Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Kieran Fogarty


This dissertation explores the issues and challenges that nonprofit organizations (NPOs) contend with as a consequence of a large-scale disaster, in this case, the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. Through interviews with 10 executive directors of small and medium-size nonprofit, community-based NPOs in New Orleans, this study examines how their organizations coped with the consequences of the storm and the devastating aftermath. The critical issues and coping strategies the executives identified, and the lessons they learned offer insights into (a) nonprofit organizational responses to a catastrophic event, and (b) executive leadership that helped the nonprofit to survive.

This research project was a qualitative, exploratory study utilizing a grounded theoretical approach. Data were collected through in-depth interviews, which were transcribed, coded, and analyzed to determine themes in critical issues, coping strategies, and lessons learned. Analysis of critical issues revealed that executives reported communication issues as paramount in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Primary coping strategies included identifying and securing funding support, creating new approaches to problems confronting their organizations, and responding to the needs of new clients requesting services. Executives also reported a number of lessons learned after reflecting on the critical issues confronting their organizations and the coping strategies that were employed.

The implications for organizational and administrative practice include: multifaceted emergency planning, the need for off-site (back-up) organizational, client and financial records, consideration of the role of banks and financial transfers, the need for more extensive contact information when board and staff disperse outside of their homes and communities, better use of technology, short-term cash flow guarantees from funders, a clear chain of command when key people are not available, focus on mission consistency, and the need for continuity of service agreements in a disaster.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access