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


Anecdotal stories tell of the important role that FBCOs have played in the relief and recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast region. Less well documented are the networks and collaborations used to accomplish this work. The survey explored the prevalence of affiliations with other organizations, collaborations that were formed, and the experiences FBCOs had working with other organizations.

Types of Arrangements

About half (53 percent) of respondents indicated that they were formally affiliated with a larger entity (such as a Catholic diocese, the Southern Baptist Convention, YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, or Child Welfare League of America). Such affiliation was much more likely among faith-based organizations (63 percent) than secular nonprofits (38 percent).

However, being affiliated with a larger entity did not affect the likelihood that a FBCO worked with other organizations. In fact, two of every three respondents (68 percent) indicated that they worked with one or more other groups as part of their relief and recovery efforts. Further, for those that worked collaboratively, respondents were fairly evenly divided between affiliated and unaffiliated FBCOs. There was no significant distinction between faith-based and secular organizations or among geographic locales.

Collaborations were most commonly formed with secular nonprofits and churches rather than governmental or business entities (Table 20). Between 35 and 40 percent of the respondents indicated that they had worked with secular nonprofits and churches to provide their relief and recovery services. A much smaller proportion worked with state and local government (15 percent) and businesses (11 percent). Only a handful of FBCOs collaborated with the federal government, schools, universities, and hospitals (about 7 percent in each category).

Table 20.
Types of Organizations in the Collaboration
Characteristic N Percent of Organizations That Worked with:
Churches State/
local govt
Business Federal
Colleges Hospitals
All respondents 138 39.1 35.6 15.3 11.4 6.9 6.9 6.9 6.4
Faith-based organization 81 38.3 40.8 10.0* 12.5 6.7 5.8 6.7 6.7
Secular nonprofit 57 40.2 28.0 23.2* 9.8 7.3 8.5 7.3 6.1
Louisiana 68 34.3 31.4 14.3 11.4 7.6 6.7 7.6 4.8**
Mississippi 59 43.4 38.6 16.9 8.4 7.2 4.8 7.2 4.8**
Houston, TX 11 50.0 50.0 14.3 28.6 0.0 21.4 0.0 28.6**
Primary impact area 52 39.0 37.7 20.8 9.1 10.4 2.6 10.4 5.2
Adjacent to impact 48 37.0 30.1 9.6 9.6 6.8 8.2 2.7 5.5
Farthest from impact 38 42.3 40.4 15.4 17.3 1.9 11.5 7.7 9.6
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
Note: Analysis based on 138 respondents that reported collaborations.
* Difference significant at 0.05 level.
** Difference significant at 0.01 level.

As Table 20 also shows, faith-based organizations in the survey worked almost equally with churches (41 percent) and nonprofits (38 percent), while secular nonprofits were more likely to work with other nonprofits (40 percent) than churches (28 percent). These patterns are not statistically significant, however.

Two significant patterns emerged from the survey data. First, a much higher proportion of secular nonprofits (23 percent) than faith-based groups (10 percent) worked with state and local governments. Because many congregations and other faith-based organizations do not typically partner with government, they may have been less familiar with how to work with government or lacked the capacity to do so. Second, the proportion of FBCOs working with hospitals was roughly six times greater in the Houston area (29 percent) than in either Louisiana or Mississippi (5 percent each). Although the number of FBCOs that worked with hospitals is small (about three respondents in each location), the finding is statistically significant and may partly reflect the disruption of the health care system in the areas of impact after the hurricanes.

Many of these collaborations were new arrangements (Table 21). Nearly half (47 percent) of the FBCOs that worked with others said their collaborations did not exist before the storms. Almost a third (31 percent) of the respondents said the arrangements were a continuation of prior relationships that existed before the storms, and about 20 percent described their collaborations as a combination of new and existing relationships. There was no significant difference in these proportions by type of organization or locale.

Table 21.
History of the Collaboration
Characteristic N Were These Relationships New or Continuing from Before the Storm?
Do not know New Continuing Both
All respondents 138 2.2 47.1 31.2 19.6
Faith-based organization  81 3.7 50.6 25.9 19.8
Secular nonprofit 57 0.0 42.1 38.6 19.3
Louisiana  68 2.9 41.2 32.4 23.5
Mississippi 59 0.0 57.6 27.1 15.3
Houston, TX 11 9.1 27.3 45.5 18.2
Primary impact area 52 0.0 50.0 28.8 21.2
Adjacent to impact area 48 4.2 54.2 27.1 14.6
Farthest from impact area 38 2.6 34.2 39.5 23.7
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
Note: Analysis based on 138 respondents that reported history of collaboration.

