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James Irvine Foundation

The James Irvine Foundation streamlines the grantmaking process with FoundationConnect
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Streamlining the Grantmaking Process with foundationConnect

With offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, The James Irvine Foundation (Irvine) is a grantmaking organization working for a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. To reach this goal, Irvine funds initiatives supporting better careers and fair work for California’s low-wage workers, amongst other grantmaking. Since its inception in 1937, Irvine has given away over $1.87 billion to nonprofits working on behalf of Californians.

Prior to using Salesforce, Irvine had struggled with a cumbersome, limited grantmaking system that could take weeks or even months to approve a grant. With the help of foundationConnect, Irvine has been able to streamline processes, create more efficient workflows, and improve business intelligence. Though Irvine initially partnered with Salesforce for a grantmaking solution, its use has since expanded to touch all parts of the foundation’s operations, helping staff spend less time on administration.

Outgrowing its Grantmaking System

Irvine is a proactive funder, with grant applications extended as invite-only. For the selected grantees, Irvine works to understand the organizational needs and how targeted grants can help them create the most impact, often through multi-year grants, with around 250 grants given out per year.

To onboard grantees, Irvine spends a substantial amount of time communicating and collaborating with grantee organizations. Together, they develop a concept paper and a grant proposal that links the grantee’s programs with Irvine’s core initiatives. Prior to Salesforce, staff found themselves limited in transparency and control of the process.


“We wanted staff to have more visibility into their grantmaking – and automation. We were doing everything manually, and we wanted to have much more control over the way our system works. We knew that moving to Salesforce would allow us to customize what we wanted to,” explains Kelly Martin, Irvine’s Director of Grants Administration.

Another key challenge for Irvine was improving record storage. Grant records were previously stored in hardcopy binders, and associates had to track down information spread across paper files and emails, with institutional knowledge easily lost when people left the foundation.

A Solution for Streamlined Grantmaking

The combined use of Sales Cloud and foundationConnect has provided the perfect balance between off-the-shelf and customizable solutions for Irvine to simplify its grantmaking process. Staff can now initiate the process by creating records that grantees can access, update, exit and return to as their time permits. The system sees at least 35 active users every day. When grantees submit proposals, the system kicks off an automated workflow to shepherd the application for review and approval (using both native and custom-built approvals) from program staff all the way up to the president.

With foundationConnect, Irvine’s grantmaking process has been cut down from months to just over 18 days. Martin says, “It’s incredibly efficient. The time that it takes really is completely shortened compared to the earlier, outdated process.”

Improving Visibility and Grant Portfolio Insights

Moreover, staff have greater visibility into the foundation’s grant portfolio. When looking for information on a particular grant, the first thing staff do is look to Chatter. “It’s a gamechanger in terms of the information availability to our initiative staff,” explains Adam Cimino, Irvine’s Grants Manager. Any information that was exchanged with grantees over email is imported via Outlook Connector and linked to the Activity History of the related object (grant). This whole process has freed up time the program staff previously spent searching for information, while also creating useful resources for onboarding new staff.

This visibility extends to better grant portfolio analytics. Grant records are now coded with customizable criteria for better sorting and analysis. Staff can tag grants with demographic information indicating the populations served, organization type, and geographical region. Reports and Dashboards create a variety of tools for portfolio analysis ranging from custom dashboards for portfolio metrics tracking to grant reports for use in program administration and budget tracking.

Enabling Marketing and Outreach

In addition to organizational grants, Irvine also runs a Leadership Awards program to recognize individuals advancing innovative, scalable solutions to tackle pressing issues in California. The program is time intensive, one in which Irvine solicits nominations from thousands of individuals on its distribution list. Once recipients are selected, Irvine launches a series of marketing events to publicize their work, including through e-blasts to thousands of constituents.

For their email and marketing campaigns, Irvine turned to Marketing Cloud to organize and streamline its outreach – to distribute event announcements, invitations, and campaigns. The application process has also been dramatically simplified using FormAssembly, an AppExchange product. An application that previously came in through a combination of emails, spreadsheets, and through a separate portal is now funneled directly through FormAssembly and is available to staff in real time.

Seamless Integration Across Operations with AppExchange

With the ability to easily integrate applications through the AppExchange, Irvine is now able to increase efficiencies across all parts of its operations. Every agreement with vendors and independent contractors is completed over DocuSign, while grantee agreements and payment letter are executed through Drawloop. Conga reduces the administrative burden supporting the foundation’s board by synthesizing and merging out information for quarterly meetings and updates for leadership.

Better Records and Better Insights

With full Salesforce integration, Irvine has been able to spend less time on administration and more time engaging with grantees and partners. Across the organization, Sales Cloud is the base CRM through which the foundation tracks all of its relationships.

Future plans include moving Irvine’s matching gift program onto the platform as well as exploring how Einstein Analytics can create stronger insights into its grant portfolio.

With Salesforce helping to carry the load in workflow automation and portfolio analytics, Irvine can stay focused on building a better California.