James Irvine Foundation

Location: One Bush Street Suite 800, San Francisco, 94104 CA

EIN: 94-1236937

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Top descriptors for this funder

5Gives more than money4Responsive3Culturally sensitive3Insightful3Positive leader in the field2Bureaucratic2"Gets" nonprofits and issues2Builds relationships2Friendly2Openminded2Inadvertently exerts negative influence in the field1Culturally incompetent

Advice from a Friend

James Irvine Foundation

Oct 25, 2017

Reviewer 637 - Grant Applicant - applied in 2017

We were invited to apply in 2016 and 2017, and I still don't have a clue why. Spent a lot of time on the application both years, for zero feedback (other than that we were not chosen). We are not in the Foundation's chosen field, so unless there is a change in the invitation, we will probably focus our limited resources on other applications in coming years.

Cons

Bureaucratic

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Oct 26, 2017

Thank you for your feedback, and for taking the time to apply for the grants. We do invite organizations whose work is closely aligned with our strategy to submit grant applications from time to time. We try to be transparent as possible about the process, and apologize if our communications about the invitation and final decision were not clear.

Sep 14, 2017 1

Reviewer 293 - Grant Applicant - applied before 2014

We were one of the last grantees in the Creative Connections Fund-Cultural Participation Category, and the two-year grant helped us establish an important program that we continue to operate today. However, we are profoundly disappointed with the Foundation's decision to abandon its long history as one of the major arts and culture funders in our state. Few remain to sustain our arts community at a time when it's needed most. Laudable as is their goal to focus on the issue of poverty, it should not be pursued at the expense of continuing to help to solve other needs in our state. And, yes, they are continuing to fund some arts organizations through the end of their pre-determined grant periods, but they will no longer fund the arts with the possible rare exception of programs that are primarily focused on alleviating poverty through the arts.

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Sep 18, 2017

Thanks for your feedback. We’re glad the CCF grant has had lasting impact, and we understand your disappointment around our strategy shift. (You can read more about why we made that shift on irvine.org/focus.)

Sep 12, 2017

Reviewer 338 - Grant Applicant - applied in 2017

We were invited to apply and felt that the Program Officers were very intentional and transparent about the process and what it would take to get the proposal passed the finish line. They went so far to provide a writing consultant to support our proposal writing, which totally helped!

Even before being invited, it was clear that they were making a concerted effort to understand the field of "worker voice". I could tell they were doing a deep scan of the landscape. They were being very mindful and thoughtful about the process and did not make any promises. If you are an ED and have time and capacity to cultivate new/current relationships and believe you all fit into their new priorities, it is definitely worth exploring.

Pros

Positive leader in the field, Gives more than money, Culturally sensitive, Insightful, Builds relationships, "Gets" nonprofits and issues, Responsive

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Sep 12, 2017

We appreciate the feedback. Understanding the field is integral to our grantmaking. We also strive for transparency in our communications, and are glad that it was a clear and helpful process for you.

Aug 29, 2017

Grant Applicant - applied in 2014

Seriously, if you review the foundation's responses to the reviews, that will tell you all that you need to know about their strategies. They say that they are listening to grantees and the community - ask them which. They say that they are funding specific strategies - review who is funded as a result of those strategies and which communities they serve.

They are NOT CULTURALLY SENSITIVE. That is a lie.

Truly, this foundation thinks that they know what they are doing, but it is a top-down model of consultants that are not members of the communities that they are researching, and not a bottom-up grassroots mode of listening.

They haven't spoken with my organization about our strategies, in fact most of the staff that knew us have since bailed on the organization.

One staff member said, in a rare moment of honesty, they didn't want to have to lie about what the foundation was doing.

They really have no idea what they are doing, and their new strategies do not promise to create any change at all.

For example, all of the NCAF grantees are organizations with a floor budget of $700,000, not small grassroots organizations with actual expertise in engagement.

It's just new words for the same old, same old.

We should remember that the foundation did not want to be transparent about its processes or board members. That there are not transparent now. That they will tell you things that are only half-true. That they have NOT listened to the people most affected, only the "representatives" of those people.

Their new income inequality strategy is a disaster, and this is from our organization as a former grantee (multiple grants) that had decent relationships with our program officers.

The foundation's answers to all of the reviews should tell you everything that you need to know.

If you are a mainstream organization that talks a good game, then they will love you.

If you are a grassroots organization actually making an impact, and doing something concrete led by the communities affected by inequality, then don't even both to approach this foundation. They will feed you a line of BS, and think that they are being honest.

Pros

Gives more than money

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Sep 01, 2017

We appreciate hearing your perspective on our transparency, ability to listen, and support for grassroots organizations. Our shift in strategy announced last year (to expand political and economic opportunity for low-wage workers in California) is a change in what we support and how we engage organizations and communities to inform our grantmaking. Listening and sharing is a priority as we navigate this shift in strategy. (Our grantmaking before this shift, including the Arts Engagement work mentioned, will culminate in coming years.) For our new focus, we have deepened the way we listen to communities we support. This includes 14 community listening sessions across the state [see irvine.org/CAvoices] and engaging grantseekers, including grassroots organizations, in meaningful new ways (more to come on that process and its outcomes). With that said, we unfortunately cannot speak to or fund everyone, but we do value listening and transparency – and feedback. Thanks for yours.

Aug 16, 2017

Reviewer 654 - Grant Applicant - applied in 2017

We were invited to apply and the process was smooth. I would definitely focus on relationship building first.

Pros

Friendly, Builds relationships, Openminded, Responsive

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Aug 17, 2017

We are glad the process was smooth, and thank you for the input.

Aug 15, 2017

Grant Applicant - applied in 2015

Forget it unless you have a big in. They've stopped accepting unsolicited proposals.

Cons

Inadvertently exerts negative influence in the field, Doesn't "get" nonprofits and issues, Culturally incompetent, Bureaucratic

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Aug 16, 2017

Thanks for the comment. You are correct: We do not currently accept unsolicited inquiries as we develop our new initiatives and honor our current grantmaking commitments. The process of shifting our grantmaking priorities has included extensive conversations with community members and potential grantees, and we will continue to listen to ensure diverse points of view in our work. You can learn more about our grantmaking, including any potential changes to our process, on our website (https://www.irvine.org/for-grantseekers) and our blog (https://www.irvine.org/blog).

Jul 21, 2017

Reviewer 754 - Grant Applicant - applied in 2017

Work closely with your program officer. If they are willing to provide feedback on the outline or first draft before submission take them up on it. Use and illustrate data when articulating the need/problem you are attempting to solve. They are the midst of a large scale shift in funding priorities, so things may be shifting even as you are preparing your grant--it requires more flexibility from grantees.

Pros

Positive leader in the field, Gives more than money, Culturally sensitive, Insightful, Friendly, Responsive

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Aug 16, 2017

Thanks for your comment – and advice to others. Yes, we have been undergoing change since January 2016, and as part of that change we have been in dialogue with grantees about new areas of grantmaking we are exploring. We appreciate grantees engaging us in this process, and you can learn more about our grantmaking approach via our blog: www.irvine.org/blog.

Jun 27, 2017

Grant Applicant - applied before 2014

It's best if you can figure out some connection to one of their program officers, or can spend time talking to them, or can get them to attend one of your events. Beware though, they spent millions on consultants, but they don't know nearly as much as they think they do, especially about inequality. Irvine would do better if they actually listen to grantees that are smaller in size and do a better job of engaging diverse communities.

Pros

Gives more than money

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Aug 16, 2017

We appreciate the feedback. For anyone curious about our staff, you can find listings and bios on our website (https://www.irvine.org/about/staff), and each month our blog notes events that our staff are participating in or attending (example: https://www.irvine.org/blog/where-will-irvine-be-in-july-2017). In terms of listening to communities and grantees, we agree and have found great value over the last year doing just that. This included listening sessions across the state with Californians who are working but struggling with poverty (learn more: https://www.cavoices.net/), as well as spending more than a year learning from grantees as we develop initiatives related to our new focus. You can read more about that here (https://www.irvine.org/blog/turning-our-new-goals-into-strategy), and stay tuned for more about what we’re learning and planning.

Jun 23, 2017

Reviewer 936 - Grant Applicant - applied in 2016

Be clear on your specific outcomes as it relates to your mission. Seek guidance and feedback (and take it).

Pros

Positive leader in the field, Gives more than money, Risk taker, Culturally sensitive, Insightful, "Gets" nonprofits and issues, Openminded, Responsive

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Aug 16, 2017

Thanks for your input – and we agree! In 2016 we announced a new focus and approach to grantmaking that, we believe, increases clarity about what we fund, what outcomes we seek, and how our work is informed by others. Our grantmaking will now be through different initiatives, not program areas, and each initiative will have specific goals, outcomes, and timelines. To develop these initiatives, we are both listening to Californians and to nonprofits working on behalf of Californians. You can read more about that in this blog post by our Portfolio Directors (https://www.irvine.org/blog/turning-our-new-goals-into-strategy). Through 2016 and into 2017 we also have provided an online form to hear input about our new focus (https://www.irvine.org/focus/input). Thanks again for the feedback.

Jun 15, 2016 1

Grant Applicant - applied in 2010

In all honesty, they talk about wanting to fund low-income and communities of color but what they mean is, they want to fund big white well-funded organizations to engage low-income and communities of color. They don't really understand the communities they want their grantees to serve. And they will not listen to your expertise as an organization led, by, for and about low income and communities of color. In their eyes, your artistic product isn't good enough, unlike mainstream organizations that are struggling to engage people because they have spent the majority of their efforts on well-to-do white people. So basically, as once Irvine officer said, the small organizations like yours to the unpaid R&D, but the mainstream organizations get paid to implement your practices.

Cons

Invitation only, Burdensome reporting terms, Inadvertently exerts negative influence in the field

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Aug 16, 2017

Thanks for your comment. Our main focus for Arts funding in recent years has been the New California Arts Fund (NCAF), which supports transformational change in organization and business models that sets up large and small arts organizations to successfully and sustainably reach low-income and/or diverse Californians. This a central commitment by NCAF grantee-partners, and artistic product is only a small part of what they are focused on and what we considered as we reviewed proposals. We also previously made grants via the Exploring Engagement Fund to seed 100+ arts engagement projects. These EEF grants did not focus on artistic product but rather experimentation in engaging more and diverse Californians. For all of these efforts (and for the field change we hope to cultivate), the Foundation has a limited amount to give, making choices about which organizations to fund very difficult.
Please note that we announced in 2016 that our programs, including Arts, were ending as we shifted our approach and strategy (https://www.irvine.org/blog/navigating-the-journey). We are now fulfilling the Foundation’s commitments to NCAF grantees, and the arts engagement work will sunset over the next few years. Thanks again for sharing your perspective.

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