Strong expectations

Following disasters the public expects an effective nonprofit sector working with and supporting a strong state response. The Urban Institute cosponsored with the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations of Harvard University the seminar, "Charities' Response to Disasters: Expectations and Realities," which addressed:
expectations of the charitable sector; the real capacity of the sector; lessons from recent disasters, mainly September 11 and the 2005 hurricanes; and the alignment of expectations with the sector's capacity.
They focused on the perceptions of three groups: the donating public, the government, and the press. Attendees felt the complexities of voluntary organizations, their unavoidable expenses and the reality of the local government strengths and weaknesses greatly affected the reality of response and relief, contributing to considerable public misperceptions of disaster relief charities and efforts.
Participants noted the nonprofit sector functions most effectively as an adjunct to a strong state. The state response was strong after September 11, and the nonprofit sector tried to work alongside the government as well as fill in the gaps the government left behind, both short and long term. With Katrina, in contrast, the immediate state response was weak, and the nonprofit sector had neither the organizational structure nor the resources to meet immediate needs. Yet the public expectation was that they could and should.
After Katrina: Public Expectation and Charities' Response
(May 30, 2006, pdf, 37 pages/ 2.1 MB)


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