OHA must empower Native Hawaiian nonprofits

`Ano`ai kakou…  As the new Budget & Finance Committee Chair for OHA, my immediate goal is to review and evaluate each of the Administration’s divisions and go through their budgets thoroughly.  The first will definitely be OHA’s Grants Division.

OHA’s Grants division continues to be a source for many complaints.  People have complained that the application process online is cumbersome and complex and that their automatic rejection of any grant that fails to turn in all of the forms when they apply.

For example, a Hawaiian nonprofit recently made a technical error when they submitted their application with two copies of the same form.  After the application deadline passed, they received an email from our Grants Division saying that because of their error they were no longer eligible to receive an OHA grant.  They submitted the correct form within thirty minutes of receiving the rejection email, but it made no difference.  Now they have to wait two years to apply for another OHA grant.  Surely, there is room here for improvement in our process.

Another problem is that small Hawaiian nonprofits have to compete against massive institutions like universities, hospitals, and government agencies for OHA grants.  What kind of chance does a small Hawaiian nonprofit have against these huge organizations that have grant writers at their disposal?  OHA must work towards the betterment of conditions for all Hawaiians and not huge organizations that have other sources of revenue.

My Budget & Finance Committee has every intention of reviewing the whole grant process.  Here are a few of the suggested changes I will work to achieve:

  1. Capacity Building for Beneficiary Run Nonprofits. OHA needs to bring back our old program that offered grant writing assistance to help small nonprofits apply for not just OHA grants, but also state, federal, and private grants. As the saying goes, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
  2. A Twenty-Four Hour Turnaround Time to Correct Any Errors. Applicants should be given 24-hours to correct any mistakes found in their application once they have been notified of an error by OHA. If an organization can correct their mistakes in a day, they deserve a second chance.
  3. Change the grant period from two years periods to one. This would ensure that nonprofit programs that assist our beneficiaries can be funded every year instead of every two years.
  4. Streamline the grant application process. We’ve also received too many complaints from smaller nonprofits that the grant application process has become highly sophisticated and technical. OHA needs to listen to these complaints and simplify the process further. Native Hawaiian nonprofits fill the gap of services that OHA no longer provides. When we fail them, we also fail the beneficiaries they serve.
  5. Explore Hiring Grant Writers. They can be dedicated specifically to assisting small Native Hawaiian nonprofits.

I very much regret what has happed to our small Hawaiian nonprofits in the recent grant application cycle and will work to make sure that they won’t be rejected over minor technicalities in the future. OHA must work to empower our Native Hawaiian nonprofits. It is only by solving our many issues ourselves that we will truly achieve Native Hawaiian sovereignty.