April 10, 2023 | Source: Hawaii Business Magazine

Designing a Better World through Philanthropy

For more than 20 years, architectural design firm Group 70 has made giving back a core element of its company culture.

By Hawaii Community Foundation

In 2002, architecture design firm Group 70 decided they wanted to build Hawai‘i-focused philanthropy into their company culture. Instead of hosting a one-time fundraiser or sending a company-wide memo asking employees for donations, the firm’s principals decided to take a more proactive approach: G70 established a donor-advised fund, a type of charitable investment account with the purpose of providing grants and donations to nonprofits doing good work in the local community.

“Our vision was to create a program that could get our employees excited about giving back, and where they could learn about organizations that provide vital services in Hawai‘i,” says G70 president and chief operating officer Charles Kaneshiro.

Each year, G70 invites employees to help review nonprofit grant applications that would fund local projects in the categories of youth education, housing and shelter, art and design, sustainability, and Island culture and humanities. Working with the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF), the G70 team awards grants to a dozen or more projects each year, averaging $50,000 in total annual grants. Today, 20 years since launching its donor-advised fund, the G70 Foundation has given close to $1 million and aided more than 130 organizations in the Islands, through a combination of employee donations and Group 70 contributions.

“Throughout the year, we invite grant recipients to our staff meetings to present what they do, whether that’s workforce training for Native Hawaiian communities or environmental programs. Recently, we supported Assistance Dogs of Hawai‘i and they brought some golden retrievers to greet our staff,” Kaneshiro says, with a laugh. “They were a big hit at the office.”

“A donor-advised fund is a great way for companies to be inclusive with their employees and for leaders to learn about causes their staff may be passionate about in the community,” says HCF senior director of philanthropy Malia Peters. Since the G70 Foundation began, the Hawai‘i Community Foundation has served as its partner in philanthropy by helping to manage the fund and understand what they as a company are passionate about. HCF coordinates the grant application process, verifies the legitimacy of nonprofits being considered for funding, and distributes grants once they are approved. HCF also handles the fund’s administrative due diligence on a day-to-day basis, ensuring the principal amount is properly invested and in compliance with all state and federal regulations. In addition to supporting good causes, donor-advised funds can be a taxsmart solution for both companies and individuals with philanthropic goals, providing deductions in the year that contributions are made.

“We keep our donors updated on the latest happenings and areas of critical need that are impacting us in communities across Hawai‘i,” Peters says. “With our experience working with nonprofits throughout the state, HCF can make recommendations or suggest partnerships where a particular donor’s support could provide opportunities to leverage efforts.”

If you’d like to start making a difference in your community, visit HawaiiCommunityFoundation.org/Donors to learn more about how HCF can help.