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.
January 16, 2023 | Faith-based nonprofit organizations should recognize whether they are obligated to follow the requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
December 13, 2022 | Faith-based nonprofits will likely face more lawsuits and government actions challenging religious freedom after Congress passed the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) repealing the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. The RMA impacts faith-based organizations in two specific situations. Both relate to interactions between the faith-based organizations’ work and the state and federal government. The threats to faith-based organizations remain despite language in the RMA purporting to protect religious freedom. Both supporters and skeptics of the RMA agree that the RMA’s religious freedom language has no “meaningful effect.” Below are key questions and “known unknowns” related to the RMA’s impact on faith-based nonprofits.
November 22, 2022 | At first glance, the voting requirements in a nonprofit’s bylaws may not seem an exciting topic. Most nonprofits have not seriously considered their bylaws, perhaps because they have inherited old bylaws, copied the bylaws of another company, or even originated their bylaws from a quick internet search! If any of these scenarios applies to your organization, your organizations’ bylaws may include director voting requirements not tailor-made to your preferences or the specific needs of your organization.