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Irvine in the News: May 2010

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
User is currently offline
| Jun 01, 2010

In May 2010, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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A Conversation with Joseph Pon, Irvine’s VP for Programs

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| May 01, 2010

Six months ago, Joe Pon became Irvine’s vice president for programs after spending 18 years – his entire career – at one of Silicon Valley’s most respected companies, Applied Materials.

Crossing the boundary from the private to the nonprofit sector is a major career leap, but it was probably less of a stretch for Joe, whose interest in public service has always driven career decisions. He brings to Irvine extensive experience building a respected global philanthropic program, as well as many years in leadership roles with local community nonprofits.

At Applied, Joe oversaw the company’s corporate philanthropy in the 14 countries where it operates, including leading strategy and execution at the Applied Materials Foundation, a well-known Silicon Valley corporate foundation. As Applied’s vice president for global corporate affairs, Joe oversaw a staff of 50 employees in government and public affairs, marketing and communications.

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Irvine in the News: April 2010

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
User is currently offline
| May 01, 2010

In April 2010, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Seven Californians Honored with 2010 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| Apr 29, 2010

SacramentoThe James Irvine Foundation will announce and honor the recipients of the 2010 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards at an event in Sacramento today. Now in its fifth year, the awards celebrate extraordinary leaders who are advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant state issues. The awards aim to publicize proven solutions that can inform policymaking and better the lives of more Californians.

The seven recipients, described below, will receive six $125,000 awards and additional support from the Foundation for their organizations. (Two co-recipients will share one of the awards.)

Following recognition by legislators on the California Assembly floor, recipients will receive their awards from elected and appointed officials at an event at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.

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The Case for Foundation Performance Assessment

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
User is currently offline
| Apr 27, 2010
From the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, April 26, 2010

Fueled by new technology and a change in mind-set, foundations have become more transparent about their activities and operations in recent years. This has been heartening, given the responsibilities and privileges inherent to our tax status, and the fact that we must work in partnership with many constituents and stakeholders in order to achieve our goals.

Just recently, there has been a major contribution in this regard by the Foundation Center’s Glass Pockets website, which provides a look at best practices in foundation transparency and which encourages the field to move further in this direction. The number of foundations and array of practices reflected on that site is impressive, and Irvine’s work on performance assessment, the subject of these blog posts, has sought to contribute to this movement. 

In the first three posts of this series I described why we developed a performance assessment framework, outlined some of the challenges we’ve encountered in assessing Irvine’s performance, and shared feedback from our board, the primary audience for the Annual Performance Report. In this final post I want to argue that robust performance assessment activities — and the transparency they encourage — serve to make philanthropy more effective.

View the full blog post.

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Our Board’s Perspective on Performance Reporting

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
User is currently offline
| Apr 23, 2010
From the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, April 22, 2010

In an earlier post on this blog, I pointed out that the audience for the Annual Performance Report (.pdf)is Irvine’s board of directors. As we delivered the fourth of these at our annual board retreat last month, we devoted some time to learning more about the board’s perspectives on the report.

There were two key themes that emerged, related to the value of context, and the appropriate frequency of the report. Regarding context, board members expressed in numerous ways how much they value the contextual information that the report provides.  Two sections stood out in this regard: first, a table that describes how Irvine’s funding compares to other funders in our program areas, and second, a section on program context indicators, where we provide broader indicators related to our programs, such as per capita public spending for the arts across the U.S. or data on high school drop-out rates in California. This latter section is not meant to suggest that our work will necessarily affect those numbers, but rather to expose the board to broader data sets that help contextualize our program work. 

The positive reaction to these sections of the report underscores for me how important it is to help our boards gain a deeper understanding of the environment for the Foundation’s activities. We can explain our goals and strategies and describe grants aligned with them, but there will always be a missing piece if the board is not able to contextualize our foundation’s work. The board’s feedback encourages us not only to consider other ways to use the report to provide such context, but also to explore how we can shape other board materials and meetings in ways that expose them to the broader environment for our work.

