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Irvine in the News: April 2009

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
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| Apr 30, 2009

In April 2009, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Chronicle of Philanthropy: An Unprecedented Challenge Gives Philanthropy a Chance to End Bad Habits

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Apr 23, 2009
The following opinion article by Jim Canales, Irvine’s President and CEO, ran in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on April 23, 2009.

These are unprecedented times in philanthropy. The economic difficulties facing our country are beginning to overwhelm and strain nonprofit organizations in profound ways, at the very time when the endowments of foundations have eroded significantly.

This has, of course, stimulated important discussions about the share of assets foundations should give from their endowments each year, the importance of supporting advocacy, and many other ways that foundations can make a difference during this downturn.

These discussions are important, and each foundation, in the context of its values, legacy, and competencies, should certainly give thought to how it can best support nonprofit organizations in response to this crisis.

At the same time, as foundation officials, we would be well served to return to first principles and to remind ourselves that how we do our work can be just as important as what we choose to do.

Philanthropy is fundamentally a human enterprise, so as we make important strategic choices in response to the economic crisis, we should also embrace this as an opportunity to change behavior that undermines our effectiveness.

The power imbalance inherent in our work as well as the lack of any consistent feedback mechanism can permit the occupational hazards of insularity, complacency, and arrogance to thrive. Those unfortunate traits inhibit the ability of foundations to work as collaboratively with nonprofit groups as they should.

Insularity. Foundations are often accused of believing that the best ideas are those generated within their own walls. This view of foundations as distant ivory towers cannot be readily dismissed, and there are steps we should consider to demonstrate that we are guarding against the groupthink and narrow mind-set that insularity can produce.

The technological innovations that have swept society over the past decade might offer some solutions. The emergence of blogs as a means to engage in thoughtful and spirited public conversations about philanthropic strategies and choices has been a welcome shift.

Whether it's the Tactical Philanthropy blog, written by Sean Stannard-Stockton, or the frequent posts on The Huffington Post by Paul Brest, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, we have seen many examples that have enriched how foundations think and, more important, done so in a public and accessible way, inviting broader public comment. Similarly, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation's experiment in using a wiki to develop a possible grant-making strategy was commendable and offers yet another model for foundations to consider.

Each of us should give thought to how we might harness the power of technology, or other less sophisticated tools, to invite outside views into our decisions, to communicate openly about our work, to clarify what led to our conclusions, and to share what we have learned. In so doing, we will naturally find ways to engage other key players in the process. In the end, not only will we demonstrate our commitment to open and inclusive processes, but it is very likely that we will do a better job of achieving our social missions.

Complacency. In a field in which a measurable bottom line is elusive (other than the performance of our endowments) and there is no market force that suggests which foundations are succeeding and which are failing, it can be easy to fall into the trap of complacency. Moreover, as foundations are accountable to an amorphous general public, in view of their tax-exempt status, lines of accountability can be unclear.

And yet we are primarily accountable to our boards, and we have an obligation to ensure that we equip them to carry out their oversight and stewardship responsibilities thoughtfully.

A board's ability to exercise wise oversight often rests on the information we choose to give them, on the ways in which we organize our board meetings, and on members' exposure to and experience with the issues the foundation cares about.

As such, it is incumbent upon those of us in staff positions, especially leadership roles, to take all the steps we can to ensure that our boards are setting strategy and offering valuable insights based on their knowledge and expertise from the outside world. In doing so, they will raise important (and often difficult) questions and will help us to step up our efforts. The best foundation board meetings ought not to be those in which we all feel good (or even relieved) at the end; rather, they should be those in which our ways of thinking are challenged, our strategies questioned, and the resulting product improved. In building and fostering boards that engage constructively with staff members in these ways, we make an important statement about the pitfalls of complacency.

Arrogance. The power imbalance inherent to our work, combined with the lack of a formal and consistent feedback mechanism, makes it far too easy to start believing that those of us in foundations are the smartest people in the room.

It is unfortunate that honest criticism and direct pushback are rarities when nonprofit groups approach foundations. And that is not because grant seekers are timid; it is the result of behavior that we in philanthropy have unfortunately reinforced. Clearly, we have collectively sent the message that we'd prefer that our suggestions be adopted and that our view carry the day. So what can be done?

