Nonprofit Leaders Get PONO

By Christine van Bergeijk
Wednesday - March 07, 2007
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Hawaii Community Foundation PONO Leadership Program Fellows (2003-2006) at at recent annual gathering to strengthen networks and share their experiences as nonprofit leaders
Hawaii Community Foundation PONO Leadership Program
Fellows (2003-2006) at at recent annual gathering to
strengthen networks and share their experiences as
nonprofit leaders

In times of rapid change and increasing challenges, nonprofit organizations need leaders with the ability to adapt to and take advantage of unpredictable circumstances. It is the goal of the PONO (Promoting Outstanding Nonprofit Organizations) Leadership Program to create a network of empowered, innovative and resilient executives, capable of moving their organizations toward social innovation with greater impact.

Co-sponsored by The Case Foundation and the Hawaii Community Foundation, PONO is recognized nationally as leading a new frontier in the nonprofit sector - supporting nonprofit organizational effectiveness. A case study of PONO is included in a recently released issue of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), a U.S. publication targeted at leaders and staff of foundations in the country, and others who are thinking about how best to support the nonprofit sector’s most precious asset - its people.

Through our PONO program we want to strengthen nonprofits and help them to better deliver on their mission. And, we knew that supporting the executive director was the key. PONO brings together up to 15, mid-career, nonprofit executives annually for a yearlong program of collective learning. The training is provided by La Piana Associates, a leading national nonprofit consulting firm based in California. It requires participants to design and implement projects that focus on ways to strengthen the governance or management of the organizations. In some cases, it means pursuing an entrepreneurial opportunity that advances their mission.

PONO offers participants:

* A new, diverse peer network of successful nonprofit executives

* A dynamic framework for leadership exploration and development through the application of skills in a 10-month, peer-centered learning environment

* A variety of learning opportunities that promote innovation and creative thinking

* An opportunity to develop stronger management and entrepreneurial skills

PONO offers organizations: * A leadership development program that is responsive to the organization’s needs, issues and role in the community

* Increased capacity for stability, growth and impact through the focused development of its executives’ leadership skills and talents

* An opportunity to address a critical organizational capacity building issue with a grant of up to $30,000 for approved projects

* A chance to develop social entrepreneurship strategies that are relevant for an organization.

Since its launch in 2003, the program has produced four graduating classes of nonprofit leaders representing all islands. The current class will complete the program in May, and recruitment has already begun for the next class, which will begin in August.

“PONO has helped to make me a better leader,” said 2004 PONO Fellow and Molokai Community Services Council executive director Karen Holt. “Through the clinics provided in each session, I developed a greater appreciation for the marketing done by the other organizations in my cohort.” Holt also commented that she was inspired to work on developing a better community relations plan for her organization, and she has used some of her PONO grant to begin the process.

In addition, Holt has become more objective, pragmatic and proactive as a personnel supervisor. “This area has been a huge challenge for me, and PONO came along during a challenging period in our organization’s development. It was a rare privilege to listen to nonprofit experts describe my problems and suggest solutions to them. And it was valuable to hear the stories of my peers. I learned a lot from them - especially that I’m not alone out there.”

To learn more about the PONO Leadership Program, visit or call the Hawaii Community Foundation at 537-6333 for more information.

The deadline to apply is March 30.

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