NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Few Small Charitable Organizations Apply for Federal Aid

August 16, 2001

Five years ago, Congress passed the Charitable Choice law, which encouraged faith- and community-based organizations to apply for federal funding assistance. But most small organizations of this type have failed to apply for help.

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives launched an effort to find out why. It has just released a report called "Unlevel Playing Field" which looks into the matter.

The report downplays the explanation that few clergy wish to apply for fear of tying up religious independence in government red tape. It favors the explanation that religious leaders are unaware of the Charitable Choice options -- and that Charitable Choice has essentially been ignored by federal administrators.

For whatever reasons, the statistics paint a picture of this non-connect:

  • The Justice Department estimates that in 2001 it will award only 0.3 percent of its discretionary funds to faith-based organizations -- about $1.9 million.
  • In 2000, faith- and community-based organizations received barely 2 percent of Department of Education discretionary grants aimed at such programs as after-school education and literacy.
  • Religious groups get only 1 percent of Department of Labor funds going for employment and training services.

The report examines the possibility that federal bureaucracies prefer to work with big nonprofit organizations -- rather than small untested ones. But it observes that virtually none of the big organizations that the government has funded for years have undergone even a single systematic performance evaluation.

Source: John J. DiIulio Jr. (White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives), "Unlevel Playing Field," Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2001.

For text (WSJ subscribers)


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