Community Foundations Initiative II Print E-mail


To accelerate the growth and leadership of nine small and emerging community foundations in rural areas of California.

Initiative Description

Irvine has a long history of partnering with community foundations. In 2005, we launched a second Community Foundations Initiative (CFI II) to develop philanthropic resources in regions of the state that had been underserved by philanthropy. At the heart of CFI II is a belief that community foundations can increase their credibility and raise awareness of their work among donors and the broader community by implementing a visible and thoughtful regranting program. With more recognition and investments to strengthen their own organizations, community foundations can grow faster and increase their ability to serve their communities.

CFI II is a $12 million, six-year initiative with three key components: direct grants to each community foundation for core support and capacity building; an Irvine-funded regranting program to help each community foundation develop skills as a grantmaker; and a robust program of technical assistance. Additional details about CFI II are available here.


The evaluation for CFI II is an integral part of the technical assistance provided to the initiative’s community foundation participants. The intended outcomes were developed by our evaluators with help from an advisory team comprised of three community foundation CEOs. Each community foundation receives annual reports on their progress to inform their efforts. The evaluators will also be highlighting lessons for the field in future publications and tools.


The evaluation assesses how participation in CFI II develops the capacity of the community foundation grantees in terms of asset development, community grantmaking, donor engagement, strategic management, board governance and other priority areas. Developing strengths in these areas is expected to increase the ability of these emerging community foundations to mobilize community resources.

Time frame

2005 – 2011

Participating grantees

Nine community foundations received initial three-year grants under CFI II, and in 2008, seven of these organizations received an additional three years of support. Current participants are:


This evaluation involves analyzing grantee financial data, qualitative narrative reports, self-assessment surveys, interviews with community foundation leaders and consultation with technical assistance providers.


The evaluator provides annual reports on CFI II to the Foundation and the grantee cohort. The most recent report provides an update as of year-end 2008 which shows how these community foundations are faring amid the economic downturn.

  • The change in the economic environment since 2008 has presented CFI II community foundations with multiple dilemmas. Cohort members are struggling to balance long-term strategic priorities such as asset development and board composition with a desire to respond to increasingly urgent community needs. Despite these mounting challenges, initiative participants have maintained many of the gains in assets and overall capacity since the start of the initiative. Current total assets are more than double what they began with in 2004, and other indicators such as increasing fee revenues point to a growing resilience among these community foundations.
  • While assets were down 10 percent from 2007 to 2008 (from $128 million to $115 million), cohort members fared better than like-sized community foundations across the country, which averaged declines of 16 percent.
  • Total donations to the community foundations in 2008 were significantly reduced, compared to the prior two years. New gifts were $29.1 million in 2006 and $31.3 million in 2007, but declined to $21.6 million in 2008.
  • Progress on the foundations’ ability to engage in high-quality, community-based grantmaking is readily apparent. Community foundations have regranted Irvine funds to a variety of partners and have held convenings and offered technical assistance in an effort to improve and refine their grantmaking processes. Better organization, improved transparency and more collaboration has been observed across the cohort.
  • Cohort members increased their grantmaking by nearly 12 percent in 2008 (excluding Irvine regranting dollars) from $11.8 million to $13.2 million, a change that is consistent with other like-sized community foundations across the field.
  • A bright spot of the economic crisis has been increasing levels of board engagement. At some community foundations, board members are making increased personal efforts to reach out to contacts and donors within the community. At others, board members have responded with increased engagement on the community foundation’s economic circumstances.

Related materials


Eva Nico
FSG Social Impact Advisors

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