2016 Year in Review

01 the don Letter from Don Howard, our President and CEO

Our hope is that listening to the community will ground our work, leading to better decisions about our future strategy and, ultimately, more impact.

2016 was certainly a year of transition. The year ended with a major change for the country and a new political reality for our grantees and the people we seek to serve. Here at Irvine, this only underscored the importance of the transitions we made over the course of the year.

At the start of 2016 we announced our strategic shift to focus on expanding economic and political opportunity for Californian families and young adults who are working but struggling with poverty. We spent the year advancing that work with initial grants, an emphasis on listening, and new internal structures. The promising results we see from our early grantees give us confidence that we have chosen the right focus.

We are hopeful about where we go from here. California can lead the way forward by ensuring a path to the middle class and a voice in the political process for all Californians. We see potential for progress, but we know there is a lot of work to do and look forward to building on what we started in 2016.

Learning while doing

When we announced our new strategy, we committed to developing new initiatives by learning from the field and from the people we aim to serve. We want to learn how to improve California’s paths to good, family-sustaining jobs for all, and how to give Californians a voice in the political decisions that affect their lives and communities.

This commitment meant changing how we work. It meant that over the course of 2016 we were “learning while doing,” with an increased emphasis on listening and partnership.

In 2016 we began investing in strong, innovative partners within three new areas we’re exploring: Worker Voice and Influence, Career Readiness and Living-Wage Work, and Postsecondary Success. We made more than 20 grants to leading organizations to help them expand their impact, while also learning from their work.

We also set out to listen directly to Californians who are working but struggling with poverty so that their voices, perspectives, and proposed solutions can inform our work. We held 14, two-hour Community Listening Sessions across the state. We heard about the barriers keeping the California dream out of reach — and gained a deeper appreciation for the power of working collectively to make our communities stronger.

Our hope is that listening to the community will ground our work, leading to better decisions about our future strategy — and, ultimately, more impact.

Transitions in our current work

In 2016 we developed multi-year plans to culminate several initiatives launched under our previous program structure. We appreciate the grantees who worked with us on those plans — and who continue to make tremendous progress in their fields.

Our elections and arts engagement grantees took bold steps forward toward their goals. Linked Learning field leaders assessed progress against 2016 milestones and helped us shape our 2017 funding priorities. You can read more about those and other accomplishments in this Year in Review.

In 2016 we also responded to several emerging and important issues in our state. Along with other likeminded funders, we supported an effort to dramatically expand dialogue — and improve understanding — between communities of color and local police. We also provided unrestricted funding to grantees working directly with California’s immigrant communities to protect their rights.

We will continue to respond where we believe there’s a unique need and opportunity. We designed our strategy and operating model to allow us this flexibility.

A new way of working

Transitioning our strategy meant making several transitions internally. In 2016 we started to retool our approach to grantmaking to better achieve our goals. We restructured our teams, shifting from a siloed, program structure to a portfolio of time-limited initiatives that individually and collectively advance our goals.

In 2016 several new staff and board members joined the Foundation, and our board appointed a new Chair: Lydia Villarreal, the presiding Superior Court Judge in Monterey County (who first joined Irvine’s board in 2006).

When our CIO, John Jenks, retired after 14 years of service to the Foundation, we welcomed our new CIO, Tim Recker. A new Chief of Staff and Planning, Charles Fields, and several other great additions also joined our staff. And we worked internally on supporting dialogue amongst staff to build a culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that can apply to both our internal interactions and external work.

Looking forward

As the world continues to change around us, we stand firmly for Irvine’s values of inclusion, equity, and opportunity. We remain committed to investing in common-sense solutions that expand political and economic opportunity for all Californians. We hope that the transitions of 2016 put us in a strong position to do so.

CEO signiture
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In 2016, we gave $83,748,065 to 332 organizations

Awarded Grant Stats

Our New Focus

In January 2016, we announced a new strategic direction: expanding opportunity for Californians who are working but struggling with poverty.

We aim to:

  • Expand economic opportunity so more California families and young adults can cover basic needs in a state with an increasingly high cost of living.
  • Expand political opportunity so more low-wage Californians are engaged and have influence in decisions that impact their jobs, communities, and lives.
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Why We Changed Our Focus

We took this new direction after assessing the pressing problems — and opportunity for change — in California: disparities in employment, income, and upward mobility, and low levels of civic participation among certain populations.

Learn more about the reasons for our shift
Awarded Grant Stats

A New Way of Working

To more effectively address these challenges, Irvine shifted from a program structure to a portfolio of outcomes-based, time-bound initiatives that individually and collectively advance our goals. This leverages our talent, expertise, and resources across the organization.

Learn more about our approach

Initiatives We're Exploring

We set out to learn from innovative organizations achieving impact in three areas we’re exploring for new initiatives:

Career Readiness and Living-Wage Work Postsecondary Success Worker Voice and Influence

Grant Flexibility in New Initiatives

In response to feedback from grantees, we are working to provide more flexibility in how new initiative grantees are able to use funds, and we’ve increased support for grantees’ core operations.

