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Investments and Finances

Investment Philosophy

James Irvine, a pioneer in California agriculture, began the Foundation in 1937 with $5.6 million. That endowment has since grown to more than $3 billion, thanks to our investment partners, and continues to serve working Californians today through our annual grantmaking.

Mr. Irvine created the Foundation to live in perpetuity, so our investment team’s focus is to earn enough through our investments to allow us to consistently spend 5.5 percent of the Foundation’s endowment each year on grants and expenses, while also allowing the real value of the endowment to grow.

Our investment team’s key objective is to increase the value of our investment portfolio because those returns alone fuel our grantmaking capability. To achieve this, our investment team partners with both established and emerging investment management leaders who share our commitment to generating returns that translate into new opportunities for the people of California.

We pride ourselves as strong partners with our investment managers, and we are driven by the following principles:

  • 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 interests with the interest of our partners

We maintain a long-term view with respect to the Foundation’s investments. Our grantmaking has grown steadily from $67 million in 2012 to a projected $129 million in 2021 due to strong investment performance and a spending formula that dampens the payout volatility.

This formula, based on a combination of the one-year average of total assets and the prior year spending rate, is designed to smooth out short-term funding fluctuations so that we can plan properly and avoid disruptions in our grantmaking.

Financial Statements

We retain independent auditors to audit our annual financial statements. These auditors report directly to our board’s Audit Committee.

Federal Tax Returns

As an independent, nonprofit foundation, The James Irvine Foundation files a federal tax return each year, known as Form 990-PF. In addition, the nature of some of our investments requires us to file a corporate tax return, known as Form 990-T. These tax returns capture financial data, including the fair market value of all assets, an analysis of revenue and expenses, and a complete listing of grants paid.