Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Providing Relief and Recovery Services after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Research Brief. Funding and Donations


Estimating the cost of providing services was difficult. More than a third of survey respondents (36 percent) did not know how much was spent, did not keep records, or refused to indicate an amount. Of those that provided information, the median expenditure was about $6,700. Secular nonprofits spent somewhat more than faith-based groups ($7,500 versus $6,100, respectively), and FBCOs in the directly impacted areas reported the largest median expenditures ($10,000). About 10 percent of secular nonprofits reported spending more than $1 million.

Donations from individuals were the most common source of financial support for survey respondents. Nearly three-quarters received individual donations, followed by support from faith-based organizations and national organizations such as the United Way and Red Cross. Faith-based organizations were most likely to receive support from individuals and other faith-based organizations, while secular nonprofits received support primarily from other nonprofits, individual donors, private foundations, and government. In fact, secular nonprofits were three to four times more likely than faith-based groups to receive support from state and local government.

Only 18 of 202 survey respondents (mostly large FBCOs with budgets over $500,000) said they applied for reimbursement from federal or state government, primarily from FEMA and other federal agencies. Thirteen of these said the application process was difficult or somewhat difficult, primarily because the process was unclear or required documentation that had been destroyed in the storms.

Funding used for the disaster response by case study organizations ranged from $42,000 to over $1 million. Seven of the eight case study organizations received some public funding. One began with seed money from a local foundation, amplified over time by other foundation funding and by formal collaborations that leveraged money from various public and private sources. Available funding and donations have diminished as new disasters and other priorities gain the spotlight.

Case study respondents also indicated that cash and in-kind donations distributed early in the relief efforts were often not well documented, and especially difficult to report if they involved several organizations. Intake and distribution of donations was a problem for many organizations, and some had or created warehouse space to handle the influx. Some became official points of distribution and others just distributed goods as they arrived.

The case studies suggest that FBCOs developed creative ways to use the Internet to seek donations and volunteers from within social and professional networks and the general public. They also used the Internet to match organizational needs with volunteer skills and interest, and to provide a way to communicate when no other was available. One FBCO equipped a van with satellite communications and computer equipment to allow hurricane victims and first responders to communicate their whereabouts and to bring help to devastated areas. Another used a camcorder to broadcast local conditions and attract support, and another set up a 211 information number outside the impact area to help hurricane victims find services they had lost in New Orleans.

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