PBN: Five questions with Hawaii Children's Action Network

By Kelsey Kukaua – Associate Editor, Pacific Business News
Aug 23, 2019, 12:30am HST

Pacific Business News talked story with Deborah Zysman, executive director, and Ryan Catalani, director of advancement, of Hawaii Children Action Network, a local nonprofit focused on children and families, to learn more about what they do and the trends and challenges they’ve seen emerge in the nonprofit sector.

Tell us more about your organization. We call ourselves a movement — fighting for keiki and their families. For 20 years, we’ve advocated laws that keep our children safe, healthy and ready to learn. So we’re not a direct-service organization, but much more of a movement. We constantly ask the question: How do we make Hawaii the best place to raise a family? Some areas we focus on are child care and pre-school, paid family leave, livable wage, children’s oral health care and trauma, abuse and neglect.

What is your model for fundraising? Our operating budget is under one million dollars. Our model for fundraising mostly comes from soft money, or contributions/philanthropic money, and some government contracts. We were also a one of Aloha United Way’s 10 ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed grant recipient organizations. [Its ALICE Policy Hui program was awarded $150,000 toward developing a common advocacy and policy agenda to advance laws and policies that support ALICE) interests.] We’ve become less dependent on grants and have found that growing more of our advocacy and lobbying work has produced interest from individual donors. We’re not running a social enterprise here and are not doing a government service.

What challenges have you faced in your line of work? One challenge is getting and keeping quality employees. The need for child care workers is so great, but the pay has been stagnant over the years. We don’t want to charge families more for child care, so one workaround is a type of infusion from a broader business community — that, or we need more government money. Government funding has flatlined, so pay hasn’t increased.

Something else I’ve noticed is how Hawaii is full of small nonprofits, and we should look to merge and consolidate services more. There’s this societal idea that if you have a good idea, you should start a small business or nonprofit. Truth of the matter is, nonprofits are more regulated than for-profits, we just get a bit of a tax break.

What trends have you noticed? One trend we’ve noticed is millennials not giving as much to nonprofits as [that age group] did in the ’70s. One way we’re looking at combatting this is by encouraging more volunteer advocates and community outreach, because they are looking to get involved, but just don’t have the funds to support. Social media is also evolving. We have a big following on Facebook, and the feedback we’ve received says people are looking for more of a personal, face-to-face presence. We’re trying to get out in the community more.

What are your goals? We will be setting our new policy agenda later this year and hope to continue building this grassroots movement. We are excited to be taking our Parent Leadership Training Institute Hawaii to Maui to help anyone with a passion for children issues, regardless of if they are a parent themselves or not. We want to continue fighting for access to affordable child care and housing, paid family leave, school issues.


Hawaii's keiki need superheroes like you to spread the word! Join us on: