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The Importance of Supporting Nonprofits as Part of Our Community Recovery and Resiliency



Nonprofit organizations are a key thread in the social fabric of our community. From providing a safety net for those in need, to educating our children and preparing our workforce, to preserving our culture and promoting the arts, nonprofit organizations provide services that are vital to our quality of life. As we work to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need them now more than ever. And they are struggling.


Virtually every nonprofit is facing immense challenges caused by the pandemic. Those that have been on the front lines providing food, health care and other basic services have seen the demand for their services skyrocket, while fundraising events have been cancelled, donors have become unemployed, and many volunteers are unable to serve. Arts and cultural, educational and other organizations have had to cease or greatly reduce services, lay-off staff and hope they can stay afloat until things improve. Nearly every nonprofit organization is worried about money and their ability to survive to keep meeting the needs of our community.


We can’t afford to let our nonprofits fail. They are critical to our recovery and in building resiliency to face future disasters. While the government may be providing funding to stimulate the recovery, our local nonprofit organizations know our communities’ needs best, can respond and adapt more quickly than government or outside groups, and are well-positioned to put funding to work on services and programs that are most important to the people they serve. We need to invest in their operations and infrastructure to ensure they can provide for both the immediate and long-term needs of our community.


In the “playbooks” for managing responses to natural and humanitarian disasters, nonprofit organizations play important roles in the immediate relief, recovery and resiliency phases. We have seen how critical they have been in providing relief during the pandemic with food, rental assistance and other basic needs. The role they will play in our recovery is equally as important. A key measure of a successful community recovery is it rebuilds by integrating the needs of all residents and reducing its vulnerability to all hazards facing it. Often, nonprofits are the voice of the people they serve and should be included in recovery planning and policy-making discussions to make certain plans are inclusive of all communities. Our community will benefit from the expertise and understanding local nonprofit leaders can bring to the table and their services will help drive a more inclusive recovery. We must ensure they have the resources to continue to fulfill their missions and be that voice.


Building the resiliency of our nonprofit organizations is critical to building resiliency in our broader community. Resilience can be defined as “a community’s capacity to survive, adapt and grow, despite chronic stresses and acute shocks.” Hawaii’s nonprofit sector contributes approximately 10% to the state GDP. Prior to the pandemic, it was a $6.6 billion industry that employed 56,000 people (updated data since the onset of COVID-19 is not yet available). The sector provides critical services that contribute to economic mobility and stability. As we work to build resiliency by diversifying our state’s economy, the nonprofit sector will play a key role, as both an important industry and employer, and as a vital partner in providing the education and training needed to create the talent pipeline for targeted, diversified high-growth industries. To fulfill this important role, nonprofits need the resources and infrastructure to recover, adapt and grow to meet changing needs.


Four Things You Can Do to Support the Resiliency of Our Nonprofit Organizations


1. Make a Financial Contribution. Data from the 2020 Hawaii Nonprofit Sector Pulse Report shows that finances are the number one concern of Hawaii’s nonprofit leaders. Unrestricted donations of any size will allow leaders to use the funds where they are needed most.


2. Volunteer. With increased demand, direct service organizations are relying on volunteers more than ever, in both in-person socially distanced roles and in remote and virtual positions. Want to use your skills to strengthen a nonprofit organization? Do you have expertise in fundraising, marketing/PR or technology? These are the three greatest capacity-building needs identified in the Pulse Report. Providing pro bono support in these areas can help organizations survive the current challenges and be more resilient in the future.


3. Be an Advocate. Use your voice to encourage elected officials, policymakers and foundations to provide flexible funding and support to local nonprofits that represent and serve the diverse populations that contribute to the vibrancy of our community.


4. Get Your Business Involved. Businesses of any size can support the nonprofit community through cash and in-kind donations, fundraising events and customer campaigns, employee volunteerism, providing pro bono expertise, and advocacy and awareness campaigns.


The pandemic has disproportionally impacted different segments of our community. While some have maintained their standard of living, or even prospered, others have suffered tremendously. If you have the resources to help, learn about the needs and how you can have the greatest impact with your donations, volunteering and advocacy.


Here are a few resources to support your research:

· HandsOn Maui – County of Maui Volunteer Center (handsonmaui.com)

· Hawai’i Children’s Action Network (hawaii-can.org)

· Hawai’i Community Foundation (hawaiicommunityfoundation.org)

· Hawai’i Executive Collaborative (hec.org)

· Maui United Way (mauiunitedway.org)


This article originally appeared in the Maui News "Prevent Child Abuse Month" supplement by the Friends of the Children's Justice Center of Maui.