Government Support For Nonprofits Only Goes So Far - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Authors

Nanci Kreidman

Nanci Kreidman is chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center.

Lisa Maruyama

Lisa Maruyama is president and CEO of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations.

En Young

En Young is the executive director of Pacific Gateway Center, a 49-year-old agency serving immigrants, refugees, and the disadvantaged.

Karen Tan

Karen Tan is president and CEO of Child and Family Service.

The City and County of Honolulu recently publicized a relief program for Hawaii’s nonprofit organizations. This recognizes the indispensable role community-based organizations play in meeting critical community needs.

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Mayor Rick Blangiardi is to be applauded for his dedication to increase the capacity of local community-based organizations at this time. Community-based service providers are some of the most resilient organizations in Hawaii. The sector pivoted to meet the most disruptive challenge to Hawaii in our generation, the coronavirus pandemic.

Funding support is always welcome and greatly needed. Community-based nonprofit organizations historically and currently are underfunded in covering the rising costs of doing business and meeting a growing demand for services.

The city’s relief program, though well-meaning and welcome among many in the sector, is only a temporary reprieve from the underlying structural factors that destabilize operations and diminish service quality over time.

The reality is that all levels of government — federal, state, and county — employ funding methods that strain a nonprofit’s finances and very survival. Government contracts, including those using the cost-reimbursement method, require community-based organizations to provide the service in advance of getting paid.

Catholic Charities Family intake center blessing involved a handprint of several VIP and Governor Ige as Governor Ige prepares his painted hands for prints on the side of the newly refurbished building. 16 sept 2016
The Hawaii Catholic Charities Family Intake Center at its blessing. Even as Covid-19 appears to be subsiding, community-based nonprofits still need lots of support. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2016

Under this approach, the community based organization must front large sums of money to provide the service, making prompt service delivery almost impossible. To make matters worse, government agencies are often slow to reimburse, creating serious cash flow problems.

Government contracts often do not adequately fund overhead costs which must be covered too. Overhead is capacity. It is the building where business is conducted, it is the software used to track outcomes and expenditures, it is the truck and the gas used to deliver food, and, most importantly, it is the people that coordinate all the support functions that make the outcome possible.

Needs are mounting and funding is not keeping pace with costs.

The most damaging trend has been that government funding of community-based organizations has been shrinking for years, simply by allowing contract amounts to stay stagnant or imposing budget cuts while still requiring the same level of services. Government funding is not indexed to inflation, and as such, the contracted nonprofit cannot cover market salary changes and cost increases of utilities and supplies.

Prior to the pandemic, local community-based organizations were already experiencing a slow and steady suffocation. All the parts of the safety net were engaged, meeting community needs of those harmed by abuse, those becoming homeless, laid off, living with hunger, and unable to receive medical treatment for health conditions. Those needs have not diminished and are in fact mounting, and funding is not keeping pace with costs.

Hawaii’s community-based organizations are ready and willing to contend with the challenges going forward as reliable partners to government. The systems and infrastructure of government do not adequately support the kind of social compact needed by community-based organizations to address the myriad of complex social issues that plague Hawaii.

A new, collaborative model of contracting and grant-making is needed, where resources are directed toward the fiscal, practical, and operational solutions that ensure real success, high quality services and community wellbeing. Community based organizations gladly join with partners in government to work on those solutions together.

Editor’s note: The following are co-authors of this Community Voice — Phil Acosta, Aloha Harvest; Rachelle Chang, Samaritan Counseling Center Hawaii; Sunny Chen, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies; Joni Chun, Susannah Wesley Community Center; Rona Fukumoto, Lanakila Pacific; Shawn Malia Kanaiaupuni, Partners in Development; Ryan Kusumoto, Parents and Children Together; Heather Lusk, Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center; Angelina Mercado, Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Noriko Namiki, YWCA of Oahu; Venus Rosete-Medeiros, Hale Kipa; Rob Van Tassell, Catholic Charities Hawaii; Greg Waibel, YMCA of Honolulu; Tracey Wiltgen, Mediation Center of the Pacific; Jessica Yamauchi, Hawaii Public Health Institute; and Deborah Zysman, Hawaii Children’s Action Network.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.


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About the Authors

Nanci Kreidman

Nanci Kreidman is chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center.

Lisa Maruyama

Lisa Maruyama is president and CEO of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations.

En Young

En Young is the executive director of Pacific Gateway Center, a 49-year-old agency serving immigrants, refugees, and the disadvantaged.

Karen Tan

Karen Tan is president and CEO of Child and Family Service.


Latest Comments (0)

True of some non-profits (NP's); not all. Some NP's receive funding for 'desires", or politician pet projects, rather than true critical community needs. With a president & CEO of the HI Alliance of NP Orgs perhaps they could look for new, innovative ways to alleviate these NP problems on their own accord, e.g. establishing "bridge loans" (repaid once pmt from gov't is rec'd); endowments; etc. Some add'l Q's on my mind:1. why do non-profits subject themselves to these scenarios, repeatedly, rather than making the needed op changes to prevent them? 2. Should NP's be relying upon gov't?3. does this structure, because it relies so heavily on gov't funds (whether annually or via reimbursement), indicate that NP's are in fact a part of gov't? If so, we should acknowledge that & remove their NP status3. why don't taxpayers have the choice of which NP's their money supports? As "donations", individuals should be able to select which NP's to support rather than taxes being collected, w/awards decided upon, w/out input4. Do NP's reassess need for their continued existence from yr to yr?

KeepingItReal · 4 days ago

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