FAQs for Working with USAID

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  1. How can my organization learn more about Federal grants?

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

  3. Is money set aside for faith-based organizations?

  4. What are the rules for the use of federal funding by faith-based organizations?

  5. Explain the requirement that religious activity must be “separate in time or location from federally-funded activities”

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

  7. 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 learn more about Federal grants?

Answer:

You can find federal funding opportunities at beta.SAM.gov and Grants.gov. USAID encourages you to visit this website regularly to stay updated on open opportunities.
 
Another way to stay current  is to register for the Agency’s Business Forecast, which provides information about potential funding and partnership opportunities at USAID and offers partners the opportunity to engage with us early in the procurement process. USAID issues forecasts while activities are still in the planning phase, so the information is subject to change. To receive Business Forecast announcements, sign up for the USAID Acquisition and Assistance email list.
 
We also encourage you to check out USAID’s New Partnerships Initiative (NPI), which aims to  diversify the Agency’s partner base by lowering barriers to partnership for new and underutilized organizations. NPI also shares available funding opportunities at USAID and helpful resources for organizations seeking to partner with us. Sign up for NPI’s newsletter here for updates.

 

Question 2:

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 you are entitled to learn why your application was not successful. The Agreement Officer has great flexibility as to how this information is communicated.  If you receive a letter that does not provide information as to why your proposal was not successful, you should send a politely communicated response to the email address from which you received the notification. Your communication should focus on your desire to better understand the perceived weaknesses in your offer so as to increase your odds of success next time.

Remember that a large number of organizations compete for Federal funds, and it is not unusual for groups to apply multiple times before they receive an award.  Getting feedback on your application can help you improve your chances the next time around.

 

Question 3:

Is 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 organizations.

 

Question 4:

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

Answer:

USAID grant funds are to be used solely within the Agency’s program areas, such as economic development, global health, education, and disaster relief. The funds may not be used for religious activities such as worship, prayer, proselytizing, or devotional study.

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 all people, regardless of their specific faith identity or lack thereof, 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;
  • Consider religion in employment decisions (under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), except in cases where the federal program statute forbids it; and
  • Retain their authority over internal governance.

In other words, 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 served by the funded program, but three requirements must be followed. All religious activities must be:

  • Separate in time or location from federally-supported activities;
  • Voluntary for beneficiaries of the federally-supported activities; and
  • Privately funded by the organization providing the religious activity.

 

Question 5:

Explain the requirement that religious activity must be “separate in time or location from federally-funded activities”

Answer:

When an organization receives direct government assistance, its religious activities must be conducted separately in time or place from USAID-funded activities. 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 viable site.

For example, government-aided social services can be implemented in one wing of a building while instruction in the Koran or Bible is taking place in another part of the building. Additionally, 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 using  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 religious programming, such attendance is completely voluntary and is distinct from the government-funded activities; that is, 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, kindly tell the inquirer that you may answer their questions after the funded program concludes at 4pm.

 

Question 6:

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

Answer:

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, which takes precedence. 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.

 

Question 7:

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.

 

Last updated: November 02, 2020

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