Cleveland Colectivo Turns 10, Gives Away $10K


Thu 5/7 @ 6 – 9pm

All too often people have big ideas but no way of bringing them to fruition. That’s where the Cleveland Colectivo comes in. For the past 10 years, the Colectivo has pooled funds and given it away to selected local organizations. It started out as a small group of like-minded friends who wanted to “stop talking about Cleveland’s problems and start investing in solutions.” Now the network includes a growing number of members.

Join the Cleveland Colectivo at their 10th anniversary bash, Bowlectivo, held at the Nash in Slavic Village. Build, bid, bowl and draw inspiration from Clevelanders with big ideas. This year, instead of giving many small grants, the Colectivo will be giving away $10,000 to one worthy organization that you can help decide.

We spoke to Cleveland Colectivo’s Katherine Readey about the organization’s success, the big event and how they choose their grantees.

CoolCleveland: Congrats on your 10 year anniversary! How has the Colectivo grown and thrived throughout the years? How many members are there today vs 10 years ago?

Katherine Readey: The Colectivo has definitely thrived over the 10 years that we have been making small grants to community groups and individuals.  Having said that, I believe our total number of full paying members ($400/year) has remained steady at 25-30 total.

What has changed dramatically is the core group of active, involved members that keep the organization afloat. While there are a few people from the original group that got together 10 years ago to form the Colectivo, we’ve been able to attract a new crop of Clevelanders who are just as interested in the original mission and love being part of a volunteer-run organization that is doing something cool for our city.

It’s been exciting to see that kind of turn over because it shows the Colectivo is sustainable and has longevity. We’ve always strived to be as welcoming as possible to potential new members or anyone who wants to be involved. Since we have no true leadership structure, there’s always room for someone, no matter how new, to jump in and take a leadership role.

The other really cool thing is that several of our members are also past grantees. When we originally formed the group, we talked about pooling money to fund cool things that our group members wanted to do. While we mostly funded projects outside of our group initially, we’ve increasingly funded projects from group members. It’s always been our policy that anyone who applies to us for funding can join as a member too!

This year it sounds like you aren’t giving small grants; instead, you’re giving out one $10,000 grant. Are all organizations who’ve received Colectivo funding in the past in the running?

We sent out an open invitation to all the organizations that we funded over the past 10 years to send us a 2-3 minute video that summarized what they did with the initial funding we gave them, and what they could do with a $10,000 grant.  Out of the almost 60 different groups that we’ve funded, we had 12 groups submit a video to be considered for our 10th year anniversary $10,000 award.

Tell us more about the bowling event. What can people expect? How will they play a part in choosing the $10K winning recipient?

We’re looking forward to a really fun event at The Nash on Thursday, May 7th from 6-9pm ( for more details and to register — $10 donation will get you into the event, plus a drink ticket).  We will be showing the 12 videos that our past grantees have submitted during the event.  For anyone who wants to view them before the event, they are posted on our website.

In addition, we are allowing past grantees to display/handout anything they would like to promote their organizations and/or current projects. Each person who attends the event will receive a ballot to vote for their favorite project. The project that receives the most votes will receive $500 and an automatic spot as a finalist for the $10,000 award. The project that receives the second most votes will also be a finalist for the $10,000. Colectivo members will identify another 2-4 additional finalists who will move on to our second round.

We will have a silent auction that includes donations from a mix of community partners and past grantees.  There are many fantastic auction items that are available. Some examples include: gift certificate to Edwins restaurant, a subscription to Edible Cleveland, an afternoon with a beekeeper at Blue Pike Farm, and tickets to Talespinner Children’s Theater productions. All money raised at the auction will go into the pool of Colectivo funds to be distributed to our grantee.

The final bit of excitement will be the “wild card” bowl-off. We will allow up to 16 people with a cool idea that they can use $10,000 for to bowl for a chance to be a finalist in our decision making process. We’re doing a “sweet sixteen” bracket tournament approach. Those who want to enter in the bowl-off should arrive early as the sign-up for this will be first come first served.

Following the event, the finalists will be invited to make a short proposal and informal presentation to Colectivo members, who will determine the recipient of our $10,000 anniversary grant. All event proceeds will go towards future Colectivo grants.

There are so many wonderful organizations in CLE. What makes some stand out for Colectivo funding? 

Every year we run our process it is VERY difficult to decide who to give our money to because there are so many worthy organizations and individuals doing great things in this city.  It’s part of what has been so fun about being involved in this organization.

From the beginning, our mission was to identify projects (and people) that were doing interesting, innovative things but were flying below the radar.  We like identifying projects that may be in the early stages of development or just on the brink of taking off and then putting our support behind them so that they can grow to that next level.

We have given money to individuals, nonprofits, and for profit ventures over the years.  Having a tax exempt status is not a pre-requisite for receiving funds from the Colectivo.  Our group consistently gravitates toward projects that have a passionate champion who convinces us that he/she is going to pull off something cool and innovative, no matter what challenges (money or otherwise) might present themselves.

We’re also willing to take risks.  We’ve had instances where a fundee was not able to execute their project and so they returned the money we gave them.  We’ve also had instances where fundees didn’t execute the project in the timeframe they were hoping to.  In the end, we’re less concerned with specific timelines etc., and more focused on the community building aspect of showing that we support what that individual is doing and believe they’re bringing something great to the city.

To quote another Colectivo member, the money is just a form of energy that we’re throwing behind these projects. What we’re doing has ultimately been a community building exercise where we place a vote of confidence in someone and play a small part in helping them execute on their vision.

Anything else you’d like to add? Future plans?

We have a summer business meeting every year where we talk about what we liked about the prior year, what we would do differently, and what we’d like to see the organization do in the future.  The really fun thing about being part of this group is that we get to make up the rules as we go along.  We could decide to change our model again, like we did this year.  The past few years leading up to this one we’ve held a “fast pitch” event to give potential fundees a chance to pitch their ideas to us.  We may go back to that next year, but there are no guarantees.

I think all of us have enjoyed the chance to take a step back this year and get to honor our past fundees and all the amazing work they do.  It’s been fun to change the script a little, and I expect we’ll be looking for other ways to evolve our process in the future.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Cleveland Colectivo or becoming a member should check out our website at or email for more information and to get involved.

Be sure to attend the Cleveland Colectivo Bowlectivo Thu 5/7 from 6 – 9pm at the Nash.




Cool Cleveland correspondent Sarah Valek studied art and writing at Ithaca College. After graduation, she came back to Cle and served two years as an AmeriCorps*VISTA with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. She can be found on all sides of the city in pursuit of homeschooling activities for her son and the perfect soy latte. Contact her at or via Twitter.






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