100 years

Hawai‘i Community Foundation
Maui Strong Fund: Our Role in Maui Fire Relief and our Grantmaking Approach

The Maui fires in August 2023 have become one of the largest disasters in Hawaiʻi’s history, requiring a massive relief operation. With public and private organizations and entities coordinating their efforts. Government, business, nonprofits, and community members have all joined forces to help respond to the ever-evolving needs of Maui’s people and places.

HCF’s Role in the Maui Fire Relief Efforts

Community foundations are grantmaking charitable organizations dedicated to improving the lives of people in a defined local geographic area. As a community foundation in Hawaiʻi with a more than 106-year history of catalyzing change through philanthropy, and convening partners to build equity, the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation (HCF) is in a unique position to aid in the Maui fire relief efforts. Our work includes not only strategic grantmaking through the Maui Strong Fund, but also sharing information, convening, coordinating, and collaborating with a range of partners.

To give some insight into how HCF is working to support the immediate and long-term recovery needs for the people and places of Maui, here is a brief explanation of our Maui Strong Fund grantmaking process, as well as a few of the main partners and groups we’re working with to ensure a bright future for Maui.

HCF’s Maui Strong Fund Grantmaking Approach

The primary way the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation is engaging in Maui fire relief efforts is by strategically funding partners on the ground with Maui Strong Fund grants and other funding tools.

We are taking a four-phase approach to our disaster relief efforts. The approach acknowledges both the immediate and long-term recovery needs for the people and places affected by disaster events, ensuring that the Maui Strong Fund will be available to support relief efforts over the full course of Mauiʻs rebuilding and restoration. (Click here for a PDF of the graphic below.)

We are currently in Phase 3: Recovery and Stabilization. In collaboration with Maui County, State of Hawaii, FEMA, and other partners, we have identified the following priority areas for Maui fire relief efforts:

  • housing
  • economic resiliency
  • health and social service systems
  • natural, historical and cultural resources

Once an application is received, our staff evaluates the proposal based on a standard template and those evaluations are considered in a peer review, evaluating on the basis of a structured criteria, including, but not limited to:

  • Will the proposed work be effective in meeting the needs of Maui’s people and places affected by the fires?
  • Is the applying entity in good standing and able to fulfill its proposed work with the amount of money being requested?
  • Does this grant request fill a gap not being met by other funding sources?

The Hawai‘i Community Foundation’s standard grantmaking policies and procedures includes approving all grants above $100,000 with our Special Oversight Committee. The Maui Strong Fund threshold has been updated to align to these practices and policies to ensure consistency of grantmaking for the long-term response to Maui’s fire recovery.

This means that requests for funding of more than $100,000 will be reviewed through three levels of evaluation: a staff peer review, an evaluation committee, and a Special Oversight Committee (Board equivalent) for the final funding decision. All proposals above $1 million will require HCF Board of Governors approval as well.

To ensure that Maui Strong Funds are being used effectively, we require all grantees to document and report back on how their grant money was spent. Any unused funds must be returned to HCF.

When making grants, HCF draws on all available information in order to be able to distribute funds strategically and effectively. Much of this data comes from our work collaborating with partners in a variety of sectors, including government, business and nonprofit, which gives us a cohesive, big-picture look at all the different work being done to aid Maui’s recovery.

Here are a few of the main partners we’re working with:

The Maui County Mayor’s Office and Office of Recovery

Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen is the leader of the Maui County government, overseeing all of its departments, boards, commissions and committees. The Maui County’s Office of Recovery is a centralized hub responsible for orchestrating and overseeing recovery operations. It’s positioned not just to facilitate physical reconstruction, but also to revitalize the community, ensuring that Maui’s socio-economic fabric is restored and strengthened. The Office of Recovery is overseen by a recovery manager and an assistant recovery manager, and comprises six Recovery Support Function (RSF) groups, each of which focuses on a specific area of recovery. HCF has a representative sitting on each of the RSF committees, to share knowledge with Maui County and its partners, and to help align Maui Strong Fund grantmaking decisions with the county’s strategy and efforts.

The State Commission for Economic Recovery

The Hawaiʻi State Commission for Economic Recovery was established in response to the Maui fires. Its goal is to create strategies for economic recovery and disaster resilience, for Maui specifically, and the state as a whole, as well as identify federal funding that could support economic recovery and resilience building for Hawaiʻi. The commission is being co-chaired by James Kunane Tokioka, director of the state Department of Business and Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), and Luana Mahi, economic development director of the Maui county Office of Economic Development (OED). HCF is participating in the state Commission for Economic Recovery in an advisory role, based on our knowledge and expertise gained through our Maui Strong Fund work and other disaster relief efforts over the years.

The Hoʻōla iā Mauiakama Disaster Long-Term Recovery Group

After a disaster, representatives from nonprofits, churches, businesses, government, and other organizations participating in relief work will often form a long-term recovery group (LTRG) to coordinate and focus their efforts, with the goal of addressing the individual un-met needs of survivors as they progress through recovery. To effectively address these needs, the LTRG handles fundraising, construction management, and volunteer management while intersecting with (and often facilitating) disaster case management and coordinating with funders. HCF has helped facilitate the creation of the LTRG for the Maui fire relief efforts, named Hoʻōla iā Mauiakama, and will be an active participant in the group for the duration of its work.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a federal agency headquartered in Washington, D.C. that coordinates within the federal government to prepare for and respond to disasters. It is involved with both immediate, emergency relief efforts, and longer-range recovery and rebuilding efforts. Since immediately after the fires hit, HCF has been in contact with FEMA to offer information on how philanthropy and other local, non-governmental efforts are contributing to relief efforts, allowing the agency to make better, more informed decisions about how it distributes the limited federal funds at its disposal. HCF is also participating in various FEMA task forces, to offer our knowledge and expertise in areas such as housing and social services. In addition, HCF is taking into account official FEMA actions and data in our Maui Strong Fund grantmaking decisions, and asking FEMA to connect us with other federal agencies such as the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency.