A young man praying in a church pew

commentary

June 2, 2015

Faith-Based Organizations as Force Multipliers

Photo by Dzmitry Malyeuski/Fotolia

by Laura Werber

In military parlance, a “force multiplier” is something that dramatically increases the effectiveness of a group or a process. As the U.S. military continues to look for ways to help veterans adjust to civilian life, RAND researchers decided to take a closer look at the role faith-based organizations (FBOs) are playing in this process.

FBOs are an important community-based resource for veterans. Through interviews with both national-level and smaller, local organizations, we sought to better understand the current and potential roles these organizations can play in veteran reintegration. We found that FBOs are already interacting with other organizations in the web of reintegration support, but to varying degrees and with different levels of success.

Our research suggests that veterans may look to FBOs for support because they offer privacy and confidentiality — two features that may be especially critical when a potential stigma is involved. Some FBOs have developed a reputation as safe places for veterans, providing supportive, judgment-free environments. These organizations not only help veterans with spiritual matters, but address wide-ranging areas of veteran health and wellness, including vocation, education, financial and legal stability, shelter, access to goods and services, mental health, access to health care, physical health, family, and social networks.

However, we also found that FBOs' efforts are sometimes limited by resource and capacity constraints, insufficient connections, lack of awareness or experience with veterans, and by characteristics of the veterans themselves.

Our study, Faith-Based Organizations and Veteran Reintegration, offers several suggestions for policymakers, for organizations that may partner with FBOs, and for FBOs themselves to help these organizations more fully engage in the web of support.


Laura Werber is a senior management scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.