Lilly Endowment: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Lilly Endowment focuses on religion, education and community development. It concentrates funding these areas of focus in the Indianapolis area, but its higher education and religious giving are national in scope.

IP TAKE: While the Lilly Endowment is well known for its nationwide support of business programs and nonprofits focused on increasing higher education access for minorities, its grantmaking in religion is also a major source of funding for aligned institutions. This organization is separate from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation.

PROFILE: The Lilly Endowment traces its roots back to 1937, when J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons J.K. Jr. and Eli set established it “through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company.” The endowment is now an independent organization, but the company’s stock continues to be the main source of its revenue. The foundation prioritizes “religion, education and community development,” and it is especially interested in community-based “projects that benefit young people and promote leadership education and financial self-sufficiency in the nonprofit, charitable sector.”

Lilly’s Education focus generally prioritizes organizations and programs in Indiana, such as Purdue and Indiana University. The foundation’s sub-programs address every stage of a student’s education: Early Childhood, K-12, Higher Education, and Workforce Readiness, along with Strategic Community Advancement Initiatives and Youth Programs. Recent grants to higher education institutions in this field include multiple grants to Ball State University and Butler University for principal and counselor preparation programs.

Lilly’s Community Development grants “support efforts that enhance the quality of life in Indianapolis and Indiana.” Recent grants to universities include general operating support for the University of Southern Indiana and Stanford, and nearly $15 million to the Indiana University Foundation to renovate the Madame Walker Theater Center.

The goal of Lilly’s Religion program is “to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians, principally by supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations.” The foundation’s strategy involves Strengthening Pastoral Leadership, Deepening Christian Life, Enhancing Congregational Vitality, Strengthening Religious Institutions, and Improving Public Understanding of Religion. These grants have funded seminaries and Christian colleges across the country, but also include grants to Duke, Emory, and Boston University for various projects related to the study of religion.

Grants range from $20,000 to $500,000, but may be in the millions for larger projects. Grantseekers may review Lilly’s Grants Database for more information on recent grants.

The Lilly Endowment does not accept unsolicited proposals, but it does invite grantseekers to submit a letter of inquiry, no more than two pages, at any time, after consulting its Grant Guidelines. One last note: this profile refers only to the operations of the Lilly Endowment, not to be confused with a separate organization, the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation.

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