Does Irvine have a separate review process for unsolicited inquiries to its different programs?
Yes. Applications for Arts funding are accepted only through our three Exploring Engagement Funds. Each fund employs a competitive selection process, and each has its own selection criteria and application process.
Our California Democracy and Youth programs accept unsolicited letters of inquiry, but because of the more targeted nature of these grantmaking programs, we are able to fund less than one percent of them.
We do not accept unsolicited inquiries for Special Initiative grants.
How many grant inquiries does the Foundation receive each year, and how many are funded?
In our Arts program, we receive about 200 applications each year to our Exploring Engagement Funds. Of those, between 15 percent and 20 percent are selected for funding.
In our California Democracy and Youth programs, we receive about 150 letters of inquiry each year, but we are able to fund a much smaller proportion — less than one percent — because of the targeted nature of our grantmaking strategies in these areas.
What is the review process for a letter of inquiry?
Within three weeks from the date of your letter, our Grants Administration staff will review your inquiry for eligibility and basic program fit. If the inquiry is within our broad program guidelines, they will forward your letter to the relevant program team for review.
Our California Democracy and Youth program teams review inquiries approximately every two months. Each inquiry is read by a member of the team and reviewed carefully for its fit with our program priorities and strength of the specific request, among other considerations. Within three months from the date of your inquiry, you will receive one of the following from us:
- A request to submit a full proposal
- A request for more information about the proposed work
- A letter indicating that we will not be able to fund the proposed work
How soon will I hear back?
We will review your inquiry as quickly as possible, following the process described above. At a minimum, we will communicate with you twice during the review:
- Immediately after you submit your inquiry via our online form, you will receive an automatic email acknowledging that your letter has been received.
- No later than three months after you submit your inquiry, you will receive written communication about our decision, in most cases by mail.
In rare instances, we may contact you during the review process if we need additional information about your organization.
Please contact us regarding the status of your letter of inquiry only if you have not received an email acknowledgement immediately after submitting your inquiry via our online form, or if you have not received a decision after three months from the date of submission.
Is there a deadline for submitting a letter of inquiry?
No. We accept inquiries to the California Democracy and Youth programs on a rolling basis. For Arts inquiries, please see our Exploring Engagement Funds.
Can I submit a full proposal?
Please do not submit a full proposal until you are invited to do so. We understand the time it takes to prepare proposals and have created the letter of inquiry process to ensure that proposals are required only from organizations which our program staff has determined are competitive candidates for receiving funding.
Can I speak to or meet with a program officer?
Unfortunately, we cannot speak with or meet grantseekers prior to submitting a letter of inquiry. We have designed the inquiry process so that you do not need to speak with a program staff member before submitting the inquiry. If you are invited to submit a full proposal, you will have the opportunity to speak with a program officer, either in person or over the phone.
What is an appropriate request amount?
The grant amount requested should be proportional to your organization's overall budget, the project budget and expected revenue from other sources. We generally fund no more than 10 or 15 percent of an organization's total budget. In addition, we will consider your organization's track record in implementing grants of a similar size and scope to the one requested from Irvine.
Can you tell me why my inquiry was denied?
If we decline your funding request, we will share with you our primary reasons for the denial. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer in-depth feedback on individual letters of inquiry.
My organization was previously declined for funding. Can I reapply?
Yes, but please carefully consider the reasons we declined the initial request before submitting a new inquiry. Unless the substance of your program or organization has changed significantly, it's unlikely that a new request will result in funding from Irvine.
My organization currently receives support through an Irvine-funded regranting program. Can I still submit a letter of inquiry?
Yes. We support a number of community foundations and other organizations that, in turn, regrant Irvine funds to other nonprofits in their communities or fields of work. These organizations may apply, but not for the project that is already receiving support through one of our regranting programs.
What should I do if I can't find my saved application?
When you save an application, you will be prompted to create a username (your email address) and a password. The system will then send you a confirmation by email, to the email address provided, on how to retrieve your saved application along with your password. Save this email. (Keep in mind that if you enter the executive director's email, this is the address to which the confirmation will be sent). You can access saved applications online. You will need to enter the correct username and password.
I'm having trouble using the online system.
Please email our Grants Manager at
We will typically respond to you within three business days.
Do you accept letters of inquiry by mail?
We prefer to receive inquiries online. If you do not have access to a computer in order to submit an inquiry online, please contact our Grants Manager at the address below.
I have additional questions. Is there someone who can help me?
If you have additional questions, please contact:
The James Irvine Foundation
One Bush Street, Suite 800
San Francisco, CA 94104