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Press Release

Irvine Foundation Announces Evolving Focus for Grantmaking

SAN FRANCISCO — Starting this year, The James Irvine Foundation will begin work on a new set of grantmaking goals focused on expanding economic and political opportunity for families and young adults who are working but struggling with poverty.

The new focus emerged from a year-long period of reflection and strategy refinement, starting with a listening tour, where Irvine staff and board members met with hundreds of diverse community and political leaders across the state. The major takeaway: In a time of unprecedented wealth, economic and political opportunities are simply not accessible to millions of hard-working Californians.

The Irvine Foundation concluded that its longstanding mission to “expand opportunity for Californians” is more important and urgent than ever, and, moving forward, it will focus on two interdependent goals: expanding economic opportunity and political opportunity for Californians who are working but struggling with poverty.

Since the late 1970s, wages for middle-income Californians have stagnated and failed to keep up with rising costs, while the incomes of high-wage workers have soared. This problem has worsened during the current economic recovery. In 2013, 40 percent of Californians lived in poverty or close to the poverty line.

At the same time, lower-income Californians are much less likely to vote and otherwise be politically active than higher-income Californians. Because millions of Californians — especially those who are low income — have lost faith in, and are not engaging with, the political system, their voices are not influencing policymaking that affects their lives.

“At Irvine, we have concluded that we have a responsibility to focus more of our efforts and our grantmaking on the millions of Californians who deserve greater opportunity to achieve economic success for their families and to meaningfully participate in an effective democracy,” said Don Howard, president and chief executive officer of The James Irvine Foundation. “Our goal is to build on what we’ve learned from our grantees, increase our focus and our integration, and invest our grantmaking resources to have even greater impact on our state’s most pressing problems.”

In recent years, the Irvine Foundation has been investing in high-impact grantees that are tackling critically important issues, like preparing young people for college and career, strengthening California democracy, and helping ensure the cultural vitality of the state.

Changes to grantmaking as a result of the new focus will occur over time. Irvine is firmly committed to its current grants and initiatives, many of which are in the middle of multiyear plans driving toward specific impacts. The Foundation will support all current grants and initiatives through to their planned conclusions — and anticipates that some of these efforts will evolve to be part of its future work.

“We want to make the best use of our Foundation’s experience, skills, connections, and grantmaking resources to provide greater opportunity for the people of California,” said Howard. “We live in a state that is one of the most dynamic and innovative places on Earth, and serving the people of California requires Irvine to learn, adapt, and innovate as well.”

In coming months, Irvine program staff and leadership will develop grantmaking strategies that can best advance these new goals, including exploration of potential new initiatives. The Foundation invites ideas and input from organizations and individuals deeply committed to the issues of economic and political opportunity. Learn more about the Foundation’s evolving focus at

About The James Irvine Foundation

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful, and inclusive society. The Foundation’s grantmaking focuses on expanding economic and political opportunity for families and young adults who are working but struggling with poverty. Since 1937 the Foundation has provided over $1.5 billion in grants to more than 3,600 nonprofit organizations throughout California. With about $2 billion in assets, the Foundation made grants of $74 million in 2015 for the people of California.

For more information about the Irvine Foundation, please visit our Web site at