Fund-raising Their Game

Association of Fundraising Professionals Aloha Chapter board members include (from left) Laura Kay Rand, Cathy Alsup, Pomai Toledo, Sanae Tokumura, Michelle Morihara, Eric La‘a, Cara Mazzei, Jennifer Li Dotson, Pi‘ilani Kai and Jennifer Oyer. Not pictured are Angela Britten,~Chelsie Castillo, Janice Knapp, Cynthia Lallo, Patti Look and Inger Tully. ANTHONY CONSILLIO PHOTO

No one teaches effective fundraising practices quite like Association of Fundraising Professionals Aloha Chapter, which will honor a group of individuals and organizations for their philanthropic excellence Nov. 13.

The aloha spirit is alive and well in the islands, just ask any one of the nearly 200 members of Association of Fund-raising Professionals Aloha Chapter (AFP Aloha), who can attest to the fact that people in Hawai‘i simply love to give.

To celebrate the generosity, volunteerism, donations and charitable acts going on locally, AFP Aloha will take time to honor six individuals and two organizations at its annual National Philanthropy Day Conference & Awards Luncheon, slated for 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 13 at Sheraton Waikīkī (extended registration closes Nov. 7) — just in time for National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 15.

While donations of time and resources might seem like straightforward actions, there’s actually quite a bit that goes into professional fundraising that encourages the community to get behind local nonprofits and help in their respective causes. In addition to ensuring ethical money-raising practices, AFP Aloha allows local fundraisers to bounce ideas off each other in the hopes of crafting fundraising endeavors that are both efficient and effective.

“We create mentoring opportunities and networking opportunities,” says board chairwoman Cathy Alsup. “We have seasoned fundraisers and new fundraisers who come from diverse professions, be it sales or financial or health care. We cultivate these groups through educational sessions, help them network and support each other.”

“Clearly, it’s a unique occupation,” adds board member Eric La‘a.

As senior development officer for Hawai‘i Community Foundation, La‘a says he kind of fell into the fundraising industry on accident. His career path initially took a variety of turns, and La‘a eventually thought he’d end up teaching. He applied for an educator’s position at a private school, where he heard about another job description for development and institutional advancement.

“I inquired to learn more and found out it was a fund-raising position,” he remembers. “I recall knowing I liked to work with people and thought, ‘I can do this.’ Now, I’ve been in the (fund-raising) field altogether about 14 years.”

Like La‘a, fellow board member Pi‘ilani Kai, who is development director at Waimānalo Health Center, never thought she’d find herself in a fundraising role.

Kai started with the organization as a social worker nearly two decades ago. As part of that role, she started writing grants, and then more grants, and finally all the grants.

“It snowballed,” she says with a laugh. “I then became the health center’s main fundraiser.”

Stories like this run abundant within AFP Aloha’s board, but it all boils down to a strong desire to help others, no matter the job title or position.

For Jennifer Oyer, that aspiration led her to start her own consulting firm to help nonprofits, Community Impact Advisors, back in May. It stems from her belief that everything good in beautiful Hawai‘i nei is the thriving nonprofit community.

“Most nonprofits don’t know how to develop strategy, don’t know best practices, which often leads to sustainability issues,” she explains. “That was a problem I saw with many local nonprofits.”

Hence, Community Impact Advisors was born to help organizations that help others.

That’s why, for members like Alsup, La‘a, Kai and Oyer, having that AFP Aloha family to lean on is of utmost importance.

“We really need that support of others who are going through similar things,” explains Alsup.

It’s a safe place to ask questions and get real-world responses. How did you do that? How did you get your board to be involved in that? How did that work in your silent auction?

“AFP Aloha brings together a diverse group of fundraisers and provides a network for us to do our jobs even better,” she adds.

But AFP Aloha is more than just networking, mentorship and the sharing of ideas. It’s also about supporting and recognizing others who do good work day in and day out. That’s why every year, the group honors a round of awardees for their dedication to the community.

“We don’t look for who is the person giving away the most,” Alsup explains. “It’s who is having the most impact.”

One such awardee is Dyson Chee, who was selected as 2019’s Outstanding Youth for his work with Project O.C.E.A.N., which tackles the problem of plastic pollution. A self-proclaimed beach dude, Chee started noticing more and more plastic trash and debris littering local waters. It sparked him to not only do his part, but also encourage others to lend a hand, too.

“He’s a one-man machine,” says Alsup.

Indeed, Chee has grown his endeavor by leaps and bounds since starting it a little over a year ago. Initially, he wanted to reach 100 of his peers with his environmentally friendly message. Instead, he got the word out to more than 2,000.

The idea behind the endeavor, he adds, is simple. Just follow the acronym.

O stands for outreach, and Chee has been hard at work reaching out and garnering support for his cause. C represents the overriding message of “cut back on plastic!” E is for the emotional connection he has with the ocean, and one he hopes will resonate with others in the state.

