Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Providing Relief and Recovery Services After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Methodology


The unit of analysis for each case study is the FBCO, and the focus is on services provided in response to the disaster and interactions with others to provide those services. In some cases, the disaster response differed vastly from the organizations usual role; in other cases, the organization was created in response to the disaster. In still other cases, the disaster response of the organization hinged on broader relationships with other entities and can only be understood as part of a larger whole.

The case study organizations represented different organizational types and prior experiences with disasters. Candidates for case study were also chosen to reflect variation in size, geographic location (e.g., distribution across states affected by the storms, and representation of both rural and urban areas), proximity to the disaster (whether they were operating in an area directly impacted by the storms or were not directly affected but hosted evacuees), and types of services provided and interorganizational relationships, both governmental and nongovernmental. The cases are a mix of faith-based and community-based organizations, although the web of affiliations and networks made those distinctions less meaningful.

Two sources were used to identify cases for possible in-depth field study: the knowledge of local partners, the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations (LANO) and the Mississippi Center on Nonprofits (MCN), about ongoing relief and recovery work; and the survey findings. In October 2007, before the telephone survey was completed, the partners were asked to suggest individuals or organizations that had been especially active in relief work and might address the issues of interest. Informants in LANO and MCN were encouraged to consider the dimensions of interest, including in particular interorganizational or complex collaborations and connections to public agencies.

Exploratory calls to potential sites were conducted in October and November 2007 to determine when and how the responses emerged, what the organizations or their collaborators functions were (e.g., providing physical facilities, particular skill sets, leadership, or community connections), the mechanics of the relief effort (e.g., staffing, funding, communication, leadership structure), and how and why they appeared to succeed or what challenges they faced. Informants were reminded that this study was focused on a mix of faith- and community-based organizations, emergency and long-term recovery assistance, organizations with prior disaster experience and those that were new to such services, and organizations whose responses had changed over time.

The second source for case study nominations, the findings from the telephone survey, was used when those data became available in March 2008. Responses were analyzed by state and impact zone, to determine the breadth and complexity of the networking and collaboration undertaken, and then sorted to select a range of faith-based and nonprofit organizations (self-identified, as described in Part I) that had collaborated with a range of other organizations. Exploratory telephone conversations with approximately 55 of those organizations were conducted in March and April 2008, using the same conversational protocol used in earlier calls.

Calls to approximately 75 FBCOs identified through these two sources were used to determine when the organizations became involved in disaster services, whether they had prior disaster experience, what kinds of services they provided, whether that had changed over time, and whether their efforts were continuing. Organizations were asked about successes or failures to draw out experiences that might be emblematic and worth in-depth study. The FBCOs provided information on where the services were provided, and an idea of the magnitude, either in people served or dollars expended, and funding sources. These calls also helped to determine the nature of collaboration, if any (e.g., ad hoc, deliberate, preplanned), and whether the organizations had interacted with public agencies. Finally, the respondents confirmed that they would be willing to participate in a longer, field-based study. The telephone conversations generally lasted less than an hour but were sufficient to identify a small number of candidates for potential study.

Fourteen organizations were identified for Department of Health and Human Services approval, from which eight were selected for study. In planning the fieldwork, the research team mapped the network with which the organizations interacted, as well as others identified as critical to the work of the organization (e.g., public officials who played a critical role in the organizations disaster response but may not have been a direct collaborator). As noted earlier, the selection is dominated by cases that illustrated some complexityperhaps in the number of other organizations with whom they interacted, the complexity of services, or changes in mission over time. The organizations or collaborations are all exemplary; while they may illustrate challenges and frustrations, none are examples of broad failures.

Site visits were conducted between May and July 2008 and typically extended over two days per site and consisted of semistructured interviews with key informants using discussion guides approved by the Office of Management and Budget, and collection of secondary documentation such as budgets, presentations, brochures, meeting notes, videos, or web site materials. Focus groups were conducted in two sites with individuals who were served by the organization and who remained in the area and in contact with the organization. In the other six sites, the recipients of services could not be contacted.

Each site visit entailed interviews with the principals in the organization under study and others with whom important relationships were formed in the process of the disaster response. This meant that, in some cases, interviews were conducted with individuals representing perhaps a dozen other organizations, including other local and national faith-based and secular nonprofits, foundations, FEMA officials, American Red Cross representatives, and state government officials overseeing the recovery effort or related social services.

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