Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation. Texas

12/18/2008

Faith Community Liaison: Chris Bugbee, Director of Texas Center for Social Impact, OneStar Foundation

Site Visit Dates: April 16-18, 2008

Site Context and Resources

Texas has a comparatively long history with Charitable Choice and the faith-based and community initiative, evolving from an influential 1996 faith-based taskforce under then-Governor George W. Bush to the current OneStar Foundation. OneStar Foundation was established in December 2003 as the result of an executive order (RP30) issued by Governor Rick Perry (R) that designated a new OneStar National Service Commission to oversee state Corporation for National and Community Service programs (dissolving the prior AmeriCorps commission). This order established OneStar Foundation to provide administrative functions for the commission and bring together the states FBCI and a range of volunteer and mentoring initiatives. OneStar became operational in 2004 as a private foundation that operates as a hybrid public-private entity and supporting nonprofit of the governors office. In the words of the FCL, Chris Bugbee, we are not a state agency but are an agent of the state.

The FBCI grew out of Gov. Bushs Advisory Task Force on Faith-Based Community Service Groups and a 1996 executive order (GWB 96-10), which directed all pertinent executive branch agencies to: (i) take all necessary steps to implement the charitable choice provisions of the federal welfare law; and (ii) take affirmative steps prescribed by the Act to protect the religious integrity and the functional autonomy of participating faith-based providers and the religious freedom of their beneficiaries. The advisory taskforce also issued a 1996 report that focused on identifying legal/regulatory barriers to FBO participation and recommendations for ways to lift the barriers (Ebaugh, 2003). The Task Force evolved into an office within the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), and the state continued to take steps to implement Charitable Choice and the FBCI. In 1998, the Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS) issued a guidance document that required adding language to contracts and requests for proposals 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 1999, the state legislature passed HB 2017, which required TDHS to designate 11 regional liaisons to reach out to FBOs; soon after the TWC established faith-based liaisons in each of the states 28 regional workforce boards to promote partnerships in a manner that respects [FBOs] unique religious character.

The political environment in Texas is generally supportive of the initiative, although there was some controversy and legal action in its early years. Contracting partnerships between government and FBCOs have long been a part of Texas governance, and although the state constitution has a no-funding clause that prohibits funding of religious organizations (Lupu and Tuttle 2002), it does not seem to have constrained the work of the initiative in a significant way.

The states main religious denominations are: Catholic (28 percent), Baptist (21 percent), and Methodist (7 percent) (Kusmin, Mayer, and Keysar, 2001). Its ethnic composition is: 71 percent White, 12 percent Black, 31 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent Asian (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). The governor is Republican, and both houses of the Texas legislature, which meet every other year, are led by a Republican majority.

OneStars website describes the purposes of the Governors Faith-Based and Community Initiative (GFBCI): The social sector includes organizations that share a public mission with government to address, reduce and eventually eliminate social problems, thereby improving people's quality of life. In Texas, this sector is made up of both faith-based and secular nonprofit organizations that possess unique strengths in serving those in need that government cannot duplicate. In order to meet the growing need for social services, it is critical that individuals, private business, government and particularly faith-based and community organizations are all positioned to work together as committed and effective partners. Texas has long been a leader in reducing the obstacles that faith-based and community groups face when seeking to collaborate with each other and with state and federal government to better serve our communities. Building on this legacy, OneStar leads the Governors Faith-Based and Community Initiative, which was created by Governor Rick Perry in 2004. The specific tasks cited are to:  1) Encourage cross-sector collaborations between government, faith-based and community groups and other entities, such as private sector businesses, 2) Ensure that faith-based and community groups are ready to succeed in their partnerships by strengthening their organizational capacity and their work together to achieve common goals, and 3) Encourage research and evaluation to measure the impact of these partnerships in effectively serving Texans in need. Bugbee and other OneStar staff also noted that they conduct general outreach to organizations and individuals eager to learn more about the initiative, do many speaking engagements and presentations at conferences, conduct training and capacity-building sessions, act as an ombudsman for FBCOs working with state agencies, are liaisons with the initiative at the federal level and in other states, and work with the legislature as well as the governors office.

