The following guidelines and procedures, formulated over the years by our founders and Board of Directors, govern our grantmaking decisions. We consider proposals in three main program areas: community development, education and youth, and religion.

Areas of Interest

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, city and neighborhood revitalization, low- and moderate-income housing, and arts and culture in Indianapolis.  We have a special interest in helping organizations that serve residents affected by poverty or other societal challenges and that help advance the prosperity of residents from communities of color who are disproportionately affected by these and other challenges.  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, programs for veterans’ affairs and their families, and selective research projects and educational programs focused on efforts to promote the effectiveness of charitable organizations and enhance and increase charitable giving.

Education and Youth
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. We have a special interest in advancing the success of students of color and students from low-income households.  On a national level, we support on an invitational basis programs that expand and enhance higher education opportunities for African Americans, Native Americans and Latino Americans.

In our youth development grantmaking, we seek to help youth reach their full potential by fostering healthy development through programs and strategies that enhance and complement what youth experience in school.  Our youth grants fund direct service organizations in Indianapolis and, at times through invitational or competitive initiatives, such organizations throughout the state of Indiana. Our grants help build the capacity of youth intermediary organizations throughout the state, and support the professional development of the staffs and volunteer leadership of these organizations.  We have a special interest in youth affected by poverty or other societal challenges and in promoting the success of youth from communities of color who are disproportionately affected by such challenges.  Although our youth grantmaking is principally focused in Indiana, we occasionally provide support on an invitational basis for national youth development organizations.

Our religion grantmaking aims to deepen and enrich the religious lives of Christians in the United States, principally by supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and help individuals and families from diverse communities explore their deepest spiritual questions, discover the wonders of Christian life and faith and encounter God. We value the broad diversity of Christian communities and traditions and endeavor to support their efforts to carry forward their missions in a wide variety of contexts.  We believe that the long-term health of congregations depends on excellent pastoral leadership, and we seek to ensure that all types of congregations have a steady stream of wise, faithful, diverse and well-prepared leaders. We support efforts that nurture the religious lives of Christians–especially children, youth and young adults–and that help them 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 individuals discover how God is calling them to lead lives of meaning and purpose.  We also support efforts to strengthen theological schools and other religious institutions and networks that prepare and support pastors and congregations serving increasingly diverse Christian communities.

In addition, through grants to major cultural institutions and 501(c)(3) news and media organizations, we seek to foster greater public understanding about the beliefs and practices of religious communities of all faiths.  In advancing this objective, we encourage efforts that present fair and accurate portrayals of the positive and negative effects of religion on the world.

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 (HBCUs), 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 our 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.

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 on an invitational basis that fall squarely within our specific program areas.
  • Endowments or endowed chairs. The Endowment does not fund endowment or endowed chairs, except special initiatives or in unusual cases involving longstanding grantees or special initiatives.
  • Public libraries.  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 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.  Preliminary letters should be sent only by regular or overnight mail.

Approval process
The Endowment can only fund a small percentage of the 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.

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