Roundtable Study Shows Faith-Based Groups Received Over 17 Percent Of Federal Agency Social Service Funds

  • February 16, 2006

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A study of more than 28,000 social service grants made by nine federal agencies between 2002 and 2004 shows faith-based organizations (FBOs) received more than 17 percent of the funding, and saw their share of grants rise from 11.6 percent to 12.8 percent. In all, 3,526 grant awards were made during the period to 1,146 faith-based groups.

The study, titled "Getting a Piece of the Pie: Federal Grants to Faith-Based Social Service Organizations," conducted by the independent, non-partisan Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy also found that while the share of federal grant funding to faith-based organizations remained steady, the dollar value awarded to them declined.

“The Bush Administration has built a considerable management capacity to reach deeply into and widely across the federal government in order to implement the Faith-Based and Community Initiative as a presidential priority,” said David J. Wright, Project Director of the Roundtable. “This has translated to faith groups receiving a significant share of federal social service grants, despite intensifying competition as available dollars shrink.”

The Roundtable study also found that the overall share of grants to congregation-based organizations declined during the period, although there was evidence that a few federal grant programs are increasing awards to such groups. A goal of the Faith-Based and Community Initiative created by President George W. Bush has been to expand partnerships with faith-based service providers, especially those that are smaller, or congregation-based. As part of that effort, the White House has held numerous grant training sessions around the country.

"Congregations are being recruited, but it takes time to get new players into the game," said Lisa M. Montiel, the survey's principal researcher. "The federal grant process can be daunting, even with the efforts that have been made to level the playing field for such groups."

Because the study covers those grant programs operating since 2002, Montiel noted, it excludes several newer programs which may fund smaller faithbased providers, such as prisoner re-entry programs and those that mentor children of inmates. In addition, the study looked at discretionary grants made directly by federal agencies, and did not include funds channeled to faith-based groups through federal block grants administered by state and local governments.

In order to gauge trends affecting federal funding of faith-based social service providers, the study focused on the three years following the creation of the President's Faith-Based and Community Initiative. It included 99 federal programs for which such groups were eligible, and for which consistent year-to-year data was available. The study also used five specific criteria to identify grant recipients as being faith-based, including evidence of an explicit religious affiliation, religious references in mission statements, the presence of religious elements in the services provided, and the overt use of religious symbols, words or slogans.

During the three years covered by the Roundtable study, the number of faith-based organizations receiving direct federal grants rose each year, as did the number of grants they received, as shown below:

Number of FBOs Receiving a Grant Number of Grants to Faith-based Organizations

20026651042
20036881152
20047621332

However, the study found that while the number of faith-based grants grew, the total dollar amount declined from approximately $670 million in 2002, to $626 million in 2004. Despite the changes, FBOs continued to receive a steady 17.8 percent of the total funds during 2002 and 2004, with a slight drop to 17.1 percent in 2003.

The Roundtable's analysis was conducted from January 2004 through January 2006 and involved a team of eight researchers. The full study can be found on the Roundtable's website at: www.ReligionAndSocialPolicy.org. The Roundtable is based at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. It is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which serves the public interest by providing information, advancing policy solutions and supporting civic life.