Strengthening Hawaii's Communities

Strengthening Hawaii's Communities
Community Building & Social Change

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Strategic philanthropy helps build strong communities and affects long-term social change.

Hawaii Community Stabilization Initiative

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HCF convened a collaborative of 12 funders to help individuals and families hit hard by the recession and leverage untapped public dollars on their behalf.

In 2009, tourism in Hawaii was plummeting and state revenues were down. Jobs were scarce, family incomes were dropping, and demand for basic public benefits was increasing at record rates; the state ranked 15th in the nation in foreclosure rates, and personal bankruptcies were at a four-year high. Mobilized by a sense of urgency and a deep compassion for struggling families and individuals in our community, the Hawaii Community Foundation (HCF) reached out to possible funders to form a philanthropic collaboration.

Twelve funders were convened by HCF as part of the Hawaii Community Stabilization Initiative (HCSI); they pooled their resources and started distributing grants immediately to front-line agencies to reach those in need with services that could help them the most. Over the course of three years (2009-2012), HCSI distributed $4.2 million to 30 nonprofit and government organizations and helped over 33,000 families and individuals. The primary focus was on providing immediate support for critical services such as food stamps outreach, emergency housing assistance, tax assistance, credit repair and foreclosure prevention. It was also important to HCSI partners to help Hawaii families build longer-term stability through loan programs and asset building.

The HSCI collaborative achieved tremendous leverage by accessing previously untapped public dollars. HCSI funds were used either as a “match” for federal grants or to improve the capacity of nonprofits to increase access to benefits for families. As a result, HCSI grants leveraged over $23 million from various programs for the community.

The HCSI funders collaborative included American Savings Bank, the Atherton Family Foundation, the Cooke Foundation, the First Hawaiian Bank, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Kosasa Family Fund, the McInerny Foundation, the Omidyar Ohana Fund, the Seto Foundation, the Stupski Family Fund, and an anonymous funder.


Omidyar Ohana Fund

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The charitable investments of Pierre and Pam Omidyar in Hawaii are driven by the belief that people are inherently capable of making a difference in their lives and their communities when they are empowered in their own lives.


In 2009, the Omidyars announced a $50 million commitment to Hawaii through the Hawaii Community Foundation.

The funding has resulted in FLEX grants to Hawaii’s nonprofits and funds for the Hawaii Community Stabilization Initiative (HCSI) to help struggling individuals and families following the most recent recession. Funds have also been used to further some large systemic changes for the state and to launch the Omidyar Fellows leadership program. On behalf of the Omidyars, HCF launched the Ulupono Initiative Fund, which makes nonprofit grants in line with for-profit investments aimed at sustainability.

With the Omidyars’ support, HCF also launched an initiative—State Technology Transformation—to improve the state’s technology infrastructure and make state systems and business practices more effective. The Omidyar Ohana Fund also provided the lead grant for Pillars of Peace Hawaii, which aims to further ideas of peace, ethical leadership, and social and emotional learning programs in and beyond the Islands.

HCF and the Omidyars have actively worked together to increase and enhance the effectiveness of every dollar spent. Much of the Omidyar funding was issued as a challenge grant and paired with other funders to optimize impact. Large, statewide programs at HCF such as HousingASAP, Connecting for Success, HCSI, the Fresh Water Initiative, and the Nonprofit Excellence Initiative are possible because multiple funders (including the Omidyars) have come together to collaborate with community leaders and organizations.

In addition to their efforts in Hawaii, the Omidyars have created several philanthropic organizations and initiatives nationally and globally, learn more at The Omidyar Group.


Pillars of Peace Hawaii

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Begun as a series of visits to Hawaii by prominent peace leaders, the program is also focused on building compassion and mindfulness in youth.

Pillars of Peace Hawaii is sponsored by the Hawaii Community Foundation through a lead grant from the Omidyar Ohana Fund. It was launched in 2012 with the aim of inspiring people—from keiki (children) to kupuna (elders)—to cultivate compassion, mindfulness and justice in their daily lives and better understand the roles of diversity and culture in the practice of peace.



Omidyar Fellows

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This program cultivates a community of emerging executives for the long-term benefit of Hawaii.

 Hawaii’s future will be shaped by the ability of its leaders to meet the increasingly complex challenges facing our state. That’s why it’s important to cultivate a community of emerging executives and to equip them with the skills and relationships they’ll need to collectively transform Hawaii.
The motivation to create the Omidyar Fellows program originated with Pierre Omidyar, who recognized the desire within the community for transformative learning opportunities. Unlocking the leadership talent that exists in our community is an investment in Hawaii’s future.

In 2012, a diverse group of 13 talented local leaders was convened as the first cohort of Omidyar Fellows. Over a 15-month period, these and subsequent Fellows participate in a rigorous curriculum that’s designed to build stronger leaders, more effective organizations, and cross-sector connections that are necessary to collectively affect community change. The learning journey, which includes monthly sessions and conversations with leaders, one-on-one executive coaching and an individual learning excursion, goes much deeper than most leadership development programs … and expects more from its participants.

