Ted Talks Speaker Makes Charity Accessible For College Students

Originally published online at USA TODAY college.

Want to change the world? There’s not an app for that…Well, not yet, at least.

Meet Madison Mikhail, a 22-year-old recent graduate of Capital University in Columbus, OH. Mikhail is a young woman who wears many hats: businesswoman, manager, entrepreneur, and Homecoming queen, to name a few.


While her peers spent sleepless nights drinking Red Bull and studying for exams, Mikhail spent her collegiate career creating an organization that she believes will transform the way people across the globe access and donate to charity.

“Everything in my life is accessible in one place. We have hubs that keep us updated with everything — friends, sports, news events, crafting and dating. I can see what the girl in my bio class had for lunch, but if I want to know the world’s needs, I have to search for that information,” Mikhail said in a recent Ted Talk.

In 2014, hubs of information are available everywhere -– but if a person wants to get involved with service, donations or information about the world’s needs, the information they are met with is overwhelming and many times, unreliable.

“What Facebook is for friends and ESPN is for sports, ONELIFE is for charity. When you don’t know where to start with charity, we want to be there,” Mikhail said.

ONELIFE is a nonprofit organization with a fully functioning website that Mikhail hopes will connect people with charities. But the road to getting ONELIFE off the ground has been a tumultuous one.

“In middle school, I remember sitting in a classroom and we were watching a video on global poverty. I looked around and no one seemed to care. It broke my heart,” Mikhail said.

Mikhail spent the next several years sketching her idea on paper, not quite sure where the organization could go. Finally, she realized that action, not just the presentation information, was pertinent to get people involved with charity.

“The idea wasn’t fully there until I realized I should give people a way to help. The idea of an aggregate of information developed in the last few years,” Mikhail said.

And so the process began. At 18, Mikhail walked into a lawyer’s office and made an appointment.

“His secretary probably thought I was insane,” Mikhail laughed. “Thinking, ‘What are you doing here?’’

Thus began Mikhail’s “double life”: an active member of Greek Life and pre-med student who was also attempting to launch ONELIFE. This made for a stressful, tiresome four years.

“In college, I thought I could run ONELIFE and get my PhD or become a medical doctor. I had to sit down and make a decision.”

During this process, Mikhail made the difficult, conscious choice to let her grades suffer so that she could dedicate more time and effort into bettering ONELIFE.

“I had to make a choice to let my GPA slide. I was awake until 3AM corresponding with people working with us in San Francisco,” Mikhail recalled. “I had to get up for my 8AM a few hours later.”

Mikhail now works with a team in Columbus to continue to build ONELIFE, funded entirely by private donors.

“ONELIFE is a vehicle for money, not a destination,” Mikhail asserted. “Everyone always has an agenda. My goal is for ONELIFE to be a clearing house, a place where people can go that they trust.”

Mikhail encourages young people to follow through with their dreams and goals of helping to create change in the world, no matter what the medium.

“I always tell people, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing!’ I’ve never taken a business class. I wake up and I wing it every single day.”


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