Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation. Organizational Structure


The sites have developed a range of organizational structures (see Table III.3), which largely grew out of their sources of legal authority, their resources, and the evolution of the FBCI within each of the jurisdictions. Among the eight sites, three basic models of organizational structure emerged: 1) FCLs in nonprofit organizations, 2) FCLs within the governors office, and 3) FCLs embedded within state agencies. Some sites began with one structure and evolved to another over time. In others, the structure has remained generally unchanged. Each of the three basic structural models has had advantages and drawbacks in the sites, according to respondents.

Nonprofit Entities. In Florida and Texas, initiatives that had originally been spurred by governors were spun off into nonprofit foundations. In Florida, an executive order was used to establish the organization  now called the Governors Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service  that eventually gave rise to the establishment of VFF. VFFs independent structure allows the Commission to solicit funds and to direct them toward activities that are a priority for the governor without running afoul of the state constitution. In Texas, Governor Perrys executive order designated the OneStar Foundation as the administrative arm of the states national service (AmeriCorps) commission, and supporters filed the necessary documents to establish the nonprofit foundation, according to respondents. While both foundations are nonprofit organizations, they take significant direction from the governors offices in terms of key priorities and leadership. In Texas, both the OneStar president and the advisory board are the governors appointees. As the FCL there described it, we are not a state agency but are an agent of the state. It should be noted that Governor Perry, who spearheaded the foundations establishment, is still in office so OneStar Foundation has not yet experienced a major political transition (the governorship is not subject to term limits in Texas).

Table III.3.
Structure of FCL Position
State Location Type
AL Governors Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Governor-centered
DC Office of Partnership and Grants Services Embedded
FL Faith-Based and Community Initiative within Volunteer Florida Foundation Nonprofit organization
IL Office of Strategic Planning, Department of Human Services Embedded
NJ New Jersey Office of Faith Based Initiatives, Department of State Embedded
NM Governor Bill Richardsons Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Department of Aging and Long-term Services Embedded
TX OneStar Foundation: Texas Center for Social Impacta Nonprofit organization
VA Division of Community and Volunteer Services, Department of Social Services Embedded
a After the research teams site visit, OneStar underwent reorganization, and revised its name to include the Texas Center for Social Impact. 

In contrast, Florida has undergone the transition from a governor for whom the faith-based initiative was a central priority to a governor for whom it is less so. Despite this, the FCL has maintained some consistency (see Practice Model 2). In discussing the utility of the VFF organizational model, one respondent close to the process used the metaphor of a train, with each car representing a different priority issue or activity of the foundation; each new governor can add some cars and remove others consistent with his agenda, but the whole train will continue to move along. Other advantages of the nonprofit structure cited by respondents included the ability to fund-raise from private and other sources; flexibility to hire, fire, and restructure staff outside civil service and other public agency requirements; and a perceived neutrality from political forces.

Practice Model 2.
Sustainability Through Organizational Independence
The Faith-Based and Community Initiative in Florida is housed in the private, nonprofit Volunteer Florida Foundation (VFF). Given Floridas strict constitutional language limiting state funding of FBOs, VFFs 501(c)(3) status allows the organization to raise private funds, which may be directed toward the activities of sectarian organizations. At the same time, as a quasi-independent nonprofit, VFF can remain somewhat outside of the often contentious political sphere. Nevertheless VFF was established to provide direct support to the Governors Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, and having close ties to the governors office sends a message, in the words of one respondent, that VFFs initiatives have important political support. Because VFF is generally responsive to the governors office, however, the various initiatives under the Foundations purview have been intentionally siloed to allow the organization the flexibility to direct resources toward successive governors differing agendas. In describing this structure, the VFF president used a metaphor of a train, with each governor adding some boxcars and removing others while the whole train continues to move along. Texas has pursued a somewhat similar approach through establishment of the OneStar Foundation.

Disadvantages cited by respondents included greater complexity in partnering with public agencies, since interagency agreements may no longer be permissible and formal contracts may be required; the need to develop legal counsel and other resources, since they are outside the jurisdiction of statewide agencies, such as the attorney generals office; and somewhat greater distance from political actors who might otherwise be champions. Being a nongovernmental agency also appears to limit the FCLs ability to encourage state agencies to cooperate in the implementation of the FBCI and different aspects of Charitable Choice, even with the general support of the governor. As one foundation-based FCL noted, we are not enforcers but equippers.

