Talking Story to Taking Action

Dec 20, 2019

The founder of the Partners in Development Foundation is stepping down. And he’s leaving behind a 20-million-dollar nonprofit that has become essential. 

It all started with a talk-story session with friends in 1997. Jan Dill and others were talking about the need to get more resources for social issues in Hawaii. Inspired by that, Dill founded Partners in Development Foundation.

He and his team have grown the organization from the ground up, starting with a staff of nine people. The team now is 300 full- and part-time employees. PIDF started with one program. It has nine active programs today. And its operating budget has grown nearly 20 times over, from $900,000 then to $19.5 million today.

The secret to its success has been aggressively seeking federal and state grants for social needs with what Dill calls a “house on fire” sense of urgency. As a result, it’s able to fund programs mostly for Native Hawaiians that focus on education, on combining senior care with child care and education, on Micronesian self-sufficiency, and more.

It’s grown to where it can be a partner with other comparably sized nonprofits, such as Catholic Charities Hawaii, with whom it delivers foster care services under a contract with the state.

Dill tells PBN that this success in building up the organization on grants has a downside. His scariest moment running the outfit came in 2011, when three of its programs were cut from the state’s budget. Says Dill, “We have made a commitment to the community to intentionally restructure our resources.”

To that end, the organization is increasing the share of private support it receives.