United States it is under the federal tax code that the nonprofits organizations are primarily regulated and defined. These organizations are formal and don't have to pay the federal taxes since these are created for providing services to the public as it has been described in the revenue code as well. Profits aren't distributed by these organizations either. With only the religious groups as exception, rest of the nonprofit organizations which generate $5,000 or more in terms of revenue have to get themselves registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The organizations which generate revenues of more than $25,000 have to file a yearly Form 990 (or perhaps Form 990PF, which is for private nonprofits). It is important to file this form with the IRS as the basis for majority of the financial data regarding the nonprofit organizations is provided by this Form 990 (Twombly, 2002).
Under the section 501(c)(3) of the tax code there are some nonprofit organizations which can apply for the charitable status. Some of these organizations can be the ones that work to serve the public with regards to religion, science, education, relief of poverty, literacy and other such activities which the public can benefit from. The organizations which are able to achieve the charitable status get the contributions which are tax-deductible. It is this particular group of the nonprofit organizations that is responsible for most of the tax-exempt organizations. The mutual membership organizations like the recreation clubs, political parties, labor unions and credit unions are exempt from the taxes as well and come under the category of nonprofit organizations (Twombly, 2002).
There is a lot of diversity seen in the charitable portion of the nonprofit sector. These organizations differ on the basis of their financial status and means, their missions, structure, origin and size. It becomes very difficult to understand these organizations and form suitable theories regarding them because of the extent of their diversity. In order to measure the efforts being made by these organizations and the way that they are playing their part in the society a lot of research has been done recently. However, very little information has been achieved with regards to measuring the coalitions, religious organizations and informal groups. Not much information is available on the contributions that have been made directly or indirectly to the society by these nonprofit groups (Grobman, 2008).
In the last few years a lot of attention is being paid to the secular as well as the religious nonprofit organizations. The main reason behind this is the way that they operate themselves and how their main focus is on making the society better for the general public. It is true that majority of the times the main focus of the secular and nonprofit organizations are the typical issues present in our society. However, the approaches that these organizations take in trying to deal with these problems are often quite different (Grobman, 2008).
Even though these organizations have the same goals as the masses and they want to work for the betterment of the society in general. However, when the masses try to calculate or judge the work being done or planned on being done by the organization they find it very difficult to look at them with the same view of the betterment of society in their minds. It is hard for the people to look at the complete picture rather they mostly focus only on the nonprofit aspect of these organizations. Not much data is available on the aspect that whether there is any clear difference between the secular and religious organizations with regards to the nonprofits. It is the aim of the paper to compare the secular nonprofits with the religious nonprofits (Bridgeland et al., 2009).
Secular and Religious Nonprofits
A festering conflict has been generated between the social service and policy arenas because of the increase in the popularity of state and legislation activity to intensify the faith-based involvement. There are 3 main issues that the ensuing debate is centered on, these issues are (Bridgeland et al., 2009):
Having laws regarding the religious organizations being given the public contracts
The probable decrease in the responsibility with regards to services by getting into contracts with the religious groups and •
The lacking capacity of the religious groups to meet the needs of the poor people in an adequate manner (Bridgeland et al., 2009).
For instance it has been suggested by a few of the critics that the First Amendments establishment clause has been violated in a very obvious manner by the legislative initiatives. While there are also others who believe that the funding by the government are dangerous for the religious institutions with regards to their characters and that the bureaucratization of the religious groups can probably occur due to this. Many times the critics of the religion-based initiative - while citing the research which explains the small congregations, their limited organizational and administrative capacities - question the capacity and ability of the religious groups to provide the contracted social services like the vocational rehabilitation or job training in an adequate manner to the public. Also, it has been noted by some of the people who oppose the proposals related to religious nonprofits that the absence of empirical evidence in order to show provision of the social-service by the religious groups has proven to be much more fruitful as compared to the secular groups (Bridgeland et al., 2009).
Even though when it comes to the debate on the involvement of religion in the social services, it is characterized by controversy and assumptions but we must not forget the fact that history is a prove to the fact that in the local communities social services have been provided by the religious groups. Majority of the social service groups in the past were related to the organized religion. Also, in the last decade a major role was played by the religious providers of the social service in fighting the war against poverty. Historically speaking, the separation of state and church in social service provision in the U.S. has been very permeable even though there were many concerns about it with regards to propaganda. Majority of these groups have had the government support for a very long time along with the fact that the public priorities with regards to the distribution and extent of human services in the local communities were also set up with their help (Bridgeland et al., 2009).
The latest debate in the present policy is regarding the small congregations and grass root level providers of the social services to be given the government support. It is being expected that if the Charitable Choice is expanded by offering the donors with tax incentives the small religious groups and churches which usually don't have any government funds will be able to compete for the public contracts .This will be because now they will have the funds available to them (Bridgeland et al., 2009).
Although one question which might be asked by some is the extent of benefit that will be given to the local congregations due to the number of proposals being put forth for the increased involvement of the religious groups in the delivery of the services. Rather than focusing on the development of the workforce or services which can help in promoting the attachment of labor market, the services of the congregations are limited mostly to the particular populations like elderly or youth or to the emergency activities (Bridgeland et al., 2009).
Even if the small religious groups are allowed to enter into the contracting systems of the government on the basis of the state and federal policies, still the parties who will benefit the most from the spread of Charitable Choice and tax programs are going to be the established, large religious groups. Presently, there is a shortage of information on the differences and similarities that exist between the secular and religious nonprofit social service providers. In the rest of this article a comparative analysis of the financial and organizational characteristics of the two kinds of service agencies has been done (Lee and Chang, 2007).
Firstly, there are some particular organizational characteristics on the basis of which the large religion-based providers as well as the secular human-service organizations differ. For instance, the religion-based groups are a lot older than the secular providers. It has been for the last 20 years that approximately three-quarters of the religious providers have been doing this business in comparison to the secular providers from among which three-fifth have been in business for the last 20 years. In contrast to this, the age of 20% of the nonreligious human service groups is actually less than 10 years as compared to approximately 10% of the religion-based providers. On average it has been 25 years since the secular providers have come into business in comparison to the religious human service groups which have been in business for 38 years (Lee and Chang, 2007).