Faith-Based Organizations FAQ

  1. How can my organization get information about Federal grants?

  2. What is the difference between an APS and RFA?

  3. What if I apply for a Federal grant, but my request is turned down?

  4. What are the evaluation requirements for an organization to receive Federal grants?

  5. Is there money set aside for Faith-Based Organizations?

  6. Does our religious organization have to form a special nonprofit organization in order to receive Federal funding?

  7. What are the rules for the use of Federal funding by faith-based organizations?

  8. Explain the requirement that there be "time or place" separation of inherently religious activity and USAID-funded nonreligious activity.

  9. Will the way in which our faith-based organization hires employees change if we receive Federal funding?

  10. Can government funds be used to pay the salary of a member of a faith-based organization's staff?

 

Question 1:

How can my organization get information about Federal grants?

Answer:

All Federal grants must be announced to the public and the most comprehensive source is www.Grants.gov, which is a one-stop "storefront" for most grants available from the United States Government. You can search Grants.gov by keyword (e.g. "malaria"), agency (e.g. "U.S. Agency for International Development"), or by category (e.g. "International Development"). You will see a chronological listing of open grants which you can then click on individually to access and read the solicitations.

 

Question 2:

What is the difference between an APS and RFA?

Answer:

USAID generally undertakes direct assistance programs to benefit developing countries through competitive grants and cooperative agreements. This ensures that all activities are concentrated on specific objectives to maximize impact and that they are consistent, mutually reinforcing, and draw support from the best available sources. The Agency publishes Annual Program Statements (APS) and Requests for Assistance (RFAs) on www.grants.gov to advertise competitive assistance programs.

APS is a channel through which local, national and multinational corporations of any size, both U.S. and foreign owned, can propose innovative public-private partnerships that achieve their core business goals, while also enabling USAID to accelerate and exponentially increase the impact of our foreign assistance investments. 

RFAs invite interested parties to submit competitive applications for USAID assistance and explain what the application should contain, how it should be written and the evaluation criteria to be used.

 

Question 3:

What if I apply for a Federal grant, but my request is turned down?

Answer:

There is no guarantee you will receive a grant if you apply. However, if you do not receive a grant, you should try to find out why you did not receive funding and how you could improve a future application. You can follow up with the program officer identified in the announcement. This individual will either be able to provide you with information about your application, or point you to the right person to contact. In addition, you may even be able to obtain written comments on your proposal, which can provide helpful analysis.

Remember that many, many organizations compete for Federal funds, and many groups apply several times before they receive an award. Getting feedback on your application can help you improve your chances of receiving funds the next time around.

 

Question 4:

What are the evaluation requirements for an organization to receive Federal grants?

Answer:

USAID released a new evaluation policy in January 2011. Built on our agency's rich tradition of evaluation, this policy sets out an ambitious recommitment to learn as we "do," updating our standards and practices to address contemporary needs. In an increasingly complex operating environment, the discipline of development demands a strong practice and use of evaluation as a crucial tool to inform our global development efforts, and to enable us to make hard choices based on the best available evidence. The Evaluation Policy paper, with specific criteria, can be found here.

 

Question 5:

Is there money set aside for Faith-Based Organizations?

Answer:

No. The Federal government does not set aside a separate funding stream specifically for faith-based groups. Rather, they are eligible to apply for government grants on an equal footing with other similar non-governmental organizations.

Our office exists to serve as a bridge between small nongovernmental organizations and USAID; to connect groups with relevant points of contact at USAID and inform groups of various partnership opportunities on a range of development challenges; and encourage collaboration among the people and organizations addressing human suffering around the world.

 

Question 6:

Does our religious organization have to form a special nonprofit organization in order to receive Federal funding?

Answer:

In general, no. There is no general Federal requirement that an organization, or house of worship, incorporate or operate as a nonprofit or obtain tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code in order to receive Federal funds.

Although it will take some time and cost some money, a faith-based organization may wish to establish a separate nonprofit organization to use the government funds it receives. Taking this step can make it easier for a faith-based organization to keep track of the public funds that it receives and spends. It will also be easier for the government to monitor the group's use of grant funds without intruding on the group's internal affairs, in the event that an audit is conducted. We recommend you contact existing non-governmental organizations for information regarding this process.

Since some USAID programs are geared specifically to assist organizations that are registered with USAID as a Private Voluntary Organization (PVO), groups may find it helpful to register to be a PVO. To learn more about these types of programs click here.

 

Question 7:

What are the rules for the use of Federal funding by faith-based organizations?

