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

12/20/2008

Delivering services to people in need is a labor-intensive activity. In the first few months after the storms, both paid staff and volunteers were called upon to deliver relief and recovery services.

Paid Staff

Over half (53 percent) of the survey respondents used paid staff to deliver their post-hurricane services. Secular nonprofits were significantly more likely to use paid staff than faith-based organizations (Table 14). Nearly 80 percent of the nonprofits in the survey reported using paid staff, compared with 35 percent of faith-based groups. There was no significant difference, however, in the use of paid staff by state or distance from the impacted areas.

Table 14.
Number of Paid Staff
Characteristic Used paid staff Percent of Organizations with Paid Staff between: Median number
of paid staff
N % Do not know 15 610 1120 More than 20
All respondents 107 53.0 2.8 52.3 19.6 11.2 14.0 5
                 
Faith-based organization  42 35.0** 0.0 66.7 16.7 4.8 11.9
Secular nonprofit 65 79.3** 4.6 43.1 21.5 15.4 15.4 7
                 
Louisiana  55 52.4 1.8 47.3 23.6 16.4 10.9 6
Mississippi 46 55.4 2.2 58.7 15.2 6.5 17.4 4
Houston, TX 6 42.9 16.7 50.0 16.7 0.0 16.7 4
                 
Primary impact area  42 54.5 2.4 64.3 14.3 4.8 14.3 4
Adjacent to impact area 39 53.4 0.0 43.6 17.9 17.9 20.5 7
Farthest from impact area 26 50.0 7.7 46.2 30.8 11.5 3.8 14
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
** Difference significant at 0.01 level.

When FBCOs used paid staff, the actual number of employees was small. Half the FBCOs with paid staff reported five or fewer employees. For faith-based organizations, the median number of paid staff was four; for secular nonprofits, it was seven. About 14 percent of FBCOs that responded to the survey had more than 20 paid staff delivering hurricane-related services.

Except for the areas directly impacted by the storms, the number of paid staff did not change significantly after the hurricanes (Table 15). About two-thirds (67 percent) of the FBCOs surveyed said that they had about the same number of paid employees after the storm as before. Another 11 percent reported a modest increase (10 percent or less), and 9 percent said they had a substantial increase of more than 10 percent.

Table 15.
Change in Number of Paid Staff after the Hurricane
Characteristic Compared with Before the Storm, Percent of Organizations with:
Do not
know
Substantial
increase
(>10%)
Modest
increase
(< 10%)
About
the same
Modest
decrease
(< 10%)
Substantial
decrease
(>10%)
All respondents 107 1.9 9.3 11.2 67.3 6.5 3.7
               
Faith-based organization 42 . 11.9 11.9 73.8 . 2.4
Secular nonprofit 65 3.1 7.7 10.8 63.1 10.8 4.6
               
Louisiana 55 1.8 9.1 14.5 60 9.1 5.5
Mississippi 46 2.2 8.7 8.7 73.9 4.3 2.2
Houston, TX 6 0.0 16.7 0.0 83.3 0.0 0.0
               
Primary impact area* 42 0.0 14.3 7.1 57.1 14.3 7.1
Adjacent to impact area* 39 2.6 2.6 20.5 71.8 2.6 0.0
Farthest from impact area* 26 3.8 11.5 3.8 76.9 0.0 3.8
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
Note: Analysis based on respondents with paid staff.
* Difference significant at 0.05 level.

The only statistically significant differences were found in the distance from the impacted areas. FBCOs closest to the devastation reported the most fluctuation in numbers of paid staff. About 57 percent of respondents in the primary impact area said they experienced no appreciable change, while equal proportions of FBCOs (21 percent each) reported increases or decreases in size of their paid staff. In the areas adjacent to or more distant from the impacted areas, respondents said that the number of paid staff either stayed about the same or increased. Twenty percent of FBCOs in the areas adjacent to the direct impact reported modest increases, while about 12 percent of FBCOs in the most distant places had substantial increases in paid staff. These data reflect the hurricanes disruption of service delivery by providers located in the most affected areas and the increase in demand for services in the areas away from the storm.

Volunteers

Volunteers were an important part of the service delivery process. As Table 16 shows, about three-quarters (77 percent) of FBCOs in the survey reported using volunteers in the first three months after the storms, and faith-based organizations were much more likely than secular nonprofits to work with volunteers (86 percent versus 63 percent, respectively). For those that used volunteers, the median number of volunteers that worked in a typical week was fairly similar21 for faith-based organizations and 18 for nonprofits. No significant differences were found by state or distance from the impacted areas.

Table 16.
Number of Volunteers
Characteristic Used volunteers Percent of Organizations Reporting Number of Volunteers between: Median #
of volunteers
N % Dont
know
125 2650 51100 > 100
All respondents 155 76.7 3.8 60.6 14.2 11.6 9.7 20
                 
Faith-based organization  103 85.8** 3.8 56.3 15.5 13.6 10.7 21
Secular nonprofit 52 63.4** 3.8 69.2 11.5 7.7 7.7 18
                 
Louisiana  78 74.3 3.9 70.5 12.8 9.0 3.8 17
Mississippi 65 78.3 4.5 49.2 15.4 16.9 13.8 24
Houston, TX 12 85.7 0.0 58.3 16.7 0.0 25.0 22
                 
Primary impact area  60 77.9 1.7 55.0 15 16.7 11.7 22
Adjacent to impact area 60 82.2 6.7 65.0 13.3 8.3 6.7 18
Farthest from impact area 35 67.3 2.9 62.9 14.3 8.6 11.4 20
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
Note: Analysis based on organizations that used volunteers.
** Difference significant at 0.01 level.

