Hawai'i: Giving in Hawai'i

Karen Masaki

A recently released study of giving in Hawai'i confirms what many culture and arts groups in the state already know — it's hard to raise money! A local firm, SMS Research, conducted the study for Hawai'i Community Foundation in spring 1999. Titled Hawai'i Giving Study 1999, the study's purpose was to better understand charitable giving among Hawai'i residents.

Overall, contrary to what might be expected given the state of Hawai'i's economy, Hawai'i's households are generous in their giving: 88 percent of households contribute to charity. The average size of contributions across all households is $883. The comparable U.S. mainland figures show that 69 percent of households contribute to charity with an average contribution size of $696.

However, the figures contained discouraging news for culture and arts groups in Hawai'i. In 1998, only 6 percent of Hawai'i's contributing households donated money or goods in support of culture and the arts. This compares to 9.4 percent across the U.S. mainland.

The study identified key drivers for giving to culture and the arts in Hawai'i. “Drivers” are the characteristics that are most closely correlated with larger gifts. When these “drivers” are present, the total size of household giving is likely to be greater.

  • Long-term transplants (those who have lived in Hawai'i eleven years or more) tend to give more than lifetime Hawai'i residents.
  • Those with graduate degrees or graduate school experience are most likely to give to culture and the arts; high school graduates are least likely to give in this area.
  • Households with income of $75,000 or more are more likely to give to culture and the arts.

Nationally renowned fundraising expert Kim Klein had some advice for Hawai'i's culture and arts groups on seeing the Giving Study data. Kim has been to Hawai'i many times and has consulted with a number of culture and arts groups over the years. Besides being more assertive in asking for money and diversifying their audiences, Kim felt the culture and arts sector in Hawai‘i must focus on communicating to the public the critical role that culture and the arts plays in community well-being.

Kim believes that a media campaign could be an effective tool to call attention to the quality and breadth of culture and the arts in the State. Her experience is that “Hawai'i has among the most extraordinary breadth and quality of arts and culture groups of any state that I have been in.” This message needs to be communicated effectively to the broad community, with as many groups as possible working together to get the word out.

This is the first time an in-depth study of giving in Hawai'i has been done. Since comparable data from the past does not exist, Hawai'i Giving Study 1999 provides baseline data for the future, and Hawai'i Community Foundation (HCF) will repeat this study in two years. In the meantime, HCF will work to raise public awareness about giving in Hawai'i in general. The Foundation also hopes to increase the understanding within the non-profit sector about charitable giving in Hawai'i. With concerted effort, HCF believes the follow-up data will show an increase in the generosity of Hawai'i's giving public.

Karen Masaki is program officer, Hawai'i Community Foundation.