farmer in field in Nicaragua

Capacity Overview

Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS

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CRS is one of the most respected and influential international relief and development agencies in the world.

For more than 75 years CRS has managed complex, multi-sector and multi-year relief, rehabilitation, and development projects, under bilateral and multilateral program agreements that annually assist more than 130 million of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable people in 110 countries

Our efficiency and accountability inspire the highest financial and trust rankings from government, institutions, foundations and other donors.

Global network

The unique nature of our network enables us to respond at scale but within a truly local context.

CRS’ staff of over 7,000 includes more than 500 employees in its world headquarters in Baltimore, MD, and over 6,000 employees overseas, 92% of whom are national staff from the countries in which CRS operates. The agency’s employees represent diverse religious, cultural and professional backgrounds and share a commitment to the mission of CRS. CRS works in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Southeast Europe, the Caucasus, and the Middle East.

CRS also draws on partnerships with diocese and local parishes around the world and with our sister organization Caritas Internationalis with staff in virtually every country in the world

Multi-sector expertise

Our multi-sector expertise grew out of our commitment to promote the good of every person and the whole person; it is cultural, economic, political, social and spiritual. Our approach points both to the goal we want to promote and the process for moving together in solidarity toward this oal. Our commitment to the whole-person approach is shared throughout our network and provides common ground for the development of agreed priorities and programs.

Project success often calls for a multi-sector approach. An agriculture project may require components such as education, financial planning, marketing and gender equity. Emergency responses may require seed fairs, local market assessments, shelter, nutrition and water and sanitation services. CRS draws on internal and external expertise across a wide range of sectors and sub-sectors.

Catholic Relief Services and Ethiopia Catholic Church-Social and Development Coordinating Office with USAID funding protected large swaths of grassland in order to offset deforestation and land degradation. Photo by Sara Fajardo/CRS


Signature Program Areas

Emergency response  2017: 12.4 milion served by 201 projects in 52 countries.

More than 35% of our programming focuses on emergency relief. Once we meet immediate needs for food, water and shelter, we move to rebuilding and reconstruction, helping people suffering from natural disasters, chronic emergencies and conflict reclaim their lives and build resilience

Agriculture  2017: 6.2 million served by 124 projects in 51 countries

We employ and partner with cutting edge agricultural experts from soil and seed to plant genetics and value chain development. We also know that chronic hunger affects health, growth, learning and income potential. That’s why many of our projects combine health care, microfinance and literacy with sustainable agriculture. 

Health  2017: 93 million beneficiaries by 119 projects in 42 countries

CRS helps build healthy families, bringing quality care to communities with little or no access to health services of any kind. We also work with local partners and governments to strengthen health-care systems, ensuring long-term sustainability. We focus on people at greatest risk—mothers, infants and very young children—but our projects address a range of health challenges throughout life.

Core Competencies



Water and sanitation

Justice and peacebuilding

Partnership and capacity strengthening


Resilience and sustainability focus

CRS has a long history of building resilience by helping individuals address the challenges of recurrent shocks and chronic stresses. CRS’ Integral Human Development framework places people at the center of development, promoting a holistic approach to wellbeing based on a deep understanding of how people interact with the institutions and systems that impact their lives.

In Timor-Leste CRS addresses maternal and child nutrition through caregiver groups that teach how to grow and incorporate nutrient-rich foods into rice and maize-based meals. Funded by World Bank, the project also encourages good nutrition practices while supporting improved agricultural practices. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS


Project management

CRS project management services extend across concept and design, procurement and supply chain management, human resources, implementation, measurement and evaluation with regular detailed reporting along the way.

CRS manages implementation with local partners to strengthen local capacity so that advances realized through the project extend long after the project’s end.

Project management attributes include:

  • Improving in-country capacities to provide high-quality, sustainable services, including developing and updating technical guidelines, training local providers in management practices, providing supplies and equipment, and facilitating linkages with communities to ensure prioritization of their needs.
  • Providing technical and implementation support to local and national stakeholders.
  • Working with local and national staff and NGO partners to strengthen their technical and management capacity.
  • Developing community-based mechanisms to continue to provide essential services following project completion.
  • Assessing institutional capacity and developing tools applicable to national, regional, district, facility and community levels, which underpin targeted technical assistance.
  • CRS country teams have a keen understanding of national priorities and strategies, participate in national fora and working groups, and maintain formal relationships and agreements with key ministries and local and international NGO actors.
  • Country operations are backed by robust technical and administrative support structures at the regional and headquarters levels to ensure high-quality and cost-effective programming, reporting, monitoring and evaluation.


Partnership is central to CRS philosophy, and the agency has a long history of — and strong commitment to — strengthening local partner organizations. CRS directly supports local partners, helping develop their capacities to acquire and manage donor resources and to achieve their operational goals, while providing both technical and managerial oversight to ensure sound program implementation and accountability to donors.

CRS cultivates and depends on strong organizational relationships at the national and local level in order to carry out successful programs. Partner agencies include religious and nonsectarian non-governmental organizations, community groups, and host country governments.

In all programming CRS works in close collaboration with relevant national and international NGOs and donor agencies. CRS has been a lead agency and a sub-recipient in many program consortia throughout the world and has a proven ability to work in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders.

CRS is part of the Caritas network responding quickly to emergencies with pre-positioned resources and strategically placed distribution centers. Photo courtesy of Eoghan Rice - Trócaire /Caritas


Supply Chain

CRS supports national quantification and forecasting processes for commodities and provides technical assistance to address weaknesses in inventory management, storage, distribution, reporting, and quality control. CRS works alongside its national partners to conduct regular data quality assessments to ensure that data is accurate, reliable, meaningful and timely, and to improve systems where gaps are identified.

CRS core competencies include supply chain management, measuring evaluation and learning, financial management that includes robust fraud management and information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) solutions.

We recruit, train and deploy teams of field agents and zonal coordinators to work with public and private agencies to improve commodity management and support facilities.

CRS develops plans for training, supervision, reporting tools, budgets, and implementation  at the macro and micro levels. The plans can and have been adopted for nationwide use across all implementing partners.

CRS is well positioned to provide implementation and technical assistance for scaling up new international and national recommendations by developing national policies and guidelines, training materials, quality assurance and control systems, monitoring and evaluation plans, and supervision systems.


CRS’ total operating expense for FY 2016 was $970,978,000 of which 94.0% went to program services, with the remainder representing management and general expenses, fundraising, and public awareness

Financial and material assistance to support CRS programming is drawn from numerous sources, including, among others: USAID; USDA; the Department of State; the Department of Labor; the Department of Health and Human Services; the UK Department for International Development; the European Union; foreign governments; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; United Nations agencies; the World Bank; a wide variety of corporations and foundations; and private donations from the US and international Catholic Community.

Management structure

CRS has consistently implemented its multiple projects and programs on a timely basis, carefully monitoring progress and adapting activities and approaches in collaboration with partners, in order to meet objectives on schedule. CRS’ decentralized management structure ensures that country program offices have the authority to make decisions based on local realities.

In the field, CRS’ seven regional offices have distinct structures and lines of authority, providing concentrated managerial and technical support to the country programs. In addition, each region has developed its own strategy to respond to agency priorities and to support program and management quality standards.