In 2003, we established our current grantmaking programs in Arts, California Democracy and Youth, following a comprehensive strategic planning process. As part of this process, we concluded that the Foundation could achieve more for the people of California by targeting a few areas than by spreading our resources across a broader range of interests.
As a result, we decided to conclude several grantmaking programs in which we had made significant, long-term commitments. In order to ensure a responsible transition for those organizations Irvine had supported through these former programs, we dedicated approximately half of our $50 million grantmaking budget in 2003 to support a careful transition out of these programs. These past programs included:
- Children, Youth and Families: While one of our three current program areas includes a Youth focus, our former Children, Youth and Families program was much broader in its scope. Our efforts included a Museum Youth Initiative that sought to strengthen California museums’ ability to educate young people during out-of-school hours and enhance the roles of museums as educational resources. Another was a Youth Development Initiative to strengthen a select group of 20 nonprofit organizations that served youth in Fresno and Los Angeles. We also funded the Communities Organizing Resources to Advance Learning (CORAL) Initiative in 1999 to help improve the academic achievement of children in the lowest-performing schools in five California cities. Learn more about our current Youth program.
- Civic Culture: Among its priorities, this program supported Central Valley organizations that worked to increase the naturalization of California immigrants and engage them in the civic life of their communities. Through the Organized Religion Initiative, the program also sought to use faith-based institutions to draw new and low-income Californians into civic life.
We continue to make grants for civic engagement through our California Democracy program, whose goal is to increase opportunities for civic engagement among traditionally underrepresented communities, including low-income, ethnic and immigrant populations.
- Higher Education: We made our first grant to an institution of higher education in 1943 with a $250 grant to the San Francisco Law School, paving the way for more than six decades of support for higher education. Our grants supported a range of activities, including capital improvements, fellowship and scholarship programs, general operating funds and academic programs. After 1987, we supported higher education institutions to strategically address issues of diversity on their campuses and increase the success of underrepresented students in higher education. The Campus Diversity Initiative is a $29 million effort working with 28 independent colleges and universities in California.
- Sustainable Communities: Between 1995 and 2003, we made $65 million in grants to mobilize diverse coalitions of business, community and government interests working to solve complex regional issues such as sprawl, social equity and workforce development.
Following are grantmaking activities that were begun after 2003 and have since concluded:
- New Connections Fund: From 2004 to 2007, we provided open, competitive funding to small and midsize organizations whose work fit with our program priorities but which had not previously received Irvine funding. During that period, we evaluated more than 1,700 applications and awarded more than 300 grants, totaling $11 million, to nonprofits across California. More than 75 percent of these organizations had never before received a grant from Irvine. Learn more about the key accomplishments and lessons learned from the New Connections Fund.
- Arts Training Schools Cluster: From 2005 to 2008, we made grants to support low-income youth in making successful transitions to higher education and careers in creative industries. This cluster of grants built on a body of research indicating that arts courses — or integrating arts into other subject areas — can motivate and engage high school students who are not otherwise thriving in school.