A nonprofit version of ABC’s hit reality series Shark Tank created a funding feeding frenzy at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Dec. 14 as five local innovative organizations competed for $65,000 in grant money. But instead of billionaire Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, around 200 representatives of D.C.’s funding community judged the presentations and awarded the biggest prize of $30,000 to GLOE at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center – the first and only full-time gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) program at any JCC in the country.
Slingshot co-organized the first-time program with Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies. Slingshot links next-generation funders with innovative organizations and the NYC-based funding source has taken more of an interest in D.C. of late with the release earlier this year of the first D.C. edition of its annual resource guide to Jewish innovation.
“We really wanted to host an event that was a little eye-catching, a little bit of fun, a little bit of grant making that deals with philanthropy,” said Will Schneider, Slingshot executive director. “It was really for funders and lay leaders to come together and make some grants and learn about the projects.”
The other organizations making their case for grant money included Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239 program for young Jewish adults; Jewish after-school community MoEd; Sixth & I; and Sunflower Bakery, a program that provides job training for disabled people.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have won. It is a tremendous honor, and we were in essence in competition with some of the most important leading programs in our area, and they are all outstanding,” said DCJCC CEO Carole Zawatsky. “The winnings allow us to reach an ever-broadening community, and the biggest goal for GLOE is to have a broader, deeper reach in the community and also to be able to reach out to a teen community.”
GLOE director Halley Cohen gave the winning pitch.
Schneider said Cohen’s “ask” was “extraordinary” and that it instilled a sense of pride in the funders that, in their own backyard, there is a unique program going on that they weren’t even aware of.
“What $30,000 will do for the organization is really world-changing. I think it will launch them to the next level, and I think the opportunity to have that big an impact on an organization like that was too much to pass up. So the community got really excited,” said Schneider. “I’ve heard of some funders interested in following up on their own to get involved with some of the projects. So far the early metrics point to a big success.”