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Irvine Board Approves $5.5 Million in Grants

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
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| Mar 17, 2014

The James Irvine Foundation Board of Directors approved $5.5 million in grants at its quarterly meeting last week. Of the 10 approved grants, seven grants are within Arts, two grants are within California Democracy and one is in our Youth program.

Here are some highlights of the new grants:

Exploring Engagement Fund for Larger Organizations — The Arts program made grants to six organizations totaling $3.6 million within the Exploring Engagement Fund for Larger Organizations. These grants will support experimentation by each organization on how to increase arts engagement in a new or deepened way.

Voter and Civic Engagement — Our California Democracy program made grants to two organizations as part of the Voter and Civic Engagement priority. One grant, for $800,000, went to Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education to support voter mobilization and civic engagement activities among 500,000 voters across 12 California counties.

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A Look Inside: How we Selected Grants for Arts’ Exploring Engagement Fund

BY Rick Noguchi
Rick Noguchi
Rick Noguchi has been with Irvine since 2008 and helps oversee many of the Found
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| Jul 15, 2013 1
One of the common criticisms that foundations hear from grantseekers is that we aren’t always clear about how we make decisions about grants. It can be frustrating for a grant-seeking organization to try to understand why they did not receive a grant, while similar organizations did. Foundation funding can be a critical source of income, particularly in the arts, so it’s understandable that arts nonprofits want better insight into our decision-making processes.

With that in mind, I would like to share some thoughts about grant decisions we made for one of our funds in the Arts Program here at Irvine, the Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations (EEFLO). While each of our funds has unique considerations, these insights will give you a sense of how we make grant decisions regardless of the particular fund. (EEFLO is for a select group of arts organizations with annual operating budgets above $5 million. Read more about the proposal guidelines here.)

The family of Exploring Engagement Funds falls within our Piloting priority. Piloting grants are designed to help organizations experiment with new ways of engaging Californians in the arts. Since experimentation can be daunting when financial resources are limited, EEFLO is designed to provide “risk capital” to allow arts organizations to take a risk, to experiment with project ideas that might engage more and different kinds of people than those who are typically drawn to their venue.

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Continuing the Dialogue on Our Arts Strategy

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Feb 26, 2013 1

A number of compelling conversations have been taking place over the last several weeks as a result of some very thoughtful blog posts about our Arts grantmaking strategy. (Nina Simon kicked it off with this post and then linked to related posts here.) What I find most exciting about all of this is the fact that a range of thoughtful leaders are engaging with ideas that are obviously important to Irvine, and their engagement will help make our grantmaking better. I’d like to take the opportunity to add to the dialogue as well as clarify a few points about our Arts strategy that were raised in the conversation so far.

Irvine has funded the arts since our inception because we care deeply about the importance of a healthy arts ecosystem that connects people and builds communities. We have an interest and an obligation in strengthening the arts system as a whole and we believe that the system will thrive if it focuses on engaging Californians who so far have largely been absent as audiences, visitors and donors. In becoming an adaptive, relevant and responsive field, we become more able to address the fact that the majority of Californians don’t engage with our system---not responding to this situation is clearly not the answer. Our response then, the core focus of our grantmaking that launches later this year, will be to support sustainable, core operational shifts as arts organizations expand engagement.

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Large Arts Organizations Explore Engagement

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Oct 23, 2012

It’s an exciting time in our Arts program as we begin to see our new arts strategy made real through grantee projects! I wrote about the first statewide Exploring Engagement Fund grants — supporting small- and mid-sized organizations — back in June. Now I am pleased to announce the first grants made as part of our Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations.

Earlier this month our board approved eight grants ranging in size from $520,000 to $600,000 to some of the most prominent arts organizations in California so they can experiment with new ways to engage Californians in the arts. The projects represent a commitment by these arts institutions to establish greater connection to low-income and other Californians underserved by arts nonprofits. We hope the projects spark new ways of thinking about engagement and about how arts nonprofits can adapt to changing demographics and technological changes that the arts field struggles to keep pace with.

Our strategy’s overall vision is about promoting engagement in the arts — specifically the kind of arts engagement that honors our diversity and helps us all to live well together. To accomplish this we aim to build the capacities of responsive, relevant arts nonprofits to adapt to a shifting environment, so that they can better serve and more deeply connect with all Californians. This connection to community should lead to organizational changes that help these arts groups thrive. And the people served by these groups should more strongly recognize the value of the arts as accessible and integral to community life.

