For many Californians, 2017 was a difficult – even traumatic – year. Immigrants lived in fear of deportation, disastrous wildfires raged across the state, four in 10 Californians lived in or near poverty, and divisive rhetoric and policies coming out of Washington sowed tension and animosity.
But it was also a year when Californians came closer together, with greater common purpose, acts of heroism small and large, and hopes for a brighter future.
I’m proud and grateful, as I look back on 2017, that Irvine had the privilege of supporting amazing nonprofit leaders who provide frontline support, strengthen the fabric of our communities, and advance opportunity for all Californians.
Our work is anchored by a simple premise: All Californians — no matter who they are or where they live — should be able to create a better life for themselves and their families. Californians should have the opportunity to earn a living, provide for their families, participate in their communities, and have a real voice in the decisions that affect their lives.
Let me share a few highlights of what we did in 2017 to advance those goals:
Our grantees make me hopeful and optimistic that, in spite of the challenges we face, we can build a better future for the people of California. This look back on 2017 shares just some of their achievements.
Thank you to all of our grantees and fellow funders for your leadership and partnership in 2017. I also want to express my great appreciation for the staff here at Irvine and their commitment to making an impact in our state.
I’m looking forward to the year ahead — a year of action, learning, and progress toward a California where all workers and their children are set up for success.
In December we launched the first two initiatives of our strategy to expand economic and political opportunity for Californians who are working but struggling with poverty: the Fair Work initiative and the Better Careers initiative.
Low-wage workers are critical to California’s economy. Too often, they lack voice or influence on the economic conditions that affect their families and communities. The Fair Work initiative will invest in leaders and organizations engaging low-wage workers to secure the wages, rights, and protections they deserve.
Through this initiative, we will support partnerships among community-based organizations, employers, and public agencies to ensure thousands of low-wage workers get paid the wages they are due, while leveling the playing field for employers.
We will also support these partners’ efforts to educate and empower low-wage workers on their rights and legal protections, helping implement and advance policies governing the workplace for millions of workers.
California’s workers should have the chance to earn wages that can sustain a family and advance in their careers. We also believe that a diversified workforce is good for workers and businesses alike.
Through the Better Careers initiative, Irvine will invest in organizations that connect low-income Californians to jobs with family-sustaining wages and advancement opportunities. Through our grantmaking and partnerships, this initiative aims to help low-income jobseekers secure employment that pays at least $18 per hour (on average across our state). We also will support new models related to training, recruitment, and public/private workforce development funding opportunities.
Irvine has a longstanding commitment to funding in regions of California that philanthropy has historically overlooked. In 2017, our board approved piloting a new approach to our investments in these promising but under-resourced parts of our state.
This pilot is beginning in Fresno and Salinas, where we are now working with regranting partners to fund local community efforts that improve civic engagement, develop emerging leaders (individuals and organizations), and increase access to quality public information.
We are fortunate to work with partners around the state to respond to changing national immigration policies with critical funding for grassroots and statewide efforts that inform, engage, and protect immigrant families.
In response to the threats we saw in 2017 to immigrant families, we expanded our support to grantees protecting the rights of California’s immigrant communities. This included $1.7 million in flexible funds to grantees like the National Immigration Law Center, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
One example of this work that we were proud to support: Following to the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, we worked with Irvine Awards recipient Jose Quinonez at Mission Asset Fund to support scholarships to Dreamers to cover their DACA renewal fees. The $495 application fee posed a significant barrier to many young people eligible to renew their DACA status. Thanks to Mission Asset Fund’s quick work and the partnership of eight fellow funders, more than 5,000 young people received scholarships to cover their DACA renewal fees.
Every year the Leadership Award recipients remind us that there are solutions making an impact to seemingly unsolvable problems. In February 2017, we celebrated the work of six leaders advancing solutions in education, afterschool support, small business, legal aid, and treating autism.
Our California Pay for Success Initiative, which is coming to a close, had exciting results in 2017. You can read a blog from my colleague Connie Malloy that outlines the lessons we learned over the course of this initiative.
Three counties that participated in the California Pay for Success Initiative launched projects this year. These collaborations between government, nonprofits, and philanthropy are outcomes-oriented approaches to providing high-quality services to Californians in need. Learn more:
The Alameda County Justice Project is designed to reduce recidivism through 24/7 supports, including access to drug treatment, job training, adult education, mental health services, case management, and housing assistance.
The Ventura County Project to Support Reentry expands on proven approaches that tailor supports for men and women on probation to their individual needs, so they are more likely to lead healthy, productive lives when returning to their families and community.
Over a five-year period, the Just in Reach Program will connect homeless, frequently incarcerated individuals in LA County Jail to services (like mental health and drug treatment) and, ultimately, to 300 permanent supportive housing slots.
As we culminate the Arts Engagement Initiative, we continue to share exciting learnings from the work. We released three reports this year that add to the growing field of knowledge around how to better engage Californians in the arts:
Building the Field of Arts Engagement suggests new courses of action to accelerate the building of a strong network of arts engagement practitioners.
Hearts and Minds: The Arts and Civic Engagement gathers compelling evidence that people who participate in the arts are more likely to be active in their communities.
The Engagement Revolution documents the first cohort of NCAF grantee-partners’ achievements and challenges from 2013-2016, and provides considerations for arts organizations and funders interested in reaching ethnically diverse and/or low-income communities
This year we also developed a framework to enhance our understanding and impact, and to inform our grantmaking as we move forward with our new initiatives. You can view the framework on our What We’re Learning page, where we highlight different learnings from our work.
2017 was a strong year, where the portfolio delivered a 13.5-percent return, driven primarily by robust global equity markets.
As a result of strong historical investment results, Irvine’s Board of Directors approved an increase in how much we can give as grants: from a $91 million budget in 2017 to $96 million in 2018.
Thank you to all of our partners for your work expanding opportunity for California.