We’ve debated recently on this blog whether innovation for the sake of innovation is valuable in the philanthropic sector. I originally said that it was not, but then quickly came around to the idea that since innovation is not rewarded the way it is in the for-profit sector (where most innovations fail, but the few that work make the innovators very wealthy), engaging in pure innovative experimentation is needed in philanthropy.
In the recent Aspen Philanthropy Letter, director Alan Abramsom points to a chapter in Mapping the New World of American Philanthropy where Susan Raymond argues that every foundation should allocate 10% of their resources to “intellectual risk”. So in a world where it is difficult to even identify existing high impact nonprofits, how can innovative new projects be found? One model to examine is Slingshot:
Slingshot is a Zagats-like guidebook that compiles annually the 50 most innovative Jewish non-profits in North America. It was originally conceived of and developed by a group of young Jewish funders called the Grand Street Network, which Sharna Goldseker oversees through her work at 21/64 (a division of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies). The Grand Street funders felt that Jewish Foundations did not have a way to identify and vet the growing number of young, exciting, and under-capitalized Jewish projects emerging across North America.
More recently, a select group of young Jewish Funders (many from Grand Street) launched the Slingshot Fund, designed to highlight, encourage and provide support for a subset of the undercapitalized organizations featured in the Slingshot guidebook each year. This year, they announced their first round of grants to 8 of the organizations listed in the book.
Maybe we don’t need to rate every charity in existence. Maybe we just need to find ways to help the best bubble to the surface.