TRUST, RESPECT, ETHICS, GROWTH
As I presented at a conference recently, I was approached by an attendee who explained why his religious organization does not apply for federal funds. He believed that if he accepted federal funds he would be risking the loss of his organizations identity and mission if they were to agree to some of the terms they felt would be required of them under a federal contract. Upon reflection, I thought how ironic this was especially at a time when that very week the Pope was in Washington, D.C. addressing Congress.
Here we are, in 2015 in America, at a point in time when the issues of the separation of church and state could not be more blurred and it was compounded when for one week the leader of one of the largest religious institutions was center stage trying to influence the moral fiber, economic decisions, and international relationships of American leaders and citizens.
It makes one wonder if there truly is a separation, doesn’t it? In the grant world- there is.
It has been my experience that a Request for Proposal (RFP) on every single federal grant is very straight-forward with guidelines to follow about allowable expenditures, program expectations, outcome measures, and format restrictions for the actual proposal. The RFP states what you can and cannot do with the funding in a very clear and concise manner. Budget guidelines, while lengthy to read and time consuming to research, are extremely specific.
I have written and won two federally funded drug court grants for a county which required that the program implementation did not mandate participants attend NA/AA meetings due to their religious affiliation. In the grant application and in all publications related to the enrollment and participation in the drug court program, we stated that “those in the program were required to attend NA/AA or other non-religious self-help support groups”. This was all that was needed to satisfy this constraint. Participants were allowed a choice of what support group they attended, thus we were allowing them their right for religious freedom and we were following the guidelines of the grant funder, the federal government. This did not change the integrity of the evidence-based program and it allowed us to start a much needed program in our community for justice-involved addicts.
Now, I realize this is just one example, however what I said at the conference and what I am hoping to get across to anyone reading this today is that what seems like a barrier in the printed pages of an RFP may in fact be solved by an easy solution and not a barrier at all. The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships promotes funding collaboration amongst all federal government offices and faith-based and secular non-profits. In the world of grants in 2015, collaboration is mandatory no matter what your mission is, goals are or views of the separation of church and state are.
With regard to grants, one must always be mindful of the separation of church and federal, state and foundation funding but this does not preclude any faith-based organization from applying for much needed funding for the incredible work they do. If one collaborates effectively, there is funding available that can advance your mission, reach your goals and improve your outcomes only if you are willing to see beyond the fine print to develop programs, policies and practices that allow your community the freedom to choose.
It makes sense doesn’t it? One of our greatest assets in America is freedom.