Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation. FCL Resources

12/18/2008

Evidence indicated that the resources most closely linked to effectiveness in the FCL position were these:

Political authority. Where the FCL was located within the governors office and had the strong backing of the governor, the position seemed to have considerable authority to work with both state agencies and FBCOs. In addition to specific powers granted by executive order, the general stature of the office itself can lend authority. As one FBO respondent noted, people pay attention when the governors office comes to call. Where the position is removed from the governors office (in the foundation or embedded models), the governor and/or high level liaisons to the governor, an influential advisory board, or other political champions can provide essential support in gaining agency cooperation, resources for the office, and engagement by the states FBCO sector. Further, the FCLs own attention to making the case for their work through reports, research on the results of FBCO-public partnerships, and outreach to political and government officials, as well as community leaders, can help build and maintain support.

Statutory authority. Respondents regarded the codification of FCL functions in statute as contributing to the positions effectiveness over time. Even in some of those sites lacking a statute, legislation was seen as offering potential durability and authority to the function. They noted, however, that a statute did not in and of itself guarantee sustainability, since depending on its language, functions could potentially be dispersed throughout the responsible state agency rather than distilled in one position. Several respondents also noted the risks intrinsic in the legislative process, such as the possibility of unwanted provisions being added during legislative debate. Nonetheless, they regarded it as beneficial to have at least some aspects of the FCL function codified.

Structure. The three basic structural models  governor-centered, embedded, and foundation  all offered the potential for effectiveness in the case study sites, though their benefits and challenges differed somewhat. In addition, three sites FCL functions were structurally linked to their states AmeriCorps programs and state service commissions. Respondents suggested some potential advantages to building on the institutional strengths and potential for collaboration this could provide, though AmeriCorps programs could also compete for FCLs time and resources (see Practice Model 12).

Practice Model 12.
Building on the Foundation of AmeriCorps/State Service Commissions
Three sites FCL functions were organizationally linked with the states AmeriCorps national service commissions. In Florida, the FCL has remained largely structurally separate from VFFs AmeriCorps functions. In Texas and Alabama, the FCL function as currently structured was essentially integrated into the existing state service commissions. In 2003, Texass existing state service commission was dissolved and a new nonprofit, OneStar Foundation, was established. In December of that year, Governor Rick Perry issued an executive order that designated a new OneStar National Service Commission. This order charged OneStar with providing administrative functions for the commission and bringing together the states FBCI and a range of volunteer and mentoring initiatives. In Alabama, the GFBCI was established through executive order, which changed the name of the Governors Office on National and Community Service to the GFBCI and subsumed AmeriCorps and other national service, volunteer, and disaster preparedness and relief programs into it. The order also established a gubernatorially appointed Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives as a subset of the Alabama Commission on National and Community Service to provide advice to the commission and the governor. Some of the advantages of this structure cited were the shared mission of both the FBCI and AmeriCorps to strengthen communities, the knowledge within the AmeriCorps program about federal and state grants management, and the experience and resources of the state CNCS commission.

Funding. Not surprisingly, sufficient and reliable funding  in particular a budget for FCL grantmaking to FBCOs  was seen as linked to effectiveness, especially in partnership- and capacity building. Having a state budget line dedicated to grantmaking was unusual, however. Of the case study sites, only New Jersey had dedicated state funds for OFBI grants to FBCOs. FCLs pointed to insufficient funds, overly patchworked funds from many sources, and erratic funding levels as sometimes limiting their effectiveness. One FCL noted that the lack of dedicated faith-based money for FBOs, combined with a lack of grantmaking funds within the OFBCI and a limited pot of general federal and state social-service money, made it a harder sell to persuade FBOs newly eligible under Charitable Choice to master federal or state requirements, and to change their practices and limit their faith, all for a shot at a funding pie that might be shrinking.

Staff. Finally, having a sufficient number of staff with the time, experience, and skills to do the work was seen as critical. Dont let anyone tell you you can do this with one person, said one long-time FCL. In another site, FCL leadership indicated that having at least one position explicitly dedicated to the FBCI was critical, although it appeared in other sites that experienced and skillful staff could work effectively to integrate the FBCI into other complementary priorities. Having a formal FCL function did seem to be linked to a basic level of resources and support, however. In several sites, FBCO grantees also stressed the particular value of responsive, empathetic frontline staff.

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