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Assessing Foundation Performance

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Apr 16, 2010
From the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, April 15, 2010

At last year’s CEP conference in Los Angeles, I presented (.pdf) on the Irvine Foundation’s approach to assessing foundation performance, joined by David Colby from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I think it’s fair to say that David and I were presenting approaches used by our respective foundations that remain works in progress – Irvine’s even more so than RWJF’s given its focus on this area for many more years.

In view of the interest in this topic at the conference, and my own desire to share what we are doing at Irvine in an effort to improve upon it, I appreciate the opportunity offered by CEP to write a series of blog posts on the subject of assessing foundation performance.

 I plan to do this in four parts, addressing the following topics:

  1. Why we developed an approach to foundation performance at Irvine
  2. What we have found particularly challenging about assessing foundation performance
  3. How our board has engaged with us on this subject
  4. Why assessing foundation performance is both important and necessary

In reflecting upon Irvine’s experiences, I hope to stimulate readers’ contributions to deepening our collective understanding of this important subject and to improving our efforts to measure and understand our performance as foundations.

View Jim's 2009 presentation on assessing foundation performance.

View the full blog post.

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From the President: Assessing Our Performance

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Apr 01, 2010

At Irvine and many other foundations, a key question that occupies our collective attention is: What impact are we having?

Arriving at a satisfying answer to that question is complicated by numerous factors. First, as philanthropic entities, most of what we “accomplish” is through others. Second, many of us focus on ambitious, long-term goals that can be difficult to measure and challenging to quantify. And third, it is rare that our institutions and resources alone are responsible for a particular success, so there are always questions of attribution. There are certainly other obstacles, but none of this should absolve us from a good faith effort to answer the question.

As one way to think about this, we developed a framework at Irvine five years ago by which we could measure our progress in a variety of areas we determined were important to understanding our impact. Although the central focus of this assessment framework relates to the outcomes of our grantmaking, we also include areas beyond our programmatic work that we believe contribute to our progress.

Based on this framework, we have prepared reports to our board each year and later posted those reports on our website. And, in conjunction with this letter, we are now sharing publicly our report for 2009, which we presented to our board at its annual retreat in March. The 2009 Annual Performance Report describes the Foundation’s activities across six areas, three related to our program impact and three related to our effectiveness as an institution.

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Irvine in the News: March 2010

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
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| Apr 01, 2010

In March 2010, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Irvine Announces $9 Million in New Grants

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Mar 12, 2010

San Francisco — The Board of Directors of The James Irvine Foundation has approved 13 grants totaling more than $9 million in support of the Foundation's mission of expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society. (For a list of approved grants, click here.)

Of the $9 million, $4.5 million will fund the expansion of the California Linked Learning District Initiative as part of Irvine’s Youth program. $750,000 from the California Democracy program grant will fund Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education to conduct outreach related to state budget and fiscal issues. Additionally, a grant in the Arts program provides $300,000 to the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts to expand programming and audiences following the renovation of its facility.

Expanding the Linked Learning Approach

Irvine’s Youth program seeks to increase the number of low-income youth in California who complete high school on time and attain a postsecondary credential by the age of 25. Grants approved as part of Irvine’s Youth program include a $4.5 million grant to ConnectEd to develop, expand and support the California Linked Learning District Initiative, which supports nine high school districts to implement systems of Linked Learning pathways, which bring together strong academics, demanding technical education and real world experience in a range of fields such as engineering, arts and media, and biomedicine and health.

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Irvine in the News: February 2010

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
User is currently offline
| Mar 01, 2010

In February 2010, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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San Diego Union-Tribune: Disenchanted With State? Apply Here

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Feb 08, 2010
The following op-ed article by Jim Canales, Irvine's President and CEO, ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune on February 8, 2010

Voters are disenchanted. They’re alienated from a government that too seldom consults them and is struggling to adequately provide the services that we used to take for granted. But Californians are also ready to respond if they know their contribution will count. A historic opportunity is before them. This year, for the first time in California, citizens will control a process at the core of representative government.

Redistricting, a long-cherished prerogative of the Legislature and partisan insiders, has been turned over to California’s voters. The maps that define the 40 Senate and 80 Assembly districts will be prepared by an independent panel of 14 members, the Citizens Redistricting Commission. Instead of creating partisan clusters or designing safe seats for favored incumbents, the commissioners will strive for districts that respect communities and enhance their voices in Sacramento.

