By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer

Southwest Baltimore native Jamye Wooten is the creator of CLLCTIVLY, which brings together Black-led social change organizations in Greater Baltimore to spur collaboration and maximize impact. 

The organization maintains an online directory of existing organizations in the area to prevent the fragmentation and duplication of services. It also engages the local community around philanthropy for these organizations. 

On Aug. 4, CLLCTIVLY will commence its annual CLLCTIVGIVE, a 24-hour crowdfunding campaign to advance local Black-led social change organizations. Its goal is to raise $1 million. 

The AFRO recently caught up with Wooten to learn a little more about CLLCTIVLY and its commitment to social impact. The responses below have been edited for length and clarity. 

Q: Can you talk about your professional journey leading up to establishing CLLCTIVLY?

A: I used to be the director of an organization called the Collective Banking Group. They’re now called the Collective Empowerment Group (CEG), and they work with over 200 churches in faith-based economic development in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. We provided over $300 million in loans to faith-based institutions. 

Some of my more recent work came in 2015. I was one of the co-founders of Baltimore United for Change (BUC), and that was a coalition of 10 grassroots organizations that came together after the murder of Freddie Gray. It was at that time that I created a skills bank as an on ramp for folks who were looking for opportunities to plug into the community. We used the skills bank to engage over 260 organizations and individuals. 

Q: What is CLLCTIVLY, and why did you create it?

A: I launched CLLCTIVLY in 2019 to be a resource for those that seek to find, fund and partner with Black-led social change organizations. Nationally, some data shows that Black-led organizations only receive about 2 percent of the $60 billion in foundation funding. We work as the intermediary between foundations, corporate partners and individual donors to mobilize resources to communities that have historically been left behind and faced disinvestment. We want to make sure that they have what they need not only to survive but to thrive. 

Q: CLLCTIVLY has a focus on funding Black futures, can you discuss the ways in which the organization achieves this?

A: When we started, we launched with our Black Futures Fund. It’s a monthly funding contest where organizations can submit a two- to three-minute video and the community at-large votes. We’ve had over 110,000 community members participate in the voting. Winners receive micro grants ranging from $1,000 to $2,000. 

Often in philanthropy, these are programmatic dollars where organizations don’t have the freedom to use the money any way they want. What CLLCTIVLY has done is provide over $1 million of unrestricted dollars so the grantee can use them in any way they see fit. 

Another grant we did last year was called “We Got Your Back.” We provided a Black woman-led organization, Mobile Movement Studio, with a $2,000 monthly stipend to support its founder, Dominiece Clifton, for one year. We often say that philanthropy invests in projects and programs, but we wanted to invest in a person. 

Q: Being at the forefront of social justice and change, what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career? 

A: At the beginning of founding CLLCTIVLY in 2019, many people asked why the focus was on Black-led organizations. Then 2020 hit. There was a pandemic, and George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were murdered. It was an aha moment for philanthropy and the corporate sector. They began to understand why I was funding Black-led organizations. 

I think the discouraging part of that is that it takes Black death to raise awareness and mobilize resources for systemic and structural issues. Unfortunately, when the media cycle goes away, the dollars normally go away too.

This work involves constantly raising money and telling the stories of Black-led organizations. It’s hard work, but it’s a blessing to get phone calls or texts of appreciation. Knowing that this money is impacting the work of those on the ground gives me the wind beneath my wings to keep going. 

Q: What do you want for the future of Baltimore’s Black community? 

A: For me, this work is all about self-determination. It’s about the ability for groups to decide what they want for themselves. One of the reasons why we’re supporting and funding Black-led organizations is because often those most proximate to the problems are not seen as experts. We want to shift the center of gravity and put it on those who are on the ground and in the community. 

We understand that there is Black genius within our communities. We want to make sure that Black people have the resources to be self-determined and to make the decisions they want to better their neighborhoods and communities. 

Megan Sayles is a Report For America corps member.