Governor-Centered Offices. While the two foundations participating in the study had some history as governor-centered offices, by the time of our site visits only one state in the study (Alabama) followed a clear governor-centered model. Two other sites (New Jersey and New Mexico) also began as governor-centered offices, relatively speaking, but by and large have evolved to become embedded offices (see below). Several respondents referred to the governor-centered structure as the White House model since it significantly mirrored the centralized structure of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, with a network of FBCI centers or contacts in the agencies. This model has the advantage of carrying the authority of the governors office, which can be a great asset in bringing public and private actors to the table, especially with a governor who is invested in the office and its functions. In the case of Alabama, the model was further strengthened by the governors strong commitment to Charitable Choice and the GFBCI, according to respondents, and by the powers provided to the office by the executive order establishing it.[10] Further, the FCL reported to the governors chief of staff and attended regular meetings of the governors cabinet, giving her additional access to agency heads and others in the governors office.

However, it should be noted that structural, legal, and political proximity to the governor can be a double-edged sword. When the sponsoring governor leaves office, a period of uncertainty and instability appears inevitable, even if the party does not change. As one FCL noted, every new governor wants to put their stamp on the office. In Alabama, the FCL and staff, as well as other public partners, spoke explicitly about their window of opportunity for implementation and planning for sustainability when the inevitable transition occurs.

Embedded Functions. Five of the study sites followed what could be called an embedded model, with FCLs located in state agencies even if their mandate was government-wide. In New Jersey, the formal statewide Office of Faith Based Initiatives exists within the Department of State. Similarly, in two other sites, the District of Columbia and New Mexico, there is a statewide initiative to support public partnerships with FBCOs, originated by executives (Mayor Anthony Williams in DC and Governor Bill Richardson in New Mexico), but housed in agencies. In Virginia, the statutorily mandated government-wide FCL functions are broadly the responsibility of the VDSS and currently are performed by the director of the Office of Community Partnerships and staff within a division of VDSS. In Illinois, an individual within the states Department of Human Services (IDHS) is explicitly charged with outreach to FBOs around the state and regional IDHS representatives work to cultivate public partnerships with FBCOs in their area.

Being embedded within a bureaucratic structure can buffer the FCL role from political pressures and help ensure a relatively stable and integrated FCL function, particularly if the person in the role has the experience, skill, and credibility to establish strong relationships within the bureaucracy and the FBCO community. In this model, the FCL can hunker down within an agency to focus on doing the work, even during politically difficult situations. The embedded model does present some risk that the FCL function will become too diffuse or low-profile, or too reliant on the strengths of an individual liaison who may leave the job one day. Nevertheless, in the hands of an FCL skillful at bureaucratic and community relationships and rules, the embedded model can also be successful, given the stability these arrangements appear to offer. Particularly if the FCL can cultivate the support of political officialsfor example, through its advisory board, as was the case in New Jerseythe embedded structure can allow both for stability and a political champion.

As noted above, several of the study sites shifted from one model to another, moving from the governor-centered approach to either the nonprofit or embedded model. In a sense, this might be a natural progression to a greater level of institutionalization. In certain cases (Texas and New Jersey) this seemed explicitly intended to provide greater sustainability, among other purposes; in others (Florida and New Mexico) it appeared to be more a pragmatic step, given the legal and political context of the sites. One long-time FCL stressed that the offices main champion should not be an elected official, since those officials face so many competing pressures and turn over with some frequency. Instead, this FCL thought that a committed advocate, such as an advisory board member who is able to navigate both sides of the aisle, would provide the FCL with both access and political neutrality.

Finally, it is worth noting that most sites, regardless of their structure, have had advisory commissions or boards, at least at some point in their evolution. Their roles varied from heavily involved advocates or advisors to providers of periodic feedback (see Practice Model 3). In several sites (Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, and Texas), they were cited as particularly engaged at the time of the study. In others, they had played a greater or lesser role at different times, depending on the particular members serving and the needs of the FCL.

Practice Model 3.
Activating the FBCI Advisory Commission for Sustainability
The Executive Order signed in 2002 by New Jerseys then-Governor James McGreevey (D) situated the Office of Faith Based Initiatives (OFBI) within the Department of State and at the same time established a 23-member Advisory Commission on Faith-Based Initiatives, with the OFBI acting as staff to the commission. The diverse make-up of the commission and its members relationships to important constituencies around the state have provided the OFBI with access to the governor, legislators, state agencies, and other potential supporters. The commissions members include eight non-voting state agency heads; 15 voting members representing houses of worship, business, higher education, and other nongovernmental organizations, appointed by the governor; and a chair, also appointed by the governor. The formal roles of the commission are to advise the FCL on policy, to advocate for the OFBI on budget and other matters, and to review the OFBIs recommendations for grant awards for its RFPs. The commissions advocacy role has become particularly important in recent years since the departure of the previous secretary of state, who had been highly involved in the OFBI. Over time, the FCL has come to rely increasingly on the commission and its chair for advice and advocacy, as well as for their formal roles.

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