Introducing the Slingshot 50, 2010-2011

Slingshot present’s the sixth annual edition of Slingshot: A Resource Guide for Jewish Innovation, featuring 50 inspirational organizations in Jewish life in North America:

While Slingshot ’09-’10 was published amid a time of economic instability and fear, Slingshot ’10-’11 features a cautiously optimistic Jewish innovation sector, where several organizations have found start-up funds or stability through mergers and strategic alliances. However, many organizations that have been around for five years or more are struggling to find funding to support the second stage of their growth. What is standing in the way of these organizations becoming sustainable? What is the path from start-up to establishment?

… Since the topic of this guide is innovation, the first question from most readers is, “How many new organizations are featured this year?” For those who are wondering about the “next big thing”, this year’s evaluators have been inspired by 18 new groups. However, we at Slingshot are asking a different question this year. Why is it so difficult for non-profits in the Jewish community to move from the start-up phase to the mezzanine or second stage of organizational growth and sustainability? Many readers will look at this guide and say, “Why is a guide about innovation talking about sustainability?” We are turning the tables and applauding those groups that have remained innovative – even during a recession – in the hopes of stabilizing and growing. We’re also asking how can we, the funding community, do a better job at helping these organizations help us?

Sustainability takes more than three, or even six, years to achieve.
We have learned from six years of Slingshot guides that sustainability cannot be achieved in a three-year funding cycle. Most organizations featured in the pages within have out-lasted the three-year grant cycles of their initial funders and have not found supporters to replace them, much less provide additional capital for growth. The for-profit world has found that a start-up’s initial growth stage lasts for eight or more years. Can we inculcate that into Jewish funders’ expectations?

Build infrastructure to match impact.
While many organizations in Slingshot ’10-’11 have had impact on the lives of Jews across North America and even around the world, very few have built organizational structures to support their impact. They’ve leveraged their small amount of operating capital to scale up programming, but not their own infrastructure and capacity. While a few have found success through mergers and alliances, the majority are struggling to grow into mezzanine organizations, lacking diverse boards, formal evaluation procedures for all staff members, annual communications and fundraising plans, and other operational policies and procedures. Can our community move beyond program costs and support infrastructure development?

Mission first.
Slingshot has participated in the quest for inspirational Jewish leaders, especially among the next generation of professionals, and has highlighted many of those outstanding social entrepreneurs in the pages of the last five guides. We honor those individuals because they have carried their families, organizations and larger networks almost literally with their own blood, sweat and galvanizing force of character. This year we have elected to use all of the roughly 300 words allotted to each profile to focus on the organization’s missions and activities. While we still believe in the importance of entrepreneurs, founders and leaders, we hope to set an example for the Jewish community that we are all responsible for ensuring the success of the organziations in Slingshot ’10-’11. Individualism may abound, in fact, may be the catalyst for change, but the community must share the responsibility for its own success. How can the community shift our focus to mission?

As the older organizations in Slingshot ’10-’11 either find stability or fold, it is critical that we re-examine what we can do to build a pipeline that will support organizations as they grow from start-up phase through the second stage of their growth. The Slingshot Fund, created by next generation funders in their 20s and 30s, will continue to provide operating support to build the capacity of ten groups featured in the guide this year and aims to mobilize additional in-kind and technical assistance contributions to the entire 50. We hope you will join us in these efforts to ensure the success of our Jewish future.

According to Will Schneider, the Director of Slingshot, “2010 was the most competitive year that Slingshot has experienced. Not only are there a greater number of applicants each year, but the extent and complexity of each applicant’s impact has increased. The feedback from the evaluators told us that the guide could easily have been filled with twice as many inspirational projects, so these 50 had to really shine to rise to the top.”

Here’s this year’s 50:

  • ACCESS: AJC’s new generation program
  • Advancing Women Professionals
  • Be’chol Lashon
  • Bible Raps
  • Brandeis University’s Office of High School Programs
  • The BYFI Alumni Venture Fund
  • Center Without Walls
  • Challah for Hunger
  • ENCOUNTER
  • Gateways: Access to Jewish Education
  • G-dcast
  • Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life
  • Hazon
  • Hillel’s Campus Entrepreneur & Senior Jewish Educator Initiative
  • The HSL Chaplaincy Institute
  • The Hub of the JCCSF
  • IKAR
  • Institute for Curriculum Services
  • Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues
  • InterfaithFamily.com, Inc.
  • JDub
  • Jewcy
  • Jewish Book Council
  • Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
  • Jewish Farm School
  • Jewish Funds for Justice
  • Jewish Heart for Africa
  • Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn
  • Jewish Milestones
  • Jewish Outreach Institute
  • Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation
  • The Kavana Cooperative
  • The Kehillah Partnership
  • KESHET
  • Makom
  • Mechon Hadar
  • Moishe House
  • MyJewishLearning.com
  • Nehirim: GLBT Jewish Culture and Spirituality
  • PANIM Institute of BBYO
  • The PresenTense Group
  • Project Chessed
  • Reboot
  • Rose Youth Foundation
  • Seeds of Peace
  • Selah Leadership Program
  • Sharsheret
  • Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists
  • Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
  • Uri L’Tzedek
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Comments

  1. says

    Mazel tov! I’m interested in learning more about this process and why hardly any of the worthy initiatives named in this year’s 50 (except for 2 I think) are not focused on engaging our youth, beginning with elementary through high school?

  2. says

    I agree with Rabbi Sinai about the neglect of funders for innovation in educating the FutureGen of the Jewish world. Generation Z (those under the age of 18 today) have been described as having even less community affiliation than previous generations, so the Jewish community should start showing conern about them now.

    It appears that the great majority of funders, particularly the “innovation” ones, find college students and 30-somethings more appealing than kids. Certainly they are an easier crowd to work with logistically.

    But that should reinforce the importance of finding and backing innovative programs for younger students that are proven investments, and can easily be upscaled, like the Eco Connection :)

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