Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation: Practice Models from the States. FCL Practices

01/06/2009

The work of the FCLs participating in the study entailed three major elements: (1) development of partnerships with and within the FBCO sector; (2) development of the capacity of FBCOs; and (3) education of FBOs and public agencies about Charitable Choice regulations and equal treatment principles.

The FCLs in the study worked to facilitate partnerships of many types.

A major emphasis of Charitable Choice was the facilitation of public partnerships with FBOs, and the faith-based and community initiative as it evolved appeared to expand this emphasis to include partnerships with grassroots organizations of many types, including secular community-based organizations. The FCLs in the eight states focused on a wide range of collaborations and activities involving both faith-based and community-based organizations. Some partnerships consisted of funded contracts or grants with state or local agencies using state or federal funds, and some were unfunded partnerships or collaborations between public agencies and FBCOs. Some liaisons had the resources and capacity to make grants to FBCOs. Many FCLs also saw an important role for themselves in facilitating partnerships within the FBCO sector and between FBCOs and other private organizations, such as foundations or businesses. One site (Virginia) had developed an online directory to allow public organizations and FBCOs to identify similar areas of focus, with the goal of encouraging collaboration. This linking function was also an important goal of several FCL-sponsored, capacity-building programs that sought to help participants share ideas and resources and establish lasting relationships. Several liaisons stressed the importance of their role as a neutral convener who could bring together a range of organizations with varying assets to help solve important social problems. Most liaisons said they made a particular effort to reach out to faith-based organizations to let them know about partnering opportunities of different types. A major task for the FCLs was providing regular information to the FBCO community about grants, contracts, and other partnering opportunities with public or private organizations by means of email newsletters or alerts, websites and listservs, hard copy mailings and publications, meetings, and conferences.

 

Practice Model 3. Facilitating Access to Federal Funds

Organized by the New Mexico FCL and held in March 2007, Governor Bill Richardsons Conference for Faith-Based and Community Organizations focused on improving FBCOs access to federal discretionary grants. The director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives gave the keynote speech, and representatives from five major federal agencies (the departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Labor) offered sessions on funding opportunities with their agencies. The FCL publicized the event using her database of nonprofit contacts and about 350 people attended, with 200 more on the waiting list. The conference was viewed by the FCL and other respondents as highly successful. In particular, in the grant cycle following the conference, New Mexico saw a sharp increase  from $8.2 to $28.6 million  in federal discretionary grants coming into the state  though it is not clear exactly how much of this can be attributed to the event.

Capacity building of FBCOs was viewed as a key need, and FCLs devoted considerable resources to it.

All the FCLs considered building the organizational capacity of FBCOs to be essential. Many saw it as a necessary first step for the small FBOs that were a major focus of Charitable Choice, as well as other small FBCOs that may lack staff or other resources. The liaisons invested considerable energy in further developing FBCOs capacity to undertake activities such as establishing effective boards and governance structures, hiring and managing good staff, raising sufficient and diversified funding to support operations, tracking finances and services accurately, and planning for sustainability. Improved capacity was seen as central to FBCOs ability to address social problems more successfully and to partner effectively and responsibly with government or other private organizations.

Liaisons undertook a range of approaches  some comprehensive and relatively costly and others more modest. Several sponsored expansive, multiphase programs that included training, technical assistance (TA), and small grants. All offered individual workshops and/or one-on-one TA. Several worked with intermediary partners to help small FBCOs cultivate their organizational capacity.

 

Practice Model 4. Three Comprehensive Programs to Build Sector Capacity

The New Jersey Office of Faith-Based Initiatives uses dedicated state funding for three types of grant making to build the organizational capacity of small FBCOs. Organizational Infrastructure Development grants are awarded to emerging organizations, accompanied by TA and other assistance. Direct Service grants are awarded to FBCOs collaborating with other organizations in service delivery focused on five programmatic areas: youth, homeless, seniors, English language, and substance abuse treatment and prevention. Intermediary Grants are awarded each year to selected organizations to help FBCOs throughout the state develop their capacity; in 2008, five grants were awarded to both faith-based and secular intermediaries.

