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Communities Advancing the Arts


Increase individual giving to the arts and build the ability of participating community foundations to exercise leadership in the arts.

Initiative Description

Working with several community foundations across California, Irvine created the Communities Advancing the Arts (CAA) initiative to increase individual giving to the arts, committing more than $9 million to this effort from 2004 to 2011. About half of this investment is for community foundations to regrant to small and midsize arts organizations in their regions. The remaining portion will enable the community foundations to increase their outreach to individual donors in order to raise permanent assets for the arts.


The initiative is being assessed by Irvine staff based on data from the community foundation grantees.


To measure each community foundation’s progress at: Raising new dollars dedicated to the arts, typically in the form of an endowment Increasing the number of donors that give to the arts through the community foundation Increasing the total grants made to the arts

Time frame:

Phase one was from 2004 to 2007; phase two is from 2008 to 2011.

Participating grantees

Phase one of this initiative involved 13 community foundations. Phase two offered continued funding to seven of these community foundations and invited two new community foundations to join the cohort. The participants are:


For this evaluation, Irvine program staff collect administrative data in order to measure progress against asset development and goals for arts giving. These data are collected routinely by community foundations and are reported to Irvine each year, along with qualitative narrative reports.


The initiative, which began in 2004, has unfolded amid dramatic economic changes, as a robust economy rapidly shifted into a recession. At the end of 2007, the original 13 community foundation grantees had increased arts assets by $36 million, and their collective annual grantmaking to the arts was $5 million greater than at the initiative’s start. In this environment, Irvine awarded renewal funding to seven of the original 13 grantees and invited two new community foundations to join the cohort.

In 2008, as the stock market lost more than 30 percent of its value, community foundations found that recently acquired arts assets also lost a significant portion of their value at the same time that new donor giving slowed down, which in turn slowed the progress of the initiative. Reflections on 2008 activity are:

  • Cohort members’ donors have consistently increased their giving to the arts. Individuals gave $8.3 million more to the arts through these community foundations in 2008 than in 2004, an increase of 14 percent. And, amid the onset of the economic downturn in 2008, donors increased their giving to the arts from $27.5 million in 2007 to $32.5 million in 2008. These numbers suggest that community foundations are able to inspire donors and highlight the importance of the arts, even as the demand for support of basic needs has increased.
  • Community foundations have traditionally helped donors support the causes that they choose. With the CAA initiative, community foundations are trying to interest donors in providing greater support to the arts, and this has been more difficult than community foundations originally anticipated. Nonetheless, the foundations are showing impressive commitment to the arts and making tangible progress toward the initiative’s goal of raising assets for the arts, particularly during an economic downturn.
  • The stock market downturn dramatically impacted cohort members’ results, in large part because more than 80 percent of arts assets under community foundation management are endowed. At the end of 2008, the sum of cohort members’ arts assets were down more than 50 percent from their peak in 2007, although they were still $17 million higher than at the initiative’s start in 2004.
  • Cohort members are gaining traction in their efforts to engage individual donors. Collectively, 121 more donors gave to the arts in 2008 than in 2004, and 82 new arts funds were opened during that time.