Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Patrick Dattalo

Second Advisor

Ellen Netting

Third Advisor

Mary Katherine O'Connor

Fourth Advisor

Kevin Allison


The American social welfare system is a mixed system consisting of loosely coupled government programs, private nonprofit and for-profit organizations, grassroots and religious entities. Although religious entities historically played a key role in the development of the social welfare system, the faith-based initiative of President George W. Bush targeted religious service providers to receive government funding and take on a larger role in service delivery to at-risk populations based on the belief that these providers were substantially different from traditional providers. Using a cross-sectional research design and a survey instrument created for the study, data was collected from 121 nonprofit service providers in the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area of Virginia. Nonprofit organizations were selected from three online databases using identified criteria and sent paper surveys and/or emails inviting them to complete a web-based survey. The study identified similarities and differences between characteristics of faith-based service providers and traditional providers and used a conceptual model composed of Resource Dependence Theory and Neo-Institutional Theory to suggest dynamics impacting similarities and differences between providers. Data analysis included univariate and multivariate analysis of organization characteristics. Univariate findings identified that faith-based organizations in the study were older, served more people in 2006, generally provided services via volunteers, received more funding from congregations and other religious entities and did not favor membership in professional organizations. Other than these notable differences, faith-based providers were fairly similar to their traditional counterparts. A multivariate analysis used a two-group discriminant function (DFA) procedure to determine which variables best discriminated between provider groups. Two variables, funding from congregations/other religious entities and funding from government grants/contracts, were found to be the most important discriminating variables. Study findings were consistent with prior research comparing the provider groups. Although some differences do exist, overall similarities tended to outweigh differences suggesting that the claim of substantially differences between providers did not fit the geographic area studied. For those concerned with community service delivery, the implication is that recent economic developments suggest that attention should be placed on collaboration and service delivery capacity-building rather than on the differences between service providers.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2009

Included in

Social Work Commons