Skip to main contentrvcwyvzueuft

The James Irvine Foundation


Last Updated: 2016-10-19

At A Glance

The James Irvine Foundation

One Bush St., Ste. 800

San Francisco, CA United States 94104-4425

Telephone: (415) 777-2244


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2015-12-31)

Assets: $2,185,767,087

Total giving: $73,551,555





Additional Contact Information

Southern CA office: 865 S. Figueroa St., Ste. 2308, Los Angeles, CA 90017-5430, tel.: (213) 236-0552, fax: (213) 236-0537


Incorporated in 1937 in CA - After witnessing the unrest that the Depression caused in California, and after glimpsing his own mortality in the death of a friend in 1936, agricultural pioneer James Irvine decided in 1937 to establish a foundation that would promote the "general well-being of the citizens and residents of the state of California." Trusting the value of land, he established The James Irvine Foundation as the primary stock holder of The Irvine Company, which held Mr. Irvine's most valuable asset: about 110,000 acres of prime ranch land The new foundation made its first grant in 1937, for a sum of $1,000. By 1947, its largest grant had increased to $5,000. With the death of James Irvine the same year, the foundation began receiving the full interest from its Company stockholdings, thereby increasing its grantmaking capacity. During the 1940's and 1950's, new residents poured into the state, particularly into Southern CA. In response, The Irvine Company opened their lands up for development through community planning to allow for a wide range of uses, including agriculture and higher education, including providing the initial land for the University of California, Irvine campus. The company soon had a reputation for inaugurating community development on a large scale. The foundation was forced to sell its share of the company to comply with federal regulations. At the time of Mr. Irvine's death, his gift to the foundation was valued at $5.6 million; at the time the foundation sold their share of the company it was valued at $184 million.

Purpose and Activities

The mission of the foundation is to expand opportunity for the people of CA to participate in a vibrant, successful, and inclusive society. The foundation has concluded that it has a responsibility to focus more of its efforts and its 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. It will focus on expanding economic and political opportunity for families and young adults who are working but struggling with poverty. This is the foundation's evolving focus, and as the words suggest, the changes will occur over time. The foundation is deeply engaged in important and successful grantmaking. It remains 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 see all of these current grants and initiatives through to their planned conclusions. And some will evolve to be part of its future work.

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:


The goal of the arts program is to promote engagement in the arts for all Californians — the kind that embraces and advances the diverse ways that we experience the arts, and that strengthens our ability to thrive together in a dynamic and complex social environment. The program has three strategies: 1) Strengthening: to help arts organizations move engagement to the core of the mission. The foundation believes this shift can lead to the enduring success of the arts as a vital and necessary force in the lives of all Californians; 2) Piloting: to spur and support innovation by arts organizations to attract populations that reflect California’s demography and to experiment with new ways of engaging audiences; and 3) Field Building: the development of a strong field of leaders and organizations working together, in a sustained way, to expand arts engagement and increase the relevance and responsiveness of nonprofit arts organizations for all Californians.

California Democracy

The goal of the program is to advance effective public policy decision making that is reflective of and responsive to all Californians. Grantmaking will focus on the following areas: 1) Elections Policies and Practices: to achieve a California electorate more representative of the state's population and help election systems statewide operate effectively and based on best practices; 2) Voter and Civic Engagement: to achieve a California electorate more representative of the state’s population and public decision-making informed by a broad cross-section of Californians; 3) Ballot Initiative Reform: to improve voter information about ballot measures and enhance the system’s responsiveness to the public’s interests; and 4) Immigrant Integration: to achieve full access for immigrants and their families to educational, economic and civic participation opportunities.

Employee Matching Gifts

The foundation matches the contributions of its employees to charitable organizations.

Exploring Engagement Fund

The fund provides “risk capital” to the grantees to try new programs and practices, including those that harness technology or use non-traditional venues to stage arts experiences to welcome new participants, particularly from communities that have been traditionally underserved by arts organizations. These models will be shared broadly in order to inform the engagement strategies of other organizations in the field. See foundation web site for application deadlines, forms and complete information.

Leadership Awards

These awards recognize Californians who are implementing effective solutions to significant state issues. The awards are designed to (1) advance innovative, proven and replicable solutions to critical issues facing California and/or (2) contribute to better public policies and practices in the field. Each recipient is awarded with $125,000 to support his or her work benefiting the people of California. The foundation also assists recipients in sharing their promising approaches with policymakers and practitioners in their fields. Candidates are nominated by someone other than the nominee or a family member. Nominated leaders may be: an individual or pair of leaders; working in any sector; and working in any field. Nominees must be residents of California. Nominations for the 2016 awards will open in Jan., 2015. For more information contact the California Democracy program, e-mail: and toll free tel.: (866) 586-6465.

Program-Related Investment

The foundation established a Program Related Investment Fund (PRIF) to provide PRIs in support of its program interests. PRIs have provided interim financing and financing for pre-development expenses, land acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, and equipment purchases. PRIs have also provided working capital for business ventures sponsored by nonprofit organizations.


The goal of the program is to increase the number of low-income youth in California who complete high school on time and attain a postsecondary credential by the age of 25. Through the development and expansion of Linked Learning the foundation is working together to prepare California’s young people for success in college, career and life. Linked Learning integrates real-world professions with rigorous academics, transforming education into a personally relevant, wholly engaging experience - and opening students to career and college opportunities they never imagined. The program employs three grantmaking strategies: 1) Broaden the practice of Linked Learning in systems that serve young people — high school districts, postsecondary institutions and community organizations that engage out-of-school youth; 2) Build public will through a broad base of support for Linked Learning; and 3) Support policy that can fuel expansion of Linked Learning across California.

Fields of Interest

  • Arts and culture
  • Arts councils
  • Ballet
  • Community and economic development
  • Community improvement
  • Cultural awareness
  • Dance
  • Diversity and intergroup relations
  • Economic development
  • Folk arts
  • Foundations
  • Job training
  • Nonprofits
  • Opera
  • Orchestral music
  • Performing arts
  • Philanthropy
  • Public policy
  • Theater
  • Voluntarism
  • Youth organizing
Population Groups
  • Academics
  • Adolescents
  • Children and youth
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Ethnic and racial groups
  • Low-income and poor people
  • Students
  • Associations
  • Community foundations
  • Multipurpose centers
  • Public charities

Financial Data

Year ended 2015-12-31

Assets: $2,185,767,087 (market value)

Expenditures: $1,511,503,629

Total giving: $73,551,555

Qualifying distributions: $73,551,555

Giving activities include:

$73,551,555 for 406 grants