We receive a few thousand grant requests each year, and as such, can fund only a small percentage of many worthwhile proposals. The following guidelines and procedures, formulated over the years by our founders and Board of Directors, govern our grantmaking decisions.

Areas of Interest

We consider proposals in three main program areas: community development, education and religion. We also are interested in initiatives that benefit youth and promote the causes of philanthropy and volunteerism.

Community Development
Our community development grantmaking focuses primarily on enhancing the quality of life in Indianapolis and Indiana. We grant funds for human and social needs, central-city and neighborhood revitalization, low- and moderate-income housing, and arts and culture in Indianapolis. On a statewide level, we routinely offer initiatives to support community foundations and United Ways. Nationally, the Endowment provides support on an invitational basis for compelling other causes that are consistent with our areas of interest, such as disaster relief and recovery efforts and programs for veterans’ affairs and their families.

Our education grantmaking revolves primarily around objectives to enhance and increase the educational attainment and meaningful economic opportunities of residents in Indiana with the overall aim of improving the quality of life of the state’s residents. We support programs in Indiana on an invitational basis that promote high-quality early childhood education, strengthen K-12 education, prepare students for education and careers beyond high school, connect college students and graduates with meaningful employment opportunities in Indiana, enhance the effectiveness of Indiana colleges and universities to prepare their students for successful lives and careers, and build the state’s intellectual capital. Nationally, we support on an invitational basis programs that expand and enhance higher education opportunities for African Americans, Native Americans and Latino Americans.

Our religion grantmaking aims to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians, principally by supporting efforts that enrich the vitality of congregations. We believe that the long-term health of congregations depends on excellent pastoral leadership, and our grants seek to ensure that congregations have a steady stream of wise, faithful and well-prepared leaders. We also support efforts that help Christians draw on the wisdom of their theological traditions as they strive to understand and respond to contemporary challenges and live out their faith more fully. Much of this work centers on the theological concept of vocation and focuses on helping Christians, especially youth and young adults, discover how God calls them to lead lives of meaning and purpose.

In addition, through grants to major cultural institutions and 501(c)(3) news and media organizations, we seek to foster public understanding about the role religion plays in the U.S. and across the globe and about the beliefs and practices of diverse religious communities. While we seek to lift up the contributions that people of faith make to our greater civic well-being, we also encourage fair and accurate portrayals of both the negative and positive effects of religion on the world.

Youth and Philanthropy
Besides grantmaking in our three principal areas, we award grants in support of youth development and the advancement and study of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. Our youth grants support direct service organizations in Marion County, Ind., build the capacity of intermediary organizations throughout the state, and provide professional development for the staffs and volunteer leadership of these organizations. Regarding philanthropy, we seek to support and nurture good stewardship among the trustees and executives of charitable organizations by providing on an invitational basis funding for research on the governance and effectiveness of nonprofit organizations. We also support efforts to advance philanthropy by supporting selective research projects and educational programs focused on charitable giving and fundraising.

Geographic priorities
In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment gives priority to efforts that improve the quality of life in Indianapolis and Indiana. This priority applies especially to grants for community development and elementary/secondary education. Exceptions include occasional funding on an invitational basis for national programs that complement or relate to our work in Indiana or further a compelling cause aligned with our founders’ interests.

Our interest in higher education extends to Indiana colleges and universities and nationwide to historically black colleges and universities, Native American colleges and programs to increase access to college for Latino Americans. Grants to institutions of higher learning outside Indiana are restricted to programs offered by the Endowment on an invitational basis.

Our grantmaking in religion is national in scope, as is support relating to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, which is provided on an invitational basis. Grants for international purposes are limited to a few United States-based economic and public policy programs affecting North and South American countries.

Grant Guidelines & Procedures

The following guidelines and procedures, formulated over the years by our founders and Board of Directors, govern our grantmaking decisions.

The Endowment generally does not support the following:

  • Loans or cash grants to private individuals. Virtually all grant money is awarded to charitable entities. We do not assist individuals with personal or business-related finances.
  • Requests to discharge pre-existing debts of individuals or organizations.
  • Healthcare projects.
  • Mass media projects. The Endowment does not typically fund mass media projects and limits consideration to projects that fall squarely within our specific program areas.
  • Endowments or endowed chairs. The Endowment does not fund endowment or endowed chairs, except in unusual cases involving longstanding grantees or special initiatives.
  • Except for special initiatives, the Endowment regularly declines grants to public libraries outside Marion County, Ind.

Requests from organizations outside of Indianapolis that involve building campaigns, elementary/secondary education, arts and culture, human services, general operations or neighborhood development usually are declined, except as part of special initiatives.

Application process
If you believe your charitable organization has a request that fits within our guidelines, we suggest that you send us by regular mail a preliminary letter of no more than two pages. The letter should tell us about your organization, the project you have in mind, the issue or need you seek to address and the amount of support you will need from us. We respond in writing to all preliminary inquiries. In cases that warrant further consideration, we may ask you to furnish a full proposal. Emailed or faxed requests will not be considered.

Approval process
The Endowment can only fund a small percentage of the few thousand grant proposals we receive each year. Our approval process generally begins with a review of a proposal by a program director.  Proposals that meet the criteria for consideration proceed to the appropriate division for review, then to the Endowment’s officers, and finally to the Endowment’s Board of Directors. The Board of Directors considers grants in March, June, September, November and December. The grant review process generally takes three to six months. All grantseekers receive written notification of our decisions.

Updated May 8, 2019

Please direct correspondence to:
Program Office
Lilly Endowment Inc.
2801 N. Meridian St.
P.O. Box 88068
Indianapolis, IN 46208-0068
Telephone: (317) 924-5471