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Apply for an Arts Grant

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Oct 11, 2012 1

It’s hard to believe, but a year has passed since we announced the first deadline for a grantmaking fund under our new Arts program strategy: the Exploring Engagement Fund. And today we are announcing our third round of this fund, along with the second round of our more targeted Exploring Engagement Fund for Priority Regions. The deadline to submit applications for both funds is December 3, 2012. And please note: we will now have only one round of funding per year — in December — for both funds as we streamline this grantmaking process. This means that if you miss this deadline, the next time you’ll be able to apply is December 2013.

We are excited to see the results of the many projects that we have supported or will support under the Exploring Engagement Funds as arts nonprofits investigate new and enriching ways to engage Californians in the arts. Many grantees from the first round are already getting underway with their projects and I encourage you to watch brief interviews with the leaders of two of our grantees — the AjA Project and MusicianCorps — and hear how they’re thinking about exploring engagement and why it’s important for arts organizations to adapt to the shifting arts landscape.

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Irvine Board Approves $16.9 Million in Grants

BY Daniel Silverman
Daniel Silverman
A native Californian, Daniel Silverman leads the Foundation’s communications wor
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| Oct 04, 2012

Irvine’s Board of Directors approved $16.9 million in grants at its quarterly meeting this week. Of the 31 grants approved, 10 are in the Arts, five in California Democracy, 14 in Youth, one in Special Initiatives, and one in Special Opportunities. I’d like to highlight some grants that we’re excited about:

Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations – Our Arts program is supporting eight large-budget organizations to explore new ideas for engaging audiences as part of our Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations. This is the second set of grants made under our new Arts program strategy (the first round of Exploring Engagement Fund grants was announced in June). The goal of the new strategy is to promote engagement in the arts for all Californians — the kind that embraces and advances the diverse ways that we experience the arts and that strengthens our ability to thrive together in a dynamic and complex social environment.

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Our New Arts Strategy's First Grants

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Jun 22, 2012
Nearly a year to the date that we announced a new Arts strategy that recognizes how the arts should be a vibrant force for strengthening communities, we are pleased to announce our first set of grants under this new direction. The Irvine board recently approved 20 grants as part of our Exploring Engagement Fund, which was designed to offer risk capital to encourage and fuel arts engagement.

Our new Arts strategy seeks to promote engagement in the arts for all Californians and we will support arts nonprofits that want to explore this engagement concept with us. Engaging more Californians in the arts will ultimately help organizations expand their reach and support-base and thereby contribute to their viability and relevance. Moreover, the more deeply we demonstrate the value of the arts by making them accessible and integral to community life, the more essential the arts will be in the lives of all Californians.

Here are just a few examples of the projects being supported under our Exploring Engagement Fund:

  • The Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center will launch as many as 30 pop-up museums in the Santa Cruz region for underserved audiences to actively engage as collectors, curators and creators of mini-museums dedicated to issues and ideas that matter to them.
  • The San Diego Asian Film Foundation will experiment with "drive-out" cinema: using a van equipped with a portable screen, projector and PA system to create film venues in parking lots, parks and public squares.
  • And in Los Angeles, Diavolo Dance Theater, an internationally renowned dance company known for touring will expand its work in its hometown by establishing a new series of free, ongoing dance and movement workshops in the neighborhoods near its studio.
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Largest California Arts Organizations Explore Ideas for Engagement

BY Ted Russell
Ted Russell
Ted Russell has been with Irvine since 2005 and helps oversee many of the Founda
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| Mar 22, 2012

Irvine recently hosted a set of informal question and answer sessions about our new Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations in three cities: San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We met with administrators from arts organizations throughout the state representing an impressive breadth of art forms: theater, opera, ballet, orchestral music and visual arts. There’s no shortage of innovative ideas coming out of our state’s largest arts groups, so we’re eager to see how these arts leaders begin to explore engagement with us.

Last month we invited organizations to submit concept papers for this invitation-only fund, which is open to a select group of California-based nonprofit arts organizations with operating budgets greater than $5 million per year. The fund is one of three Exploring Engagement Funds we created as part of the Arts grantmaking strategy announced last year. (The other funds are the statewide, open-competitive Exploring Engagement Fund for organizations under the $5 million operating budget threshold, and the Exploring Engagement Fund for Priority Regions, geared toward nonprofits located in the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire.)

The Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations is all about risk capital, somewhat of a rare thing in the nonprofit funding world. Think of it as venture capital for arts engagement, but instead of capital returns, our expected payoffs are organizational transformation and expanding arts engagement to new audiences across California. And while we hope all of these ideas will create lasting organizational change for our nonprofit partners, we also accept that some of these experiments may come up short of their intended outcomes. It is risk capital, after all!

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