The 2006-2007 Texas Demonstration Project (TDP) entailed broad outreach and focused capacity building, accompanied by small grants for emerging FBCOs in four urban counties. Developed by partners including the OneStar Foundation and the Cornerstone Assistance Network (a faith-based intermediary) and funded by a Compassion Capital Fund demonstration grant awarded to OneStar, the TDP used a three-phase model. First, FBCOs were offered six broad capacity-building symposia, followed by focused workshops, in each county. The events were open to all and addressed topics including organizational development, leadership, collaboration, funding, and service delivery. Second, OneStar held a small grants competition for FBCO applicants that had participated in at least four of the six sessions offered in their county; 25 were awarded. Third, Cornerstone staff and consultants provided grantees with assessment, individualized TA, and consulting services, with a one-year follow-up retreat. Participants were asked to account for their grants, note additional money brought in, and identify best practices developed as a result of the program.

The District of Columbias Strengthening Partners Initiative (SPI) is a one-year comprehensive training program for leaders of emerging FBCOs, funded through the Mayors Office of Partnerships and Grants Services. SPI began in 2002 and serves about 20 FBCO leaders each year, who are selected through a competitive application process. For the first six months, the program offers biweekly capacity-building instruction on core topics such as fundraising, financial management, and board development. It also provides several months of individual coaching with professionals from local nonprofits, businesses, and government. At the end of the program, participants present a project demonstrating how they plan to use the tools gained from SPI to improve their organizations. Graduates are eligible for additional capacity-building mini-grants. The cohort structure of the program supports ongoing relationships and even the development of formal partnerships between participants.

More modest approaches to capacity building included facilitating the matching of FBCO executives with more experienced nonprofit executive mentors or coaches. Several FCLs also made capacity-building tools or publications available on their websites or in hard copy. In general, the liaisons and their staff and capacity-building partners reported working in similar ways with FBOs and CBOs, viewing their basic needs as more similar than different. But without basic organizational capacity, small FBOs, in particular, were viewed by some respondents as at risk of unintentionally crossing church-state lines and of failing to meet the financial or service requirements of government grants or contracts.

 

Practice Model 5: Leveraging Resources

With state budgets tight, FCLs in several sites took creative approaches to leverage resources on behalf of FBCOs in their community. When the New Mexico FCL organized the conference focused on FBCO access to federal discretionary funds, she enlisted the University of New Mexico and the United Way to provide space, catering, and registration services for the event  thereby reducing costs both for her office and for participant registration fees. New Mexicos other relatively low-cost capacity-building effort involved linking executives from small or new FBCOs with mentors from larger or more seasoned organizations. Texas also drew on coaches from other organizations to advise emerging FBCOs. In Illinois, the FCL and his colleagues in the Department of Human Services relied heavily on in-kind contributions of space, refreshments, printing, and other resources, from churches in particular. Such support allowed the liaison to host gatherings throughout the state without expending a large amount of his programs limited funds.

Some FCLs placed a special emphasis on education of FBOs interested in partnering with government about the opportunities and responsibilities entailed in Charitable Choice.

Although FCLs worked with both faith-based and community-based organizations, FBOs partnering with government were seen as having a special need to understand the opportunities and requirements entailed in Charitable Choice. About half of the FCLs explicitly emphasized educating FBOs about Charitable Choice rules at the time of the study. They used methods such as presentations at capacity-building workshops, individualized TA, and written materials such as handbooks or information packets. They also referred FBOs to federal or independent organizations resources for more detailed information. FCLs said they also sometimes recommended that FBOs consult lawyers for their analysis of particular partnership plans or organizational circumstances that might take the organization into the gray area of church-state law.

