Faith and charity have long gone hand-in-hand. From international development to homelessness, faith-based charities can be found throughout the charity sector. Despite the diversity of issues these charities tackle, many see faith as a common thread that links them, bringing particular strengths including: connections to the local community, relationships with hard-to-reach groups, and the presence of a large and motivated volunteer base.
The environment for all charities is challenging, with reduced funding, increasing need and shifting public opinions—but faith and religion can bring another layer of complexity because of the changing role of faith in our society and the changing make-up of religious populations in Britain. While research into this and the influence of faith on giving, volunteering and communities exists, remarkably little is known about the effect of faith on how charitable organisations operate and what they can achieve.
We conducted an 18-month research programme into faith-based charities to address this gap in knowledge. If faith-based charities can achieve things that other organisations can’t, or can work in situations that others aren’t able to, then as a sector we should understand this better and consider how we can work more effectively together to deliver for those we aim to help.