We share the process of creating Slingshot to ensure all readers, whether you read the guide at your kitchen table or in a foundation board room, that the organizations in this guide have been vetted by professionals. Over the course of nearly a full year, the Slingshot staff solicits nominations, reviews evaluation forms, and conducts due diligence. The process centers on a community of professionals across the country who generously volunteers their time and expertise to review hundreds of applications. While this community was critical in the creation of Slingshot 2017, Slingshot takes full responsibility for its content.

Step 1 – Solicit Nominations

The process of developing the book started in September of 2016, when we released the 2017 application form here on our website. Slingshot staff encouraged anyone and everyone to apply, or to nominate the organizations or projects that inspire them. In particular, we asked people to think about projects and organizations that best reflected our four criteria: innovation, impact, strong leadership and organizational effectiveness. Organizations were instructed to apply based on one of three broad life stages: start-up, mezzanine, and legacy. They are defined as: 

  • Start-up: “A start-up organization is in its earliest stages of development. It typically has a founder with a vision or idea and has just begun to establish a funding stream, employee structure, business model, and practices and approaches. Its programming is highly experimental.”1 Start-up organizational challenges are mostly foundational and focused on survival, specifically around: funding, staff/ volunteer expertise; sustaining enthusiasm; refining mission/vision; absence of administrative and evaluation systems.
  • Mezzanine: “An organization is in the mezzanine phase following its start-up phase. By this point, the organization may have pilot tested its organizational idea, documented outcomes, and developed a written plan for growth, but it has not yet achieved large geographic scale or wide adoption. Sometimes known as post-start-up, [these organizations] have established a track record of funding, engaged a set of people in defined roles, formed a board, written a set of policies, and defined its business model.”2 Mezzanine organizational challenges deal mostly with sustainability, building capacity, and obtaining funding to support that work. Specific issues include: funding for capacity, rather than programmatic efforts; board transition from working/ volunteer focused to governance/ policy focused; onboarding staff with expertise and merging with the long- standing generalist staff; maintaining innovative culture; creating a theory of change/strategic plan around data.
  • Legacy: Legacy organizations are “marked by greater brand awareness—of the organization and its programs and services. The nonprofit is larger and has more hierarchy, with clearly defined management roles. In this stage, the fundraising program has become more sophisticated, perhaps including an endowment or planned giving. The nonprofit has established a strategic plan and is governed by a more diverse board of directors.”3 Legacy organization challenges are mostly focused on reducing stagnation, encouraging risk-taking, and creating a culture of innovation, specifically around resistance to change; need for new leadership (staff/lay); less touch points with the core “client” demographic, which creates misunderstandings about what the community is/may be looking for; and rigid systems.

Step 2 – Evaluation

When the application process closed in November, we gathered a national committee of 92 volunteer evaluators to review the nominations forms.The evaluators are next-gen funders, grant making professionals, Federation executives, funders of innovation, and Jewish community professionals, who spend at least part of their time funding and/or supporting innovative Jewish nonprofits. Evaluators live all over the country, span the age spectrum, and represent the diversity of the Jewish community. 

Each nominee was reviewed by a minimum of four evaluators. Whenever possible, we assigned each nominee to at least one evaluator who would have insight into the particular organization due to geographic proximity or specific programmatic experience. We also assigned each nominee to an evaluator who had no prior knowledge of the organization. The mix of the insider’s point of view with a first-timer’s opinion gave us a well-balanced final picture.  For the first time ever, evaluators were asked to review each application not just against Slingshot’s four selection criteria (see below), but with respect to their chosen life-stage: start-up, mezzanine, or legacy. 

Step 3 – Final List

After evaluations have been completed, Slingshot staff compiles all the evaluator data. Slingshot staff review qualitative and quantitative evaluation data for each organization and conducts due diligence. This data determines the final list of 50 organizations to be featured in the guide. Auditors review the data to ensure fairness and accountability to the process.

Step 4 – Profiles

For each finalist, we have sought to summarize the mission, impact, and innovations that are new this year and put a significant amount of effort into capturing the unique character of each organization. This guide, which is organized alphabetically, also includes information about each organization such as Board Chair, budget size, life stage, and contact information. If you prefer, the Index sorts the finalists by program area, population served, life stage, and budget size.

Our hope is that you find the final list of organizations to be a valuable resource. If you are interested in learning more about an individual organization, please feel free to reach out to its professionals directly. And if you are interested in investing in the group as a whole, or learning more about Slingshot’s methodology, please email Rachel Hodes at rachel@slingshotfund.org

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1 Much of the information about the stage descriptions is from From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest: Maximizing the Potential of Innovative Jewish Start-Ups. Bikkurim, Wellspring Consulting.14 March 2012: http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=13781

2 Ibid.
3 Thriving Throughout the Stages of a Nonprofit Organization. Pacific Continental Bank, 2011. https://www.therightbank.com/sites/www.therightbank.com/files/files/Business%20Resources/White%20Papers/Nonprofit/white-paper-thriving-through-stages-of-nonprofits.pdf

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