Acton's Policy Forum Weighs Impact of Faith on Charitable Work


A new report from the Acton Institute studies how faith-motivated charity organizations deliver services and looks at the impact of these services on program participants. The Summer 2005 issue of Policy Forum , authored by Dr. Beryl Hugen, Dr. Fred De Jong, and Mrs. Karen Woods, examines important questions raised by the spread of faith-based initiatives.

The authors write: “A growing public sentiment contends that the bureaucratic and impersonal systems of government have not been able to bring about lasting changes in people's lives.” An element of faith, they argue, is what motivates so many charities and non-profit organizations to help those in need, and to do so in a way that produces effective results.

The research was based on information provided by more than 500 privately-funded human service programs that applied for the Acton Institute's Samaritan Award. The new Policy Forum report shows that programs with a faith component often structure themselves, find funding, and offer services differently from those that do not. The report also categorizes these organizations according to different aspects of spirituality, such as to what degree they communicate faith to program participants.

Hugen is a professor of social work at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Calvin College, as well as the social work practicum coordinator and a member of the school's faculty since 1997. De Jong is a professor of social science statistics and social research at Calvin and has conducted funded research in gerontology and social services for 27 years. These experts came together with Woods, the director of Acton Institute's Center for Effective Compassion, to compile and analyze the data for this study.

Because the study is the first of its kind in many ways, the resulting information is revealing, and also preliminary. A broad scope of new questions has now surfaced, and the authors hope to encourage further study and research in this area.

For more information about the public policy outreach of the Acton Institute, please visit http://www.acton.org/ppolicy .

About the Acton Institute
With its commitment to pursue a society that is free and virtuous, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is a leading voice in the national environmental and social policy debate. The Acton Institute is uniquely positioned to comment on the sound economic and moral foundations necessary to sustain humane environmental and social policies.

The Acton Institute is a nonprofit, ecumenical think tank located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Institute works internationally to "promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles." For more on the Acton Institute, please visit www.acton.org.

Interviews with Institute staff may be arranged by contacting John Couretas at (616) 454-3080 or at jcouretas@acton.org.