Archive for January, 2011

Religious institutions of all types have been instrumental in leading positive community economic development (CED) and social change throughout U.S. history (e.g., Quakers in the abolition movement during slavery).  In many neighborhoods, the local church serves as a stabilizing force, a place for obtaining assistance, a gathering place, a source for social healing and other worthy roles.

However, many faith-based organizations (FBOs) are facing significant challenges that threaten (real or perceived) their effectiveness, including:

  • a greater percentage of the membership do not live in the local community and, thus, may not have a strong local connection to what happens in the neighborhood after Sunday morning;
  • recent accounts of church leaders being accused of and investigated for misconduct creates mistrust and skepticism for FBOs in general (e.g., Eddie Long, Catholic bishops, etc.); and
  • IRS investigations of numerous FBOs as to whether they “blur the line” between church and other supplementary works, which may threaten the church’s tax-exempt status.

Even with these and other challenges, FBOs are looked upon as important partners for CED by local, state and national governments.  The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is an example of the importance of these organizations.

With the needs so great and resources becoming more and more scarce, here are a few recommendations for FBOs to be more effective in their CED efforts:

  1. Get organized.  If you are doing (or plan to do) works such as building affordable housing, job creation efforts, commercial development and other CED, establish an independent, non-profit organization that can carry out these works and is, also, tax-exempt (if applicable).  You will better protect the church’s tax-exempt status as well as be in a better position to raise money through foundations and other grantmaking bodies.
  2. Get together.  Whether your FBO is large or small, find other organizations with similar missions and partner with them to increase access to resources as well as to “share the burden” (Galatians 6:2).  There’s strength in numbers (e.g., building of the Tower of Babel)!
  3. Get busy.  The first step in this process is having and expressing the vision (Proverbs 29:18).  The next steps can be much more difficult – trusting God and putting a strategy in place to realize the vision.  It is in this stage that partnerships are formed, organizations are strengthened, and processes are implemented.

A book I would recommend that goes into more depth about the challenges and opportunities of FBOs is entitled Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African-American Communities by Robert M. Franklin.

Next week, I plan to speak about the important role universities (particularly HBCUs) play in CED.

Be strong and be blessed!


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In my last post, I said I would discuss the opportunities and challenges of religious institutions, universities and nonprofits in building up the community and called them “anchor community institutions”.  Each word provides a wonderful description of these organizations:

  • “Anchor” something dependable; somebody who or something that provides stability.  These organizations provide stability to communities.  In turn, the community looks to them to help affect positive change.
  • “Community”a group of people who live in the same area, or the area in which they live; a group of people with a common background or with shared interests within society.  These organizations are a part of the local community and, in most cases, many individuals in the community are members.
  • “Institution”somebody or something that has been well known and established in a place for a long time.  These organizations provide (or can provide) neighborhood stability because of their longevity as well as their local, regional and/or national organizational infrastructure.

My hope is to discuss each type of institution and how they can grow their efforts to build up disenfranchised communities.

Be strong and be blessed!

* Definitions courtesy of Encarta® World English Dictionary[North American Edition].

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Image of Selma to Montgomery march

Image of Selma to Montgomery march

One of the most interesting periods of history for me is the decade of the 1960’s.  It was a period of tremendous turmoil and growth in the country, both politically and culturally.

It was during this time that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a primary figure in shaping many of the decade’s events.  He showed that the collective faith and efforts of individuals, churches, and grassroot organizations can “move mountains” of racism, injustice and hopelessness.

One of the ways I plan to honor Dr. King’s legacy is by continuously increasing my knowledge base to better assist communities to realize their full potential.  Question: In what ways are you making your community better?  In other words, what is your “kingly” service?  Feel free to respond with your comments.

Be strong and be blessed!

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Traditionally, economic development has focused on increasing jobs by recruiting companies from City A to City B as well as (to a lesser extent, but with greater emphasis recently) growing jobs from within through entrepreneurship.  To support job and population growth, communities have worked to improve all elements of their community, including improving housing stock, improving education, reducing crime, and so on.

However, there are many communities in the U.S., even communities-within-communities, where increasing economic tides don’t “raise all boats” equally and when the overall economy “catches a cold”, these communities “catch the flu”.  Many of these communities are disproportionately lower income with higher percentages of people of color.  Many suffer with higher unemployment rates, higher rates of crime, lower education levels and other such measures that, when using traditional benchmarks, can make these communities unattractive for future economic investments.

But, as I’ve seen in many communities I’ve worked with over the last 15 years, there are many dedicated individuals and organizations working to improve the economic condition of these traditionally disenfranchised communities – and I applaud them!  Even with these efforts, I believe there are still “unrealized opportunities” that are hindering these communities from reaching their full potential.

Over the next few posting, I will highlight the “unrealized opportunities” and challenges of what I call “anchor community institutions”:

  • Churches/Religious Institutions
  • Universities
  • Nonprofit Organizations

Send me feedback about the good work of organizations that are improving the economic conditions of disadvantages communities and I just might highlight them here.

Be blessed!

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If you’re like me, I did the usual activities in preparation for the new year (e.g., made resolutions, reflected on this past year, etc.).  However, one week into 2011, I find myself doing well with some of my resolutions (e.g., getting more organized in my business) and not doing so well in others (e.g., exercising more than “once in every blue moon” :)).

To help with goal-setting and goal-“doing”, the following websites may be helpful:

  • 43things.com – An easy to use tool for setting goals, making friends with others who have the same goal, and tracking progress.
  • New year’s resolutions that work – This post was recommended for tactics that can help.
  • Health Month – If you have health related resolutions, give HM a spin. It’s based on the latest techniques in game theory – using points and visible rewards to increase the odds you’ll meet your own goals.

If you haven’t set goals this year for yourself, your organization, your church, your community, DO IT NOW!  If you haven’t made progress on your goals this past week, DO SOMETHING TODAY, even if it’s just making that one phone call you’ve been putting off or cleaning up your email contact list or writing a post to your blog.

Be strong and be blessed!

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5 (NKJ)

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