James Irvine Foundation: Grants for College Readiness

OVERVIEW: Through its Youth Program, The James Irvine Foundation wants to see more California youth complete high school on time and earn a college degree. Through its Linked Learning initiative and other activities, this funder looks to build stronger pathways between K-12 and higher education systems in the Golden State.

IP TAKE: Though Irvine does not have a specific college readiness grantmaking program, it does have a network of organizations that it funds on a regular basis to support college readiness in California. While the foundation is open to unsolicited LOIs, less than 1% of them requests receive funding.

PROFILE: Headquartered in San Francisco, the James Irvine Foundation supports quality of life in California through grantmaking in three program areas: Arts, California Democracy, and Youth. It was founded in 1937 and nearly 80 years later is still going strong, having by its own account given “$1.5 billion in grants to over 3,600 nonprofit organizations” throughout California.

Irvine funds college readiness and postsecondary access projects through its Youth Program, which has the goal of ensuring that more of the Golden State's low-income youth complete high school within four years and earn postsecondary credentials by age 25. Because the majority of new jobs created by today's economy require education beyond high school, Irvine sees college readiness as an important part of ensuring that more young people become successful, contributing citizens.

The James Irvine Foundation has used Linked Learning to build synergy between the state's K-12 and higher education systems. Some of the largest grants awarded by the Irvine Foundation have involved Linked Learning, which the foundation defines as “integrating rigorous academics with career-based learning and real world workplace experience” as a means of “transforming education into a personally relevant, wholly engaging experience.” Through this program, The James Irvine Foundation hopes to make education more relevant to California youth and open students to higher education and career opportunities they haven't previously imagined.

Linked Learning is tackled through three main strategies:

  • Practice, which the foundation does by supporting “support on-the-ground demonstration and evaluation of Linked Learning in high school districts, in postsecondary institutions, and in nonprofit organizations serving out-of-school youth”
  • Policy, which seeks to expand adoption of Linked learning through evaluation of existing programs, “dissemination of evaluation findings” to policy makers, and “creation of policy recommendations” in collaboration with its partners
  • Public Will, which translates to “advocacy, coalition building and strategic communications” at the community level to increase awareness of and receptiveness to the program.

    The James Irvine Foundation's grantmaking does have a heavy Golden State focus, so it wouldn't hurt if your organization is California-based or involves projects that serve California students. This foundation values long-term partnerships with the organizations it funds; therefore, most of its grants go to organizations identified and contacted by foundation staff members. Grantees can be searched through the foundation’s database.

    That said, unsolicited LOIs are accepted and may be an excellent way to introduce yourself and your organization's work to this funder, though the foundation states that less than 1% of unsolicited LOIs result in funding.


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