Over the past three decades, there has been a significant increase in international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) participating in humanitarian assistance, and thus, an increase in the study of these organizations. In part because of former President George W. Bush's faith-based initiative, interest in a particular subset of INGOs - religious INGOs (ROs) – has been on the rise. Among the gaps in this literature is a quantitative approach to understanding the types of activities and funding opportunities INGOs pursue based on whether they are religious and what makes an organization religious. To address these omissions, this dissertation examines the religious nature of an organization as both a dichotomous (i.e., religious, secular) and as a multinomial variable and compares these groups of INGOs based on the focus, orientation, and objective of their activities and the amount of government funding they receive.
Based on a sample of 428 INGOs, this study finds that results-oriented operational INGOs were more likely to be religious and that organizations with development objectives and foci on advocacy were more likely to be secular. Additionally, INGOs that received government funding were no more likely to belong to either group.
An analysis using variables identified in past studies as measures of organizational religiosity resulted in two distinct groups of ROs: Faith-Integrated and Faith-Segmented. When these two groups were compared to each other and the group of secular INGOs, activity differences were again found, and this time, a difference in government funding was also found. Specifically, results-oriented operational INGOs were more likely to be Faith-Integrated, advocacy and operations oriented INGOs were more likely to be Faith-Segmented, and advocacy-oriented organizations were more likely to be secular. Finally, organizations with no government funding were more likely to be Faith-Integrated.
This study has significance for policy makers and INGOs alike. The growing presence of INGOs, and ROs in particular, with and without federal money, means that policy makers and those in the field will likely have professional contact with these organizations and form relations with them. Moreover, with the advent of the Sector/Cluster approach to humanitarian response, lead agencies are accountable to the humanitarian community for facilitating processes at the sectoral level. Part of this responsibility includes being inclusive of key humanitarian partners and establishing appropriate coordination mechanisms. Being familiar with the activities of INGOs and knowing whether there are certain categories of INGOs that are more likely to participate in certain activities and to utilize certain approaches to humanitarian response could prove useful in accomplishing these tasks.
Finally, this study has implications for ROs in particular. In an ever more competitive and results-oriented aid environment, ROs are being increasingly asked to define what distinctive value they can offer, and to be aware of associated risks. Many are also keen to ensure that their religious identity is consistently and coherently applied across the organization, particularly decentralized organizations working in many countries with numerous field offices. This study may be useful to ROs as they seek to address these concerns.