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The Scope and Scale of Activities Carried Out By Faith-Based Organizations: A Review of the Literature - 2nd Edition

Category: Scope and Scale of Services

Document Type: Bibliography

Faith-based organizations (FBOs) are increasingly involved in the provision of social services. The purpose of this review is to synthesize the literature that addresses the scope and scale of FBO activity. This literature provides valuable information on the characteristics of FBOs and the activities that they are engaged in. We describe some of these activities, we address the different types of FBOs engaged in this work, and we discuss the research that has been used to assess the resources that these organizations contribute.

There are a wide variety of FBOs engaged in the provision of social services. These organizations can be distinguished according to their geographical coverage. Congregations typically serve the smallest area while large national FBOs are engaged in activities across multiple states. FBOs also vary according to the extent to which religious faith is integrated into their programs. Some organizations are only weakly connected to their faith tradition while others contain organizational and programmatic elements which are highly religious. The activities of FBOs include the delivery of social services, community economic and housing development, and community organizing. The provision of short-term emergency aid and services appear to be the most common activities carried out by FBOs. This appears to be especially true of congregations. FBOs contribute to social welfare through the provision of volunteers and through their direct involvement in activities. Congregations frequently provide volunteers to support the social service functions of local FBOs. In addition, the most recent estimates suggest that FBOs provide approximately 20 billion dollars annually on social service programs.

We conclude with some recommendations for future research. First, we recommend continued work investigating the religious faith component contained within FBOs. This includes new measurement approaches that would assist in distinguishing between FBOs according to the level of religious faith that is integrated into their programs. Second, we argue that there is value in systematically collecting and analyzing local studies that have examined the scope and scale of FBO activity. Combining these studies may provide a more complete picture of what is occurring on a larger scale. Finally, we encourage the exploration of state and national data sources that may assist in estimating the resource contributions that FBOs make. These data sources may include data taken from the Census of Service Industries or Internal Revenue Service tax-exempt filing data. These recommendations should improve our knowledge of the scope and scale of FBO activity.

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Publisher: The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy

Publication Date: 06/25/2003

Number of Pages: 92