Chris Bugbee, director of the OneStar Texas Center for Social Impact (and FCL), reports to the foundation president/CEO, Susan Weddington. The president in turn reports to the governor; the governor also appoints all board members. Initially OneStar divided its main substantive focus into separate initiatives and programs, including the GFBCI, National Service Initiative, Governors Mentoring Initiative, Emergency Management, and Community Capacity Development programs. In 2007, the foundation underwent a strategic planning process and moved toward de-siloing the initiatives and integrating the various aspects of the foundations work. Now, instead of having staff who are specifically assigned to FBCI, this work is spread across all functional areas of OneStar. A cross-functional team of staff from across the foundation works together to develop and coordinate activities, projects, and strategies as they relate to the GFBCI; they also focus on evaluating progress and ensuring that the organization is focused on meeting the goals and purposes of the GFBCI. Since the research teams site visit, OneStar has also somewhat reconfigured its structure to better serve its ultimate goal of strengthening the entire nonprofit sector in Texas, developing four focus areas entitled Service and Volunteerism; Nonprofit Organizational Excellence; Research, Evaluation and Learning; and Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (which is currently under development).

It is difficult to segregate staff and resources as specific to the GFBCI. The foundation currently has 30 full- time and two part-time staff, and had an annual budget of about $14.1 million in 2007 (with approximately $11 million passed through as AmeriCorps grants). OneStar estimates that about 9 FTEs and 42 percent of the non-AmeriCorps operating budget can be attributed to the work of the GFBCI.

Prior to joining OneStar as the FCL, Mr. Bugbee worked in the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also served as Associate Director of Special Projects in White House OFBCI and in intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor, and worked at the state and local levels in Texas. He joined OneStar as Manager of the Governors Faith-Based and Community Initiative in May 2006, though he overlapped for a few months with the prior director, Beau Egert.

Key Activities to Further Implementation of Charitable Choice and the FBCI

Sector-Specific Activities

OneStar focuses strongly on cross-cutting outreach and capacity building within the nonprofit sector, particularly for small organizations. In the early years of the GFBCI, the state emphasized education about and implementation of Charitable Choice and equal treatment principles, assessment and reduction of barriers to FBOs interested in public partnerships, and inreach to state agencies to educate them and gain their cooperation. By 2006, however, OneStar was focusing more broadly on capacity building within the nonprofit sector, particularly FBCOs, with Charitable Choice and equal treatment implementation a subset of this work. This approach appears to have evolved for several reasons. First, the groundwork laid by the intensive early efforts of the Task Force and GFBCI and the supportive state environment lessened the need for an ongoing intensive focus on implementation of Charitable Choice rules and regulations. And second, by taking an inclusive approach  bringing FBOs, CBOs, and larger nonprofits together for capacity building and other events  OneStar hoped to facilitate a greater sense of commonality, collaboration and capacity among these organizations, with the ultimate goal of strengthening the nonprofit sector to increase its impact on social problems. This would allow them to learn each others language and practices, according to OneStars president, rather than segregating the faith-based community over the long term. Nonetheless, the foundation continues to emphasize Charitable Choice opportunities and dos and donts in its training and capacity-building events, and the foundation president stressed the importance of being open to communities of faith.

