About the Author

Venus Kauiokawekiu Rosete-Medeiros

Venus Kauiokawekiu Rosete-Medeiros has served as CEO of Hale Kipa since January 2022. She has more than 35 years of experience serving youth and families in Hawaii, including work with nonprofit organizations, as well as private and public school systems. She previously served as Kamehameha Schools’ community strategist and regional director for Maui, Molokai and Lanai, in which she oversaw community investments, public and private collaborations and Hawaiian cultural-based educational programs. She also founded and served as the executive director of the nonprofit organization Neighborhood Place on Maui from 2004-2011.

It’s imperative that city, count and state governments fund contracts at their true costs.

Hawaii’s nonprofits are rapidly reaching a breaking point. Here is how we got there and why something must change.

In recent years, the demand for social services has steadily increased. The Covid-19 pandemic further exacerbated homelessness, food shortages, mental health problems, and other pressing issues. We don’t expect this imperative to return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. In addition, the cost of providing these critical services is rising.

The state, cities, and counties can’t meet these social service needs. So, they turn to those who do it best — organizations such as Hale Kipa, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that works with youth and their families who often have nowhere else to turn.

The expertise that community-based organizations like Hale Kipa provide is indispensable, and the partnership between state, county, and city governments is the most efficient, cost-effective way to deliver these necessary services.

Just as the local governments rely on us to support our youth and families, we depend on them for funds to run our programs. Roughly 90% of Hale Kipa’s revenue comes from state, city, and county contracts.

However, despite the community’s growing needs, state contracts have been level for almost 10 years. The state isn’t funding our contracts at their true costs. In fact, at the height of the pandemic, when job loss and isolation were devastating Hawaii’s communities, the state reduced our contract amounts by 10%.

Even with these challenges, Hale Kipa continues to provide the same scope of work. Our heart’s mission is to serve. We simply will not turn people away in their time of need.

Filling Financial Gaps

In addition to inadequate funds, payments are frequently late, and it can take three to six months to receive them. To avoid gaps in services, Hale Kipa often must front costs. Other smaller nonprofits typically end up borrowing money to operate their programs.

Hale Kipa and other nonprofits have only one option to help fill financial gaps and keep their programs running — fundraising. But organizing galas, auctions, or other events takes time, manpower, and money. We already struggle to do more with less. Fundraising diverts energy from our core mission — strengthening families and communities.

While we grapple with these cash shortfalls, our employees contend with low wages and burnout. Last year, the state gave its deserving employees a cost-of-living salary increase, yet it won’t approve the same for our hardworking, dedicated staff.

A graphic from the Hale Kipa website. Nonprofits need government funding to do their work. (Screenshot/2024)

As malama, we are caring stewards of our programs, providing hope and light for youth and families in darkness. Hale Kipa employees love their work, but it can be emotionally draining. They are often deeply affected by clients’ past traumas. Because we can’t provide competitive wages for this rewarding but intense work, it is challenging to hire and retain qualified staff.

The state also limits funds for overhead, making it difficult to cover salaries for essential positions such as CEO and CFO. Overhead isn’t bloat. It’s necessary. Nonprofits are businesses and businesses need money to cover operating expenses.

Lastly, we are paying to advocate for ourselves. Hale Kipa is one of 50 nonprofit member organizations that fund the True Cost Coalition. The True Cost Coalition works to ensure the government provides the true costs of contracts and improves how the state and nonprofits partner to deliver quality services.

If the state, counties, and cities continue to underfund nonprofit contracts, the quality and breadth of our programs will decline. For example, instead of providing shelter for four homeless families, we may only be able to accommodate two. Instead of providing services for 100 youth, we will only be able to serve 80.

Fundraising diverts energy from our core mission — strengthening families and communities.

Gaps in service are even more concerning. Where does a homeless teen go if their shelter temporarily (or permanently) shuts down?

If we continue this trajectory, nonprofits like Hale Kipa will have no other choice than to say no to these underfunded contracts. We urge the state, county, and city governments to fully fund our contracts at the true cost of what it takes to provide these programs and services. The state must give us the resources to care for vulnerable community members.

Despite the devastating impact that the fires on Maui will have on the stateʻs budget, we must also not lose sight of the recurring needs of our underprivileged communities and partner together to ensure they are met.

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.


Read this next:

Naka Nathaniel: We Need Action To Get Hollywood's Cameras Rolling In Hawaii


Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.

Contribute

About the Author

Venus Kauiokawekiu Rosete-Medeiros

Venus Kauiokawekiu Rosete-Medeiros has served as CEO of Hale Kipa since January 2022. She has more than 35 years of experience serving youth and families in Hawaii, including work with nonprofit organizations, as well as private and public school systems. She previously served as Kamehameha Schools’ community strategist and regional director for Maui, Molokai and Lanai, in which she oversaw community investments, public and private collaborations and Hawaiian cultural-based educational programs. She also founded and served as the executive director of the nonprofit organization Neighborhood Place on Maui from 2004-2011.


Latest Comments (0)

Thank you for this commentary which is so true. Nonprofit organizations are providing services that in other advanced countries would be provided by government. Moreover, they are probably doing it at a fraction of the cost. The least we can do is fund them at a reasonable level. A few points:- Most people working in nonprofits are underpaid relative to the private sector. They are effectively paying a personal "tax" to contribute to the greater good.- As noted by the author, state and county contracts do not reflect true costs and they have not kept up with inflation. Nonprofits cannot "raise their prices" to pass on cost increases. State and County also have an abysmal record of on time payments. This would NEVER be tolerated in the private sector.- It’s extremely difficult to fund administrative costs such as HR, finance, the CEO or Executive Director’s salary. Funders only want to fund direct services. That’s ridiculous. It would be like being unwilling to pay for R&D, marketing, and HR in a private company. Imagine saying: "I’ll buy your widget but you can only use the revenue to pay for direct sales and manufacturing of it."

Chillax · 1 month ago

Excellent commentary. I was a director of Hale Kipa, shortly after it began operations at St Andrew's Cathedral in 1970 providing shelter for runaway teenagers, most of whom were girls, and was at one time president of its board.Hale Kipa is one of many, many nonprofits who deliver essential services that the state and counties fail to fund adequately.

Randy_Moore · 1 month ago

Hale Kipa is one outstanding organization not to be confused with duplicate agencies, where the head is usually an attorney collecting a big salary. Volunteers doing the hard work.

Concernedtaxpayer · 1 month ago

Join the conversation

About IDEAS

IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

Mahalo!

You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.