These articles are meant to strengthen the capacity of all faith-based organizations to live out their faith-based mission. If you are already a Sacred Sector participant, log into the Participant Portal to access the toolbox resources. If your organization is interested in becoming a Sacred Sector participant, click here.
It’s no secret that nonprofit organizations — and faith-based organizations in particular — are being increasingly overlooked by the media and the public. According to FrameWorks Institute, one contributing factor is that the media tends to report on things on an episodic, rather than a thematic level. Media is much more likely to cover stories that highlight the individual tragedy or victory than the systems, structures and institutions that contributed to the individual’s story. This can be damaging for the faith-based nonprofit sector because it makes it all the more difficult for faith-based nonprofits to help frame the public discourse around the importance of their role in solving many of the most challenging social problems in our world today — from the opioid epidemic in the Midwest to the fear of nuclear threats.
One faith-based organization, Accord Network, is a member organization exemplifying how faith-based organizations can effectively position themselves to be part of the public narrative on international poverty relief. Accord Network is a community of Christian international relief and development organizations that collaboratively leverages its knowledge and skills to help members reach their potential. This article — the second in a two-part series featuring Accord Network on the role of faith-based organizations in global stability — explains how the organization accomplishes this by consistently integrating their faith-based mission into their engagement with public policy, internal practices and public communication and by connecting their sacred identity to their positive impact.
Adopting Faith-Based Nonprofit Best Practices and Programs
In addition to equipping member organizations to thrive in their public policy context, Accord assists members with implementing internal practices. Jonathan Creasy is the Director of Member Services for Accord Network. Currently, Creasy said, Accord is helping establish best practices and standards throughout international relief and development organizations. For instance, one challenge many international relief and development organizations face is how to effectively implement religious staffing practices. Religious staffing entails taking faith — both belief and behavior — into account in employment decisions. Accord helps members navigate the obstacles that accompany religious staffing by creating space for shared knowledge and collaboration about such issues.
Accord also helps organizations recognize how their faith identity is an integral aspect of their work. Creasy said that working with faith-based organizations is key to accomplishing Accord’s mission of creating lasting solutions to international poverty.
“Our mission reflects that everyone is created in the image of God and everyone deserve life and health,” said Creasy.
Part of Accord’s mission is to equip faith-based organizations to effectively serve the vulnerable throughout the world. Though having distinct faith identities may be a challenge for organizations operating in areas such as the Middle East, Creasy said that many such states see faith-based organizations “as stronger partners than secular counterparts because of their focus on values.”
Accord also utilizes the advantages of faith-based organizations by connecting them to where they are needed most. “When the disasters in Texas and Puerto Rico hit,” Creasy said, “I was able to help facilitate collaboration between members regarding how to best share in-kind resources and staff. Beyond monetary and gifts in kind solutions, I am also able to call up advocates and other voices.”
Overall, Accord recognizes the vital contributions of faith-based international relief organizations, helps organizations take advantage of their faith identity and serves as a connector between these organizations and government. Accord understands that by living out its faith-based identity, it facilitates harmonious relationships between different actors in society on the global stage.
For more information on consistently applying one’s faith identity through organizational best practices, see the Religious Staffing Organizational Practices Toolbox, one of many resources created by Sacred Sector for faith-based organizations to more fully advance their missions.
Accord also exemplifies the importance of integrating one’s mission into its public positioning. As Sacred Sector’s Religious Staffing Public Positioning Toolbox indicates:
The challenge for FBOs is to communicate to employees as well as the general public, beneficiaries (e.g., students, patients, clients) and other stakeholders how faith-shaped staffing practices are a reflection of the religious values that both motivate and make possible the good works those FBOs offer to the community.
Accord rises to this challenge by crafting a positive dialogue around the contributions of faith-based organizations to international poverty relief.
“It is pretty easy to turn almost any headline into a conversation about foreign assistance,” Creasy said. “If we want to talk about how we can avoid discussions of nuclear conversations, we can talk about the effect of International Relief Development done well in places like Eastern Europe.”
Accord also proactively supports religious freedom. Both privately and publicly, Accord asserts that faith-identity is a necessary component of many relief organizations’ work.
In the Religious Hiring Public Positioning Toolbox, one principle is that faith-based organizations should “develop messaging that explains the connection between your organization’s successful results and its faith commitments.” By using the news as a hook to talk about international relief, Accord is ensuring that the faith-based sector remains an active participant in public dialogue. Reaffirming the connection between it’s faith identity and its achievements, Accord successfully integrates its mission into its public positioning practices.
To learn more about how faith-based organizations can effectively communicate with the public, see the Religious Staffing Public Positioning Toolbox.
By consciously living out its sacred identity in its public policy engagement, organizational practices and public positioning, Accord changes the public conversation surrounding the contributions of faith-based organizations. Accord empowers member organizations to become aware of their public policy context so that they can engage with government and advocate for policies that promote global stability. Internally, Accord helps organizations recognize how their faith-identity uniquely equips them to meet needs that can’t be met by their secular counterparts or by governments. Finally, Accord publicly demonstrates how its faith-based mission is linked to its accomplishments. In highlighting the indispensable role of faith-based organizations in relieving international poverty, Accord shapes public understanding of the faith based sector’s relevance to global challenges.
Frame Works Institute. (2007). “Episodic v. Thematic Stories.” [PDF]. Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://www.frameworksinstitute.org/assets/files/framebytes/framebyte_thematic.pdf.
If you are not a Sacred Sector participant and would like access to resources on public policy, organizational practices and public positioning for faith-based organizations, sign up to become a Sacred Sector participant here.
Kathryn Mae Post is an intern with the Center for Public Justice (CPJ). She contributes to two different initiatives at CPJ: Sacred Sector and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA). She is graduating from Calvin College in May of 2018 with a BA in both political science and English.