The commission will be chosen from a pool of public-spirited applicants who enlist in the cause of reform. They need not be experts in geography or demographics, just thoughtful citizens willing to devote time and energy to making government work for all of us. They should come from all walks of life, all parts of the state, all ethnic backgrounds.

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Hewlett, Irvine Foundations Announce Partnership to Support Emerging Arts Leaders in California

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Feb 01, 2010

San Francisco, CA
— The James Irvine Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are providing more than $700,000 in grants to organizations that are cultivating the next generation of arts leaders in California through professional development, networking and mentorships. Hewlett’s Board of Directors approved $400,000 in grants in support of such efforts in November, and Irvine’s Board of Directors approved $340,000 in grants last month, with additional funding possible.

Research conducted by both foundations found that the arts sector faces critical leadership challenges during the next 10 to 15 years as the “baby boom” generation of arts leaders enters retirement age. Although there is a good supply of midcareer arts managers who are able to fill the roles, most arts organizations lack the resources for training and other kinds of professional development that will better prepare these promising young leaders to become effective nonprofit executives, the research found.

To help address this issue, Irvine and Hewlett are supporting several professional networks of emerging arts leaders that are providing their members with seminars, workshops, networking opportunities and other forms of professional development. Both Hewlett and Irvine provided grants to the San Francisco Bay Area Emerging Arts Professionals (through fiscal sponsor Intersection for the Arts) and GenArts Silicon Valley (through fiscal sponsor 1stACT Silicon Valley), as well as the Center for Cultural Innovation ’s Creative Capacity Fund, which offers arts professionals direct support for professional development. Irvine also provided a grant to the San Diego Foundation for its San Diego Emerging Leaders of Arts and Culture program.

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Irvine in the News: January 2010

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
User is currently offline
| Feb 01, 2010

In January 2010, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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L.A. Partnership Aims to Prepare Students for College and Work

BY Daniel Silverman
Daniel Silverman
A native Californian, Daniel Silverman leads the Foundation’s communications wor
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| Jan 22, 2010

Just south of downtown, Santee Education Complex is one of Los Angeles' newest high schools, a huge, modern campus with more than 3,500 students. Many of its students come from poor neighborhoods where gang-related violence is common, and those who end up graduating and attending college are often the first in their families to do so.

But few Santee students ever do go to college. Since it opened in 2005, Santee has grappled with low test scores, dispirited students and a nearly 50 percent dropout rate.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

"At a school where almost one in two kids now drop out, our students will be graduating with a double diploma — and with double the opportunity."

– Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

"So many of our students simply don't see the benefits of a high school diploma because they aren't exposed to (those benefits) in their communities," says Brunel Merilus, assistant principal of the Travel, Tourism and Culinary Arts Academy, one of six small learning academies that make up Santee.

Now, Santee is embarking on a new initiative designed to curb the school's high dropout rate and help students see the benefits of going to college. The program will send Santee students to college-level classes in tourism, culinary arts and other fields, while giving them hands-on work experience in these fields through internships with local businesses.

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Irvine Commits $2 Million to Organizations Adapting to Economic Downturn

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Jan 21, 2010
San Francisco, CA — The James Irvine Foundation has provided grants to seven organizations to help them adapt to the economic downturn and build long-term financial health. The Foundation made the grants as part of the new, $2 million Fund for Financial Restructuring, which assists selected grantee organizations that are actively and creatively responding to the current economy in ways that can build long-term financial health.

“With revenue down and needs increasing for so many nonprofits, we want to support grantees that are ready to develop new business models that better align revenues and expenditures,” said Jim Canales, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Irvine Foundation. “We believe this Fund can both help the grantees directly, as well as uncover best practices that can be shared with other nonprofits.”

Through a competitive application process, the seven organizations were selected to receive grants of up to $150,000. These organizations are pursuing strategic alliances or mergers, re-examining their revenue streams to diversify funding sources, and/or changing operational structures to adapt to economic pressures. A complete list of grantees follows:

Organization

Grant Amount

Balboa Park Cultural Partnership

$150,000

Kala Art Institute

$150,000

L.A. Stage Alliance

$150,000

Oakland East Bay Symphony

$150,000

San Francisco Chanticleer

$144,000

Theatre Bay Area

$150,000

Valley Public Television

$150,000

A second round of grants will be announced in the spring of 2010. For more information about the fund, please visit www.irvine.org/ffr

Contact: Ray Delgado, 415.356.9917, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  

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