The best way to guard against this, of course, is to remain vigilant about how our behavior can be read and might even be misread. One cannot overstate the power of humility in this regard. Jim Collins, in Good to Great, writes of "Level Five" leadership, which represents the pinnacle of effective business leadership based on his rigorous research. Such leadership is characterized by a "paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will." And when applied to philanthropy, humility is even more powerful, probably because we don't see enough of this powerful antidote to arrogance.

Philanthropy must seize this moment of crisis and convert it to a moment of opportunity for social missions that motivate us. We must indeed marshal our best thinking to capitalize on this unprecedented moment, but as we do so, let's also remember that we will be judged not only by what we do in response but also by how we do it. And indeed, if we can look back at this moment as the time when philanthropy collectively and aggressively turned away from the occupational hazards of insularity, complacency, and arrogance, that will be a lasting legacy.

James E. Canales is chief executive of the James Irvine Foundation, in San Francisco.

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From the President: Refining Our Grantmaking Strategies

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Apr 01, 2009
Jim Canales, President & CEO

Dear Friends,

Every March, the Irvine Foundation Board of Directors meets for two days to reflect upon the Foundation’s progress and consider longer-term strategic issues outside of our regular board meeting cycle. This year’s meeting was particularly noteworthy because we comprehensively reviewed all three of Irvine’s core grantmaking programs of Arts, California Perspectives and Youth. We launched these three programs in 2003-04, following a comprehensive planning process, and now with five years of grantmaking behind us, we saw our meeting as an opportunity to discuss what we have learned, what has changed and how we may want to refine the programs. Our annual report later this year will report on some of the specifics for 2008, but I wanted to focus in this letter on some of the broader themes discussed and next steps identified.

Our aspirations in each program area are ambitious and our board reaffirmed its commitment to them over the long term. But we also discussed the value of ongoing refinements in our strategy. We acknowledge that maximizing progress toward our program goals requires that we learn as we go, increase our support for the approaches that work best, and take advantage of opportunities that may arise as we execute our plans.

For example, in the Youth program, we are focusing our grantmaking in a more targeted way on multiple pathways, which we consider a particularly promising approach to high-school reform. You can read more about this refinement in this issue’s Q&A with our Youth Program Director Anne Stanton. Our other two programs — California Perspectives and Arts — are also refining their strategies while staying committed to the goals we set several years ago. We will describe these refinements in upcoming issues of the Irvine Quarterly and through future updates on our Web site.

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Irvine in the News: March 2009

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
User is currently offline
| Mar 31, 2009

In March 2009, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Irvine Program Seeks to Increase Access, Demand for the Arts

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Mar 22, 2009
For many arts organizations, cultivating a more diverse audience is a desired but sometimes elusive goal.

Through its focus on cultural participation, the Irvine Foundation’s Arts program seeks to help a range of California arts organizations – from large, mainstream groups to small, community-based organizations – engage more diverse audiences. This includes lower income people, ethnic minorities, youth and others that the arts don’t always reach.

“We look at cultural participation as a way to reach more broadly and more equitably than arts have done historically,” said John McGuirk, Director of Irvine’s Arts program. “We want to make certain that arts are accessible to everyone, not just those most able and motivated to buy a ticket and donate.”

John McGuirk, Director of Irvine’s Arts program

“During this recession, we are focusing less on artistic creation, and more on stimulating demand through cultural participation and engagement.”

- John McGuirk, Director of Irvine’s Arts program

As the recent experience of two Irvine grantees demonstrates, the benefits can go well beyond increasing ticket sales. It can mean discovering a new wellspring of passion about art. It can unleash the creation of new works with greater relevance to underserved populations. And it can strengthen communities by bringing them together.

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Preparing Youth for College and Career: An Interview with Anne Stanton

BY Daniel Silverman
Daniel Silverman
A native Californian, Daniel Silverman leads the Foundation’s communications wor
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| Mar 22, 2009

Over the past year, the James Irvine Foundation’s Youth program has refined its approach to education reform in California’s high schools. The result is a more targeted focus on multiple pathways as our core strategy for improving the chances that all California’s young people succeed in life.