A major component of OneStars early capacity-building efforts was the Texas Demonstration Project (TDP), which was funded by a Compassion Capital Fund demonstration grant awarded in 2005. Working with a faith-based intermediary, the Cornerstone Assistance Network (CAN), as well as other project partners such as Baylor University, the Urban Alternative, Venture CD (a technology provider) and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, it developed and implemented the TDP in four urban counties in 2006 and 2007. The TDP used a three-phase model adapted from prior capacity-building work by CAN in the Fort Worth area. First, the team provided a series of symposia and workshops focused on organizational development for FBCOs to anyone interested. Across the four counties, 24 training sessions focusing on five key areas of organizational development were held, with over 1,200 participants from 346 organizations participating (Johnson and Wubbenhorst, 2008). One workshop held in each of the four counties addressed the rights and responsibilities of FBOs under Charitable Choice, as well as their need to meet accounting standards and other government reporting requirements. Second, OneStar held a small grants competition, and selected 25 grantees from among 53 applicants. As a prerequisite, applicants were required to participate in four of the six symposium/workshop sessions offered in their county, and grant amounts ranged from $8,000 to $30,000 for a nine-month term. Third, CAN staff, consultants, and intermediaries provided intensive assessment, technical assistance (TA), and consulting services for grant winners, with a follow-up retreat for participants one year later. Finally, grantees were asked to account for the funds they received, note additional money they brought in, and identify best practices they felt they had accomplished by means of the grants and services. TDP ended in 2007.

Building upon their experience with the CCF grant, OneStar received three years of funding from the Texas Workforce Commission to provide capacity-building funding, training and TA to FBCOs offering workforce development services in rural and urban counties across Texas. OneStar has also received TANF and Safe and Drug Free Schools program funding for capacity-building work. It also is sponsoring: capacity-building workshops around the state to provide training adapted to specific regions (which include information on Charitable Choice); strategic management institutes for nonprofits in partnership with the University of Texas; and a fall 2008 conference designed to promote evaluation of faith-based social service models in partnership with Baylor University. OneStar has also focused more broadly on evaluation of capacity building and other initiatives, collaborating in recent years with the RGK Center at the University of Texas, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, among others, to understand better the nature of the nonprofit and FBCO sectors and the most effective ways to respond to their needs.

In addition, OneStar has partnered with the White House OFBCI to host two conferences for FBCOs, and conducts an annual Governors Nonprofit Leadership Conference. OneStar is also working in partnership with the governors office to develop a statewide map of social service organizations, including FBCOs that might not have 501(c)(3) status and therefore cannot be tracked through tax records; the goal is to address gaps in service provision and improve leveraging of resources. OneStar provides information regarding funding and training opportunities on its website, as well as links to information on the FBCI, Charitable Choice, and capacity building. It also sends out email updates and has about 8,000 current email addresses in its database, according to staff.

Although early efforts of the Texas GFBCI focused on education of state agencies about Charitable Choice, and identification and reduction of barriers, this has not been a major emphasis of OneStar. This may be due in part to the fact that Texas was an early adopter of the FBCI and this information has been widely available for over a decade. It may also be due in part to OneStars nonprofit structure, which gives it certain advantages, but makes it  strictly speaking  neither a state agency nor a division of the governors office, and limits its ability to mandate actions within state agencies. As Mr. Bugbee noted, we are not enforcers but equippers, leading OneStar to take approaches such as convening forums with state agencies, and seeking other opportunities to foster implementation and collaboration. According to OneStar staff, legislation introduced in the 2007 session (HB 289) would have created an FBCO liaison within many state agencies, with an interagency coordinating group to address barriers and facilitate partnerships between state agencies and FBCOs. It received broad bipartisan support, but with the short biennial session was unsuccessful. The FCL noted that state agencies also receive guidance on Charitable Choice and equal treatment principles from their respective federal counterparts.

The foundation does have some means of educating and influencing state agencies, however. Many OneStar events include agency staff and address issues related to implementation of Charitable Choice. Governors office liaisons, which coordinate high-level issues among agencies, are another important means of working with state agencies. OneStars liaison can, if need be, work with the governors liaisons from other agencies to address concerns. OneStar staff have also worked with regional Councils of Government (COGs) to educate them about opportunities to partner with FBOs and CBOs, initially spurred by the challenges following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. OneStar has recently developed a formal partnership by contract with the state Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Legislation passed in 2007 required DFPS to work with OneStar, resulting in an evaluation of DFPS outreach practices for recruiting foster parents through FBOs in two regions of the state. Finally, according to the foundation president, OneStar is also seeking to develop partnerships with state agencies in which the foundation provides capacity-building services to nonprofits receiving state grants or contracts.