Awarded Grant Stats

Portfolio Review

We have updated our annual performance reporting to now also include information about plans for the future. Our Portfolio Review includes Irvine’s impact goals, allocations by different categories, feedback from the field, staff and board statistics, and more.

Read our Portfolio Review
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Community Listening Sessions

We held 14 listening sessions with Californians across the state who are working but struggling with poverty to hear their stories and learn about their hopes and challenges. We’re using their perspectives to inform our work and grantmaking.

Learn more

Standing up for Immigrants

We continued supporting efforts to protect the civil rights of recent immigrants and to integrate immigrants into California’s educational, economic, and political systems. Learn more about one of our grantees, California Immigrant Policy Center

Linked Learning

A seven-year evaluation revealed that Linked Learning students earn more credits in high school, are less likely to drop out, and are more likely to graduate. See the evaluation

The evaluation also revealed strategies supporting successful Linked Learning implementation by school districts and pathway teams. See the report

Expanding Voting and Voter Information

The Million Voters Project made significant gains toward its goal of having 1 million Californians (primarily low-income people of color) vote by 2018. Learn more about The Million Voters Project

The League of Women Voters of California and Maplight partnered on Voter’s Edge California, an online tool offering personalized, nonpartisan ballot information about candidates and ballot measures in English and Spanish. One in 12 California voters used the site in the 2016 general election.

Exploring Engagement Fund

We awarded nine final grants through our Exploring Engagement Fund and shared lessons from nearly 100 California arts organizations taking bold steps to engage new and diverse populations because of those grants.

Read those lessons

New California Arts Fund

We invested over $9 million in eight arts nonprofits that are making engagement core to their organizations, beginning the culmination of our New California Arts Fund. These eight grantee-partners are part of a larger cohort of nonprofits across the state modeling how to be relevant 21st century arts organizations.

Learn about their work

Priority Regions

We continued efforts to support leadership development in our priority regions — the San Joaquin Valley and Riverside and San Bernardino counties — and increased our grantmaking in these regions in 2016. Learn more about one effort, the New Leadership Network in Stanislaus County

Leadership Awards

We recognized six leaders advancing innovative and effective solutions to critical issues facing California — from employment and poverty to public safety, health, and the environment.

Meet the Leaders
21 cio Letter from Tim Recker, our CIO and Treasurer

We will continue to evolve Irvine’s strong investment platform to support our financial success amid dynamic financial markets.

The year marked an important milestone for The James Irvine Foundation’s investment portfolio. After almost 15 years of service and strong portfolio results, Chief Investment Officer John Jenks retired at the end of 2016.

John’s investment outcomes helped the Foundation make significant strides in its programmatic work to expand opportunity for the people of California. I joined the Foundation at the end of 2016 and am honored that the Foundation selected me as the new CIO and Treasurer. We will continue to evolve Irvine’s strong investment platform to support our financial success amid dynamic financial markets.

Irvine’s Investment Principles

What’s critical to our continued success is our relationships with investment partners. That’s why early in my tenure as CIO, the investment team articulated our shared Investment Principles. We believe it is important to share these with our investment partners so they have a better appreciation for our approach to investments and what drives our behavior. These principles are the foundation for building a successful investment portfolio:

  • We are a long-term investor
  • We believe that relationships matter
  • We value independent thinking
  • We are a conviction-based investor
  • We are a flexible and nimble partner
  • We are intellectually curious
  • We align Irvine’s interests with the interests of our partners

Irvine’s Portfolio Results

Partnering with top investment managers will help Irvine continue to evolve its investment strategies and the opportunities those can present. Like many endowments and foundations, Irvine’s investment portfolio currently has a significant exposure to equity securities, both public and private. This includes a significant commitment to venture capital and private investments. Due to multiple years of strong performance, the Foundation’s exposure to private investments continues to track above the target percentage of the overall portfolio.

As a long-term investor, it is important to measure performance over long time periods, especially when the portfolio has a significant amount of private investments. The Foundation has been rewarded as a long-term investor, generating a 7.2-percent portfolio return over the past 10 years. Two key contributors have driven Irvine’s long-term returns: superior manager selection and an overweight to quality private investments.

On a current year basis, the portfolio delivered a slightly weaker 4.6-percent return, driven primarily by weakness in private investments. As mentioned earlier, this has been a long-term source of very strong returns for the Foundation.

Investments’ Impact on Grantmaking

As a result of strong historical investment results, Irvine’s Board of Directors approved an increase to our 2017 grantmaking budget to $91 million (from an $85 million budget in 2016). And that, at the end of the day, is why we are in business. We would like to thank all of our investment partners for their contributions in allowing us to expand our grantmaking budget and expanding opportunity for the people of California.

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Thanks to all our grantees and other partners for your work to expand opportunity for the people of California.