View the full blog post.

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Challenges to Good Performance Assessment

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
User is currently offline
| Apr 21, 2010
From the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, April 20, 2010

In my last blog post I described why we started assessing our performance as a foundation and how we developed an Annual Performance Report (.pdf) that balances analysis of our grantmaking with tracking of overall institutional effectiveness. As we have engaged in institutional assessment work, we have encountered three broad challenges I will explore in this post: 

  1. The need to distinguish between reporting on activities and describing outcomes and impact
  2. The difficulty of summarizing complex social change
  3. The inherent conflict of assessing the past in a forward-facing enterprise   

Activities vs. Impact

We are always looking for quantitative ways of describing and analyzing our work. Since the grants we award (and the ways we track those grants) are clearly quantifiable, they have become a prominent part of the Annual Performance Report. For example, we examine trends and changes in our grantmaking over time, explore the geographic distribution of our funds, and examine the populations served by our grants. While this provides an easily quantifiable way of examining our grantmaking, we realize that describing where our resources go is not the same as conducting an assessment of impact.

The same challenge applies to other sections of the report, where we describe financial and investment performance, summarize reports we have published, or discuss how we have refined our strategies based on what we are learning. While all of this together provides a comprehensive picture of our activities in a given year, it may or may not provide a complete assessment of institutional performance.

View the full blog post.

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Assessing Foundation Performance

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
User is currently offline
| Apr 16, 2010
From the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, April 15, 2010

At last year’s CEP conference in Los Angeles, I presented (.pdf) on the Irvine Foundation’s approach to assessing foundation performance, joined by David Colby from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I think it’s fair to say that David and I were presenting approaches used by our respective foundations that remain works in progress – Irvine’s even more so than RWJF’s given its focus on this area for many more years.

In view of the interest in this topic at the conference, and my own desire to share what we are doing at Irvine in an effort to improve upon it, I appreciate the opportunity offered by CEP to write a series of blog posts on the subject of assessing foundation performance.

 I plan to do this in four parts, addressing the following topics:

  1. Why we developed an approach to foundation performance at Irvine
  2. What we have found particularly challenging about assessing foundation performance
  3. How our board has engaged with us on this subject
  4. Why assessing foundation performance is both important and necessary

In reflecting upon Irvine’s experiences, I hope to stimulate readers’ contributions to deepening our collective understanding of this important subject and to improving our efforts to measure and understand our performance as foundations.

View Jim's 2009 presentation on assessing foundation performance.

View the full blog post.

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From the President: Assessing Our Performance

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
User is currently offline
| Apr 01, 2010

At Irvine and many other foundations, a key question that occupies our collective attention is: What impact are we having?

Arriving at a satisfying answer to that question is complicated by numerous factors. First, as philanthropic entities, most of what we “accomplish” is through others. Second, many of us focus on ambitious, long-term goals that can be difficult to measure and challenging to quantify. And third, it is rare that our institutions and resources alone are responsible for a particular success, so there are always questions of attribution. There are certainly other obstacles, but none of this should absolve us from a good faith effort to answer the question.

As one way to think about this, we developed a framework at Irvine five years ago by which we could measure our progress in a variety of areas we determined were important to understanding our impact. Although the central focus of this assessment framework relates to the outcomes of our grantmaking, we also include areas beyond our programmatic work that we believe contribute to our progress.

Based on this framework, we have prepared reports to our board each year and later posted those reports on our website. And, in conjunction with this letter, we are now sharing publicly our report for 2009, which we presented to our board at its annual retreat in March. The 2009 Annual Performance Report describes the Foundation’s activities across six areas, three related to our program impact and three related to our effectiveness as an institution.

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Irvine in the News: March 2010

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
User is currently offline
| Apr 01, 2010

In March 2010, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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