In 1937, when J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., founded Lilly Endowment they imagined into being a new institution—one that could help address challenges in society that concerned them and advance causes they cared about. In like fashion, imagining new medicines to help heal a variety of human illnesses was at the heart of their endeavors at their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Research and innovation were the lifeblood of the enterprise.

“What is now proved was once only imagined.”

– William Blake

In both business and philanthropic pursuits, our founders believed in maintaining what is good about established ways of doing things while always being on the lookout for a better approach to solve a problem. J.K. Lilly Sr.’s father, Col. Eli Lilly, told him about their business: “Take what you find here and make it better and better.” In turn, J.K. Sr. told his son Eli in 1919 that “as long as I am connected with the business we shall not depart from a proper policy of conservatism, while at the same time being progressive.”

Our founders applied these insights and ways of thinking to their leadership of the Endowment. Today, we continue to follow their conservatively progressive philosophy of strengthening what works while helping our grantees imagine new and better strategies to address important challenges and improve the human condition. Stories in this annual report feature some of the imaginative approaches our grantees are taking in the three key areas of grantmaking our founders established: community development, education and religion.

The stories illustrate:

How the Endowment’s nearly $50 million arts and cultural initiative is helping leverage the power of arts and cultural programs to enliven neighborhoods and the larger community in Indianapolis for years to come. When we announced the community development initiative in early 2018, we did not envision the astounding creativity it would help unleash in our community.

How the latest phase of the Endowment’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) initiative seeks to inspire a new era of leadership among Indiana’s impressive array of community foundations. When the Endowment launched GIFT in 1990, there were about a dozen active community foundations in the state with total assets of approximately $100 million. Today, there are 94 community foundations and affiliate funds serving each of Indiana’s 92 counties. At the end of 2017, they had total assets of $3.6 billion. Through this new GIFT Phase VII, the Endowment is allocating $125 million to provide endowment-building matching grants to help strengthen these important community organizations and grants to encourage them to imagine how they can play even more effective leadership roles in addressing high priorities in their communities.

How The Salvation Army is executing a new way to break the generational cycle of poverty. For most of its more than 150-year history, The Salvation Army has been known for its commitment—animated by Christian faith—to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable people in society by providing food, clothing and emergency shelter. The Salvation Army’s new Pathway of Hope program, which was piloted in 2013 with a $4.8 million Endowment grant, uses a case-management approach to help people become self-sufficient. A $10 million grant in 2018 will help expand the program nationwide.

How the Endowment is encouraging collaboration among Indiana education grantees. In fall 2018, the Endowment convened representatives from the 96 K-12 school corporation and charter school grantees supported through its Comprehensive Counseling Initiative and the 38 Indiana colleges and universities funded under Round III of its Initiative to Promote Opportunities Through Educational Collaborations, along with state business, civic and governmental leaders, to discuss how together they could help enhance student career success.

How innovative efforts of AgriNovus Indiana and National FFA are lifting up 21st century careers in agriculture and ag-bioscience. An Endowment grant to CICP Foundation is helping AgriNovus connect with students and educators in Indiana to strengthen awareness of and preparation for these careers. AgriNovus reached out to some 67,000 FFA members who attended the 2018 FFA convention in Indianapolis, which the Endowment also was pleased to support.

How the Project for Sacred Places, an Endowment-funded collaboration between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Partners for Sacred Places, is helping congregations with historically significant buildings imagine new ways the buildings can be used to revitalize their communities.

How the Endowment’s initiative, Thriving in Ministry, is supporting organizations nationwide that care deeply about the well-being of pastors in implementing promising programs to help pastors thrive in congregational ministries by addressing various challenges they face at different times in their lives.

We at the Endowment are amazed by the creativity and commitment of those who work for and lead our grantees. They are passionate about the causes and beneficiaries they serve. The ability to help them and others envision new possibilities and realities makes working for the Endowment such a privilege. We view our work as a calling, and we are blessed to do it.

IN CLOSING, my colleagues and I are not sure that our three founders—even with their farsighted vision—ever imagined that some 82 years later their foundation would have made grants totaling nearly $10.4 billion. We take seriously our role as stewards of their generosity and are resolved to conduct the Endowment’s affairs in ways that further their aims and reflect their values.



N. Clay Robbins
Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer