Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Providing Relief and Recovery Services After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Major Findings from the Survey


Characteristics of the FBCOs

  • FBCOs responding to the survey represented a wide range of local organizations. Some had operating budgets of less than $500; others more than $1 million. Faith-based organizations that responded to the survey were considerably older (median age 55 years) than secular nonprofits (25 years).
  • Half the FBCOs in the survey used paid staff to deliver relief and recovery services, but the number of paid staff was relatively small (median of five). More than three-quarters of FBCOs used volunteers, with the median number of volunteers around 20. For most FBCOs in the survey, the volunteer workforce increased substantially after the hurricanes.
  • Two-thirds of the FBCOs surveyed had no prior experience giving disaster relief assistance after a hurricane. This was especially true of secular nonprofits and those located a greater distance from the direct impact of the storms.

Types of Services

  • Roughly 70 percent of survey respondents provided immediate relief services, such as food, water, clothing, and temporary shelter. A large proportion of faith-based groups, predominantly congregations, provided these services, as did FBCOs in geographic locations outside the storms direct impact.
  • In contrast, fewer FBCOs provided long-term recovery services, such as housing rehabilitation, mental health counseling, or job training. Less than half the respondents indicated involvement in any of these services, and less than 25 percent provided child care or job training. The notable exception is in housing rehabilitation: nearly 60 percent of congregations in the survey engaged in sustained housing rehabilitation. Secular nonprofits tended to provide relief and recovery services for a longer period than faith-based organizations. Again, with the exception of housing rehabilitation services, faith-based organizations tended to end their services within three months after the storm, whereas secular nonprofits were more likely to stay for a year or more.

People Served

  • Records were not often kept on the number of clients served during the crisis, so survey respondents provided a rough estimate of the number of individuals helped. About a quarter of respondents reported serving fewer than 50 people, while almost a fifth reported serving more than 1,000. These numbers could represent multiple visits by the same individual, as might be characteristic for some emergency services.
  • Providing demographic information on people served is even more difficult than providing numeric counts. Nearly a third of survey respondents declined to provide even an estimate. Of those who did, recipients were most frequently described as low-income and families with children.

Funding Relief/Recovery Services

  • Estimating the amount of money spent on relief and recovery services was difficult. More than a third of survey respondents could not tell us an amount, in part because they did not keep records. Of those respondents that provided information, the median budget for relief/recovery work was $6,667.
  • For most respondents, donations from individuals were the most common source of financial support. Faith-based organizations were more likely than secular nonprofits to receive individual donations. In contrast, secular nonprofits were about three to four times more likely than faith-based groups to have received financial support from government.

Networks and Collaborations

  • Two of every three respondents worked with other groups to provide post-hurricane services. Nearly half reported that the collaborations were new, and another fifth reported a combination of new and old relationships. Most collaborations involved sharing resources such as space, equipment, and supplies.
  • Relatively few respondents worked with state and local governments; however, secular nonprofits were twice as likely as faith-based groups to do so (23 percent versus 10 percent). Only about 7 percent of FBCOs worked with federal agencies. Faith-based organizations, mostly congregations, were most likely to work with other faith-based groups, while nonprofits were most likely to work with other nonprofits.

Perceptions of the Relief/Recovery Effort

  • Perceptions of what went well in providing services after the storms differed by type of organization. Most faith-based respondents cited the people who were helped, while secular nonprofits pointed to the collaborations.
  • Among the most common challenges mentioned were insufficient supplies and services, poor communication, and poor service coordination.

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