James Irvine Foundation

15 survey respondents

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

EIN: 94-1236937

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What was the overall relationship with the funder?

How many hours did the grant application process take?

20 hours




How would you rate this funder's accessibility?



How successfully do you think the funder is accomplishing its current philanthropic goals?

Important Information

2017 Deadlines:

Types of Grants Awarded:

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Top descriptors for this funder

6Gives more than money6Responsive5Positive leader in the field4"Gets" nonprofits and issues4Builds relationships4Friendly4Insightful4Inadvertently exerts negative influence in the field3Bureaucratic3Culturally incompetent3Culturally sensitive3Openminded

Advice from a Friend

James Irvine Foundation

May 04, 2023

Reviewer 3485 - Grant Applicant - applied in 2023

I highly recommend this funder! Irvine is very responsive, asks if their deadlines will impact nonprofit employees' PTO and provides flexibility if so, and makes an effort to see things from the grantee's perspective.


Positive leader in the field, Friendly, "Gets" nonprofits and issues, Responsive

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Jun 27, 2019 1

Grant Applicant - applied before 2014

They may say that they're working towards racial, social, economic equity but in reality--that's not reflected in their funding (it's a one-way prescribed funding machine that perpetuates the HAVEs and HAVE-NOTs of the nonprofit sector). They don't engage small nonprofits and want to only work with the big wigs that are often hand-picked because they have a higher chance of succeeding. Unlike other funders (The California Endowment) JIF doesn't take risks and their board is quite conservative.


Inadvertently exerts negative influence in the field, Doesn't "get" nonprofits and issues, Difficult to work with, Culturally incompetent, Bureaucratic, Risk averse

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Jul 09, 2019

We truly appreciate your feedback and take it seriously. In the five-plus years since your experience, we have increased our commitment to listening to and learning, in person, from people and organizations on the ground in the San Joaquin Valley (and throughout California) so that we can be better partners. These efforts are improving our understanding of communities, the nonprofits that serve them, and how our grantmaking can change. Thank you again for your input.

Jun 25, 2019

Reviewer 9324 - Grant Applicant - applied in 2019

I think this is a great foundation to work with if you fit within their priorities. Be prepared to make your case and understand their objectives.


Builds relationships

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Jun 26, 2019

Thank you for your feedback. We’re very glad to hear the process was smooth and you had a positive experience.

May 30, 2019

Reviewer 1269 - Grant Applicant - applied in 2019

As far as I know, the Irvine Foundation seeks out potential grantees and does not invite folks to approach them on their own. If you review their website, their current priorities and campaigns are clearly stated. If your work falls solidly within one of those areas, I suppose you could email a program office with an inquiry. But don't be surprised if you don't hear back from them.


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

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

May 31, 2019

Thank you for taking the time to comment, we appreciate your input. You are correct, we do not currently accept unsolicited grant inquiries. We do strive to be clear about our grantmaking strategy and funding priorities, and are happy to hear you found this to be the case.

Feb 22, 2019 1

Grant Applicant - applied in 2018

Though the foundation is working on inequality, staff are not versed in equity practices, their consistent micro-agressions reveal deep-seated racism, sexism, homo-antagonism, classism, and ableism. They prefer a charity model of "experts" helping the less fortunate.


Inadvertently exerts negative influence in the field, Culturally incompetent

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Response from James Irvine Foundation

Feb 27, 2019

Thank you for sharing your perspective, and we are truly sorry to hear any such perceptions of our staff. Treating people with respect, empathy, and open-mindedness is something we take seriously, and we have been actively committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Irvine. Cleary this was not your experience, so we would like to talk with you to learn more. If you are open to that, please reach out through: https://www.irvine.org/contact-us/input (and note this exchange). Regardless, thanks again for your time and expressing your concern. We take it seriously.

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.



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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 2

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.


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.


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.


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.

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James Irvine Foundation