June 4, 2021
Those who lead or support a faith-based nonprofit should endeavor to choose vendors whose business philosophy aligns with the nonprofit’s mission and values or at least does not actively contradict them.
Failing to do so can harm a nonprofit’s reputation and direct the nonprofit’s financial resources to causes the nonprofit opposes.
For example, imagine a pro-life organization funding healthcare plans through a provider whose policies oppose a consistent theology of life. Or a Christian organization that conducts marketing efforts through a firm that publicly denounces Christian values. Or a Catholic school that invests its savings in companies that actively work against religious liberty.
A prudent way to avoid such situations is to include mission-alignment as a factor when screening potential vendors. Specifically, in addition to evaluating the business elements of a transaction with a potential vendor (considerations like pricing, experience, and professionalism), a faith-based nonprofit should also evaluate whether the business relationship with the vendor would be appropriate in light of the nonprofit’s mission.
Below are examples of questions a nonprofit may consider asking in the screening process to evaluate mission-alignment with a potential vendor.
1. Does the vendor have a history of positive relationships with other faith-based organizations?
2. Can the vendor provide references from other faith-based organizations which are current or past clients?
3. Do the vendor’s mission statement and marketing messaging indicate a support for or at least openness to religious liberty?
1. Does the vendor have a corporate social responsibility policy? Is the policy tolerant of religious customers and viewpoints?
2. What messages does the vendor publish in its marketing and social media accounts?
3. Do the vendor’s brand and marketing messages overall support a pluralistic society?
1. Does the vendor single out religious nonprofits for disfavored treatment?
2. Does the vendor have a history of account or service suspensions such as de-platformings?
3. Do the vendor’s terms of service reserve the right to suspend or terminate service without a notice period? If applicable, do the terms of service give the vendor discretion to limit free speech on the platform or through the service?
4. Does the vendor publicly promote values antithetical to faith-based organizations?
Of course, this list should be combined with common sense in light of the organization’s unique circumstances. For example, a small contract might merit less diligence than an ongoing, extensive engagement. Additionally, some contracts pose more serious religious liberty considerations than others. For example, choosing a healthcare plan that aligns with the organization’s values might be more directly important to the nonprofit’s mission than choosing a vendor of more “values-neutral” services, such as a word-processing software provider. Finally, in some cases, a “green light” vendor may not be available. In such cases, the organization may be forced to make a judgment call in light of the available options.