Answer:

Grant funds may not be used for inherently religious activities such as worship, prayer, proselytizing, or devotional Bible study. The funds are to be used to further the objectives established by Congress such as economic development, food aid, fighting disease, disaster relief, as well as other USAID stated programs and goals. Recipients of the development program and assistance may not be selected by reference to religion. The religious affiliation of the recipient cannot be taken into account in advertising or delivering services. Faith-based organizations are required to serve people of all faiths or people of no faith in any program that they administer with Federal dollars. Faith-based organizations may not use Federal funds to purchase religious materials - such as the Bible, Torah, Koran, or other religious or scriptural materials.

Faith-based organizations who have received funding are allowed to:

  • Use facilities without removing religious art, icons, scriptures or other religious symbols

  • Retain religious terms in organization's name

  • Select board members on a religious basis

  • Include religious references in their mission statements and other governing documents

  • Retain their right under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to consider religion in employment decisions, except in cases where the federal program statute forbids it

  • Retain their authority over internal governance

You may use space in your church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship to provide Federally-funded services. Faith-based organizations may also offer religious activities to those being served by the directly funded program, but three requirements must be followed. All religious activities must be:

  • Separate in time or location from federally-supported activities

  • Voluntary for clients of the federally-supported activities

  • Privately funded by the organization providing the religious activity

 

Question 8:

Explain the requirement that there be "time or place" separation of inherently religious activity and USAID-funded nonreligious activity.

Answer:

When an organization receives direct government assistance, its inherently religious activities must be offered separately-in time or place-from the USAID-funded activity. USAID does not require separation of both time and location, as that would impose a difficulty for small religious organizations that may have access to only one location.

For example, government-aided social services can be carried out in one wing of the building while instruction in the Koran or Bible is taking place in another. Or, to stick with that example, religious and non-religious activity can be offered in the same room, but not at the same time. Inherently religious programming cannot be carried out with the help of government aid.

An organization receiving government funds must be careful to communicate that while beneficiaries of their government funded services are welcome to attend its inherently religious programming, such attendance should be completely voluntary. Declining to participate will not result in the beneficiary losing the government funded service.

If a recipient of services asks a faith-based provider for information on religion, a brief answer that is sufficient to satisfy the question is allowed. However, if a longer conversation is requested, provider staff should set up a time to talk after the Federally funded program is concluded or separate from the location of the program. For example, if a USAID-funded program goes from 2-4 pm, let the person asking the questions know that it will be fine to hold the conversation sometime after 4 pm.

 

Question 9:

Will the way in which our faith-based organization hires employees change if we receive Federal funding?

Answer:

In most circumstances, no. There is no general Federal law that prohibits faith-based organizations that receive Federal funds from hiring on a religious basis. Nor does the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies regardless of whether an organization receives Federal funds, prohibit faith-based organizations from hiring on a religious basis. This Act protects Americans from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability. But the Civil Rights Act also recognizes the fundamental rights of faith-based organizations to hire employees who share their religious beliefs. The United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld this special protection for faith-based groups in 1987, and it has been the law since then. Thus, a Jewish organization can decide to hire only Jewish employees, a Catholic organization can decide to hire only Catholics, and so on, without running into problems with the Civil Rights Act.

This special provision for faith-based groups protects the religious liberty of communities of faith. It permits faith-based groups to promote common values, a sense of community and unity of purpose, and shared experiences through service - all of which contribute to a religious organization's effectiveness. In order for a religious organization to define or carry out its mission, it is important that it be able to take religion into account in hiring staff. Just as a college or university can take the academic credentials of an applicant for a professorship into consideration in order to maintain high standards, or an environmental organization can consider the views of potential employees on conservation, so too should a faith-based organization be able to take into account an applicant's religious belief when making a hiring decision.

One final point. In general, a faith-based organization retains this exemption even if it receives Federal, State, or local financial assistance. However, certain Federal laws and regulations, as well as State and local laws, may place conditions on the receipt of government funds. For example, some employment laws may prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion. Or a State or local law may prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or require certain organizations to provide benefits to employees' unmarried domestic partners. Some of these laws may exempt religious organizations, while others may not. Organizations with further questions about this issue may wish to consult a lawyer to find out about the specific requirements that apply to their organization and any rights they may have under the Constitution or Federal laws.

 

Question 10:

Can government funds be used to pay the salary of a member of a faith-based organization's staff?

Answer:

Yes, but only to support the portion of the staff's time that is dedicated to delivering services under the grant or contract. Those staff members can engage in religious activity that is privately funded if it is conducted at a different time, but cannot be paid for time spent planning, conducting or participating in inherently religious activities (or any other non-USAID program activities.) For example, staff that might also function as a rabbi, priest, imam or other religious leader, must be certain to separate their religious instruction or pastoral activity from the funded social service programming, and account for time spent on religious activities versus time spent on federally funded program activities.

Last updated: April 01, 2014

Share This Page