Last year, the philanthropic community was engaged in a vigorous debate about diversity and whether private foundations in California were investing sufficiently to support minority communities. This dialogue was prompted in large measure by a proposed California law which would have required large private foundations to collect and report race and ethnicity data about themselves and their grantees. Although Irvine and a broader coalition of private foundations opposed the bill for a number of reasons, the debate it generated identified some important underlying issues and, ultimately, led Irvine and others to take specific, constructive steps to address these issues. This quarter’s letter provides an update on our activities in this regard.
Most significantly, last year’s debate helped to surface a broad need to augment support to nonprofit organizations serving low-income people and communities of color across the state. The discussion also focused on the need for strong leaders and effective organizations in these communities. So, as an extension of our various efforts already dedicated toward this end, Irvine partnered with the Packard and Hewlett foundations to launch the Community Leadership Project, an $8 million commitment by our three foundations over a three year period. The focus of this collaboration is on strengthening organizations, building capacity and developing leadership in three regions of shared interest to our three foundations: the greater San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Coast and the San Joaquin Valley.
In June, our three foundations announced the first round of grants to nine intermediary organizations, totaling $5.7 million. The Community Leadership Project works through intermediary organizations, where possible tapping the expertise of community foundations because of their understanding of the needs of the targeted communities. During the summer, we requested letters of inquiry for a second round of grants. Not only did we receive a large number of applications, but the proposed ideas are creative and compelling, and the applicants have strong networks in the targeted regions. As a result, the three foundations have agreed to contribute an additional $1 million of funding to support some of these proposed projects, bringing the level of funding to $9 million. We expect to announce a new set of partners later this year.
The other important gap we identified last year is the scarcity of useful and consistent data about how nonprofits and private foundations are addressing diversity-related issues. As communities in California become more diverse, foundations face a growing need to assess the continuing relevance of their grantmaking and programmatic objectives to the populations they serve. To address this need for more research, several California foundations supported the state’s three regional associations of grantmakers to commission the Foundation Center to conduct two studies on diversity in philanthropy. A third study, by the Urban Institute, is due later this fall. These studies offer a useful starting point in considering the extent to which California foundations are addressing the state’s increasing diversity, and we look forward to identifying additional opportunities to increase our knowledge about this important topic.
At Irvine, our view remains that engaging with the rich diversity of California is central to achieving our mission of expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society. We intend to demonstrate this continued commitment through our ongoing grantmaking activities, and we are persuaded that the Community Leadership Project with the Packard and Hewlett foundations will help us to deepen our understanding of the issues and improve our engagement with diverse communities across the state.
As always, I welcome your questions, comments or suggestions.
James E. Canales
President and CEO
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