“If I didn’t love the ocean, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he adds.

Next, A stands for activism, which is the second stage of the initiative that Chee is in the process of starting. This part entails helping to pass legislation, talking to politicians and getting civically more involved.

Finally, N is for #notsucking, which has a dual focus. No. 1 is, well, not being a jerk about plastic pollution. No. 2 is a focus on distributing reusable straws to everyone and anyone.

“I have such a laser-point focus on plastic straws,” Chee admits. “I decided that instead of just telling people don’t use plastic straws because they’re hurting oceans, I’ll offer them the challenge and give them a stainless steel straw.”

To date, Chee has doled out more than 1,700 straws to individuals in the community.

“They literally have a part of the solution in their hands,” he adds.

Learn more about Chee’s work on Instagram (@project_ocean_hawaii) and Facebook (search Project Ocean Hawai‘i).

The heart of Chee’s story matches those of the other awardees (find the full list at right). At the end of the day, all of them, be they individuals or groups, put the needs of others before themselves.

Take Terri Fujii, for example, who was recognized as Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser.

“She not only is able to raise money for nonprofits that she serves, but she is … able to teach others in the community about what the responsibility is to take a leadership position and sit on a board and make a difference for that organization,” explains Oyer.

Then there’s Dr. Charman James Akina, who was nominated posthumously as Outstanding Philanthropist — In Memoriam for his work with Waimānalo Health Center.

“The awards allows us to recognize and show our appreciation for those people that are so special to us,” adds Kai. “They help us either meet our mission or help us with our cause. For us, we nominated Dr. Akina to show how much he meant to us.”

All honorees, regardless of age, industry or background, exhibit one thing: passion, purpose and the wherewithal to see progress being made.

Chee puts it concisely. “Find something that you love, that you deeply care about,” he shares. “It doesn’t have to be plastic pollution. It can be homelessness, gun rights, drugs, whatever. Once you find that issue you’re passionate about, go and do something about it. Follow up that hope with action.”

For more information, visit or call 527-2426.

Meet AFP Aloha’s 2019 Award Recipients

Each year, Association of Fundraising Professionals Aloha Chapter recognizes those in the community who do their part in being the change they want to see in the world.

“It’s really about what they have done for the community, and it’s an opportunity for us to celebrate philanthropy,” says AFP Aloha board member Jennifer Oyer. “Each one of the honorees represents something really unique about what philanthropy is.”

This year, judges Cathy Alsup, Linda Howe, Rich Wacker, Terry George, Eric Schiff and Leslie Wilcox selected the following individuals/organizations nominated by their peers as this year’s AFP Aloha 2019 Award Recipients to be honored at the National Philanthropy Day Conference & Awards Luncheon Nov. 13 at Sheraton Waikīkī.

Outstanding Philanthropist

Jimmy and Honey Bun Haynes have donated funds to the likes of Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Hui No‘eau and Hawai‘i Community Foundation. In addition, the couple, through their donor-advised fund, have supported more than 50 charities, including arts, social service, animal and environmental groups.

Outstanding Foundation

Cooke Foundation Ltd. donated nearly $1 million to Hawai‘i’s arts, culture and humanities; education; environmental; and human services industries — all just in 2018. The family foundation is also known for its support of Hanahau‘oli School and Mānoa Heritage Center, as well as Honolulu Museum of Art, which was founded by Anna Rice Cooke, the heart and soul behind Cooke Foundation Ltd.

Outstanding VolunteerFundraiser

Terri Fujii, managing partner of CW Associates, serves on three boards at Shidler College of Business alone: Advisory Council, Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship and the School of Accountancy, the latter of which she has held the position of chairwoman for the past few years. She also has held or currently holds board roles for Tocqueville Society, Hospice Hawai‘i, Easterseals Hawai‘i and more. In addition, for the past three decades, Fujii has donated to Aloha United Way.

Outstanding Corporation

Goodfellow Bros. makes it a point to donate a portion of its profits each year to charity, focusing on organizations that help in the areas of land conservation, youth and under-served populations. In 2018, the company donated more than $600,000 to charities, and in 2017 established its Goodfellow Bros. Educational Scholarship Fund at Hawai‘i Community Foundation.

Outstanding Youth

Dyson Chee founded Project O.C.E.A.N. to address the growing problem of plastic pollution in Hawai‘i’s waters.

Outstanding Professional Fundraiser

Myles Shibata is vice president of development with Hawai‘i Community Foundation. In the last 11 years alone, he has helped raise almost $12 million for good causes. Shibata also spearheads HCF’s Catalyst Fund.

Outstanding Philanthropist — In Memoriam

Dr. Charman James Akina volunteered with Waimānalo Health Center as its medical director after an illustrious career as a physician. Before his death, Akina helped WHC launch its first-ever capital campaign, which resulted in $13 million raised to help the health center expand its facilities.