Skip to content

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to frequently asked questions. Not finding what you are looking for? Contact us.

Why were the 2021 Awards canceled?

The Irvine Foundation made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Leadership Awards due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We carefully considered options but feel the future is simply too uncertain to plan for our normal 2021 events, and we know that the crisis is a major disruption for leaders and organizations who would normally nominate future recipients. Innovative leadership remains critical in California, especially as we rebuild, but the dynamic situation means many of you will be focused on more urgent matters for the foreseeable future

If you have already started or submitted a nomination, please know that it is secure and will be kept for the 2022 Leadership Awards cycle.

We appreciate the many leaders who are working tirelessly to serve their community and look forward to the time when we can celebrate their contributions.

When will the Awards resume?

The Foundation anticipates opening nominations for the 2022 Leadership Awards in Spring 2021.

Who is eligible for a Leadership Award?

We recognize leaders whose work improves people’s lives, creates opportunity, and contributes to a better California. We especially encourage nominations that reflect the diversity of California’s population and regions. The most competitive nominations describe leaders addressing critical issues with innovative approaches that have been proven effective. We ask nominators to review the selection criteria and nominations questions carefully before nominating.

Nominated leaders may:

  • Be an individual or a pair of leaders
  • Work in any sector (nonprofit, public, or private)
  • Work in any field (such as education, health, housing, economic development, or the environment)

Nominees must be residents of California. We seek nominees who have not been extensively recognized for their work through other awards.

How are the award recipients selected?

Each summer an independent Selection Committee of diverse California leaders reviews nominations materials and identifies 10-12 finalists. Irvine staff, consultants, and issue experts conduct site visits and additional research with each finalist. In the Fall, the Selection Committee utilizes findings from the site visits and research to identify four to six Award recipients.

Are there any restrictions on how award funds can be spent?

Award funds typically are directed to the organization that the award recipient leads. If the recipient is a pair of leaders who work for different organizations, The James Irvine Foundation will direct grant funds to only one of their organizations. The leaders may share the funds as they see fit. Recipients may determine how funds will be spent, though funds must support activities in California and may not be earmarked for lobbying or directed toward programs that receive more than 50 percent of their total funding from government resources.

When James Irvine established the Foundation in 1937, he stipulated that its funds “shall be used for such charities that do not enjoy substantial support through taxation.” As a result, we may only make a grant to a publicly funded organization if the grant supports a specific project that does not receive most of its funding from public dollars. For the Leadership Awards, if a recipient’s organization receives more than 50 percent of its total revenue from government sources, the award funds would need to be applied to a specific project that is not supported in majority by government funds.

Who can nominate a leader?

We welcome nominations from anyone well acquainted with the nominated leader who can describe the leader’s alignment with the award criteria and tell the story of how their work has been impactful.

Some nominators have a broad understanding of a policy field and can describe how a nominee’s approach might be different from their peers. Other nominators can speak to the opportunities a nominee might have to inform policy or advance replication of their model. A nominator might be a key partner in the nominee’s field or an unexpected ally. Some nominators can describe how they and others have been affected directly by the work of the nominee.

The nominator must be someone other than the nominee or a family member. We encourage nominations from people not employed by the nominee. Nominators do not need to collaborate with a nominee in preparing the nomination, but they may do so if they choose.

Can more than one person nominate the same leader?

We welcome nominations from anyone well acquainted with the nominated leader who can describe the leader’s alignment with the award criteria and tell the story of how their work has been impactful.

We recommend submitting only one nomination per nominee. Typically, nominations are submitted by one nominator, though we do permit two nominators to submit a joint nomination. The information in the nomination submission, rather than the number of nominators, determines whether the nominee will advance to the next stage. If we receive more than one nomination for a nominee, we may advance only one of the nominations after the first stage of review.

The nominator must be someone other than the nominee or a family member. We encourage nominations from people not employed by the nominee. Nominators do not need to collaborate with a nominee in preparing the nomination, but they may do so if they choose.

Can past nominees be renominated?

Yes, so long as they have not previously received a Leadership Award. Several past award recipients were nominated in multiple years before receiving their award.

May I nominate a leader if a colleague from their organization has already received a Leadership Award?

We do not recommend nominating a leader from an organization that has already received an award, unless the organization is very large and the nominee’s work is entirely distinct from that of past award recipients at the same institution. If a leader of a small- to mid-sized organization were to receive an award, another leader from that same organization would be unlikely to receive an award, especially if they are addressing similar challenges.

Will posthumous nominations be accepted?

No. The awards are designed to provide an opportunity for recipients to educate policymakers and others in their field about the solutions they have implemented, thereby expanding the number of Californians who benefit from their work.

Are there any restrictions on nominating leadership pairs?

A leadership pair consists of two leaders who have both played critical, complementary roles in developing their approach and/or implementing it effectively. They may work for the same organization or for two different entities. If a leadership pair works for different organizations, The James Irvine Foundation will direct grant funds to only one of their organizations. The leaders may share the funds as they see fit.

When nominating a pair, nominators are encouraged to describe how the leaders’ roles are distinct as well as how they collaborate.

Do nominators need to submit references or letters of support for the nominee?

No. References and/or letters of support are not necessary – and are not considered during the nominations review process.