The California Endowment is a left-leaning grantmaking organization founded in 1996 as a nonprofit public benefit corporation chartered by the State of California. It bills itself as the largest private health foundation in California with three billion dollars in assets. 
The Endowment promotes a health care-based advocacy message and mission. However, many of its agenda items focus on left-leaning priorities related to immigration, school suspensions, and abortion. The Endowment has received multiple awards for its video campaigns promoting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Mission and Initiatives
The California Endowment’s creation in 1996 came after Blue Cross of California purchased Wellpoint Health Networks. Its legal status means it is barred from engaging in political work and from advocating for specific policy prescriptions. However, it provides grants to governmental, non-profit, and religious entities which support a left-leaning agenda. For example, it does not fund groups which “discriminate on the basis of…gender identity and expression” and sexual orientation, which means that no Catholic group or other entity with traditionalist views on marriage and sexuality would be able to receive funding.
The Endowment funds a variety of California-based and national initiatives to support increased government intervention in health care and race and gender-based social changes. Initiatives the Endowment has funded include health care-related reporting at The Sacramento Bee; a 2019 report by the pro-abortion research group Guttmacher Institute which claimed pro-life laws restricting abortion are “not the main driver” of lower abortion rates; a pregnancy awareness and counseling event hosted by the Endowment which promoted abortion; a California-based national coalition of foundations which created a national activism network focused on race and gender, and alleged structural discrimination against minorities who are gender-confused; and the California Urban Partnership, an advocacy coalition which promotes minority business ownership, denounces the War on Drugs as racist, and provides minority business owners special trainings and financial benefits.
Building Healthy Communities
Building Healthy Communities is a 10-year, billion-dollar initiative designed to create local improvements in health care and proofs of concept that the California Endowment’s strategies for success can work in diverse parts of the state. Launched in 2010, it chose 14 experiment locations which were picked because of “social determinants of health data, the grant-making history, and key stakeholder interviews….poor health outcomes,” and “geographic diversity, openness to change,” significant population size, and “diversity of organizing and advocacy.”
The California Endowment’s focus for this initiative is on creating engaged activists. Its three strategies are “power building” by creating “drivers of change,” creating “policy and systems change,” and pushing for an “improved opportunity environment.” The 12 tactics look at schools, neighborhoods, and preventive health care.
In an August 2018 interview, Endowment vice president Tony Iton told the American Public Health Association that Building Healthy Communities had accomplished a number of its objectives. Among the objectives were helping one million low-level felons reclassify their crimes as misdemeanors; reducing school suspensions, especially among minority boys; reducing punishments for defying teachers; and using social media, television, and other media resources to promote illegal immigrants. Iton also favorably cited young anti-gun activists, Black Lives Matter protesters, and same-sex marriage advocates as inspirations for generating groundswell activism among younger people.
Biden Community Violence Intervention Collaborative
In June 2021, the Biden administration announced a program to combat rising gun violence and violent crime using a collaborative composed of government and nonprofit organizations funding community violence intervention (CVI) measures. The California Endowment was reported to be a funder of the collaborative, along with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Kellogg Foundation. Other foundations funding the initiative include the Kresge Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, Arnold Ventures, the Emerson Collective, the Heising-Simons Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. CVI strategies “act as an alternative to heavy-handed policing” by focusing its efforts on the minority of citizens who are perpetrators or targets of violent crime. CVI treats violence as a communicable disease rather than a violent crime and attempts to stop the “spread” of violence. 
The California Endowment gives loans to low-income and other groups which would not otherwise be able to afford loans through traditional methods, such as banks. While repayment is often required, the Endowment’s goal is to have arrangements which are beneficial to its loan recipients. Program-Related Investments focus on community-based primary care organizations, providing opportunity to youth, and improving conditions in “distressed and unstable communities.” 
The first PRI was given in 1999. Over $65 million in PRI funding has been provided to a variety of organizations, with the goal of giving $100 million. 
Sons and Brothers
One of the California Endowment’s strictly race-based programs is Sons and Brothers. The program is designed to help young, male minorities stay in school longer, reduce involvement in the criminal justice system, change how schools view discipline, and provide health coverage for disadvantaged youth.
The Endowment’s Neighborhoods programs is a four-part focus on improving childhood experiences. Several of the programs’ initiatives and sub-initiatives are apolitical, such as teaching schools how to help traumatized children heal.
However, the livable places initiative prioritizes reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as apolitical goals such as more bike paths. Likewise, the Endowment’s efforts to increase neighborhood safety include both apolitical efforts such as mental health, but also endorses the implementation of the controversial Proposition 47 law that reduced penalties for drug possession, writing bad checks, and shoplifting as a single category of “non-violent crimes.”
The California Endowment raised $256 million in 2018, spending $242 million and ending the year with almost $3.3 billion in assets.
Its grants went to a variety of organizations, such as: 
- 916 Ink, a Sacramento-based creative writing group. California Endowment provided the group $25,000 for youth writing about health-related issues facing student communities.
- A New Way of Life Reentry Project received over $225,000 to help formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet, as well as to support a film festival and a gala to promote and support them.
- $510,000 was given to three regional California American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapters.
- $1.7 million went to the Action Council of Monterey, which funds efforts in Salinas Valley related to race-based activism and social change.
- $100,000 was given to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute research group.
Almost $570,000 went to InnerCity Struggle, a liberal organization which pushes left-leaning cultural, educational, and voting policies in the Eastside part of Los Angeles.
- The New Venture Fund’s Youth First Initiative received $75,000.
- The Tides Foundation received nearly $5 million.
California Black Freedom Fund
The California Endowment was one of the original donors to fund the creation of the California Black Freedom Fund (CBFF) at the end of 2020. The CBFF is a left-of-center grantmaking organization that funds California-based groups that seek to eliminate what it perceives as systemic racism. It used funding from the original donors to provide grants that went towards advocacy for targeted redistricting, so-called racial equity, and the firing of who it determines are racist police officers. 
Dr. Shawn Ginwright is the Endowment’s Board chair. He is a professor of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, a co-founder of an education advocacy group, and a senior research associate at the Cesar Chavez Institute for Public Policy.
Vice-Chair Minerva Carcano is a bishop in the United Methodist Church. She primarily advocates for immigrants and people who identify as LGBT. She also backs companies changing their internal structures to match those preferred by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest and most powerful LGBT-interest advocacy organization.
Robert Ross has been president and CEO of the Endowment since 2000. He previously worked in senior health care roles for San Diego County and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 3
Executive vice president and Endowment counsel Martha Jiminez has served in multiple senior counsel roles and in left-leaning social change organizations such as Fair Trade USA. 
Dr. Tony Iton is senior vice president for health communities. He oversees the Building Healthy Communities initiative.