The findings from both the telephone survey and the case studies illustrate that FBCOs often used informal networking and formal collaborations to expand their capabilities. It was hypothesized that vertical hierarchies, such as national affiliates or umbrella governing bodies (e.g., a regional diocese) would provide some measure of support to local FBCOs efforts. The survey suggests that these affiliations did not facilitate collaboration, and the case studies suggest that individual social and professional connections more often provided the basis for collaboration and financial support.
Formal affiliations, however, can play a role in disaster responses. The Interfaith Disaster Task Force, for example, provided coordination and technical assistance to membership organizations in Mississippi. Collaboratives, such as GNODRP, expanded contacts, provided funds, and were a conduit to link volunteers from around the country with relief efforts on the ground. If familiarity and connections exist between local community-based organizations and professionals in disaster response or health and human service areas, those connections can be called upon in a disaster. The case studies suggest that much of the formal social service system in the heavily impacted areas was inoperable in the early days after the storms, and the FBCOs that provided assistance were operating in that breach. But the studies also suggest that prior familiarity can get needed services back on line, as in the case of Hope Haven, or facilitate access to services, as in the case of the collaboration between CIF and the Coalition for the Homeless to use CDBG funds for resettlement.
Networks and collaborations can also be important tools for expanding expertise. Several case study organizations brought a particular expertise to the relief effort, such as in management, housing operations, logistics training, or human service delivery. Others quickly sought the help of experts after recognizing the challenges they confronted, particularly in dealing with emotional and psychological trauma.
Long-term assistance may be difficult for FBCOs to provide if they are not professional human service providers or do not have strong links to the professional social services community. The case studies illustrated that the lack of connection to the larger professional provider system generally made it difficult for many FBCOs to access services needed to address complex recovery problems.