Close to 200 community leaders gathered online for Chaminade’s 17th annual Nonprofit Organizations Seminar on August 14. While the event has become an annual staple of Chaminade’s School of Business and Communication, this year’s seminar felt even more timely and served as a testament to the incredible work that nonprofits across the state do to protect the most vulnerable communities during times of need.
“It is a challenging time right now for nonprofits,” says Dr. Bill Rhey, the new dean of the School of Business and Communication at Chaminade University. Under the leadership of the Seminar’s Board, the school waived this year’s registration fee and offered the seminar free of charge. “With all of the uncertainty around COVID-19, many nonprofits are stretched thin—they’re working longer, harder hours with fewer resources and more risks to keep their communities afloat. This event was our way of telling the community that we see you, we hear you, and we’re here to support you.”
The all-day event called on well-known speakers from across the state to help nonprofit leaders stay abreast of new changes and develop new skills and techniques for running their organizations. The morning focused on relevant financial updates for organizations. Trever K. Asam, partner at Cades Schutte, followed tradition of seminars past in presenting his annual IRS Federal Tax Update and helped listeners understand recent developments for tax-exempt and nonprofit organizations. He was followed by Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, who explained how to apply and respond to new tax laws.
The technical sessions of the morning were followed by more high-level conversations around governance and program evaluation in the afternoon. Chaminade Professor Richard Kido discussed board governance and responsibility and Linda Axtell-Thompson, principal of Axtell Consulting LLC and adjunct faculty member at Chaminade, followed later in the afternoon with a presentation on governance ethics.
The lunchtime session featured Thomas Kelly, Jr., an expert in nonprofit program evaluation who joined the Hawaii Community Foundation as vice president for knowledge, evaluation and learning in 2012, after spending 13 years managing evaluations at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore. Kelly walked participants through how to evaluate program impacts, and then how to use those impacts to communicate successes to constituents and donors.
“Donors are interested to know how well a nonprofit is performing, how much progress it’s making and whether it’s contributing positively to the community,” explained Kelly. “If a nonprofit actually spends the time to report out its impact and measures of progress and success, then it can actually influence donors to invest in them.”
This message was particularly relevant today, as the fundraising landscape for nonprofits looks vastly different than it did a year ago. In 2019, the U.S. was the most charitable country in the world, with 175 million Americans donating to charities. Nonprofits accounted for $2.5 trillion in revenue and employed nearly 12 million people.
But according to a recent poll by LendingTree, 15 percent of donors have paused donations due to income loss, and 5 percent have decreased the amount they contribute. And a March survey by Quickbooks found that 47 percent of donors were giving less than they were a month ago. Stories about nonprofit layoffs and furloughs due to revenue loss are plenty. Yet, at the same time, many nonprofits are seeing an increase in demand for resources and programs as communities struggle to navigate the economic downturn.
“As a Marianist institution, it is our responsibility to serve our community,” says Dr. Lynn Babington, president of Chaminade University. “Right now our community is facing a tremendous economic crisis with no foreseeable end. We are forever grateful to the nonprofit leaders and workers who are serving on the frontlines during this crisis, and it is our duty to support them during this time of need.”