As Table 17 shows, nearly half (48 percent) of the survey respondents said they had more than a 10 percent increase in their volunteer workforce, and another 13 percent said they experienced a modest increase (up to 10 percent). Only 5 percent of FBCOs reported a decrease in volunteers. These patterns were fairly consistent for all types and locations of FBCOs and showed no statistical differences.

Table 17.
Change in Number of Volunteers after the Hurricane
Characteristic N Compared with Before the Storm, Percent of Organizations with:

Do not know

Substantial
increase (>10%)
Modest
increase (< 10%)
About
the same
Modest
decrease
(< 10%)
Substantial
decrease
(>10%)
All respondents 155 1.3 48.4 12.9 32.3 2.6 2.6
               
Faith-based organization  103 1.0 51.5 10.7 32.0 2.9 1.9
Secular nonprofit 52 1.9 42.3 17.3 32.7 1.9 3.8
               
Louisiana  78 1.3 41.0 17.9 33.3 2.6 3.8
Mississippi 65 1.5 53.8 9.2 30.8 3.1 1.5
Houston, TX 12 0.0 66.7 0.0 33.3 0.0 0.0
               
Primary impact area  60 0.0 56.7 6.7 28.3 3.3 5.0
Adjacent to impact area 60 3.3 35.0 20.0 36.7 3.3 1.7
Farthest from impact area 35 0.0 57.1 11.4 31.4 0.0 0.0
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.

Among the FBCOs that used volunteers, the two most common ways of recruiting them were word of mouth (used by nearly half of respondents) and encouraging volunteerism through the FBCOs own membership (38 percent of respondents). Other forms of recruitment included drawing from other organizations or congregations in the local area (13 percent), using existing rosters of volunteers (12 percent), receiving volunteers from national organizations or other affiliates (6 percent), conducting outreach efforts such as distributing posters or flyers (6 percent), using web sites (6 percent), and media coverage (5 percent).

Both faith-based organizations and secular nonprofits relied on word-of-mouth referrals to attract volunteers, but they drew from different pools of potential volunteers. Faith-based groups turned to their congregational members, whereas secular nonprofits used existing lists of volunteers to find help (Table 18). These differences in recruitment methods are statistically significant and may reflect organizational structure and past experience in providing services to people in need.

Table 18.
Methods for Recruiting Volunteers
Characteristic N Percent of Organizations That Used:
Word of mouth Their congregation Local
nonprofits & congregations
Roster of volunteers Outreach National groups Web sites Media Other
All respondents 155 48.0 38.1 12.9 12.4 6.4 6.4 5.9 4.5 13.4
                     
Faith-based organization 103 57.5** 60.0** 13.3 6.7** 7.5 7.5 5.8 4.2 10.0
Secular nonprofit 52 34.1** 6.1** 12.2 20.7** 4.9 4.9 6.1 4.9 18.3
                     
Louisiana 78 40.0 34.3 9.5 11.4 4.8 3.8 2.9 2.9 14.3
Mississippi 65 56.6 42.2 16.9 13.3 8.4 9.6 9.6 7.2 9.6
Houston, TX 12 57.1 42.9 14.3 14.3 7.1 7.1 7.1 . 28.6
                     
Primary impact area 60 48.1 33.8 13.0 10.4 6.5 7.8 7.8 6.5 15.6
Adjacent to impact area 60 49.3 42.5 15.1 13.7 8.2 4.1 6.8 0.0 12.3
Farthest from impact area 35 46.2 38.5 9.6 13.5 3.8 7.7 1.9 7.7 11.5
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
Note: Analysis based on respondents with volunteers.
** Difference significant at 0.01 level.

When asked about managing this volunteer workforce, most respondents (68 percent) said that they had about the right number of volunteers, although about a quarter said they had too few (Table 19). These responses were fairly uniform by type of organization and location.

Table 19.
Sufficient Levels of Volunteers
Characteristic N Did You Recruit Too Many/Right Amount/
Not Enough Volunteers? (percent)
Do not
know
Too many About right Not enough
All respondents 155 2.6 2.6 68.4 26.5
           
Faith-based organization 103 1.9 2.9 68.0 27.2
Secular nonprofit 52 3.8 1.9 69.2 25.0
           
Louisiana 78 2.6 0.0 65.4 32.1
Mississippi 65 1.5 6.2 70.8 21.5
Houston, TX 12 8.3 0.0 75.0 16.7
           
Primary impact area 60 3.3 5.0 66.7 25.0
Adjacent to impact area 60 1.7 0.0 68.3 30.0
Farthest from impact area 35 2.9 2.9 71.4 22.9
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
Note: Analysis based on respondents who used volunteers.

For the most part, FBCOs were very satisfied with their experience working with volunteers. Only a handful of respondents reported any difficulties. The most common challenge was having insurance to cover the volunteers (reported by eight respondents). Other challenges mentioned were transporting volunteers to the work site (six respondents), managing or supervising volunteers (five respondents), and providing housing or food for volunteers (four respondents).

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