Slingshot Thoughts

by Sara Rose Gorfinkel

Whether or not you “believe” in the Slingshot Guide, you can’t deny it: there is something downright sexy about a guidebook – a “top 10,” or “top 18” as the case may be – beautifully and simply designed, promising to have separated the cream from the crop, performed some level of due diligence on the organizations listed within, and handed to us on a silver platter. Sure, it’s subjective. No, it can’t be all-encompassing. Could innovative organizations have been left on the cutting room floor? Of course. But that doesn’t make the Slingshot Guide an ineffective tool for getting our work as grant makers and agents of social change noticed by the rest of the world. The “buzz” since last week’s release about innovative social change work in the Jewish Community – at least on my Facebook feed – has never been louder.

I’m not the first person to have an opinion about the effectiveness, usefulness, or profitability of being associated with the Slingshot Guide. But with the first publication of a supplement on women and girls produced in partnership with the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York, I do feel as though I am basking in the glow of its release last week. As the Director of the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation, my chest is puffed up and I am full of pride, both for the organizations we have funded, wanted to fund, and can now make a case for funding, based on the evaluation by Slingshot that they are, indeed, leading the field in the Jewish community’s approach to addressing issues affecting women and girls.

The value of the Slingshot Guide, however, is more than merely highlighting successful nonprofit organizations in the Jewish community. The truth is that not everyone instantly understands what “social change grant making focused on women and girls” really is. Even some of the investors in TOWF have had a hard time articulating what our path to success looks like: now that we have identified the biggest issues facing Jewish women and girls in our community, what does it mean to look through a “gender lens” at the programs and services offered to them with the understanding that we can actually change the status quo? Think “Lean In” on a Jewish, local, and intergenerational level. Now, with this Slingshot Supplement, suddenly I have a reference point to the work we’ve been doing, or trying to do, for the last eight years; three of our current and past grantees are highlighted, almost one third of the organizations chosen are based in the DC area.

The argument has been made that by ”separating out” the needs of women and girls from the “mainstream,” we are failing to achieve our mission of making women’s issues everyone’s issues. But wait a second: there are at least 20 Jewish women’s foundations across the country and in Israel giving away millions of dollars collectively, and last year through a first-ever collaborative grant of $150,000 by adopting this very model. By separating out the needs of women and girls, we create a source of funding for the organizations working to address the needs of women and girls in Jewish community, even if they’re not “feminist” organizations. In this way, we are able to more effectively meet needs that are not being met, ask questions that no one else is asking, and seek large-scale systemic solutions that provide more than just a temporary fix.

I value the immediate recognition my members and audience of prospective donors have when they see the outcome of our work thoughtfully streamlined and packaged, are able to hold it in their hands, and say “Oh, now I get it.”

Sara Rose Gorfinkel is the Executive Director of the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation, the only Jewish giving vehicle in the DC area that offers women a voice and a vote in creating social change for women and girls. sara@towf.org