News and analysis
September 18, 2014

James Irvine Foundation Taps Interim CEO for Permanent Post

Don Howard

The James Irvine Foundation has named one of its own—Don Howard, now serving as interim chief executive—to be its new leader.

Mr. Howard, who joined the San Francisco grant maker as executive vice president in 2012, replaces James Canales, who stepped down as chief executive earlier this year to become the first president of the Barr Foundation.

"Don is an innovative leader, recognized for his experience and creativity in both the private and nonprofit sectors," Greg Avis, the foundation’s board chair, said in a statement.

Mr. Howard served previously for more than a decade as head of the San Francisco office of the Bridgespan Group, the nonprofit management-consulting firm, where he helped Irvine develop a strategic plan that led to the foundation’s current emphasis on arts, youths, and democracy in California.

He has been a volunteer and activist on HIV and other health-related issues and serves on the board of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Mr. Avis praised Mr. Howard’s leadership of an Irvine project that will provide $2.5-million to promote "pay-for-success" projects in California. Such projects bring together donors, foundations, or other investors who provide money for social programs that are expected to save money for government agencies. If the projects achieve specific results, the government repays the investors with a return on their investment.

Mr. Howard said in an interview he does not plan to propose any immediate shifts in Irvine’s grant making, but he’s contemplating ways the foundation can do more pilot projects and "risk taking" like that involved in the pay-for-success effort.

Irvine has assets of about $1.8-billion and awarded $69-million in grants last year.

Send an email to Suzanne Perry.