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GuideStar Survey: Funding Faith-Based Organizations

Release Date: May 6, 2003

Williamsburg, Va.—A new GuideStar survey indicates that a key part of President Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives draws strong and diverse reactions from the nonprofit community.

GuideStar, the premier source of nonprofit information, asked individuals concerned with the nonprofit sector to share their views on the portion of the president's proposal that advocates opening government funding to faith-based organizations that offer social services.

More than 3,000 people associated with charitable organizations participated in the survey. Those who supported making government funds available to faith-based organizations gave the following reasons:

  • It will expand the existing charitable-choice provision to more kinds of programs.
  • Faith-based social-service programs are often more successful than secular social-service programs.
  • It will help eliminate discrimination against faith-based organizations by allowing them to compete with secular nonprofits for government funding.
  • Faith-based organizations can motivate individuals in need and thus combat low morale, a factor that contributes to poverty.
  • No one will be forced to accept religious teachings in order to receive assistance, because secular alternatives to faith-based programs will also be available.
Several respondents asserted that faith-based organizations are more cost effective than secular charities. Others suggested that people in need are more likely to turn to faith-based organizations because of the roles the nonprofits play in their communities. Many commented that faith can be a vital factor in changing people's lives.

Those who opposed opening government funds to faith-based organizations stated the following concerns:

  • It will violate the Constitutional separation of church and state.
  • It will enable faith-based organizations to force religious teachings on clients as a condition of receiving assistance.
  • It will be difficult to hold faith-based organizations accountable for their actions, because they are exempt from reporting to the IRS.
  • It will favor mainstream faith-based organizations and discriminate against those outside it.
  • It will enable government to dictate what faith-based organizations can and cannot do.
Many participants observed that faith-based organizations are exemption from equal-employment regulations and voiced concern that applicants would be denied jobs or assistance because of religious or lifestyle preferences. A number of respondents said faith-based organizations are not held to the same licensing and professional standards as secular nonprofits. Others speculated the organizations would become dependent on government funding.

Both supporters and opponents noted that some faith-based organizations already receive government funds. Others commented that faith-based nonprofits can establish 501(c)(3) public charities that are eligible to compete for public funding for social programs.

Many people on both sides of the issue agreed with the comment of an anonymous participant from Seattle, Washington: "I think it will be very important that the legitimate groups with strong programs are treated on an equal level with those not faith-based, and that any groups that do not have legitimate and technically viable programs, with good and verifiable track records, are not funded."

About the Survey

An invitation to participate in the survey was e-mailed to 31,205 people. Nearly 11 percent—3,331 individuals—took the survey on-line April 8-15, 2003. Some 3,139 respondents (94 percent) said they were associated with a nonprofit organization.

For the survey report and participants' narrative comments, contact Suzanne Coffman at 757-229-4631.

About GuideStar

GuideStar, www.guidestar.org, offers information about the programs and finances of 1.7 million IRS-recognized charitable organizations. GuideStar powers many on-line giving systems and distributes both free and subscription-based nonprofit data to grantmakers, nonprofits, donors, government charity regulators, and professionals serving the sector. To find out more about GuideStar services, go to www.guidestar.org.

News Contact

Suzanne E. Coffman
Director of Communications
757-229-4631, ext. 27