Regardless of whether you are a leader of a location of worship, a religious-based center, a camp operated by a religious group, or a faith-based community service group, you likely are in constant need of assistance in paying for your program and serving your community. There’s certainly nothing wrong with seeking help to promote your program of choice – especially if you’re running a faith-based group aimed at social or human services.
Yet, faith-based organizations (FBOs) have long held onto the false notion that grant applications and proposals from an organization such as theirs would not be favored by numerous grant funders. One of the main reasons for this was that the prevailing thought had long been that such funders would not wish to be observed as promoting a particular kind of group. Another reason was, perhaps, that there were far more secular funding places than faith-based ones.
That all began to change in 2001. In his first days in the Oval Office, President George W. Bush created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) through issuance of an Executive Order. The function of the OFBCI was to expand the participation of faith-based and community-based organizations to provide social services and, through newly-established federal agency Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives also created through Executive Orders, identify and remove policy and regulatory barriers so that FBOs may compete for federal funding on an equal basis with other providers. Foundations, corporate grant givers, and family trusts soon followed the growing trend of expressing a willingness to fund all types of projects being initiated and run by FBOs and other community groups. The agency today is known as the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Historically, federal and state agencies had been prohibited from contracting with faith-based organizations to provide these services because the U.S. Constitution mandated a separation between church and state. Over the years, however, a series of laws have included provisions allowing government agencies to contract with religious organizations to provide social services needed to carry out the goals of that law.
Yet, as grant funding opportunities began to open up for FBOs, access to even the most essential services grew more difficult for community residents, particularly those living in rural areas. The downsizing of healthcare services, for example, and shortages of healthcare providers in rural communities in recent years has left many communities with inadequate or nonexistent services. Add to that the lack of social service infrastructure – such as childcare, food pantries, and employment and training programs – and we find the growing effects of poverty in those same regions.
Of the more than 28,000 federal grant awards reviewed over a three-year period, 3,526 awards were distributed among the 1,146 organizations identified as faith-based. Over the same three year period (2002-2004), we found only a slight increase in both the number of FBOs receiving a grant from one or more of the programs studied, and in the total number of grants received by the FBOs that applied. In 2002, faith-based organizations received 11.6 percent of the total number of grants awarded under the ninety-nine programs studied. By 2004, that number had only increased to 12.8 percent of the total grants awarded.
In 2002, faith-based organizations received 17.8 percent of the total dollar amount awarded from the ninety-nine grant programs in the study. In 2003, that share of dollars awarded dropped slightly to 17.1 percent, but then it returned to 17.8 percent in 2004. This fact is all the more notable because total funding for the discretionary grant programs themselves dropped appreciably over this period, by more than $230 million. Thus, while faith-based organizations received 17.8 percent of program awards in both 2002 and 2004, the dollar amount declined from $669,522,328 in 2002 to $625,928,212 in 2004 percent.
The study concluded that one ongoing issue remains: the number of faith-based programs applying for money has remained static, even though the number of existing FBOs offering community support has increased dramatically. Federal, foundation, and corporate grants are becoming increasingly available for faith-based programs working with at-risk children, the homeless, women and drug offenders.
There are many FBOs that work with at-risk children. They are usually single parent children from low-income neighborhoods who are most at risk for criminal activity. Programs work with the children by providing tutoring and after-school sports programs to help the children avoid the temptation presented by gangs and hoodlums. These programs can rely on available grant money to continue existing. Grant programs such as the Children, Youth and Families at Risk from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Youth Services Discretionary grants program through the U.S. Department of Labor can help a program provide services for those in the community. Corporate foundations offering support include the AEGON Transamerica Foundation, the F. W. Albrecht Family Foundation, and the Samaritan Foundation (which also supports food banks and individuals in economic distress).
Homeless and Hungry
Faith-based organizations have become one of the major sources of food for the homeless and hungry in America. These programs rely on donations of food and money from people in the local community, as well as grant funds. Programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture such as the “Community Food Projects” and “Community Food Blocks” provide funds to organizations that feed the hungry and homeless. This is vital income for a program working in a low-income area with a high percentage of people who need the support of the organization. Nationally recognized corporate contributors to the homeless and hungry include Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Contributions, the Hasbro Gift of Play Program, and Procter & Gamble Company Contributions.
Faith-based organizations have a history of working with women in their local areas. These women can be single mothers or the victims of domestic abuse. The programs provide counseling, support and education to women in the community. These programs also require grants to remain in operation and serve the women in the community. Federal grants include the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Grant Program” and the “Violence Against Women Formula Grants.”
With cuts made to state programs working with drug offenders, many faith-based organizations have had to step up their programs and enrollments during a time of lower income from the community. Federal grants help these programs treat and counsel people regarding their drug use. The most common of these grant programs comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant is called the “Block Grant For Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse.” The grant offers funds to programs depending on the size of their operation and the treatment levels provided. Grant amounts range from $120,000 to $28 million a year.
This blog article provides an assessment of the overall trend of all types of grant funding to faith-based organizations. Specifically, we examined all the programs for which eligibility of faith-based and community organizations by agencies of the federal government, and for which consistent data was available – the three-year period immediately following creation of the President’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative.
Of the more than 28,000 grant awards made in those three years by the nine federal agencies and ninety-nine federal programs examined, 3,526 grants were distributed among 1,146 organizations classified by the study as faith-based. The share of discretionary grant funding going to faith-based organizations was 17.8 percent in the first year, 17.1 percent in the second and 17.8 percent in the third. The share of awards that went to FBOs increased from 11.6 percent of grants to 12.8 percent during that same period.
Funding flowing from all grant sources – including corporations, foundations, family and charitable trusts, and federal sources – to faith-based programs across the country has been increasing for at least a decade, which is long enough for an overall trend to be determined. The impact they have had on shares of funding to FBOs – in the context of other changes to other grant programs – is a matter for continued future study. From what is known currently, however, faith-based organizations are receiving a steady 17 percent of all funding and a steady 12 percent of the awards made through all grant programs. Even with less money being allocated to most grant-funded social service programs during our recent economically challenging time period, faith-based organizations are getting their piece of the pie.