Overview Report on Project Findings: Maintaining Vital Connections between Faith Communities and their Nonprofits

Schneider, Jo Anne, Isaac Morrison, John Belcher, Patricia Wittberg, Wolfgang Bielfield , and Jill Sinha. Maintaining Vital Connections between Faith Communities and their Nonprofits, Education Report: Phase I Project Overview. College Park, MD: University of Maryland College Park, 2009.

This report addresses this relationship, sharing what we have learned from an in-depth study called Maintaining Vital Connections Between Faith Communities and their Organizations. The project was funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., with research activities beginning in March 2008. It examines the relationship between faith communities and 59 organizations founded by Mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, Quakers, and African American churches located in Philadelphia and Northern Virginia and several locales between them. The study focused on the following questions:

1. How do faith communities understand their practical theology and how does that practical theology play out in stewardship of organizations? What practical guidance would best serve faith communities and what groups or individuals (clergy, lay committee members, organization board and key staff, etc.) should receive advice and training on stewardship and related issues?

2. How do strategies for guidance and support differ among the various branches of
Christianity (mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, Peace Churches, Catholics,
African American churches) and Jews? How should guidance to those faith communities be tailored for each religion and denomination? What lessons apply to all
faith communities?

3. What strategies can a faith community use to address concerns regarding the
faith- base in organizations under its care or affiliated with that religion? How do
strategies differ depending of the level of formal control that the founding faith has over the organization? How does a faith community remain stewards of an organization when it is legally independent of its founding religious body?

The project explores the role of specific religious and denominational theology and religious culture in service activities, providing concrete products specific both to that religion, as well as more general theologically grounded materials. Rather than subscribe to one universal typology for identifying an organization as faith based, the project expects that various religious traditions would organize provision of social welfare differently.

This report provides an overview of findings from the project’s second phase, which focuses on guidance, stewardship and connections from the standpoint of both founding faith communities and faith based organizations, with particular attention to the relationship between founding community and FBO governance structures.