As is well known, California’s high schools are not working for large numbers of young people. Almost a third of ninth graders will drop out of high school before graduation. And of those who finish high school, most will lack the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workforce.

One of the most difficult challenges facing high schools today is how to engage more young people in the serious learning that will ensure their success in school and in work. The stakes for our youth — and for California’s ability to compete in a global economy — have never been greater

Anne Stanton, Director of Irvine's Youth program

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New Study: Inland Empire Nonprofit Sector is Stretched

BY Anne Vally
Anne Vally
Anne Vally was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2000 to 2013, last serving
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| Mar 11, 2009

Growing Region Faces Challenges of Capacity, According to Study

SAN FRANCISCO — A new study funded by The James Irvine Foundation and conducted by The Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management, University of San Francisco documents the challenges and opportunities faced by the Inland Empire’s nonprofit sector, which is straining to serve a highly diverse, rapidly growing region.

“The Inland Empire Nonprofit Sector: A Growing Region Faces the Challenges of Capacity” analyzes the two-county region’s nonprofit sector from 2000 to 2005. The report tracks nonprofit contributions to the region, compares it with the nonprofit sectors of other Southern California regions, and looks at nonprofit fiscal health. It also spotlights key issues and offers recommendations for strengthening the region’s nonprofit sector.

“Irvine commissioned this report on the capacity of the Inland Empire’s nonprofit sector to contribute to greater understanding of the region’s readiness and capability to address the challenges it faces,” said James Canales, President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine Foundation.

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Irvine Announces $11 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 09, 2009

San Francisco The Board of Directors of The James Irvine Foundation has approved 11 grants totaling more than $11 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 $11 million, Irvine will make its largest ever grant with $7.5 million to ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career. A $400,000 Arts program grant will fund Dance/USA for an audience-engagement initiative. Additionally, two grants in the California Perspectives program provide a total of $850,000 to the Common Cause Education Fund and Working Partnerships USA to support electoral and budgetary reforms.

Advancing Multiple Pathways Programs

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 its largest ever grant of $7.5 million to ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career, to increase the availability of high-quality multiple pathways programs. ConnectEd was established in 2006 with a $6 million grant from Irvine. ConnectEd is a hub for innovative practice, policy and research to expand the number of education pathways that prepare students for college and career.

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Irvine in the News: February 2009

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
User is currently offline
| Feb 28, 2009

In February 2009, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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San Francisco Chronicle: Why the Arts Matter

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Feb 03, 2009
The following op-ed article by Jim Canales, Irvine's President and CEO, ran in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 3, 2009.

The arts are in trouble. Many of the institutions that make the Bay Area's cultural scene so compelling are facing financial difficulties. Some are severely cutting programs; others are on the verge of closing. The arts are particularly vulnerable because they rely upon ticket sales and memberships, which are often among the first to be cut from consumer spending during an economic crisis. At the same time, the philanthropic revenues that arts organizations rely on - from government sources, foundations, corporations and individual contributions - all stand at risk today, given shrinking endowments and discretionary income.

Thankfully, arts leaders are applying their creative powers to these economic challenges, thus finding new ways to cut costs or raise revenues. For example, the Magic Theatre recently announced that it will be able to complete its season, thanks to an emergency fundraising campaign that brought in $455,000 from 1,100 donors. And the San Francisco Opera, in announcing its 2009-2010 season, was able to reduce its costs without compromising on artistic quality.

These organizations and their leaders deserve credit for doing whatever it takes to stay afloat. But all the creative ideas to keep the doors open won't be enough if we don't fundamentally change our collective understanding of why the arts matter. When times get tough and choices must be made, it is often the arts that lose. Why is this so? When compared to health or human service needs, the arts are often viewed as less important and therefore more discretionary in nature. But this line of thinking misses the point about why the arts are so important. Until we fully recognize how essential the arts are to the vitality of our communities and our quality of life, our cultural infrastructure will continue to be given short shrift. There are countless reasons why we should renew our commitment to the arts. Consider the following:

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Aaron Pick
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