The study findings suggest several directions for future research into the role of FCLs and the implementation of Charitable Choice. The FCLs in the study sites have approached Charitable Choice implementation in different ways, although all sites have consistently pursued faith-based and community initiatives. To the extent that federal policy and research are focused on Charitable Choice regulations and equal treatment principles and specifically on increasing the participation of small newly eligible faith-based organizations in government partnerships further exploration of the hurdles to this implementation could be helpful.
Several of the sites in this study undertook systemic changes to their procurement systems to expand partnerships with FBOs and/or protect service recipients religious freedom rights. Two of those FCLs cited these changes as important in their states implementation of Charitable Choice and in efforts to educate stakeholders about both opportunities and responsibilities. Future research could investigate where this has occurred across the states, the types of specific changes to contract documents that have been made, and the apparent effects of these changes, to the extent they can be determined. The 2005 ASPE/MPR study touched on this, although not in detail. A survey of state contracting officials in key programs covered by Charitable Choice or of FCLs in those states that have them (who might not be directly involved in these efforts, but would be in a position to find out about them) might be one approach. An important element of that research would be the collection of procurement statutes, policies, and documents. Another approach might be a brief telephone scan of FCLs, followed by semi-structured interviews with a mix of knowledgeable respondents the FCLs help identify in a selection of states, and complemented by document review.
A broader exploration across all FCLs of their potential role in educating key stakeholders about Charitable Choice regulations could help identify hurdles and opportunities they face in more detail. The present study found that some FCLs do not see this education as a primary part of their work, but it is unclear if this is typical of the position or more specific to the case study sites. If it is common, a broader exploration could help policymakers and others determine the reasons and what, if anything, might allow FCLs to play a greater or more effective role. Telephone interviews with the 36 FCLs and possibly some limited staff would help shed light on these questions.
Further study of the FCLs capacity-building efforts could help policymakers and practitioners understand better the most effective capacity-building approaches for FBCOs seeking to partner with government. It could also assess, to the extent possible, the effect of these efforts on the number and nature of state and local partnerships with FBCOs. This study found that all the case-study FCLs pursued capacity building with FBCOs, though they often took different approaches. Delving more specifically into the characteristics of these various approaches could help federal, state, and local policymakers more effectively support successful public-FBCO partnerships.
Finally, a systematic assessment of FBOs understanding of the opportunities and requirements of Charitable Choice would provide valuable information about whether there remains a significant need for more or better education. Several respondents to this study said that confusion still existed among FBOs, especially among small organizations, and all FCLs said that methodical assessment of FBO understanding was not part of their work. The 2005 ASPE/MPR study indicated that state agencies did not monitor this consistently at the time of the survey either. Gauging more precisely the extent and areas of uncertainty among FBOs receiving federal funds, possibly by means of a survey, focus groups, and/or a semi-structured telephone scan, would be challenging but would also help federal and state policymakers and officials, FCLs, and others identify the areas where greater clarity and guidance is needed.