Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation. Outreach to FBCOs

12/18/2008

General outreach. All of the sites focused on reaching out to the FBCO community, and some to the wider nonprofit community as well, to provide information and encourage their interest in partnerships. These outreach efforts ultimately aimed to educate FBCOs about funded and unfunded partnership opportunities, facilitate training and TA, and help develop and sustain partnerships between these FBCOS and public agencies, and also among FBCOS. Some sites made a particular effort to reach out to FBOs, addressed in more detail below.

Outreach was a fundamental mission of each of the FCLs in the study, although they varied in the way they approached it and in their emphases. Every FCL used a range of strategies to build relationships with and within the FBCO community and to make groups and individuals aware of the purposes, programs, and services of the office. All stressed meeting with FBCO leaders, staff, and members, participating in key conferences and events, and providing information in a range of formats. The FCLs and many of their staff spent a great deal of time on the road  in fact, one FCL essentially gave up her office since she largely worked out of her car. Even when the FCL was based in a capital, FCL staff spent much of their time in the field and on the phone with grantees, partners, and other organizations or individuals interested in the initiative and/or the parameters of Charitable Choice.

Many FCLs sponsored major regular conferences or events with the goals of outreach, networking, and relationship building, as well as training and education. For example, in New Jersey, a series of three Expos sponsored by the state OFBI between 2000 and 2005 were said to have reached between 600 and 1,300 attendees, and an annual Governors Nonprofit Leadership Conference in Texas reached about 700 participants. The District of Columbia FCL described her offices annual Public-Private Partnership Conference as the areas premier conference for FBCOs; it is currently in its 10th year and draws over 300 attendees each year. Others sponsored outreach and networking events more intermittently. In Alabama, a June 2008 Governors Faith-Based and Community Summit combined outreach, networking, and capacity building, and was attended by about 400 participants, according to FCL staff. New Mexicos Conference for Faith-Based and Community Organizations focused on helping FBCOs gain access to federal grants (see Practice Model 4). Several other sites have worked with the White House OFBCI to host conferences for FBCOs. They also have frequently presented information about the initiative in their states at conferences and events sponsored by other organizations, often focused on specific issues such as volunteerism, mentoring, prisoner reentry, marriage, and fatherhood.

Practice Model 4.
Facilitating Access to Federal Funds
Organized by the New Mexico FCL and held in March 2007, Governor Bill Richardsons (D) Conference for Faith-Based and Community Organizations focused on improving FBCOs access to federal discretionary grants. Jay Hein, then-director of the White House OFBCI, 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 ultimately about 350 people attended, with 200 more on the waiting list. The FCL said that key to the events success were the in-kind contributions she received from the University of New Mexico (which provided space and catering) and the United Way (which managed registration); these partners contributions kept registration costs low. The conference was viewed by the FCL and other respondents as hugely successful. In particular, in the grant cycle following the conference, New Mexico saw a sharp increase  from $8.2 to $28.6 million  in the federal discretionary grants coming into the state, though it was not clear exactly how much of this could be attributed to the event.

Most sites developed databases, which they sometimes shared with other agencies or which formed the basis of listservs or mailing lists they used to send information to partners. The FCL in one state (Virginia) established a statewide on-line directory of FBCOs and public agencies working in a range of program areas that have identified themselves as interested in partnering with other groups. All sites have used email and/or hard copy newsletters, or interested party emails, to reach out to FBCOs and others with information about funding, partnership opportunities, training or networking events, or other news. All had websites, though their accessibility and content varied. 

Sites facilitated a mix of funded and unfunded collaborations, though several with limited resources placed a greater emphasis on unfunded partnerships. Depending on the site, the FCL focused to varying degrees on partnerships between FBCOs and state or local agencies, including the FCLs office, or placed a greater emphasis on facilitating partnerships among FBCOs and other private organizations. FCL respondents at sites with less focus on state agency partnerships cited faith liaisons within those agencies as the key players in promoting such activities. Some FCLs and their staff also indicated that they felt their resources were better spent helping small FBCOs to develop the organizational capacity to handle the requirements of public contracts or grants.

