Faith-based Community Organizing:  The State of the Field, by Mark R. Warren and Richard L. Wood

Contents | Summary | Main Report | About | Appendices | Figure | Tables | Notes


1. Suggested citation: Warren, Mark R. and Richard L. Wood. 2001. Faith-Based Community Organizing: The State of the Field. Jericho, NY: Interfaith Funders.

2. For a history of the life and work of Saul Alinsky, see Sanford D. Horwitt, Let Them Call Me Rebel (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989).

3. The four major networks provided figures on leadership training, reported below.

4. In general, applying such a weight has the effect of increasing the number of cases with data to equal that in the universe. However, using such a weight requires the assumption that the non-respondents are similar to the respondents because essentially we are giving the non-respondents the same responses as the respondents.

5. Because New York is quite different from other parts of the country, we can assume that the picture we get of FBCO nationally involves a degree of bias, or simply error. The reader should therefore understand that some distortion exists in the results reported here.

6. The Northeast includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The Midwest includes Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. The Pacific includes Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Hawaii. The Mountain includes Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. The South includes Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. The Southwest Central includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

7. The numbers of institutions have been rounded off in recognition of the fact that they are estimates taken from survey responses. The precise figures calculated from the survey are: 4,037 total institutions, of which 3534 are congregations and 503 are non-congregational institutions.

8. The percentage figures are drawn using data from the Independent Sector. In 1992, the Independent Sector estimated from telephone company yellow pages that there were 257,648 congregations in the United States. Using lists supplied by the American Church Lists, Inc., Independent Sector gave an alternative number of 355,235 congregations. See From Belief to Commitment: The Community Service Activities and Finances of Religious Congregations in the United States, 1993 Edition, Washington, DC: Independent Sector, pp. 115-116.

9. The low end of the estimate assumes that congregations involved in FBCO groups are about the same size as the average American congregation. Most likely, though, they are larger because so many are Catholic parishes that are quite large. The high end of the estimate comes from an estimate of the average size of congregations involved in FBCO given by respondents to a survey conducted by Stephen Hart in 1994.

10. Only 58 associations in American history have ever exceeded the 1% threshold. See Theda Skocpol, Marshall Ganz and Ziad Munson, "A Nation of Organizers: The Institutional Origins of Civic Voluntarism in the United States," American Political Science Review 94 (September, 2000): 529.

11. The precise figures from the survey are: 2,689 board members, 459 organizers, and 23,650 core leaders.

12. The precise figure is 101,472. Different people may have attended different meetings for one group, so this figure really is a minimum number. Moreover, since the meaning of attendance at these meetings can vary so much between organizations, this report does not analyze variation across the organizations.

13. We cannot say for certain that the field is founding organizations more rapidly today than in the past because organizations founded in earlier periods may have folded and therefore not be represented in our survey. However, our conclusions about the growth of the field are supported by comparisons to a survey of FBCO conducted by Stephen Hart in 1994. Dr. Hart identified 90 groups in operation at that time, so the number has increased by nearly 50% since then. Note: we calculate founding date by the year in which the organization hired a paid organizer, our best measure of when an organization became stable and active.

14. We do not know this for sure because there may have been organizations in the Northeast and Midwest, for example, in earlier periods that subsequently collapsed and are not represented in this survey. This survey provides no hard data on the state of the FBCO field in the 1970s and 1980s, only information on the past history of organizations that were in existence in 1999.

15. This conclusion is supported by comparisons to the results of the survey conducted by Stephen Hart mentioned above. In 1994, Dr. Hart found that the average FBCO group had 20 congregational members. By 1999, according to our survey, the average group had almost 27 congregational members.

16. The networks include the IAF, PICO, Gamaliel Foundation and DART. The nature and extent of training varies to some extent between the networks, but we used the most comparable figures.

17. In comparing the characteristics of supervisors to non-supervisors by gender and, below, by race, it should be remembered that the full-time supervisors in the field who are not working for local organizations were not included in the survey and, therefore, not included in these comparisons.

18. The rest of this report relies on organizer answers to open-ended questions at the close of the phone interviews. See Appendix for question wording and for notes regarding limitations in the interview methodology and analysis reported in this section. Irregularities in how interviews were conducted make it misleading to calculate numbers of responses of a given kind. Where appropriate, we provide such numbers; otherwise, our analysis presents the key broad patterns and insights in the interviews. All numbers cited reflect those who reported a given activity, and should be considered minimums. Quotations used throughout are illustrative of wider patterns in the interviews or capture particularly cogent insights.

19. Only 98 of the 100 interviewees were asked the questions regarding the ties of their organizations with unions, public schools, and universities. So the percentages in this section use a denominator of 98; thus, 40% here means that 39 of the 98 interviewees claimed to have significant collaborative ties with labor unions. As earlier, it is not clear whether some interviewers probed these areas more than cursorily, so these percentages should be interpreted as minimum reports; not all organizers may have been asked, but some may have had incentive to report rather over-optimistically.

20. This figure comes from summing the percentage of member congregations listed in Table 4 as Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, Other non-Christian, COGIC, Theologically Conservative Protestant, and Other Christian. This probably over-estimates the actual presence of the groups of interest here, as the largest two categories are the last two, which are likely to include Christian congregations that are not fundamentalist or Pentecostal, and only evangelical in a very broad sense.

21. Christians Supporting Community Organizing is a national organization working with all the networks to engage evangelical and Pentecostal congregations in FBCO, and to more fully develop the scriptural basis of this work.

22. This may understate the actual contact with immigrants, since many may be members of religious congregations reached through standard FBCO organizing. Note that respondents were also asked about outreach to parents and youth; the answers largely repeated information covered in the sections on collaboration with labor unions, job training issues, and schools.

23. The discussion here pertains only to "economic development" work in the sense of doing development projects, not to efforts to convince political or corporate officials to invest or make decisions that will foster economic development in a given area; the latter is solidly within the arena of what is usually understood as the core tasks of organizing.

24. Also of note is the fact that most respondents answered only in terms of what issues they hoped their own local organization might address in the future, although the question was clearly intended to elicit their views of challenges facing the entire field of faith-based organizing. This may be related to the isolation many organizers appear to experience, as discussed in the section on collaborative projects below.