OneStar does not conduct systematic assessment of FBCOs or state agencies understanding of the opportunities and legal requirements entailed in Charitable Choice and equal treatment. Staff do use the process of reviewing OneStar grantees requests for reimbursement as an opportunity to ensure that they are not engaging in any practices that violate federal requirements, either for church-state separation or for inappropriate use of funds for purposes such as lobbying or fundraising. Staff noted that this process gives them the opportunity to offer very practical feedback on equal treatment principles. They also conduct site visits of grantees. They stressed that it was important for the organizations long-term sustainability that FBCOs understand the legal parameters of receiving federal funds.

Issue-Specific Activities

While its major emphasis is on cross-cutting capacity building for the nonprofit sector, OneStar has also undertaken a number of issue-specific initiatives. It has an obvious focus on AmeriCorps and other service programs, given its role as the state service commission, and a focus on volunteerism more broadly. In response to hurricanes, and the difficulty in coordinating private and public responses, OneStar has been working with interfaith groups and other FBCOs and public agencies to improve volunteer and donation management.

Successes, Challenges, and Lessons Learned

Many respondents cited as particularly successful OneStars approach to capacity building and TA for FBCOs. Respondents noted the three-phase approach of the CCF grant, which used the carrot of grants to expand the number of organizations and individuals that participated in training focused on organizational development. The intensity of the assessments, consulting, and other services, and the opportunities to network with and learn from other FBCOs, were also noted as contributing to success by both CCF project facilitators and grantees. Respondents also saw an apparent increase in the extent to which FBCOs network with each other and understand the opportunities to partner with the state. The innovative structure of OneStar  a separate nonprofit that is closely aligned with the governors office  was also identified as a success. Greater flexibility in staffing and fundraising, the ability to be somewhat buffered from politics, and the appeal to other nonprofits because of its identity as a nonprofit rather than government agency were seen as several advantages. In addition, FBCO partners praised OneStar staff for its high level of responsiveness and accessibility.

As in other sites, FBCO misperceptions  both about the availability of so-called bible-based money and the parameters of Charitable Choice  were cited as real challenges, especially in the early days. One respondent from an intermediary organization noted that misunderstanding of Charitable Choice was still common, but credited much of the increase in understanding that had occurred to work by OneStar. Reaching smaller religious and ethnic communities as well as small religious groups in rural locations (in particular those without nonprofit status) has proven especially challenging. The limited organizational capacity of many FBOs and CBOs was cited as a major challenge by OneStar and intermediary staff and FBCO representatives themselves. Finally, the foundation structure has presented some drawbacks as well as benefits. Working with state agencies now requires contracts not interagency agreements, because OneStar is a private nonprofit and thus not represented legally by the state Attorney General.

Finally, OneStar staff and other respondents noted several lessons learned from their experience. First, partnering with the range of groups in the faith community requires frequent, sensitive, and very local outreach. In particular, to reach smaller or more isolated FBCOs, such as those in rural areas or Hispanic communities, requires a real grassroots effort. As one staff member said, rapport and relationships take time but are crucial [this approach] is nuanced, and demands respect not assumptions. Second, the GFBCI has evolved over time. After an initial focus on reducing barriers and a concerted outreach and education effort focused on faith-based and community groups, the more recent focus emphasizes capacity building within the nonprofit sector more broadly, balanc[ing] integration and commitment to FBOs, in the words of the OneStar president. Third, a well-situated champion, such as a governor or legislator with substantial political authority, is critical for both influence and long-term sustainability. Finally, in capacity building, understanding the organizations life stage is essential and requires an assessment that moves beyond traditional nonprofit indicators such as budget size and years of operation. While partnerships with government necessitate a basic level of capacity, make a lasting impact on social issues will require mature organizations with adaptability, strong connections within the community, and effective leadership.

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