Outreach to FBOs in particular. Most sites maintained a special focus on outreach to FBOs, including churches, faith-based 501(c)(3)s, denominational and nondenominational associations, interfaith organizations, and others. FCLs in the early-adopting sites stressed the need, especially early in the evolution of their states FBCI, to reach out to FBOs and respond to their questions about Charitable Choice. In particular, they reported the need to address a widespread misconception that there was a new pot of money dedicated exclusively to FBOs (variously called bible-based or faith-based money in different locations). Most FCLs have worked to address FBO concerns or discomfort about partnering with public agencies or with other FBCOs, as well as uncertainty about the boundaries of permissible activities under Charitable Choice. As noted in Chapter III, a number of FCLs stressed the need to reach into the faith community to learn about and build relationships with diverse faith groups. Trying to bring in minority faiths and/or language minorities could be especially challenging, though several FCLs said they made particular efforts in this area.

Approaches to outreach grew in part out of the particular circumstances of each site. In Illinois, the unofficial FCL (a pastor himself) has long reached out to churches and other FBOs and saw this as the primary focus of his work, facilitating unfunded partnerships, particularly among the FBOs themselves. Alabama worked to cultivate relationships with FBOs in its disaster preparedness and response activities and other efforts, although in its own grant-making relationships it has dealt with FBOs and CBOs in similar ways. In Texas, the early barrier assessment and reduction efforts have evolved into a broader emphasis on the nonprofit sector, but the state tries to identify and bring in a range of faith-oriented groups. In recent months, the OneStar Foundation has been developing a mapping project in partnership with the governors office, designed to identify and locate nonprofits delivering social services, including small and rural FBOs that may not have 501(c)(3) status and therefore cannot be tracked through tax records.

Outreach was often targeted to FBOs related to services that they were considered to be particularly effective at providing. As discussed below, sites issue-specific needs varied  for example, disaster preparedness and relief were a major focus in Alabama, Florida, and Texas; prisoner reentry was an emphasis in Virginia; hunger was a key issue in New Mexico; and HIV/AIDS was a pressing concern in DC. FBOs were seen as particularly valuable in responding to such issues. Many FBOs have access to dedicated and mission-driven volunteers, church members, and others who can act as effective mentors; and churches and their associations as well as interfaith groups  can activate networks and harness resources. Especially in relatively poor states like Alabama and New Mexico, FBOs were seen as representing an insufficiently tapped resource for addressing social need. In the words of one respondent, FBOs were boots on the ground that FCLs sought to help equip and activate in order to address pressing social problems more effectively. In part because the need outpaced the resources, no matter what the level of state support for public services, respondents noted, mission-driven grass-roots FBOs could provide vital services in communities in a responsive fashion.

In several sites (Illinois, Texas, and Virginia), systemic changes to the procurement systems have been undertaken to facilitate FBOs participation in public contracting. In 1998, the Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS) issued a guidance document that required adding language to contracts and RFPs to emphasize FBOs rights to religious freedom and otherwise mirroring the main Charitable Choice provisions; these policies were adopted in other agencies as well (Ebaugh 2003). In Virginia, the General Assembly revised the state public procurement act in 2001, adding language that explicitly authorized public bodies to enter into contracts with faith-based organizations for the purposes described in this section on the same basis as any other nongovernmental source without impairing the religious character of such organization and without diminishing the religious freedom of the beneficiaries of assistance.[12] The law explicitly noted the right to hire on the basis of religion, and required public entities to include a statement in all RFPs that they do not discriminate against FBOs. It also required public agencies to provide program applicants or participants with a written notice of their right not to be discriminated against on the basis of religion (or other protected characteristics) and the right to an alternative provider. In Illinois, the FCL reported that in anticipation of welfare reform his agency altered its procurement language to include specific reference to FBOs.

It was difficult for FCLs to assess objectively the proportion or number of contracts going to FBOs or the change in these numbers over time. Of the eight sites studied here, four administered contracts or grants through the FCL, and two of these did not gather information in a systematic way or did not synthesize it regularly enough to support such analyses. In two cases, however, the FCLs tracked their own grant-making and found that a substantial proportion of their grants went to organizations that self-identified as FBOs. In New Jersey, approximately 70 percent of the OFBIs grantees for FY 2008 were self-identified FBOs, according to data from FCL staff. In Texas, about 52 percent of OneStars capacity-building grantees in 2006-2008 were self-identified FBOs.[13]

It should also be noted that the definition of an FBO versus a CBO was not always clear, even when organizations self-identified. Several FBCO respondents themselves said that they defined themselves differently for different purposes or in different contexts.

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