Altruism And Giving Circle Leadership
By Katherine Readey Chilcote
I’m one of the non-native, rah! rah!, pro-Cleveland people. Which I think a lot of people who come here who didn’t grow up here just find that this region is so excellent with so many assets and a great place to raise a family, so I’ve really enjoy my time in Cleveland. I have to say the people I’ve found here are so excellent, great, passionate and a lot of civically engaged community-minded people so I really enjoy being part of that community.
Engaged Leadership Gives Back
My journey before going to business school, I had been a teacher, I was really interested in education and very interested in the nonprofit sector. I had explored some opportunities to work in the nonprofit sector but ended up landing in the corporate sector. I really felt strongly and compelled about staying engaged and giving back.
It’s something that ever since I was in college I got the opportunity to teach in the summer school program.
Specifically, I was working with at-risk youth from pretty rough neighborhoods in Kansas City, Missouri, neighborhoods where you don’t go outside after dark kinds of places. Just being exposed to that and seeing the kind of need that exists, I felt really compelled after that experience, given the things I had been given and the privileges and resources I had that, it was really sort of an obligation, I felt to be engaged and continue to work civically in some way.
That was a big thing that brought me to teaching and to want to be engaged in that, but then when I transitioned to go into business school, the thing about that was just understanding more about organizations, how they work, how I could help them, and wanting to stay, even though I had landed in a for profit corporate job but wanting to stay connected and continue to be a contributor to the nonprofit sector and to civic engagement in Cleveland in general.
Support What's Interesting
Certainly, people continue to give to the charities and nonprofits that are compelling to them and I continue to do that too. But having a little more control over the situation and being able to “vet out” who’s out there and who’s doing things that are interesting.
I think that the other thing that’s compelling to me is having had some experience with foundations and having a little understanding about how the nonprofit sector works, if you are in a foundation you can only give money to organizations who have already established a certain status, they have to have a 501(c)(3) status.
And they have to have a certain level of sophistication. I had worked with organizations who were trying to get that status, it’s very difficult to do. There’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of red tape and so the idea of being a part of this group that could be a little more grassroots and could find some of these organizations that weren’t at that level of sophistication yet, but still needed a boost. Still needed something to get them up to that next level, that kind of thing was super exciting to me.
One of the things I really love of being a part of the Colectivo is that we don’t have a script. We can change our process anytime we want, we are not locked in. We’ve given a set of grants out every year for the past ten years - but, we could take a year off, we could take three years off. We could start giving money out every month.
There’s millions of different ways to do this and the kinds of people that have been attracted to this group and that have come to this group are completely bought into that. They like the idea of what we’re doing, pooling money and trying to identify organizations that need it. But, there’s no board, there’s no executive director, there’s no real power structure, we’re just all there trying to figure out something cool to do to help our city.
That kind of flexibility is what’s made it so sustainable, what’s made it so enjoyable and is what has allowed it to really evolve and to have a totally different leadership model. Different people can step up to take on things, if they’re passionate about it and we say, “Go, do it!”
There’s no, “Well, we usually do it this way.” We don’t do it that way. So, that’s what I think is really fun, that we can constantly re-create ourselves and constantly innovate, there’s really no one way to do it.
That’s what I think my background of wanting to be compelled to be civically engaged, to be involved in my community, to give back where I can and then get to take my entrepreneurship “bent” and help other people who I see who are entrepreneurs themselves, more civic, socially-minded entrepreneurs and help them get to their next steps.
Katherine Readey Chilcote is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Colectivo. Katherine is employed as a consumer product marketing professional and change agent. She specializes in communications across functional teams to advance new process development, creative problem solving, and organizational performance. Connect with Katherine Readey on LinkedIn. "A spirited trailblazer spurring teams to bold frontiers."
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