The White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives was launched in the hope that “spiritual approaches can succeed where secular ones have failed.” The apparently slow progress in these areas is not due to a lack of programs that work, or even lack of knowledge, according to this report. What is lacking, it says, is funding and the replication of programs that do work on a scale that is proportional to the problem.
“There is no scientific proof that faith-based organizations that work with the truly disadvantaged have a higher batting average than secular organizations,” says the report. It finds that it is less important whether a program is faith-based or secular than whether it has sound institutional capacity, such as financial management skills, a solid board and effective paid staff.
The report also finds that success is more likely if a nonprofit organization can shift the attitudes and behavior of youth to more positive directions. This usually requires some kind of moral imperative or having mentors that encourage teens to “do the right thing,” and successful programs include a moral imperative whether they are secular or faith-based. In sum, says the Eisenhower Foundation, progress by the new White House office will require good science, careful judgment and considerable trust. The foundation recommends that funders give more priority to replicating “unaffiliated, indigenous grassroots” nonprofit organizations and relatively less priority to large national nonprofits. Both reports are free and available at www.eisenhowerfoundation.org, or from The Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation, Suite 200, 1660 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. (202) 429-0440.