Funding for Faith

| October 20, 2015

Human hand putting money in brown donate box with green grass anMinistries and faith based organizations frequently ask whether or not grant funding can be part of their funding plan. An equal number of ministries tell me: “Oh, no we don’t accept grant funding.” Grant funding should never be considered the only source of funding for an organization. However, it can be one source of funding to help the organization fulfill its mission.

GOVERNMENT GRANT FUNDING. Many faith based organizations have made a conscious decision not to accept government grant funding. This decision has been made for numerous reasons, including the separation of church and state; or not having a government agency say how programs and services are to be delivered. In the past, it was very difficult for faith-based organizations to compete with other service providers for funds being granted by government agencies.

During the Bush era, the office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives was created in the White House. This office expanded the Charitable Choice Bill which leveled the playing field for faith based organizations. Prior to the bill, it was very difficult for faith based organizations to compete for federal grant funds. Even though many programs and services provided by faith-based organizations are more cost effective and have better outcomes than “non-faith based” programs, it was very difficult to get government funding.

Recognizing that the faith based community has many valuable solutions to social issues facing our society, most of the federal agencies developed an office specifically for faith-based organizations. However, the legal requirements still remain misunderstood by many. What does the bill mean for your organization?

First, it means that your organization will not be disqualified for being a faith-based organization.

Second, it means that your organization can receive government grant dollars. The money received from the government can be used only to support the programs and activities that do not proselytize or have as their sole purpose to spread the gospel. However, if a faith-based organization provides a feeding program for low-income individuals in their community, they would be eligible to receive government grant monies to support their work. However, if they also require that all recipients attend a weekly Bible study, government grant funds would not be appropriate.

If your organization provides a service to meet a social or basic need in the community, you and the board of directors may want to consider government grant funding. As you consider this funding option, know that there is a lot of competition for government grant funding and your proposal will be evaluated in the same way as others. This means that your proposal needs to be the best it possibly can be, all rules need to be followed.

Your organization may still decide that it doesn’t want to accept government grant funds and that is perfectly ok. It is important though, to make an educated choice by understanding the ins and outs of the decision.

FOUNDATION GRANT FUNDING.   Many faith based organizations have made a conscious choice not to accept government grant dollars. However, grant funds from foundations may be a viable option.

There are several categories of foundations, but for our purposes, we will focus on two broad foundation categories.

Christian Foundations – These are foundations formed by Christian individuals who desire to support Kingdom work. These foundations will often fund evangelism efforts, outreach, etc. The program officers associated with these foundations understand Christian concepts and the role faith plays in your organization.

Mainstream Foundations – This is a very broad category of foundations that includes any foundations that do not identify themselves as Christian. It is important to note that many of these foundations are not necessarily opposed to funding Christian organizations but they are probably not going to fund evangelism outreach efforts.

If your ministry provides services to the entire community, without regard to religious affiliation, these foundations can be a great source of funding. Just be very conscious during your research and identification process whether or not they are opposed to providing faith-based organizations funding for any purpose.

CORPORATE GRANT FUNDING.  Corporate funding can come from two sources within the business. Many corporations provide funds for sponsorships of events and nonprofit activities through their marketing department. To successfully access these funds, nonprofits must think like a business. The purpose of a marketing department is to increase exposure for the business. Thus, nonprofits need to think through how they can provide exposure for the businesses that provide sponsorships. In other words,

  • How many people will they reach with the sponsorship?
  • What can you give to corporation?
  • Are the individuals that you will reach the same individuals that the corporation wants to reach?

Marketing dollars are not philanthropic dollars. They are monies for a very specific purpose. When seeking marketing dollars, nonprofits need to keep these facts in mind.

The second source of funds from corporations comes in the form of corporate foundations. Corporations often set up foundations to give back to the communities where they are located and where their employees live and work. While many corporate foundations exist, nonprofits need to remember that corporations give financial grants for one of two reasons — their community image or to increase their bottom line.

Information about corporate funding is sometimes challenging to find. It is often hidden on the corporate website under categories such as, “Sustainability Report,” or “Citizenship Report.”

While corporate funding can be a great source of local funds for nonprofits, there are also words of caution. All nonprofits, especially those that are faith-based, need to think about how aligning with a corporation could impact your mission statement. There are many instances in today’s media of nonprofits that have been negatively impacted by a relationship with a corporation that makes a poor decision.

Corporate funding is an option for organizations serving in their local community. As with all funding, nonprofits need to think about what a relationship with the corporation would mean. Use the newspaper test, would you want your relationship with this corporation on the front page of the local newspaper?

Finally, one ever important note….stay true to your mission or purpose. Organizations and ministries will sometimes “tweak” their missions to align with a particular funding source. This is NEVER a good idea.

Category: Non-Profits

About the Author ()

Email | Website | Deborah DiVirgilio is a Certified Governance Trainer through BoardSource and has more than 20 years of experience in providing nonprofit consulting, grant writing and management services for nonprofits, government agencies and faith-based organizations. She is the owner and principal consultant of The Faith-Based Nonprofit Resource Center (formally known as DiVirgilio & Associates). She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Sciences from Wilmington College and a Masters Degree in Non-Profit Management from Regis University, and is Grant Professional certified by the Grant Professional Institute. She has served on the Board of Directors and as an officer of the Grant Professionals Association.