Vicky Cayetano: We've Got To Stop Taking Nonprofits For Granted - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Vicky Cayetano

Vicky Cayetano is a longtime businesswoman, philanthropist, former First Lady and recent gubernatorial candidate. She is active in the community, advocating for small businesses, animal welfare, supporting the arts and other aspects of our community. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.


When we think of Hawaii’s nonprofit organizations, there really are three groups. You have the smaller nonprofits that fundraise with very specific objectives, like Little League teams raising money for trips; bigger nonprofits that serve a quasi-governmental function, providing a multitude of services; and some nonprofits that are so big and operate so much like for profit companies – that you have to ask, “Should they even be a nonprofit?”

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Many of Hawaii’s 8,000+ nonprofits (known also as community-based organizations) support our community in so many ways, from housing to child care, food distribution, homelessness, environmental conservation, education, animal welfare, immigrant support, the arts, historic preservation — a list that is so expansive that there are too many to list them all.

They are a vital part of many people’s everyday life but too often, like the air that we breathe, they are taken for granted until they no longer exist.

They are an important part of how the government delivers social services, yet state and county agencies often do not have the level of interaction with them that is necessary for a productive partnership. They are not treated with the level of respect that these partnerships deserve. And yet, without these nonprofits, no government agency can hope to replicate and deliver these services with the same level of efficiency and effectiveness.

Here are some ways that government can better support them:

Make it more streamlined and less complicated.

One of the things that needs to be changed is the process by which nonprofit organizations get public money. This is called the grant in aid process.

If anyone has ever gone through the application process for a grant in aid, they will find that it can be more complicated than navigating through the Amazon forest, blindfolded, without a map. There is no clear road map and oftentimes seems to be more about who you know than the merit of your request.

This is one of the reasons why you see the same organizations applying for and receiving government funding. It is simply not a welcoming process for newcomers.

Jonathan Bailor (right) and his daughter Alexis Bailor dress in the Christmas spirit while volunteering to help load cars with food donations at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center distribution event on Saturday, December 19, 2020. A minimum of 100 volunteers are needed to put on an event this size where 2,000 families received food through partnerships with Hawaii Foodbank, USDA, City and County of Honolulu, the Hawaii Farm Bureau, Alexander and Baldwin, HAM Produce and Seafood, Hawaii Foodservice Alliance and other donors. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
Jonathan Bailor, right, and his daughter Alexis Bailor dress for the Christmas spirit while volunteering to help load cars with food donations at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center during the pandemic in 2020. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2020

One of the ways is to revisit how funds are applied for, reviewed, approved and distributed through the grant in aid program, often referred to as “GIA’s.” Let’s start by looking at a standardized software program that could be used by all agencies so that it streamlines the process and brings a more friendly approach to the GIA introduction. A program that is used by all the various government agencies so that there is a standardized system for everyone to understand and follow.

Let the nonprofit organizations do their job.

By design, the GIA’s request goes through a government agency or in some cases, multiple agencies. The problem is that along the way, the agency or agencies oftentimes start dictating to the nonprofit how they should be executing the project, resulting in requirements that are unnecessary and impractical.

Can government agencies please step back and look at what is being dictated to these community-based service organizations in considering their funding requests? If they are too overreaching, it adds to an already cumbersome process and it begs the question that if these agencies think they can do the job, why are they outsourcing it?

Let’s start by looking at a standardized software program that could be used by all agencies so that it streamlines the process and brings a more friendly approach to the GIA introduction.

I am not suggesting that monies be given without accountability and control. What I am saying is that we need to let these organizations use their expertise and experience so they can fulfill the project within the dollars approved.

At the heart of all this is the need for an attitude change within our agencies and Legislature. We need to recognize the vital work that our nonprofits do and that they are an important partner in delivering the valuable services that our community needs. Their survival is of the utmost importance not only for them, but for the people and the animals they serve.

Recently, an error discovered in the release of grants by the Legislature caused funding for numerous nonprofits to be delayed until next year. This money is critical for them and the community they serve and yet, the state could not, would not and did not find a way to get the funding released. House leadership said the nonprofits would have to wait until next year. The fact is that some of these organizations may not be able to wait until next year.

Let’s give our nonprofit organizations the support and respect they deserve in helping them to operate more effectively so that our people – our community — will be served better.


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About the Author

Vicky Cayetano

Vicky Cayetano is a longtime businesswoman, philanthropist, former First Lady and recent gubernatorial candidate. She is active in the community, advocating for small businesses, animal welfare, supporting the arts and other aspects of our community. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.


Latest Comments (0)

Vicky Cayetano, thank you for spotlighting non-profits in search of grants and grants-in-aid. May this be a series of messages from a Lady who has the Heart of Hawai'i Nei always a part of her makeup.

Hawaiian17 · 1 week ago

Vicky Said :Vicky, Our org Hawaiian Hope designs software for non profits. We are actually working on a system that will do exactly that, and we intend to make it free for the city & state to use to process grants.

Curtis_Kropar · 1 week ago

I run a non profit, Hawaiian Hope Org 15 years all volunteers & we been preaching the same message-"We need more computers in the hands of kids so they can be more tech savvy." Applied for GIA grants 4+ times. none of them approved. In fact the first GIA request we made we saw the email feedback from a department head she sent to the review committee, saying our services were not needed. 10 Years later-2018, we handed out 1,000 computers in 1 year -all requests. In 2019 we did 1,500 computers and we put in for another GIA, only $65,000 as an infrastructure overhaul to help us produce more computers per year. NOT Funded. Jump to 2020 and COVID, and magic magic, everyone now talking about how kids need computers. Demand for services skyrockets and we do not have the proper infrastructure to make it happen. 2020, submitted another funding request. Nothing. Last year we produced 2,000 Computers- still no GIA funding. The new covid relief grants for non profits, In order to qualify you have to show a loss (money, donations). Everything about us increased to meet demand. So because our service demand increased, we are disqualified from getting those grants. Vickey is right.

Curtis_Kropar · 1 week ago

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