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Lilly Endowment Fund: A Commitment to Giving

The Lilly Endowment Fund is a privately-funded philanthropic organization that dates back to its creation in 1937 by family patriarch J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli. The monies that are the lifeblood of the Lilly Endowment Fund come from donations of Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceutical stock, though the Lilly Endowment Fund remains separate from the pharmaceutical giant, maintaining its own board, location and staff.

Goals set down by the three founders have to do with supporting the education, religion and community development of the area, with a special focus on helping nonprofit and charitable groups, as well as young people, in the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana. Every year, the Lilly Endowment Fund looks at proposals within these areas.

More specifically, the community sector of the Lilly Endowment Fund tends to hone in on creating grants for revitalizing Indiana neighborhoods, human recreational and service needs and encouraging Indianapolis culture and Indianapolis local artists. Farther afield, the Lilly Endowment Fund is also a major contributor to the United Way.

On the educational front, the Lilly Endowment Fund grants tend to be given to higher education programs in Indianapolis and and beyond that will bump up the overall levels of higher education in the state, saving some portion every year for endowments to similar opportunities for Hispanics, Native Americans and African-Americans in higher education.

The Lilly Endowment’s interest on the religious front supports Christian ministries from seminaries to congregations to large theological schools.

Apart from the above areas of specific interest, the Lilly Endowment Fund also supports philanthropic, development and leadership education groups for Indianapolis children.

Almost all grants are given to charity organizations, as opposed to individuals. Indianapolis health care and Indianapolis media projects are not considered, nor are any of the Marion County public libraries.

The Lilly Endowment Fund is one of the ten largest private grant-endowment foundations in the nation.  Almost all its funds are earmarked for local support inside Indiana, particularly the metropolitan area of Indianapolis. The Lilly Endowment is highly respected for its supportive seminal role in the Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) program, which has been one of the most successful programs of its type in the country.

An important branch of the Lilly Endowment Fund is that which has supported, over the years, its collection of important pieces of Indiana and Indianapolis art by renowned Hoosier artists.

With a family background of grand entrepreneurs and philanthropists such as Colonel Eli Lilly, who founded the extraordinary Eli Lilly and Company in 1876, it is not surprising that the Lilly Endowment Fund continues to grow and assist. At somewhere around $7.6 billion dollars, the Lilly Endowment Fund ranks number 11 on the list of wealthiest charitable foundations of the world. This kind of wealth brings with it great power, and also great responsibility. The Lilly Endowment group is renowned among the many excellent Indianapolis charities and nonprofits, and committed to holding true to the clear-cut goals of its originators.


Lilly Endowment Fund
2801 N Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46208
Phone Number
317.924.5471

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