Hawai'i Community Foundation: Leadership Change

May 18, 2017

Hawai'i Community Foundation (L-R): CEO, Kelvin Taketa; Foundation Board chair, Debbie Berger and President/COO Micah Kane.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The Hawai’i Community Foundation is the top nonprofit contributor in the state and is undergoing a transition to new leadership over the next two months. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

The Hawai’i Community Foundation distributes about 50 million dollars in the state each year, including 14-hundred scholarships worth more than 4.5 million.  Chief Executive Officer, Kelvin Taketa, has been at the helm for 19 years and will be stepping down July 1st.  He says the foundation has 800 different funds, each with its own amazing story.  But some stand out.  

“One is Sept 12, 2001 and that was the day after the attacks and the planes quit flying to Hawai’i.  And the Community Foundation worked very closely with the Governor and with the Mayors and others to conduct a series of community meetings all around the state – we did about 60 in 30 days.  Reached out to all of our non-profit partners and really tried to shape a response about how to put people back on their feet and to give people a sense of hope and optimism for the future.  And we were able to turn to a lot of generous donors and really put about a million dollars of relief out on the street in about 90 days after Sept 11th.”

The Foundation’s current President and Chief Operating Officer, Micah Kane, will be taking over as CEO.   He was unanimously selected following a 5-month national search.   He says his passion is helping people and being part of the foundation provides that opportunity.

“I sat down with my wife the evening after I was notified and she said, ‘You know, how come you’re not happy?’   And I said, ‘I’m very happy but I feel the privilege of that on my shoulders.'  It’s just that it’s a very humbling opportunity that’s been given but I realize that – you know- it’s a team of people.  It’s not a single individual and, umm, I find a little comfort in that.”

Kane is also a trustee for Kamehameha Schools and serves on the board of directors at Hawaiian Electric Company.   The Foundation’s 10 Board of Directors talk about succession planning annually.  Board Chair, Debbie Berger, says the winning candidate for CEO had to have a deep commitment to the state, an understanding of the cultures, and a passion for the foundation’s work.   Berger moved back to Hawai’i because of those values.

“I lived away for 25 years and I moved home 10 years ago because I was very excited about the opportunities here for my children and for the life that they would have and what we all could learn from this community that we live in.  I can see why people would want to come here and live in an environment that cares about the ‘aina, where you respect each other’s diversity, where you can come together to help problem solve.  That’s very exciting to me and that’s why I moved home.”

Meanwhile, out-going CEO, Taketa, will continue as a foundation senior fellow.   

“When I grew up in Hawai’i, it was a place of tremendous optimism and hope and I’d love to see that rekindled for the young people in Hawai’i today.  At the same time, having watched these incredible community leaders that are doing remarkable things day in and day out, and the generosity of the community that’s exemplified by the donors and clients that we have at the foundation has been just inspirational.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.