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Religious Versus Secular Human Service Organizations: Implications for Public Policy

Eric C. Twombly
Social Science Quarterly
Vol. 83, No. 4 (DECEMBER 2002), pp. 947-961
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42955839
Page Count: 15
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Religious Versus Secular Human Service Organizations: Implications for Public Policy
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Abstract

Objective. Tied to the notion that faith-related organizations provide a fresh alternative to secular social service nonprofits, the Bush Administration has proposed several controversial initiatives to increase the involvement of faith-based groups in addressing poverty in the United States. However, there is little empirical evidence on how these religious organizations raise or expend their resources or on how they differ from secular providers. Methods. Using descriptive and multivariate statistics, this article aims to add clarity to the debate over faith-based involvement in social service provision by examining the organizational and financial characteristics of more than 2,000 large, religious and secular human service providers. Results. The chief finding is that while faith-related and secular human services group have nearly identical expenditure patterns, they rely on different types of revenue to fund their services. Faith-based groups are significantly more likely than secular non-profits to depend on donor contributions, while secular groups are substantially more inclined to rely on government grants and contracts. Conclusions. Despite the strong fiscal health of faith-related providers, their heavy dependence on donor contributions raises important questions regarding the utility of faith-based policy initiatives.

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