenty of those. These programs, however, are underfunded and understaffed.” The group was dedicated to bringing the right resources to nonprofits.
The group knew that they had to inspire others to explore social issues, an initiative they call cause-learning. “Millennials are more interested in a cause, rather than a specific non-profit. We want to be the go-to place for students to learn about causes and find ways to interact with them,” Zheng explains. The result of such brainstorming is MYDO, a web platform that offers aspiring donors and volunteers an avenue for channeling their passion for economic development, social change, and environmentalism.
Users begin by creating a profile and selecting their interests. An algorithm will then take those interests and fill users’ feed with an article, podcast, or video that delves into a certain cause. The topic can be researched further by selecting the curated cause at the top. Hitting the ‘explore’ button will generate content based on an entirely different cause.
With the goal of building relationships between resources and causes in mind, the team dug further than sharing content, integrating a fundraising ingredient to the recipe. As users interact with the website, credit is accrued. That credit is tied to MYDO’s fundraising reserves, and users can use that credit to donate to projects under cause categories that resonated most for them. Thus, users get a sense of where funds are going. A beta version of the application will be tested by a group of 100 in the coming weeks and official release has been set for mid-summer.
MYDO might need to rely on grants in the short-term, but they believe in their financial plan going forward. They feel they have a lot to offer to corporations, and in turn, can leverage those newfound partnerships to fuel their initiatives.
“Companies do not want to be limited to the causes they have connections to; they want to support those that their customers care about. We got on the phone with Nationwide recently, and they described their struggle in responding to the hundreds of nonprofits that ask them for money. That is where we can come in, accumulate their donations, and spread them across communities accordingly,” says junior accounting student Miki Treiber.
Building credibility is no easy task, however. As students, the team has connections with recruiters, but need to close in on the decision-makers in the Columbus area. Upon adjusting to a project with no set deadlines and clear objectives, the team is well on its way, applying for 501(c)(3) status, collaborating with 20 local nonprofits, conversing with both Fisher and Ohio State to be the first donors, and teaming with Cohort alumni to get an outsider’s perspective. “Cohort alumni have been incredibly helpful in giving feedback and raising questions,” adds Zheng. “They have pushed us to approach corporate sponsors with the mindset of how we can supply their needs.”
Despite coming from different backgrounds, both Zheng and Treiber appreciate the way in which Cohort’s impact project has pushed them outside of their comfort zones. “When I lead a project it is very one, two, three. It has been eye-opening to work in ambiguity,” Zheng states. “Technology is ever-changing. Given that it is an area I had little expertise in, this has surely been a new challenge for me.”
Treiber has more experience in entrepreneurship, but understands that he has learned just as much, if not more, than his teammates. “Freshman year I started a company and quite honestly did not know how to effectively execute on my vision. The Cohort program and its impact project been a great opportunity for me to communicate a vision and make sure everything is in place to execute on it,” Treiber asserts.
Zheng and Treiber urge students to initiate the conversation about causes they care about. “The key is to get people riled up about a project you wish to start. Understand that there is an immense amount of support you can get from this school, but make that extra effort to get people to want to help you,” Zheng suggests.
“Do not be limited by age or experience. I started my first company when I was 18. Dream up a bold vision of what you see in your own future and reverse engineer that idea by working with those who know how to make it happen. As long as you experiment, you will learn a lot about yourself and how you can interact with the world”, Treiber advises.
For those passionate about where the platform is going and interested in being a part of the MYDO movement, the team is looking for brand ambassadors, digital designers, and computer programmers. Jenny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Miki at email@example.com.