By Rich Polt
Published August 24, 2012
One of the larger and more recent success stories to emerge in the world of Jewish philanthropy is the New York-based Slingshot Fund. The organization is built around the unique pairing of 1) a “next-gen” (i.e, too young to remember record players) funding collaborative and, 2) an annual Zagats-like resource guide to 50 of the most creative and effective Jewish organizations in the country. To be named a “Slingshot Organization” is tantamount to receiving a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. It tells potential funders that you are hip, relevant, forward-thinking, and addressing old and new issues in innovative ways.
As Executive Director of Slingshot Fund, Will Schneider eats, drinks, and breathes Jewish innovation. In 2009, he joined as the organization’s first full-time staffer and since then he’s never looked back. Under his leadership, Slingshot has grown from a small group of next generation funders to a widely-respected collaborative with more than 80 young philanthropists in their 20s and 30s.
After graduating from New York University, Will learned the basics of fundraising at Carnegie Hall. He then went on to work for the international philanthropy consulting firm, Changing Our World, Inc. Will is also the founder of a professional networking organization for young professional fundraisers called the Future Leaders in Philanthropy (FLiP), which continues to grow under new leadership today.
Many thank to Will for jumping in and answering our Talking GOOD questions!
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
I want to follow in the footsteps of my family by helping to give others the opportunity to be successful on their paths, especially those with a vision for improving the world around them.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?”
I’d love to hike the Appalachian trail with my wife, from beginning to end.
IF YOU COULD MEET WITH ANYONE (ALIVE), WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM?
I’d like to have a catch with Sandy Koufax, a non-religious Jew who sat out game one of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holy Day. I’d ask him what it’s like to become a symbol for putting values ahead of desire.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
Oh wow. Nobody would publish it, but maybe I’d call it: Just the Next Step. I once hiked from the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge to Montauk Point on the tip of Long Island. After 120 miles, all the clutter fades away and all you can think about is taking the next step. I eventually learned that when I have something hard to do, the trick is to clear everything else out of the way, think about the next step, and worry about the steps after that later.
WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING?
Doing the right thing isn’t as important as having the right value behind what you’re doing. It’s too easy to compromise your principles when you can’t identify why you make decisions.
WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?
I idolize writers, painters, and composers, or anyone who can turn a blank document into something captivating. I especially look up to those who could have chosen safe careers, but instead bet against the odds and are in the midst of “making it”. I’ll choose my friends: novelist Sarvenaz Tash, screen writer Nicholas Mariani, painter Graig Kreindler, and my wife playwright (and actress) Rachel F. Hirsch.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
Building an organization which is good at what it does and has a positive influence in the world is my dream. I cannot think of a single alternate option.
TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF.
In college, I briefly owned and operated a company (Crackerjack Tours) that organized weekend-long tours to baseball games throughout the Northeast.
WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED?
QUESTION: "What brought me to my current job at Slingshot?" ANSWER: A mentor of mine, Sharna Goldseker, gave me a copy of the Slingshot guide in 2006, and I learned there was a Jewish community that I wanted to be a part of. Doing good, being entrepreneurial, and finally exploring my own roots was too good a chance to pass up.