Gathering the Doers


Since J.K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., founded Lilly Endowment 87 years ago, we have sought to help individuals reach their full potential, families to thrive and communities to flourish through grants to a wide range of charitable organizations. In keeping with the value our founders placed on continuous improvement at their company, in their individual lives, and in their philanthropic pursuits, we strive to learn how we can better help the organizations we support improve their effectiveness and more fully accomplish their aims, which in turn helps us enhance and expand the impact of our grantmaking.

We have found that good assessment and planning enables organizations to broaden their perspectives by seeking input from diverse arrays of stakeholders, learn about promising practices relevant to their aims, sharpen their focus and better define their priorities and intended outcomes. These efforts, which were highlighted in our annual report last year, result in stronger grant proposals and more effective programs.

We also have learned that bringing together various organizations that are participating in one of the Endowment’s initiatives for mutual learning and encouragement can enhance and expand the impact of their efforts and thereby result in more significant progress toward the overall aims of the initiative. In other words, to paraphrase Aristotle—“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

We hear from those who attend the convenings we support that they are inspired and energized by what others are doing to further a common aim. Being part of these gatherings reminds them that they are not alone in facing challenges or in caring about certain causes and needs. Though they may have differing priorities and points of view, they frequently find that they have more in common than they thought. And they often develop relationships that result in collaborations that will improve the reach and effectiveness of their programs.

The convenings typically feature keynote speakers and panelists who inspire, challenge, reassure and inform participants. And there is time set aside for participants to become acquainted through informal conversation and socializing. In this report are stories about convenings the Endowment has supported or hosted in connection with various initiatives in the three main areas of grantmaking established by its founders: community development, education and religion.

Social worker Ashlyn Hopkins leads sessions in the Yes, I Can program at New Beginnings Church.

A story from our grantmaking in community development highlights a gathering of organizations funded through Enhancing Opportunity in Indianapolis, an Endowment initiative designed to help build economic stability for individuals and families living in poverty or at the risk of poverty. Sessions focused on collaboration, evaluation, and staff recruitment and retention. Leaders with La Plaza and New Beginnings shared that being together to celebrate successes and brainstorm about common challenges was invaluable. Another story from community development explores the role that community convenings play within the Indianapolis African American Quality of Life Initiative, which is funded through a grant to the National Urban League. When initiative leaders learned that many early childhood education providers were not aware of the availability of valuable resources designed to support their efforts, initiative leaders hosted gatherings to help the organizations connect to these resources and work together to strengthen early learning in the community.

A story about our grantmaking in education and youth programs focuses on the gathering of nearly 250 youth workers and leaders of organizations funded through the Endowment’s initiative, Strengthening Youth Programs in Indiana. Conference participants were able to hear about the research and insights of key national youth development experts, and enthusiastic newcomers to the youth development field were able to make valuable connections with experienced leaders of youth organizations to whom they can reach out in the future for advice and perspective. Panel discussions fostered meaningful conversations about youth and youth worker mental health; the influence of digital technology and social media on young people; and how to improve programming and support
sustainable operations for organizations.

2023 Strengthening Youth Programs in Indiana convening.

From our grantmaking in religion, there is a story highlighting a gathering hosted by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., of organizations funded through the Endowment’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative. Leaders from more than 40 museums, historic sites, libraries and other cultural institutions funded through this initiative learned from each other and keynote speakers about how exhibits, educational offerings and other programs that feature religious aspects are helping their organizations increase public understanding of religion.

City Seminary of New York convening for its Thriving in Ministry Initiative work.

Another story about our grantmaking in religion explores how a convening of grantees funded through the Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative reassured and energized the participants. Grants in the initiative are supporting efforts to help pastors and others in ministry thrive in congregational leadership so they, in turn, are better equipped to serve the increasingly diverse range of congregations in the country. Sessions focused on, among other things, the mental health and spiritual well-being of pastors and how pastors can address challenging congregational  dynamics and social forces affecting their ministries.

We at the Endowment are inspired by the imagination, resilience and diligence of the participants in the convenings we support as well as those who work tirelessly in furthering the missions of the hundreds of other organizations the Endowment assists. Their dedication to the people and causes they support compels and emboldens us to apply the lessons we learn from these convenings to strengthen and expand our future endeavors. We are encouraged by the good will and enthusiastic spirit of the many participants who attend the convenings. It gives us hope that people with different perspectives and backgrounds can—by engaging with each other—find that they have much in common from which they can build stronger and more vibrant communities.


In closing we acknowledge with gratitude the contributions and service of two Lilly Endowment colleagues who retired in 2023. Both of them demonstrated deep devotion to the mission and aims of the Endowment. We wish them well in their much-deserved retirements. They will be missed.

CHUCK PRESTON, program director in community development, retired in 2023 after 33 years at the Endowment. For more than three decades, he was a key representative to organizations in various fields, including human services, affordable housing, homelessness prevention, disaster relief, neighborhood development, amateur
sports and public policy.

DEITRA DUNNE, finance associate, retired in 2023 after nearly nine years at the Endowment. As an administrative assistant in community development for five years and later working in the finance division, she brought to her work impeccable attention to detail and a fun-loving, collegial spirit.

N. Clay Robbins
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer


Jennett M. Hill