Is Slingshot Guide a Rainmaker for Jewish Non-Profits — Or Waste of Time?

Groups Leverage List for Fundraising as Others Grumble

Like David: Eden Village Camp officials say inclusion in the Slingshot guide is an important stamp of approval for prospective parents. Others are less sure about the possible benefits.
ALEXIS SILVER
Like David: Eden Village Camp officials say inclusion in the Slingshot guide is an important stamp of approval for prospective parents. Others are less sure about the possible benefits.

By Julie Weiner

Published October 24, 2013.
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(JTA) — The biblical David used a slingshot to kill Goliath, thus earning the attention of King Saul.

Today, Jewish organizations are trying to use Slingshot, an annual guide of the 50 “most innovative organizations and projects,” to capture the attention of donors. The ninth installment of the guide was released Thursday.

Launched in 2005 by a group of donors in their 20s and 30s, the guide evaluates North American Jewish organizations based on “their innovative approach, the impact they have in their work, the leadership they have in their sector, and their effectiveness at achieving results.”

Inclusion in Slingshot offers “a stamp of recognition,” said Vivian Stadlin, co-director of Eden Village Camp, a 4-year-old overnight camp focused on environmental sustainability that has appeared in Slingshot for several consecutive years.

“Even if a prospective parent doesn’t know about Slingshot, to be able to say we appear in the Slingshot list of 50 most innovative Jewish groups puts people at ease,” she added. “It gives the sense that they’re climbing aboard a winning ship.”

Ed Case, CEO of InterfaithFamily, a website offering resources for interfaith families and one of the standard bearers, said making the Slingshot list offers a “heksher,” or seal of approval, “especially for new organizations getting started.”

Whether Slingshot inclusion has a financial benefit is an open question. Guide inclusion does not come with any monetary reward, although those that make the list are eligible to receive grants through the Slingshot Fund. Case said his group has received grants from small foundations that discovered it through Slingshot.

Julie Finkelstein, Slingshot’s program director, said many organizations “leverage it to receive funding from other sources.”

Sarah Lefton, executive director and producer of G-dcast, a new media production company that has been in Slingshot for several consecutive years, praised the guide, particularly the openness of its organizers to feedback.

However, several professionals say the application process is burdensome, the selection process overly subjective and the payoff not always clear.

A professional with an organization featured multiple times in Slingshot who did not want to be seen publicly criticizing the group said she has heard “a lot of grousing about it from Jewish organizations.”


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