 

Practice Model 6. Integrating Charitable Choice into Capacity Building

A quarterly capacity-building workshop offered by the Alabama Governors Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (GFBCI) provides a useful method for reaching FBOs and teaching them about the essentials of Charitable Choice. The workshops, which last a half day, largely address organizational basics such as board development, management, and financial accountability. They also include discussion of the key elements of Charitable Choice and equal treatment principles. Materials packets presented at the workshops  and available from the GFBCI at other events and by request  emphasize the rights of FBOs and their responsibilities to protect applicants and clients religious freedom. Documents in these packets include Charitable Choice 101  An Introduction by the Center for Public Justice (CPJ); an Overview of the HHS Equal Treatment Regulations, also from CPJ; and a Brief Dos and Donts handout focused on Charitable Choice and equal treatment requirements. The packets also include federal documents and guidance and a list of faith-based web resources. The workshops are free of charge and take place in Montgomery, the state capital, because it is centrally located.

Those sites that did not focus on Charitable Choice education appeared to lack the resources, mission, and/or legal or political authority to do so. Several sites that had launched their FCL functions shortly after PRWORA was enacted in 1996 suggested that an initial focus on Charitable Choice had already established at least some base of knowledge. Some liaisons also viewed the responsibility for Charitable Choice education as primarily resting with those public agencies involved in funding FBOs. No FCL offices systematically assessed FBOs understanding of Charitable Choice, though some of those with grantmaking authority indicated that their own grantee monitoring could allow them to address problems with appropriate church-state boundaries or other government accountability requirements.

 

Practice Model 7. A Tool for Charitable Choice Implementation: The Virginia Technical Assistance Handbook

A technical assistance handbook, Community Connections: Strengthening Virginia Communities, was developed by the current FCL in Virginia, with assistance from other contributors. It addresses organizational assessment and development and capacity building broadly for FBCOs. It also emphasizes the opportunities and requirements of Charitable Choice and equal treatment provisions and discusses potential funding sources and accountability requirements. The handbook provides detail about the faith-based and community initiative in Virginia; the statutes authorizing the initiative and FCLs work; questions for FBCOs to consider before contracting with public agencies (including special considerations for FBOs); a Top Ten Tips for Ministries and Top Ten Tips for Public Officials developed by the CPJ; and a list of internet resources. It is used as a basic guide at training, technical assistance, and outreach sessions with individual churches, FBOs, and CBOs, as well as at larger meetings and conferences, and was cited as a valuable and accessible tool for Charitable Choice education. It has been updated several times and plans are underway to make it available online.

About a third of the FCLs in the study sites explicitly emphasized educating state or local agencies about Charitable Choice opportunities and requirements.

Those sites currently emphasizing educating state or local agencies about Charitable Choice and equal treatment principles said they do so in various ways, including responding to agency requests for specific information; conducting presentations for agencies, either on their own initiative or at agency request; and bringing in outside speakers or experts. Some meet regularly with agency heads and staff and/or work to inform agency staff in the context of issue-focused partnerships or informal collaborations between the government and FBCOs.

 

Practice Model 8. Authority and Access to Support FCL Education of Agencies

The director of the Governors Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (GFBCI) in Alabama appears to have unusual authority and resources to pursue the education of state agencies about Charitable Choice and to encourage their implementation of it. Four related factors contribute to this: (1) the language of the executive order establishing the states faith-based and community initiative, (2) the FCLs regular access to social service agency heads, (3) the FCLs position within the governors office, and (4) the governors personal commitment to the initiative. The executive order establishing the GFBCI also established an interagency Advisory Board on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, whose membership includes the heads of eight major public agencies most likely to be covered by Charitable Choice and equal treatment principles. The FCL (the director of the GFBCI) is the chair of the interagency board and presides over its meetings. In addition, the liaison reports to the governors chief of staff and attends two of the four regular meetings of the governors cabinet, specifically those focused on human services and public safety, the two greatest areas of emphasis for Charitable Choice and the faith-based and community initiative in Alabama. Moreover, the executive order specifically references the Charitable Choice provisions of PRWORA and mandates the interagency board to cause the provisions of this order to be implemented by all appropriate agencies of state government and to cooperate fully with the GFBCI and the board in implementing the initiative.

