Slingshot Guide Highlights the Best of Non-Profit World
Bethesda, Maryland – RespectAbility, a new national, non-profit, non-partisan organization working to enable people with disabilities to achieve the American dream – including full inclusion in religious life, has been named one of North America’s top innovative organizations in the tenth annual Slingshot Guide. Slingshot is a creation of Jewish philanthropists and non-profit experts who are focused on results-driven non-profit organizations. The Slingshot Guide has become a go-to resource for volunteers, activists and donors looking for new opportunities and projects that are truly innovative. Groups chosen for the guide went through a deep vetting process. RespectAbility was selected from among hundreds of finalists reviewed by 112 professionals with expertise in grant-making and communal life. Slingshot 2014-15 was released today.
Said RespectAbility’s chair Donn Weinberg, “We are thrilled to be part of this community of innovative organizations that are working to create positive change in religious and cultural continuity. RespectAbility is working to enable people with disabilities to be fully included in their religious communities. This is necessary because when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, all privately funded religious organizations were exempted from this basic civil rights law. However, religious organizations should not discriminate based on disability or anything else. Moreover, we also are focused on employment issues, because people with disabilities so frequently are denied access to jobs and careers. Seventy percent of working age people with disabilities are outside of the workforce, causing poverty, isolation and in some cases even leading to prison. But anyone who works hard should have a fair chance to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve to be able to work, pray and participate in life, just like anyone else. Thus, we are very appreciative of being in this guide so that new people can be exposed to our work.”
Organizations included in this year’s Guide were evaluated on their innovative approach, the impact they have in their work, the leadership they have in their sector, and their effectiveness at achieving results. The Slingshot Guide, in highlighting RespectAbility’s work says:
“While many organizations work towards the inclusion of people with disabilities, none works on as large a scale as RespectAbilityUSA. Focused on changing organizations’ perceptions and reshaping attitudes about inclusion. RespectAbilityUSA operates as a research institution, an advocacy center, and a resource for organizations looking to enhance their inclusion policies and programs. As a part of a coalition of faith-based groups working towards greater inclusion, RespectAbilityUSA brings the best inclusion practices in the disabilities field to the Jewish community.
By conducting national polls on the intersection of Judaism and disabilities, the organization understands what work needs to be done and advocates for it. Nationally, RespectAbilityUSA has influenced and advised on inclusion goals for three major Jewish denominations. Its Washington, DC-based Kovod (Hebrew for respect) program provides trained professionals to Jewish institutions to better serve those with disabilities, and the organization has also served as an inclusion advisor to the Jewish Federation and local Jewish day schools. Whether through publishing over two-dozen op-eds in major publications, co-sponsoring conferences, or administering PR for major film festivals, RespectAbilityUSA publically demonstrates that the Jewish community offers a safe and welcoming place, and that disabilities inclusion remains a necessary item on the agenda of every Jewish organization. Changing people’s attitudes will lead to the change of organizations and communal behavior. RespectAbilityUSA is that change-maker.”
Being listed in the Guide often is a critical step for selected organizations to attain much needed additional funding and to expand the reach of their work. Selected organizations are eligible for grants from the Slingshot Fund, a peer-giving network of young donors with an eye for identifying, highlighting and advancing causes that resonate the most with the next generation of philanthropists. Furthermore, the Guide is a frequently used resource for donors seeking to support organizations transforming the world in novel and interesting ways. RespectAbility is a one-year old organization and relies completely on donations from foundations and the public.
RespectAbility’s co-founders Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Shelley Cohen and Donn Weinberg are also extremely active in the Jewish community. Thus, RespectAbility is putting a key focus on inclusion there, and models are being shared with other faith communities. This work on Jewish inclusion was highlighted in the Slingshot process. Through RespectAbility’s Kovod Project tens of thousands of Jews with disabilities and their families will be able to engage in different aspects of Jewish life including schools, synagogues, camps, educational programs and events.
Several polls show that Jews with disabilities often are denied access to Jewish institutions based solely on their disabilities. This is rarely intentional, as fully 89% of Jews in the RespectAbility/Jerusalem University poll strongly agree that: “Jewish events and organizations should be as welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities as everyone else.” This especially resonated with younger Jews. Well-meaning people and institutions, however, often fail to promote inclusion because of stigmas; research has demonstrated that Americans of all faiths often see people with disabilities as incapable. People frequently incorrectly believe that addressing the need would be cost- and time-prohibitive. This leads to significant isolation of people with disabilities, and often alienates their loved ones as well. RespectAbility is working to change that through education, training, advocacy, and especially through improving attitudes so that people with disabilities can be seen for the abilities and attributes they have.
Said RespectAbility’s president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “For a start up organization such as ourselves, being in The Guide is a very important and appreciated recognition. Our organization is lead by full time volunteers and we need full time staff to make our work sustainable. We need more volunteers, connections and funds, and know this will be a big help.” For more information about RespectAbility go to www.RespectAbility.org.
About the Slingshot Guide
The Slingshot Guide, now in its tenth year, was created by a team of young funders as a guidebook to help funders of all ages diversify their giving portfolios to include the most innovative and effective organizations, programs and projects in North America. The Guide contains information about each organization’s origin, mission, strategy, impact and budget, as well as details about its unique character. The Slingshot Guide has proven to be a catalyst for next generation funding and offers a telling snapshot of shifting trends in North America’s Jewish community – and how nonprofits are meeting new needs and reaching new audiences. The book, published annually, is available in hard copy and as a free download at www.slingshotfund.org.
Contact: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President, RespectAbility
202 365 0787 or jenniferm@respectabilityUSA.org