There are differences between life stages within the Slingshot Guide selection criteria. As innovation is inherently comparative, it manifests differently at each stage. Therefore, evaluators were given both a broad definition of each selection criterion and a specific life-stage-dependent one. The selection criteria are defined as follows:
Innovation is a mode of operating, of finding new ways to create impact. Innovative organizations and programs are ones that are able to act efficiently, adapt to current demands in the community, and create new models for achieving positive outcomes. The drive for relevancy and impact is built into their DNA.1 Innovative organizations have a culture of perpetual improvement, where calculated risk is in service of always trying to do better. Innovation can be seen through what the organization does (i.e., the programmatic tactics used to address an unmet need) or how it is done (i.e., the approach used to work with or on behalf of its constituents). Innovation is different at each life stage of an organization.
Start-up organizations are innovative in why they were created. They are groundbreaking, inventive, pioneering, or creative in their response to the changing needs of the Jewish community and the world around it.
Mezzanine organizations are innovative because of their culture of constant improvement. As they grow, they continue to find new ways of doing business and maintaining a thrust toward risk-taking.
Legacy organizations express innovation through projects derived from established structures and a willingness to try operating in new or different ways to best address the changing needs of the Jewish community.
Impact considers how the organization/ project affects the attitudes and behaviors of its constituents and the Jewish community.
Start-up organizations have identified a need and developed a compelling mission/ vision around addressing that need. They have rudimentary systems to identify if their programs/services are working but may not have a formal evaluation process.
Mezzanine organizations have shown proof of concept in addressing a specific need and have a theory of change or logic model that is guiding their work. Evaluation systems are more mature, and data is used to infuse growth plans.
Legacy organizations are implementing, working through, or creating a strategic plan around the program, with a specific focus on target goals and measures for evaluating impact. They are evaluating the viability of the project for best practices and scalability.
Strong Leadership in the Field
An organization with strong leadership is a model for the field. It may possess a strategy, an approach, or programmatic content that could be replicable elsewhere and/or that is elevating the work of its peer organizations. Examples of strong leadership are: The organization/project may share resources, knowledge, or best practices with the community; may strategically partner with other organizations; and/or serve to network or convene similar organizations/projects.
Start-up organizations with strong leadership have significant buzz around them. Articles are written about them, staff/lay leaders are asked to present on the organization. Momentum is beginning to build around their work, and partners are beginning to come to the table.
Mezzanine organizations are regarded as having expertise in the field and have begun building brand recognition among their peers. Marketing plans begin to formalize.
Legacy organizations use their brand recognition to help provide leadership in the field around particular issues. They have formal marketing plans and structures in place.
Otherwise known as a sound operation, an effective organization is strategic in the way it conducts business. It is financially efficient and responsible and has the appropriate infrastructure (staff, board, volunteers) in order to effectively serve its mission.
Start-up organizations have a small board whose primary role is to work and is often but not always personally connected to the founder; a small, nimble, and multifunctional staff; and a budget that is sufficient to cover the operating costs of the organization.
Mezzanine organizations have grown their board, which has more governance responsibilities and professional expertise within it; a staff with more differentiated and specific roles; a larger budget; and a diversified and increased funding base.
Legacy organizations have an established board with formal committees and roles and is primarily responsible for ensure longevity and well-being of the organization; staff is diversified and hired for their programmatic expertise and staff structures are more hierarchical; and funding is stable and includes an operating reserve or an endowment.