Chris Pineda, March 2006
Faith-based organizations, of all sizes, have long played an essential role in the provision of social services in the United States, at times in partnership with government. Indeed, some of these organizations are very well-known: Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and United Jewish Communities, to name a few. These large and nationally prominent faith organizations, however, should be differentiated from smaller organizations with faith-affiliation that are based in local communities across the country. The latter organizations can more rightly be called faith-based community organizations (FBCOs). In January 2001, President George W. Bush established the White House Office of FaithBased and Community Initiatives, by executive order, to “strengthen and expand the role of FBCOs in providing social services.” Since that time, President Bush has also urged state governments to create state offices of faith-based initiatives in order to encourage state and local government partnerships with faith-based community organizations.1 Many states have heeded the President’s call and begun to engage their state’s FBCOs in new ways around long-standing community problems arising from poverty and other issues. From a “liaison to the faith community” to a full-blown office with several staff members and initiatives underway, states have opted to engage their faith communities in vastly different ways. This paper is a summary of the efforts by states to engage their FBCOs. Specifically, the paper provides (1) background information on the most active state offices and faith community liaisons; (2) an overview of the best practices employed in the states; (3) a description of one current challenge—engaging sectarians FBCOs; and (4) a brief examination on how one state engages its FBCOs. It is our hope that these findings will be useful to governors and other state officials interested in these types of cross-sector partnerships.