Giving and going: US congregational participation in disaster response


With the increase in the severity of natural disasters linked to climate change, the role religious congregations play in response is not well known, despite their substantial involvement in general charitable activity. Most disaster response research is event-based, ex post, and not focused on religious institutions or donor capacity considerations. Data from the National Study of Congregational Economic Practices fill this gap. The findings indicate that in 2017, a substantial percentage of US congregations participated in disaster-related charitable giving and volunteering. However, the profiles of participating congregations are nuanced and do not always follow prior theory. A congregation’s religious tradition is less predictive than some might expect in the context of disasters. Consistent with open systems theory, we find that congregations’ interorganizational networks and their proximity to disaster areas are better predictors of participating in disaster relief efforts. Based on our finding of robust congregational participation in disasters, we call for more integration of religious institutions in nonprofit disaster response research.

Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 33(1)
Wesley Zebrowski
Wesley Zebrowski
PhD candidate in Public Affairs

Wesley Zebrowski is a doctoral candidate in public affairs at Indiana University. Wesley has research interests in agricultural policy and equity.