Experiences with Collaboration

Collaborations and partnerships can encompass many activities. After Katrina and Rita, the most common way that groups in the survey collaborated was to share resources (Table 22). Three-quarters of the FBCOs that worked with other groups indicated that they shared physical resources such as space, equipment, and supplies. Faith-based organizations more often than secular nonprofits shared physical resources (82 percent versus 63 percent). This is consistent with the fact that most faith-based respondents in this survey are congregations, and congregations frequently have shelter and feeding facilities that they enlist during a disaster. Also, the farther away from the impacted areas, the less resource sharing occurred. About 85 percent of FBCOs in the primary areas shared resources, compared with 75 percent in the secondary areas and 58 percent in the tertiary areas. These differences were statistically significant.

Table 22.
Activities within the Collaboration
Characteristic N Percent of Organizations That:
to others
financial support
All respondents 138 73.9 55.8 52.9 48.6 32.6 28.3
Faith-based organization 81 81.5* 48.1* 42.0** 40.7** 27.2 19.8**
Secular nonprofit 57 63.2* 66.7* 68.4** 59.6** 40.4 40.4**
Louisiana 68 76.5 52.9 48.5 45.6 35.3 27.9
Mississippi 59 72.9 62.7 61.0 55.9 33.9 30.5
Houston, TX 11 63.6 36.4 36.4 27.3 9.1 18.2
Primary impact area 52 84.6* 71.2* 57.7 53.8 42.3 46.2**
Adjacent to impact area 48 75.0* 45.8* 56.3 52.1 29.2 22.9**
Farthest from impact area 38 57.9* 47.4* 42.1 36.8 23.7 10.5**
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
Note: Analysis based on 138 respondents that reported on collaboration.
* Difference significant at 0.05 level.
** Difference significant at 0.01 level.

After resource sharing, the next most common collaborative activity was referrals or information exchange. More than half of FBCOs that worked with other groups referred individuals or families to other organizations for assistance (56 percent) and received referrals from other organizations (53 percent), and about half received advice or instructions from other organizations (49 percent). A smaller proportion of FBCOs gave advice or instructions to the other groups with which they collaborated (33 percent).

There were statistically significant differences between faith-based and secular nonprofit organizations in collaboration that involved referrals. A larger proportion of secular nonprofits than faith-based groups referred clients to other providers (67 percent versus 48 percent) and received referrals from other organizations (68 percent versus 42 percent). These differences may reflect that secular nonprofits are often professional service providers and by extension recognized as part of a social service delivery system. Also, a larger proportion of FBCOs in the primary impact areas (71 percent) referred individuals to other providers than did those in the secondary or tertiary areas (46 and 47 percent, respectively). Because many service providers in the heavily impacted areas may have been damaged and not open for business after the storms, the circumstance may have necessitated greater use of referrals in the most damaged areas.

The least common collaborative activity was sharing financial resources. Overall, 28 percent of the FBCOs that worked with other organizations said that they received financial support from groups they worked with. However, there are at least two significant differences in this pattern. First, more than twice the proportion of secular nonprofits received financial support from their partners than did faith-based organizations40 percent versus 20 percent. And, second, a larger proportion of respondents in the hardest hit areas (46 percent) received financial support from their partners than did those in the secondary (23 percent) and tertiary areas (11 percent). This may reflect a greater level of financial need in the hardest-hit areas.

When asked how well these collaborative arrangements worked, 70 percent of respondents replied very smoothly. Another 27 percent said somewhat smoothly and reasonably well. Less than 2 percent indicated that they had a mixed experience of good and not-so-good experiences. FBCO respondents in Mississippi and those in the areas adjacent to the direct impact were slightly less positive about their collaborative experiences than other FBCOs, but the differences are not statistically significant.

Only a handful of respondents (nine faith-based organizations and eight secular nonprofits) said they had tried to work with other organizations but were unsuccessful. These respondents primarily identified secular nonprofits and government organizations as the ones that they were unable to work with. Poor communication among groups and difficult protocols were frequently mentioned as barriers that prevented collaborations from taking place.

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