Some FCLs and FBCOs viewed the legal ground underlying Charitable Choice and the related permissible practices as somewhat complex and unsettled. The potential for lawsuits or other legal action, evolving federal guidance, and the possibility of court decisions further shaping the parameters of permissible activity appeared to encourage a cautious approach on the part of some FCLs. Numerous respondents stressed that small FBOs with minimal resources may be vulnerable to unintentionally breaching church-state separation, and several FCLs emphasized that they did not want to steer FBOs wrong. Some stressed the need for FBOs to seek independent legal counsel and/or consult with federal or state funders if they are likely to tread into any uncertain areas of the law.

Many FCLs focused on substantive issues of pressing importance to their states, complementing their goals of partnership development, capacity building, and Charitable Choice education.

Issue-specific initiatives allowed FCLs  and collaborating FBCO and public and private partners  to address urgent social issues and, at the same time, provided them with additional opportunities to expand partnerships, facilitate capacity building, and develop a greater understanding of Charitable Choice in their states. The issues varied according to the sites geographic, political, economic, and social contexts, as well as available funding sources and other factors. For example, in the wake of hurricanes Ivan, Katrina, and Rita, the three Gulf Coast states in the study (Alabama, Florida, and Texas) initiated more coordinated public-FBCO partnerships focused on disaster preparedness and response, particularly the more effective management of volunteers and donations. Another FCL (District of Columbia) responded to a local public health crisis by taking on a capacity-building initiative for groups providing HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services. Yet another liaison (New Mexico) worked with state agencies and a range of large and small nonprofit organizations to develop a Plan to End Hunger that brought together resources already available among state agencies, foundations, and the FBCO community.

 

Practice Model 9: Collaborations to Address Pressing State Issues

In Alabama, involvement of the states FBCO and volunteer communities in public emergency preparedness and response activities has been a key focus since the Governors Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (GFBCI) founding. The office manages Alabama Department of Homeland Security (ADHS) grants to Alabama Civilian Corps Councils (CCC), which are part of a locally focused disaster preparation and relief program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The GFBCI also manages grants and training related to community emergency response and long-term recovery, runs its own VISTA disaster response and recovery team, and works with ADHS to develop and manage a range of Be Ready Alabama activities to help citizens prepare for disasters. Finally, when the governor declares an emergency, the GFBCI flips and becomes an operational center for managing volunteers and donations. In this case, the office becomes the Volunteer and Donation Management Coordinator for the state, is the lead agency at the State Emergency Operations Center for management of volunteers and donations, and maintains a call center.

In Virginia, the Reentry Policy Academy is a public interagency partnership that identifies barriers to successful prisoner reentry in the state and develops strategies to reduce recidivism. The state Policy Academy grew out of the FCLs and others participation in a National Governors Association effort to spur state initiatives to reduce recidivism rates by improving pre- and post-release services. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine also identified reentry as a priority and issued an executive order directing state agencies to work together in the academy to develop more effective programs. By spring 2008, seven Virginia localities had voluntarily established reentry councils, a key component of the model, and are now implementing the approach, with a formal evaluation. To improve services for prisoners leaving incarceration, the councils regularly coordinate the efforts of state and local social service and criminal justice agencies and local FBCOs, including churches. The FCL works closely with each council to maintain consistency with the model and to share information and facilitate linkages within and across councils. Mentoring has been an important part of the model, and FBOs and churches are seen as particularly well suited to provide mentors. However, the initiative receives no dedicated funding, which has proven challenging to sustaining the effort.

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