Nike Irvin, California Community Foundation

TITLE: Vice President, Programs

FUNDING AREAS: Arts, education, health care, and human development for low-income and underserved Los Angeles communities

CONTACT: nirvin@calfund.org, 213-413-4130

IP TAKE: Perhaps one of the reasons Irvin is so successful is her well-roundedness. She loves to scuba dive and speaks almost too many languages to count (including Spanish, Italian, Swahili, Portuguese, French, and German). It will be exciting to see how much more Irvin can accomplish in this next stage of her career.

PROFILE: Nike Irvin (pronounced Nik-kee) uses her experience to make some of Los Angeles' non-profits even stronger. As vice president of programs at the California Community Foundation (CCF), Irvin applies her leadership skills to special initiatives in areas including arts, education, health care, and human developmentall in support of Los Angeles' low-income and underserved communities.

Much of Irvin's success can be traced back to her roots. After growing up in Los Angeles, she was awarded a scholarship from the nonprofit A Better Chance to attend a Connecticut boarding school. From there she earned a bachelor's degree in economics and political science from Yale, and later her MBA from UCLA through the Anderson School of Management (where she was recently named one of its 100 Most Inspirational Alumni).

Irvin started her career working for consumer brands like Pepsi Cola and Nestle USA before making the jump to nonprofits. She has earned countless accolades, including fellowships such as the Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute, a Marshall Memorial Fellow, and the Next Generation Fellowship of the American Assembly. Irvin has been a trustee of the Riordan Foundation, the Riordan Programs, Crystal Stairs, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

One of Irvin's most illustrious career moments occurred in 2000, when former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan appointed her to the presidency of the Riordan Foundation. For seven years, Irvin was in charge of the grant program for the organization that places a large focus on early literacy initiatives. One of her main duties was raising money for the Rx for Reading program. The nonprofit was established in 1989 and has donated more than 27,000 computers to some 2,190 schools in more than 40 states. More than 187,000 books have been distributed to elementary classrooms, and more than 3,000 young adults have graduated from the leadership program.

Through her past experiences in such respected nonprofits, Irvin has used her background to help form her work ethic. "The social sector plays a critical role in our era of collapsing government budgets and corporate consolidations," Irvin said. "And no matter the sector, smart, ethical, authentic leadership matters."

Irvin considers herself an expert in areas such as foundation start-ups, infrastructure building, leadership development and coaching, branding, and financial review and nonprofit budget weatherproofing. She sticks by several facts she's learned over her years in the business: "Foundations and nonprofits can flourish in markets and downturns. 'Magical thinking' (e.g. We can keep growing staff, spending our endowment, while fundraising diminishes) is a recipe for trouble. In this era of falling endowments and staff layoffs, the independent sector will have new opportunities…but organizations prepared for change will benefit the most."

Now that she's at CCF, Irvin is in charge of 13 staff members and a discretionary grants budget of $26.4 million per year. She also manages internal foundation programs including CCF's El Monte Community Building Initiative, Preparing Achievers for Tomorrow, and Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men (BLOOM). BLOOM is a five-year plan to help African American male youths who are or have been part of the probationary system in Los Angeles. The initiative addresses the need for access to jobs and educational programs, assistance through grants, communications to help create a positive environment, and advocacy to address unfair practices that lead the youths to juvenile or adult incarceration.