Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation. Partnerships Between FBCOs and Public Agencies

12/18/2008

Most sites placed an emphasis on outreach to and partnerships with both FBOs and CBOs, although some engaged in more concerted outreach to churches and other small FBOs. Even in sites where the focus was broad, most FCL staff still attempted to have what one FCL leader called a high welcome factor for faith. The types of partnerships the FCLs facilitated differed, however.

Funded partnerships. Most FCLs emphasized public-FBCO partnerships in the context of state and/or federal programs. In half the sites, the FCL office itself had access to federal or state resources to make grants or issue contracts to FBCOs for general capacity-building purposes and/or direct services. In two cases, these included CCF subgrants, and in two they included AmeriCorps state grants. None limited these grants to FBOs; all were for FBCOs more broadly, though they often focused on small emerging organizations. As one FCL staff member described it, the initiative should not be perceived as affirmative action for faith-based organizations or as a federal set-aside  it is increased accessibility, openness, and transparency of the competitive grant process. In these and the other sites, the FCLs often also worked to facilitate funded partnerships between other public agencies and FBCOs by providing information on grant opportunities, assisting with grant writing, translating government language and requirements, and making referrals to other public or private organizations for assistance.

The number of funded FCL-FBCO partnerships fluctuated over time in most locations, depending on available funds. By and large, however, the FCLs, agency partners, and FBCO respondents interviewed for the study said they felt that the number of funded partnerships had increased overall, although they lacked hard data to support this. Even where the number of funded partnerships may have leveled off in recent years, many respondents suggested that the quality of public-FBCO partnerships had improved over time, due at least in part to TA and guidance from the FCL. One FCL who faced inconsistent resource levels said she felt that, regardless of the exact numbers of partnerships, the FBCI at the federal and state level has created a culture of collaboration so that public agencies partnering with community and faith-based organizations is now recognized as the most effective way for communities to meet social needs.

While the states lacked systematic and accessible information on changes in the numbers of public-FBCO funded partnerships over time (and the proportion of these with FBOs), in five of the eight case studies the data from the ASPE/MPR survey on changes between 2001 and 2004 in state TANF and SAPT contracting with FBOs indicated some increases.[16] On a smaller scale, in two of the four case-study states in which the FCLs have grantmaking authority, the proportion of their own grantees between 2006 and 2008 that self-identified as FBOs were 52 and 70 percent (in Texas and New Jersey, respectively), according to data provided by FCL staff. Several respondents, however, described a continuing reluctance on the part of some public agency staff to partner financially with FBOs, especially with small, less established organizations, apparently based on the fear that they did not have the capacity to meet the range of government requirements. Similarly, many respondents said that some FBOs, particularly smaller, more faith-oriented ones (which could be considered newly eligible under Charitable Choice), were also hesitant to partner financially with government agencies.

Unfunded partnerships. All the FCLs also focused to some extent on fostering unfunded partnerships between state agencies and FBCOs, again with some apparent success. There is even less information about the numbers and types of these often informal partnerships. Nonetheless, our study found evidence of significant FCL activity in this area. For example, the mapping project under development in Texas described in Chapter IV is designed to locate social service FBCOs across the state (some without 501(c)(3) status) in an effort to help expand partnerships. The Virginia Prisoner Reentry initiative was centered on facilitating effective linkages  largely unfunded  between and among state and local agencies and FBCOs, including church-based mentors. The Virginia FBCI directory was also intended to foster unfunded as well as funded partnerships. The New Mexico Taskforce to End Hunger brought together members from key state agencies, as well as other public and private organizations. Alabamas approach to disaster preparation and relief entailed frequent collaboration among state agencies and both FBOs and CBOs in local communities, much of it unfunded. In Illinois, the FCLs work was almost entirely focused on unfunded partnerships. The FCLs, as well as public agency and FBCO partners interviewed for the study, indicated that many of these unfunded collaborations had resulted in marked improvements in the coordination and delivery of essential services.

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