Nonprofit directors have chance to get ‘PONO’

“Pono” means “goodness,” “morality,” “moral qualities,” and “correct,” in the Hawaiian language.

Leaders of Kaua‘i nonprofit organizations have the chance to get “pono” and PONO (Promoting Outstanding Nonprofit Organizations) by participating in the only program in Hawai‘i for nonprofit leaders that provides management tools and support needed to help their organizations carry out their missions effectively, according to a spokesperson for the Hawai‘i Community Foundation.

The PONO program is co-sponsored by officials with HCF and the (Steve and Jean) Case Foundation, and is in its fourth year.

The application deadline for the next round of training is Feb. 28.

An evaluation of past program participants found that executive directors who participated in the program developed stronger leadership skills in five areas identified as “executive core qualifications” by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: leading change; leading people; results-driven; building coalitions/communications; and business acumen.

Nonprofit executive directors who completed the program and are from Kaua‘i are: Marsha Erickson (Hui o Laka/Koke‘e Natural History Museum); Judy Lenthall (Kauai Food Bank) and Barbara Rehmer (YWCA Kaua‘i).

PONO offers a peer-centered curriculum for mid-career nonprofit executive directors, including a series of monthly sessions of facilitated discussions around key aspects of leadership, HCF leaders said in a press release.

PONO enrolls up to 15 nonprofit executives, with training administered by officials at La Piana Associates, a leading national nonprofit-consulting firm based in California.

“From the start, our main interest was in strengthening nonprofits, and helping them become more successful at delivering on their mission, and we knew that supporting the executive director was going to be the key,” said Christine van Bergeijk, HCF’s vice president for programs.

Participants meet six times over the course of a year, to explore the role of a nonprofit leader.

These six, one-day sessions are in addition to a two-day kick off and a two-day culminating event.

Each session focuses on a different aspect of leadership in the nonprofit context, during which faculty guide dialogue among participants.

PONO leaders design and implement a capacity-building project that focuses on a critical issue or entrepreneurial opportunity facing their organization.

Foundation staff will evaluate project proposals, and grant support will be available for well-defined, strategic projects.

“PONO has helped to make me a better leader,” said Karen Holt, a 2004 PONO participant, with the Moloka‘i Community Service Council.

“It was a rare privilege to listen to nonprofit experts describe my problems and suggest solutions to them. And it was also immensely valuable to hear the stories of my peers,” Holt added.

“I learned a lot from them, especially that I’m not all alone out there.” Nonprofit executive directors who wish to be considered for the program can download an application at www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.


Completed applications and supporting documents must be postmarked by Feb. 28, and submitted to the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, PONO Leadership Program, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 800; Honolulu, HI 96813.

Co-sponsored by leaders of the Case Foundation, PONO is a product of HCF officials’ intentional efforts to strengthen nonprofit operations and performance, which date back to the late 1990s and include participation in 2001 in Daring to Lead: Nonprofit Executive Directors and Their Work Experience, a national study on nonprofit executive directors.

“Thanks to the support of the Case Foundation, executive directors from any part of the nonprofit sector can apply,” said Kelvin H. Taketa, HCF president and chief executive officer.

“We’re no longer restricted to particular fields as determined by available Hawai‘i Community Foundation funds.” This is the fourth year that HCF will offer PONO to Hawai‘i nonprofit leaders, and the second of a three-year commitment from leaders of the Case Foundation to co-sponsor the program.

Established in 1916, the HCF is a statewide, charitable-services and grant-making institution endowed with contributions from many donors. HCF also serves as a resource on philanthropy, and community issues and trends.

The Case Foundation was founded in 1997 by Steve and Jean Case. In Hawai‘i, the foundation invests in entrepreneurial initiatives and collaborations designed to improve the quality of life for all members of the community.


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