Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation. Education of FBCOs about Charitable Choice


As part of their work to ensure effective public partnerships with FBCOs, most FCLs provided at least some formal guidance to their own would-be grantees or other organizations regarding both FBOs and public agencies opportunities and requirements under Charitable Choice (see Table IV.1). By definition, FBOs are the private organizations most directly affected by Charitable Choice and equal treatment principles. But other private groups, including those with which FBOs might partner, could also gain from such knowledge, in part because it can reduce misunderstanding between secular and faith organizations.

Table IV.1.
Major FCL Activities to Educate FBCOs about Charitable Choice
State FCL-Provided Education for FBCOs
AL Quarterly workshops, conferences, technical assistance (TA), respond to inquiries.
Materials distributed at events, and general inquiries.
Website links to guidance information.
DC Not major current emphasis. Annual partnerships conference, respond to inquiries.
FL Regional roundtables and workshops, individual TA, respond to inquiries.
RFPs for Compassion Florida grants.
IL Not major current emphasis. Individual TA, respond to inquiries.
NJ RFP orientation sessions (cover some aspects of regulations), respond to inquiries.
NM Not major current emphasis. Respond to inquiries, federal grants conference (2007).
TX Workshops, presentations, conference calls, webinar sessions, respond to inquiries, and TA to grantees and prospective applicants. Materials distributed at events, TA sessions.
Website links to guidance materials.
VA Individual TA, respond to inquiries, presentations at issue-focused conferences.
Technical Assistance Handbook. Website links to guidance materials.

Others provided information about Charitable Choice rules and opportunities through broad capacity-building presentations, handbooks, and handouts for FBOs, CBOs, or other interested parties that were not necessarily direct grantees. For example, materials distributed and discussed by the Alabama FCL and staff during their quarterly capacity-building workshops, conferences, and TA sessions, and that were provided to people inquiring about the initiative, included an array of documents emphasizing both the rights of FBOs and the responsibilities to protect applicants and clients religious freedom (see Practice Model 5). The Virginia FCL made frequent use in her TA sessions and at other events of a technical assistance handbook, Community Connections: Strengthening Virginia Communities (developed by the FCL in consultation with an advisory board and others) that emphasized the opportunities and requirements of Charitable Choice and equal treatment (see Practice Model 6).

Practice Model 5.
Integrating Charitable Choice Into Capacity Building
A quarterly capacity-building workshop series offered by the Alabama GFBCI provided an effective method for reaching small FBOs and others 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, financial accountability, and other key topics. They also include discussion of the GFBCIs purposes, the FBCI at the federal level, and 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 both the rights of FBOs and their responsibilities to protect applicants and clients religious freedom. Particular documents include: Charitable Choice 101  An Introduction, by the Center for Public Justice (CPJ); an Overview of the HHS Equal Treatment Regulations, also from CPJ; a Brief Dos and Donts handout focused on Charitable Choice and equal treatment rights and responsibilities; and a checklist of FBOs considering partnerships, Is Your Faith-Based Organization Ready to Partner with Government? A Decision-Making Checklist with Tips for Preparedness. The packets also include federal documents and Charitable Choice guidance, and a list of faith-based web resource sites. The workshops are offered free to keep them accessible to small organizations, and take place in Montgomery, the state capital, because it is centrally located.
Practice Model 6.
The Virginia Technical Assistance Handbook: A Tool for Charitable Choice Implementation
A technical assistance handbook, Community Connections: Strengthening Virginia Communities, was developed some years ago by the current FCL in Virginia, with assistance from staff and other contributors, and has since been updated several times. 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, and discusses potential funding sources and accountability requirements. The handbook also 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 Center for Public Justice; and a list of internet resources. The handbook 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. The handbook was cited as a valuable and accessible tool for education about Charitable Choice and equal treatment. It is available in hard copy and there are plans to put it online.

Other site events, such as Texass ongoing capacity-building workshops around the state and New Jerseys Expos, also addressed  to varying degrees and in varying levels of detail  issues related to Charitable Choice and equal treatment. Some FCL websites also provided links to dos and donts guidelines and other resources available from federal agencies, the White House OFBCI, and independent organizations such as the Center for Public Justice, the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, and the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy. A number of FCLs stressed that they make referrals for additional information on Charitable Choice more generally to state agencies or the federal FBCI centers and White House.

FCLs and their staff indicated that they did not generally conduct systematic assessment of FBOs or others understanding of  or practices related to  Charitable Choice. However, a number of sites said that they monitor their own grantees financial reports. One site stressed their review of cost reimbursement submissions, focusing in part on the legal appropriateness of the items for which reimbursements were requested. Among FCLs that manage a significant number of grants directly, most monitoring seemed to be focused on service delivery and financial reporting, although FCLs and staff indicated that they also kept an eye out for possible infringements of Charitable Choice requirements. Respondents noted the vulnerability of some small FBOs, especially churches, to unintentionally violating the financial requirements of government contracting or grants, since these organizations often lack the infrastructure or routines for careful book-keeping. By contrast, respondents generally felt that the larger groups receiving public funds typically understood the basic financial rules, as well as Charitable Choice provisions.

Where FBCOs received funding through other state or local agencies or funding streams, FCLs sometimes said that they referred them to the administering agencies for guidance on questions about specific allowable or disallowable activities. Several of the FCLs in the study suggested that education about Charitable Choice regulations and related policies, as well as monitoring of compliance, were the responsibilities of the federal, state, and/or local agencies actually contracting with FBCOs. At the same time, FBO respondents in some sites described incidents that highlight the complexities surrounding such issues. For example, one FBO recipient of a federal grant felt that the granting agencys regional representative had interpreted Charitable Choice policy too narrowly by insisting that nondenominational but spiritual content be removed from the groups curricular materials for the funded program. At the other end of the spectrum, another FBO respondent appeared to take an extremely open view of religious content in her state-funded program; when asked if officials from the agency had objected, she explained that they had never scheduled a site visit since the program services were provided in the evening and agency officials only worked nine to five. 

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