Hillel has been named one of the nation's 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits in Slingshot '10-'11, a resource guide for Jewish innovation. Since 2005, Slingshot has become the definitive guide to identifying path-finding and trailblazing organizations grappling with concerns in Jewish life such as identity, community, and tradition. Hillel was chosen by a panel of 36 foundation professionals from across North America. This was Hillel's first time being featured in Slingshot.
In order to be listed in Slingshot, organizations are selected from among hundreds of nominees across North America. Finalists are chosen based on their strength in four areas: innovation, impact, leadership, and organizational efficiency.
Slingshot cited Hillel's innovative approach to engaging emerging adults for the award. This approach combines student-to-student engagement through Hillel's Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative with in-depth exploration of Jewish subjects through the Senior Jewish Educator program. The Jim Joseph Foundation has provided a five-year, $10.7 million grant to underwrite these programs.
"We are thrilled to be included among the Slingshot honorees this year," says Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone. "As an organization that responds to the ever-changing needs of college students, innovation is at the core of our work."
In making the award, Slingshot wrote: "Although Slingshot evaluators warn that the long-term impact of these new initiatives on student life is yet unknown, they are excited to see this new approach scaling up. One optimistic evaluator raves, 'This program, which started as a small scale pilot to test assumptions, is on the verge of being embraced by every Hillel in the country.' Evaluators are also excited to see that 'while many organizations talk about using physical social networks to expand, Hillel has actually created a program that not only galvanizes Jews through friends, but also communicates substantive Jewish content.'"
Hillel's Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative interns are previously uninvolved Jewish students, from broad and diverse social networks. They are hired by Hillel and trained to use relationship-based engagement methods in building and developing their own social networks to each connect at least 60 of their uninvolved Jewish peers to Jewish life. In 2010, 156 CEI interns on 17 campuses engaged over 8,000 students. Utilizing a similar approach on a smaller scale, 31 campuses operated the Peer Network Engagement Internship, 100 interns on these campuses engaged over 4600 students.
Senior Jewish Educators are talented educators with deep Jewish knowledge and authentic Jewish personalities who serve as organizers, mentors and teachers for at least 180 students' Jewish journeys, focusing particularly on those students who are not already involved in Jewish life on campus. SJEs worked on 10 campuses in 2010 and engaged more than 2,250 students.
In 2010 an independent panel of researchers found that Hillel's Senior Jewish Educators program and Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative are "effective in reaching large numbers of previously less-connected Jewish students and facilitating their personal Jewish growth. This is an exciting finding even in its early stages." The conclusion was reached by Research Success Technologies and Ukeles Associates, Inc., as part of its independent evaluation for the Jim Joseph Foundation.
"It is gratifying to the Foundation that Hillel is doing such an exceptional job of implementing the Campus Entrepreneurs/Senior Educators initiative," says Chip Edelsberg, the executive director of the Jim Joseph Foundation. "Hillel is a creative, adaptive organization; it is connecting young adults to Jewish life in innovative and meaningful ways."
"The Senior Jewish Educators and Campus Entrepreneurs, who spend hundreds of hours engaging Jewish students and bringing depth to their Jewish journeys, take great pride in this recognition," says Hillel Associate Vice President Jennifer Zwilling who directs Hillel's CEI and SJE programs.
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."
Inspired four years ago by Slingshot, a group of next-generation philanthropists launched the Slingshot Fund, a collective giving mechanism to support innovative Jewish life. In just four cycles, the Slingshot Fund has contributed nearly $1.5 million to innovative Jewish not-for-profits.
Jonathan Raiffe, the Chairman of the Slingshot Fund Committee which set the policies for the Slingshot Fund shares, "The organizations in Slingshot have really challenged my views about what it means to be involved in Jewish non-profits and provide me with a strong sense of pride in my Jewish identity. Participating in the Slingshot Fund offers me invaluable experience that has given me the skills and confidence to play an active role in my local community. I hope that Slingshot provides the organizations additional publicity to the outside world, and serves to facilitate enhanced cooperation and create mutually beneficial projects among the groups."
Slingshot '10/'11 was unveiled on October 18 at the annual Slingshot Day launch, a sold out event in Manhattan. Over 250 not-for-profit leaders, foundation professionals, and funders of all ages spent the day engaged in candid conversations about philanthropy and innovation.
Slingshot was created by a team of young funders as a guidebook to help funders of all ages diversify their giving portfolios with the most innovative and effective organizations and programs in North America. This guide contains information about each organization's origin, mission, strategy, impact and budget, as well as details about its unique character. Now in its sixth edition, Slingshot has proven to be a catalyst for next generation funding and offers a telling snapshot of shifting trends in North America's Jewish community. The book, published annually, is available in hard copy and as a free download at www.slingshotfund.org.