Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos sat down with Swedish tech entrepreneur Nina Siemiatkowski, the founder of Milkywire, a donation platform that uses technology to transform the charity sector.
Siemiatkowski, 40, built the social enterprise app to help bridge the gap between grassroots activists and patrons who want to follow their donations’ impact.
What about the current landscape sparked the need for this social enterprise?
Nina Siemiatkowski: My passion for environmentalism grew from a specific project I was working on with lions and learning how vulnerable they are, with only 20,000 left in existence.
For years I was trying to engage with different organizations, finding out which would be the best to work with, and attending events. It struck me how difficult the process was through a lack of transparency and slow adoption of technology. There were so many barriers to making donations and concerns about where your money would end up. This poor experience means that people with good intentions end up doing nothing, so Milkywire was launched to change all that.
How does the app differ from crowdfunding platforms?
NS: In contrast to GoFundMe and Just Giving, all our projects on the platform are screened and vetted, and we have incredibly high assessment criteria to ensure they meet our quality standards. This ensures people end up donating to the very best organizations out there, not just those with the best images or fanciest Instagram.
We’re also solely focused on environmental causes, which is a niche that distinguishes us from other platforms. Then crucially, through Milkywire, you can follow exactly where your money went and get feedback on the projects you’re enabling, connecting with our impacters directly.
How does MilkyWire demonstrate additional value as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic? Can you provide an example?
NS: I think it’s made people more aware of the fragility of our ecosystems and resulted in people having a greater interest in positive social engagement. Our inability to travel during the pandemic means people have appreciated technology such as Milkywire’s allowing virtual connections to the other side of the planet. People can find causes close to their hearts and support them despite not being able to go there in person.
You say you have over 50 organizations on the platform, working in 30 different countries. Can you provide examples?
NS: Absolutely. Each of our impacters has a profile on our website and app so that donors can engage with them and their work. We have, for example, Jean, a biologist working to protect the coastline of Haiti. We also have Karen, who is preserving the biodiversity of the Brazilian rainforest to help endangered monkeys, and we have Thabo, an educator in South Africa who works for Earthlife Africa, providing clean and affordable energy.
We also have a new impacter, Max, a marine life doctor in Florida, saving the lives of sea turtles. So a very diverse mix of people and organizations but all with a common goal of improving our planet’s health.
What types of philanthropy do you find most attractive for the platform when evaluating who to bring on?
NS: For me, it comes down to supporting local entrepreneurship and empowering those closest to the problem, as this ensures the greatest long-term prospects of success. These people are the real experts; they just need more people to support their critical work.
I enjoy the challenge of ensuring that as much funding as possible reaches those on the ground, and of course, their work has to align with the UN Sustainable development goals, which are at the core of our business.
How do you intend, if at all, to utilize Hollywood talent, influencers, or TikTok stars into the platform?
NS: We receive a lot of interest from talent looking to engage with us. For us, it’s essential that their motivations for helping are genuine. When we’re connecting for the right reasons, it can be extremely potent in driving positive change.
We don’t just provide a logo to share. Instead, we offer a personalized and more engaging experience with tailored portfolios of projects which they can support and engage with long-term. That way, they can build a relationship between their followers and the causes they’re supporting, and they can use the tech we provide to engage their audience in their cause.
How does A$AP Rocky’s support with Klarna/GiveOne play into the continued growth and success of Milkywire?
NS: For the organization in Kenya and their founder Michael, it meant a great deal. The donation enables his organization to continue planting millions of trees and running education centers to teach children about environmental preservation.
Beyond his donation specifically, his involvement will hopefully inspire others to contribute to environmental causes, perhaps raising the measly two percent of philanthropic giving currently spent on fighting for the environment.
Brands and businesses are under increasing scrutiny from their customers, who are demanding greater transparency in their operations. Milkywire is enabling brands to build lasting relationships with their customers through a shared philanthropic purpose. Corporations and individual donors can learn more about the innovative ways to make an impact on environmental issues on milkywire.com or by downloading the Milkywire app.