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Grants - Applying for Federal Funds: Faith-based Initiatives

January 2004
By: Peggy Hartshorn
If your center has already received federal funding, perhaps for an abstinence program, and you are looking for additional dollars, start at the faith-based web site: Also, attend one of the regional conferences on faith-based initiatives. Each state should have an office for faith-based initiatives (check your governor's, congressman's or senator's office).

The "Compassion Capital Fund" has been initiated to help those who have never received a federal grant. Money from this fund awarded to the D.C.-based Institute for Youth Development (IYD) is awarded to small faith-based groups. IYD teaches groups such as pregnancy centers how to apply for federal funds and then provides federal funding through a competitive process that mirrors the "real" process that gives out billions of our tax dollars. Some centers (and Heartbeat International) have already received federal funding through IYD in 2003. More funds will be available in 2004.

Pros and Cons of Federal Funding for Faith-Based Groups
Not everyone thinks that federal funding for faith-based groups is a good idea. Some believe in a strict "separation of church and state"; some fear losing their volunteer spirit; some worry that "mission creep" will set in. Others are convinced that a strong staff and board can guard the mission. What's more, they recognize that if faith-based groups don't accept federal funds, our social and educational services will continue to be dominated by secular, conscienceless entities. They believe that those with true values must be players in providing help for our social ills, especially the disintegration of the family. (See Joseph Laconte's God, Government, and the Good Samaritan, available from the Heritage Foundation.) Your center's board must grapple with these issues.

What Can and Cannot Be Funded and How to Separate the Two
What can be funded with federal dollars is "education" and "human services," and both are provided in pregnancy centers. What cannot be funded is proselytization or the promotion of religion, evangelization, and religious services. Your organization can continue to promote religion, evangelize, and even hold religious services if you receive federal funds, but you cannot do these things with tax dollars. Federally funded services must be provided separately in time and/or place from your religious services.

For example, if you have a federally funded abstinence education program (as approximately fifty centers do), it is provided at a separate site and a separate time from your normal center services, and it has a separate budget and special reporting responsibilities to the federal government. Some centers have received public funding for programs even within the center. One way to separate the faith-based program from the federally funded program is to have the faith-based program in a separate section of the center. For example, an optional Bible study can be conducted in the evening in the kitchen, and the prenatal classes (funded by the state maternal and child health block grant) take place in the morning in the center training room. Different persons teach the two classes at different times and places, and the Bible study is not mandatory for participants in the medical program.

New Sources of Federal Funds
Federal funding (sometimes through state block grants) has been available for prenatal care and abstinence education for several years. Now, tax dollars are available for marriage preparation and marriage strengthening. Centers are aware of the importance of encouraging clients to consider marriage or to strengthen their marriages. So now that funds are available for such programs, will we apply for this funding?

Medicaid is not a grant-funding program. Instead it reimburses for the standard medical services that some centers provide, such as prenatal care, ultrasound, and STD testing. Once a center or organization becomes Medicaid eligible, the reimbursement stream continues as services are provided. This avoids the pitfalls of the highly competitive grants process where "pots of funds" come and go. Also, with Medicaid funds, there is no issue of separation of church and state, no concern about promoting religion. Money is reimbursed solely for the medical services rendered. Heartbeat International is investigating the Medicaid model for the provision of medical services at center sites. Training tapes from recent seminars on Medicaid funding are available from Heartbeat.

Writing a Federal Grant Proposal
A federal grant proposal is not very different from any other proposal, although there are additional forms and assurances to sign. The parts of a proposal (such as the needs statement, the list of objectives, the evaluation, and the budget) will be discussed in the next issue of At the Center. In some ways a federal proposal is easier than many others are. For example, the instructions found in the "Request for Proposal" (or RFP) are very detailed. While the long list of instructions may cause some anxiety, if you follow the directions to the letter, you can write a good proposal. Those who evaluate all the submitted proposals have detailed rating sheets that match up exactly with what the RFP requires. If you are applying for a federal grant for the first time, consult a professional grant writer or a writing teacher who is trained in analysis and direct writing style.

Compassion Capital Fund Grants
Meanwhile, if you are interested in learning more about federal grant writing and perhaps applying through the Compassion Capital Fund, you should consult the IYD web site: There you will find locations for federal grant writing seminars around the country for 2004. Attend one of these as early as possible in the year. (You receive five bonus points for your proposal if you have attended a seminar.) Also, read carefully the three RFPs on the site. A pregnancy center could apply for funding for any of these programs: training in life skills; expanding a medical model; or training in right choices, such as abstinence. Even if the grant deadline is not during the current quarter, you can begin planning and writing since the RFPs will likely remain the same throughout the year; certain ones will be available for funding each quarter. (If all three 2004 RFPs have not yet been posted, call Heartbeat for the 2003 versions; they will be similar.)

These grants are not for funds to provide direct client services; rather they are for "capacity building," that is, putting things in place that will increase your capacity to effectively compete for federal grants and/or access other federal funding sources. Under the section "Federal Funding FAQs" on the IYD web site, many things are considered capacity building, such as contracting with an evaluation specialist, printing educational materials and curricula, obtaining web site services, purchasing computer equipment, staff training, developing an action plan, and involving community partners.

This is a great opportunity to learn how to apply for federal funding and actually receive a grant. Most grants will be small, $5,000 to $10,000, but some will be up to $50,000. Even if you do not receive a grant the first time around, the experience of participating in the competitive grant-writing process will be invaluable.

For answers to your questions, e-mail your inquiry to IYD at (E-mail works faster than a phone call.) Heartbeat International also provides consultation on federal funding and any other issue relating to your center.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., is the president of Heartbeat International, 665 E. Dublin-Granville Road, Suite 440, Columbus, Ohio 43229-3245. Web site:

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