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Meet Fatima M. Smith of Collective 365

Today we’d like to introduce you to Fatima M. Smith.

Fatima, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Collective 365 was an idea of mine in 2016, but then life happened and it was placed on hold. The idea to create an organization that had the sole function of providing grant funding to individuals, businesses, and organizations that primarily serve Black and Brown’s communities came from my experiences in the non-profit sector. As a former Director of Community Outreach at a non-profit, I would assist the grant writer and it was an exhausting process. A lot of work time and energy gets placed in writing grants and sometimes you apply only to be awarded half of what you requested or nothing at all and it can be very frustrating. When I think about small organizations that are already strapped for time and person power, it made me question how they get funding. These small organizations are being asked to allocate time and staff to write a grant, which means they are taking time and staff away from service delivery to the community. I was also inspired by individuals and grassroots organizers who are doing incredibly dope things but are disqualified from many funding sources because they are not a 501(c)(3) and/or have a minimum operating budget. Collective 365 wants to fill that gap.

We know that only 2% of foundation funding is given to Black and Brown organizations, but that needs to change. Instead of complaining, we came together to create our own funding source. Although I left the non-profit word in 2016, I knew I wanted to do something about it and fast forward four years later I said 2020 is going to be the year that Collective 365 goes from an idea to a reality.

I identified 11 other individuals who shared a passion for celebrating and investing in Black and Brown communities in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We began planning in early 2020 and then COVID-19 happened and there was a moment of fear that we wouldn’t be able to move forward but the exact opposite happened. The health pandemic and the continued disregard for Black life was even more of an incentive to actually move forward. We must be intentional and strategic about celebrating and investing in the improvement of education, enhancement of workforce development, and addressing health disparities and social justice issues within Black and Brown communities.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Starting an organization during a global health pandemic has its own challenges, but the passion of the co-founders and the community has really been amazing. One of the challenges is not being able to build connections and spread the word. In addition to creating community-based grants, Collective 365 is about building a network of community-conscious individuals who want to celebrate and invest in Black and Brown communities. We intended to have opportunities for members to engage in volunteer opportunities, but with COVID-19, that looks different.

We’d love to hear more about Collective 365.
Collective 365 creates community-based grants to be awarded to individuals, organizations, and/or businesses that are primarily serving Black and Brown communities in DC, Maryland, VA. Grants are created through membership fees ($50 or more) or general donations from community members. We launched on July 6, 2020, and as of July 22, we have raised $3,700. Our first fundraising goal is $15,000 by September 1. Collective 365 is different than other giving circles or grant-making organizations because:

1) We allow individuals, organizations, and businesses to apply
2) We do not require a minimum operating budget to apply
3) We only award grants to those who are primarily serving Black & Brown communities in the DMV area.
4) We do not require grant applicants to be a 501(c)(3)
5) Our application process is simple

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t believe in luck. I believe that timing, prayer, resources, and support systems allow for certain opportunities to occur in my personal and professional life.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
SoHo Photography & Richmond Times Dispatch

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