The initial 15-month curriculum phase is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment expected of Omidyar Fellows to make a positive difference with the knowledge and networks gained. Yearly, as each cohort completes the curriculum phase, they join the Forum of Fellows.The Forum exists to catalyze positive, lasting societal change in Hawaii. As part of this growing network of leaders, Fellows meet throughout the year to learn, share experiences, and collaboratively address some of the state’s most pressing needs, all in service of a better future.

The Omidyar Fellows is a program of the Hawaii Leadership Forum, which is supported through the Omidyar Ohana Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation.



Neighborhood Grants

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This program supported people to come together to improve their community, with a focus on strategy, process and evaluation.

The Hawaii Community Foundation began the Neighborhood Grants Program in 1991 with matching funds from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Michigan. Fourteen designated geographic areas were targeted based on income and ethnicity. Awards were given to groups that had fifty percent of the members residing in the area and could produce a tangible result. They also needed to represent a concern of the neighborhood, improve on neighborhood strengths and capabilities, and develop self-sufficiency opportunities for their community. Projects ranged from anti-litter efforts to art classes and economic development.

The Neighborhood Grants program involved people coming together to improve a community with the focus being placed on the strategy, process and evaluation in a way that hadn’t been done before with single grants.

As one Neighborhood Grants program story depicts, challenges and opportunities often went together:

The community of Hauula is a rural community that exists on the edge of economic challenges but has a strong sense of identity and pride. The Hauula Community Association (HCA) has been an active voice in addressing the needs and concerns of the residents.

In 1991 HCA received a $7,450 from the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Neighborhood Grants Program for a computer and for teen activities. One result was Hauula Smiles, a monthly newsletter filled with information on meetings, fundraisers, and messages from government representatives and recognition of community members.

In 1995, HCA received $6,500 for a beautification campaign. Volunteers walked the neighborhood to target areas needing beautification. The cleanup was a collaborative effort involving Hui Ohana O Hauula, firefighters, government, and the Polynesian Cultural Center.


Island Innovation Fund

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This fund was created to serve as a catalyst for innovation within Hawaii’s nonprofit sector.

The Island Innovation Fund was created in 2010 as part of the historic $50 million commitment to Hawaii from Pierre and Pam Omidyar. With the economy forcing nonprofits to do more with less while facing complex issues, it had become increasingly important to create a culture for innovation that allowed organizations to think out of the box and find creative solutions to challenges in the community. The Island Innovation Fund was designed to foster new ways to solve the various problems by working together and building on the ideas of others.

An online application process was specifically created to allow all applicants to see each other’s ideas, encouraging them to look for opportunities to scale their innovations by collaborating with other local nonprofits.

In its first round of grants, $461,119 was awarded to five recipients for innovative projects that addressed issues ranging from conservation of native forests to technology solutions that connected consumers to Hawaii farm products.

In the second round, $480,591 was awarded to five recipients for projects intended to increase energy awareness through real-time monitoring web and mobile application tools; allow residents statewide to actively follow and monitor the Hawaii legislative process; distribute a replicable exercise and fall prevention program to Hawaii’s seniors; deploy a new access control mechanism to maintain public access to trails and pathways on Hawaii Island; and encourage schools to eliminate its waste to create green schools.


Social Capital

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This program supported projects aimed at strengthening communities and their social networks from 2002-2005.


ABC Fund

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This fund encouraged community-driven initiatives that improved the quality of life in low-income areas.


Women’s Fund

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Started at Hawaii Community Foundation by HCF’s first CEO, the fund has now become its own organization and continues to give to community programs that benefit girls and women.


Pathways to Resilient Communities

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This initiative—through a funder collaborative and grantee network—focuses on helping at-risk middle school youth and homeless families.

Pathways to Resilient Communities (Pathways) is a three-year initiative focused on making changes in Hawaii’s human services sector so that vulnerable and at-risk individuals and families receive high quality, effective services that promote their well-being and help them thrive. The initiative kicked off in 2013 by leveraging the resources of 15 funders to support separate programs within Pathways with a combined budget of $12.25 million over three years.

The approach to Pathways builds on HCF’s experience with two models—funder collaboratives and grantee networks—to achieve large-scale change and improve measurable outcomes. Funds from multiple sources are strategically invested to support multi-year grants for capacity building and systems change agendas. Coupled with this, HCF forms grantee networks to accelerate learning and promote coordination on shared objectives.

The initiative is made up of two programs—Connecting for Success for at-risk middle school youth and HousingASAP for homeless families.

Early results show promise:

Connecting for Success – 89% of participating students at-risk of failing are now passing all classes; they indicate that they feel supported by the program and that it has helped them understand why getting good grades is important.

HousingASAP - The family homeless service providers involved have housed 30% more families in the first year than the prior year, and recidivism has decreased by 20%.

Pathways Funder Collaborative participants include:

Aloha United Way
American Savings Bank
Atherton Family Foundation
Bank of Hawaii Foundation
Central Pacific Bank Foundation
Cooke Foundation, Ltd.
Harold K.L. Castle Foundation
Hawaii Community Foundation
Hawaii Tobacco Prevention & Control Trust Fund
Kosasa Family Fund
Omidyar Ohana Fund
Richard M. Smart Fund
Stupski Family Fund