Illustration: Most Charitable

Boom Times for Giving

November, 2015

Seventy-three organizations participated in this year’s list of Hawaii’s Most Charitable Companies. Collectively, they reported $108 million in cash and in-kind donations – $16.9 million more than last year and the highest amount since Hawaii Business started compiling the list in 2012, even though this year’s list has fewer participants than last year.

“We have come a long way since the recession of 2008,” says Michael Moses, president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Aloha Chapter and director of the Annual Fund at Iolani School.

Philanthropic enthusiasm is palpable across the board. Some 93 percent of households gave goods, cash or volunteer time in 2014, according to Hawaii’s Giving Study, which the Hawaii Community Foundation commissioned to track donation trends among individuals. Local households gave an average of $2,024, a 35 percent increase from 2008, though $950 less than the national average. In total, individuals in Hawaii gave $600 million in 2014, according to the survey.

Corporate philanthropy also seems to be strong now, but there is no similar survey of Hawaii’s businesses to provide exact numbers. “Unscientifically, I believe that corporate giving is up, but I couldn’t give you a precise number,” says Lisa Maruyama, president and CEO of Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations.

This list of Hawaii’s Most Charitable Companies tries to help fill that information gap. The list also aims to publicize and encourage businesses to support local charities. But this list depends on local companies to self-report their donations, and many companies did not participate.

What’s more, the data we receive is not always comprehensive. Companies find that maintaining centralized and accurate records of charitable activities is complex and often unwieldy. So, while they try their best to report their figures, sometimes they don’t keep track of all categories of data that Hawaii Business requests: cash donations, in-kind giving, number of volunteer hours and employee cash donations.

Despite the hurdles, the Most Charitable Companies list has been a key barometer of corporate giving in Hawaii for the last four years. It provides useful information that enables heads of nonprofits, charities and fundraisers to steer their limited resources more strategically.

It also provides a critical component of any successful philanthropic movement: inspiration. “Surveys of this kind are important because they provide a mirror of what’s going on, so people can make decisions on how they want to participate in our community,” says Sarah Tenney, past president at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Aloha Chapter. “It is a powerful tool.”

The Power of Many

First Hawaiian Bank has consistently been at the forefront of for-profit organizations on the Most Charitable Companies list since it’s launch in 2012.

This year is no exception, with the company reporting $4.5 million in cash and in-kind donations – a rise of almost $700,000 over 2014’s list.

The success of FHB’s philanthropic arm, the First Hawaiian Bank Foundation, is embedded in strong employee engagement. Some 98 percent of its 2,055 workforce actively participates in philanthropic activities, according to the foundation’s president, Sharon Brown. That translates to 62,118 volunteer hours and $639,815 in personal cash donations.

“Giving to the community is an important part of our corporate culture,” Brown says. So much so that community participation is factored into performance reviews for members of FHB’s junior executive program, though junior execs don’t get penalized for sitting on the sidelines.

“But if we see somebody who is actively engaged in helping the community, it is seen as a plus. Giving is good for Hawaii as well as for our executives, because it contributes to their personal growth.”

Brown says one recent initiative that has generated a lot of excitement is the Community Care volunteer program. Through this initiative, employees participate in everything from painting public schools to cleaning beaches.

The FHB Foundation has been around for more than 155 years and helps more than 300 nonprofits in Hawaii and overseas. One of its primary focuses is education. “We are passionate about investing in our youth,” Brown says. “That’s where our future lies.”

Other notable large-scale corporate givers on the 2015 list include: Hawaiian Electric Industries,  Inc. which made $2.2 million in cash donations; Bank of Hawaii Corp., which gave $2 million in cash and in-kind donations; and Matson, Inc., which gave $1.96 million in cash and in-kind contributions.

Going All In

CDF Engineering employees gave 2,410 of volunteer hours in 2014. That’s a staggering figure when you consider that the Maui-based consultancy firm only has 12 workers.

That’s an average of 200 hours per person, or about five straight weeks of work out of the year. In dollar terms, this translated to almost $120,000, says CDF’s president Jacob Freeman.

Just about all of CDF’s employees and a few additional recruits left their comfort zone for major volunteer project at Palmyra Atoll, which is some 1,000 miles south of Hawaii and co-managed as a research station and national wildlife sanctuary by The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The task: installing solar and wind energy systems to wean Palmyra off diesel fuel. The cost of the fuel itself and of shipping it consumed more than 50 percent of the Conservancy’s operating budget for Palmyra. “Now they can spend their budget on more important things, other than fuel,” says Freeman.

The renewable energy systems reduce Palmyra’s reliance on fossil fuels by about 95 percent. Freeman says this undertaking was a team effort, as other companies’ volunteers participated. CDF, however, was the lead engineering firm. “There aren’t many places like Palmyra left in the world,” he says. “I’m glad we are playing a role in its preservation.”

Giving and Having Fun

UHA Health Insurance workers directly contributed $25,419 to charitable organizations via company fundraisers in 2014 – an average of $194 per head.

Each year, the employees create innovative ideas to raise money for their favorite charities, everything from white elephant sales to converting the UHA marketing office into a haunted house. “We try to make things fun,” says Alyssa Senas, marketing services supervisor.

UHA itself made $238,390 in cash and in-kind gifts. For instance, UHA encourages employees to give to their preferred charities through payroll deduction, which the company matches. In addition, UHA allocates a full workday each year for employees to use for volunteer work.

Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties has been raising funds for Aloha United Way since 2005. “Each year, we establish our goals and get to work,” says Richelle Abiang, marketing manager. “It is automatic for us.”

The company’s 58 fulltime employees and over 400 independent agents raised $44,238 last year. Fundraising activities included potlucks, bake sales, silent auctions and in-office pop-up stores.  All five Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties offices on Oahu – Honolulu, Kahala, Kapolei, Leeward and Windward – get involved in a friendly competition to meet their individual goals. Abiang says that Coldwell supports AUW because it is a good way to reach multiple charities.

Allowing employees to select where to channel the money they raised is a smart move, says Maruyama of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations. “It is empowering and it makes their efforts even more meaningful.”

Ranking Nonprofits

Each year, we face the same conundrum: publishing two separate lists – one of for-profit companies and the other of nonprofit organizations – or merging them in one list.

It’s not a level playing field when a nonprofit, whose mission is to give, gets compared to a for-profit corporation that has many financial priorities. But the division is not always clear-cut, since many companies steer their philanthropic initiatives through corporate foundations. After consulting accounting experts, Hawaii Business has gone with a single list again this year.

The role that big nonprofits play is critical. Four of the top five biggest contributors on the list – the Hawaii Community Foundation, Kamehameha Schools, Aloha United Way and the Parker Ranch Foundation Trust – are noncorporate entities. Collectively, they made $82.6 million in cash and in-kind donations.

The clout and reach of nonprofits has heightened along with the rise of social media. “It’s a brand new day,” says Moses from the AFP’s Aloha Chapter. He credits creativity and social media reach for highly successful campaigns, like the ALS Association’s ice bucket challenge, which raised tens of millions of dollars.

Though donations are strong now, Moses says, people raising money should not let up, because everything is cyclical. “This is the time to build a core of supportive donors that can help you weather the storm later.”


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