New year, new career path? Tips for working for a nonprofit from Hawaii’s nonprofit leaders

As we continue to feel the economic impacts from COVID-19, our state’s nonprofit organizations have become even more vital to our recovery. Many nonprofits in Hawaii offer dynamic careers not just in specific subject matter areas (social work, healthcare, art, education, etc.), but careers can also range from fundraising to communications and administrative functions (HR, accounting, reception, etc.). Working at a nonprofit organization can be extremely rewarding. Besides the apparent reason for directly affecting change in your community, nonprofit work can be highly engaging and allow staff to wear many hats and develop leadership skills.

The H.T. Hayashi Foundation is fortunate to work with a variety of nonprofit organizations across sub-sectors. If you are looking to make a switch from corporate life to the nonprofit world this year, or if you are just starting off your career, check out the advice from a few of Hawaii’s top nonprofit leaders.


John Leong, Kupu Hawaii:

“Nonprofit work is critical and those who do the work are heroes. It takes a lot out of you so it is so important to make sure you practice self-care. If it feels like being selfish, just remember, you can only help others if you are at your best. Taking care of yourself will mean that you can be available to help take care of others.”

 John Leong is the CEO and founder of Kupu Hawaii, an organization working to empower our youth to serve their communities through hands-on training in conservation, sustainability, and environmental education.


Joan Naguwa, HUGS Hawaii

“Working in the nonprofit sector has many challenges AND it is also the most satisfying, impactful and fun work you’ll ever have. Believe in the mission and the work that you do. You ARE making an impact on the community, system-wide and upon the people you serve. You make a difference.”

Joan Naguwa leads HUGS Hawaii as the executive director. HUGS supports families as they tackle the emotional and financial hardships of caring for their sick children.


Lisa Maruyama, Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations (HANO):

“Working in the nonprofit sector requires you to be somewhat of a generalist – a jack of all trades. It also requires resilience, resourcefulness, stick-to-it-ness, patience and creativity. But it is the most rewarding work you could ever do. And if you are values-aligned with the mission, you’ll be hopping out of bed every day, eager to face the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Lisa Maruyama serves as the President and CEO of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations (HANO). This organization aims to unite and strengthen local nonprofit organizations to help improve the quality of life in Hawaii.


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