Millions of California families and young adults are working but struggling with poverty. As a group, they cycle in and out of poverty, struggle to get ahead, and are less likely to vote and be engaged in the political process and civic activities.
Our grantmaking will focus on expanding opportunity for these Californians.
We are developing multiyear plans that address the direction for current initiatives as well as new initiatives aligned with our evolving focus. Click here to read the latest updates on the grantmaking initiatives we are exploring.
Here are answers to questions you may have.
We welcome new questions and your feedback.
We expect to begin making grants towards these refined goals in the fall of 2016. There are two grantmaking directions we are already exploring, which you can read more about here. And we invite input now about our new direction in order to inform our grantmaking and future guidelines. We will share more specifics when we have such guidelines.
There is strong evidence that the arts and creativity can play a critical role in expanding economic and political opportunity. We are excited to explore how new initiatives focused on creative expression and the arts can be part of new initiatives aligned with our evolving focus.
Yes, and we are eager to partner with them, because we know that we are much more likely to reach our common goals if we coordinate our funding. Some foundations have been working on similar goals for some time, while others are still developing their approaches. We look forward to learning and working together.
Our current program staff is organized into three teams: Arts, California Democracy, and Youth. As we pilot new initiatives, we will put initiative teams together from across our current teams, based on their interest, expertise, and availability. This represents a very exciting way to work, and we know that we will learn a great deal by integrating staff members from different disciplines with different programmatic backgrounds.
We initially selected our priority regions because these communities face extremely difficult challenges, particularly involving economic and political opportunity. While our grantmaking will certainly explore how to tackle these challenges at a statewide level, we fully expect to continue investments in our priority regions as part of this refined strategy.
Even with recent reductions in unemployment, there are well over 1 million Californians who are unemployed. Many Californians drop in and out of employment, and we certainly will consider how to support organizations and leaders working to help Californians achieve employment that provides family sustaining wages. There is also a level of persistent and deep poverty, estimated to be around 3.5 percent of California families. This is a critical problem, and we are thankful that there are government supports, as well as nonprofits and foundations, focused on helping Californians who are in deep and persistent poverty. As we considered Irvine’s history, expertise, and opportunities, we decided that we can maximize our impact by focusing our grantmaking on expanding opportunity for working families and young adults.
Certainly not! We are extremely proud of the great work of Irvine grantees and are proud to be supporting them. But we also think that by aligning the goals of the entire Foundation, our investments can make an even greater difference in people’s lives. This evolution is about building on our successes and taking advantage of our experience and relationships to achieve even more.
Many of our grantees already work on expanding economic and political opportunity, including those working to remove the systemic barriers that prevent too many Californians from achieving economic stability and political influence. We look forward to discussing opportunities for future funding aligned with our evolving focus. But, we also know that there will be inevitable changes to our grantmaking portfolio. For those current initiatives that have some alignment with our refined goals and have opportunities for adaptation, those plans could evolve into related, new initiatives.
The Irvine Foundation has long been committed to expanding opportunity for all Californians, and we are always striving to find ways to achieve this goal more effectively. Over the past year, we have conducted extensive research and met with hundreds of community members, experts in the field, funders, and many others to find ways to deepen our impact. We have concluded that we can best accomplish the Foundation’s mission by focusing on a specific population and on specific goals. That’s why we are announcing that our future grantmaking will focus on expanding economic opportunity and political opportunity for California families and young adults who are working but struggling with poverty.
As to the timing of our announcement, now that we have focused on our approach, we want to share our goals with our colleagues, our grantees, other funders, and others who will help inform our strategy and grantmaking as it develops.
We are all ears. We will continue to share what we are learning about how to achieve these important goals, but we are just as eager to hear from you.. Please share your input here.
There is compelling evidence that we are experiencing significant economic and political disparities in California — and that economic and political opportunities are closely related and reinforce each other.
The statistics are sobering: One quarter of California’s children live in a family struggling to make ends meet, according to the California Poverty Measure. Nearly four in five of these families struggling with poverty have at least one adult who is working.
At the same time, low-income communities don’t feel that their political participation will make a difference, and as a result their voices go unheard. For example, higher-income Californians are much more likely to vote and otherwise be politically active than lower-income Californians.
Because we believe that expanding economic and political opportunity go hand in hand, we believe that we can increase the effectiveness of our grantmaking by aligning our work in these two related arenas.
Your program officer will not change because of our evolving focus. We always strive to provide a consistent contact for grantees, and will continue to do so. You should only experience a change in program officer when we experience staffing changes.
No, you do not need to adjust your current grant to align with our evolving focus. We are committed to all of our current initiatives and grantees, and we are developing three- to five- year plans that set out the future of our current work. Many of our current initiatives will have achieved their goals in that time frame. Some will continue beyond that point. (You can visit our program pages for more details about these plans.)