Directory of Niche Charities Targets Young Philanthropists

For some parts of the established Jewish philanthropic world, organizations such as Interfaithfamily.com can be a tough sell. “The reactions range from ambivalence at best to really hostile,” president Ed Case said of his group, which produces a biweekly print publication and provides other resources to bring interfaith families — there are as many as 1 million in the United States — closer to Judaism.

But thanks in part to his group’s inclusion last summer in a limited-circulation directory of niche Jewish organizations, Interfaithfamily.com has obtained grants in the past year from a number of venerable Jewish philanthropies, including the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, the Harvey and Lynn Meyerhoff Philanthropic Fund and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

Slingshot, which will present its second edition Sept. 20 at a Manhattan party, lists 50 organizations that the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies’ 21/64 division deems the most innovative in the organized Jewish world. Most are aimed at helping young Jews form Jewish identity.

Those organizations range from Ikar, a Los Angeles-based Jewish community that promotes social action through Jewish learning and spirituality, to the Jackson, Miss.-based Goldring Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, which is trying to keep alive the heritage of the Jewish South.

The list includes myriad niche organizations focused on everything from sexual identity to Jewish cultural revival to Jewish ritual.

The directory is an effort to map a creative new Jewish organizational world that lies off-the-radar of many major funders and to help those philanthropists decide where to give money by taking care of the due-diligence process, said Roger Bennett, the Bronfman Philanthropies’ senior vice president.

The division enlisted 25 foundation professionals to judge the organizations nominated for Slingshot based on four criteria: innovation, impact, leadership and organizational effectiveness, Bronfman Philanthropies’ Vice President Sharna Goldseker said.

Most importantly, Bennett said, the book aims to help the next generation of funders pair up with organizations that excite them.

“The vast majority of Jewish institutions have been serving the Jewish community since the ’30s, ’40s or ’50s and are dong a wonderful job of fighting anti-Semitism, supporting Israel, developing minority-majority relations and providing social services,” he said. “But over the last 10 to 15 years, they have been augmented by new projects driven by younger talents that provide projects and programs that really reflect their interests and spiritual and cultural needs.”

The neophyte funding generation now in its 20s and 30s should inherit an estimated $41 trillion from the Baby Boomers by 2052, according to Boston College’s 2003 Wealth Transfer Report. That makes Slingshot essential for people such as Scott Belsky.

Belsky, 26, sits on the board of his family’s Kaplan Family Foundation, a fund of more than $30 million that gives away some $1.6 million a year. He also is a member of Grand Street, a collaboration of about 60 “next generation” Jewish funders organized by 21/64 that helped germinate the idea for Slingshot.

As a Kaplan foundation trustee, Belsky has a budget that he can allocate at his discretion, and Slingshot and Grand Street help him learn about opportunities to give to organizations with which he feels a close connection. The Slingshot list also helps him when the foundation’s board meets periodically to decide how to donate collaborative money.

“I’m by far the youngest person at the table. I’m the only one of my generation,” Belsky said. “For the foundation, Slingshot brings a new perspective with credibility. For me to go to the board and say that I went to this thing called Storahtelling and we should give money to it is much different than if I tell them that it is something that we have discussed and that has been researched.”

21/64 also is starting the Slingshot Fund, which will pool money from major donors and individual philanthropists and distribute it to the organizations in the Slingshot directory. About half of the organizations listed in Slingshot ’06 also were in last year’s edition, Goldseker said.

“Just as the Landsmannschaften and the shtiebl and B’nai Brith were vitally important organizations for past generations, every generation adapts, and Slingshot gives you a glimpse of how the next generation will do that in a communal, value-driven way,” Bennett said.

For a copy of the Slingshot guide, e-mail info@2164.net.

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