“The GIFT Phase VII leadership planning grant opportunity has caused us to imagine how we could better identify our role in the important challenges and opportunities facing the communities in our county,” says Mary Gibble, president of the Hancock County Community Foundation (HCCF). Her peers across the state are similarly envisioning what community foundation leadership could be in their communities as they consider how to use grant opportunities Lilly Endowment offered in 2018 under Phase VII of the Endowment’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) initiative.

Mary Gibble

For Phase VII, the Endowment has allocated $125 million to help Indiana community foundations strengthen the towns, cities and counties they serve. A portion of these resources will be available as matching funds to encourage donors to give to their community foundations; the remaining portion will be in the form of grants to help community foundations lead their communities more effectively.

Through Phase VII, the Endowment invited community foundations to apply for matching grants of $500,000 to $4 million, based on the population of the counties the community foundations serve. The grants are designed to encourage residents and others to give generously to grow community foundation endowments and to fund local community needs. Nearly $67 million was set aside for this component of Phase VII.

To encourage the engagement of community foundation board members, the Endowment will award unrestricted grants of $100,000 to each community foundation that achieves 100 percent financial support from its board members. These grants, which may total up to $9.2 million, are expected to be paid in 2020.

Additionally, community foundations can apply for planning grants of $50,000 to $200,000 (based on county population) through the Community Leadership Grants component of Phase VII. These leadership planning grants are designed to help community foundations deepen their understanding of key challenges and opportunities in their communities and then prioritize the ones that they are best positioned to address.

Grants of $100,000 to $500,000 (based on county population) will then be awarded to help implement plans to address these priorities. For especially compelling ideas that emerge from this work, the Endowment may invite selected community foundations to apply in 2020 for grants of up to $5 million to advance these high-impact opportunities. The Endowment has encouraged, but not required, community foundations to collaborate with each other on efforts that address significant cross-county challenges and opportunities in their regions.

“By helping localities identify their priorities and discover ways to address them, the program invests in the leadership roles of these civic hubs that can help our communities’ civic spirit flourish.”

The Endowment created GIFT in 1990 to help local communities in Indiana develop the philanthropic capacity to identify and address local needs and challenges. When GIFT began, there were about a dozen Indiana community foundations. Today, there are 94 community foundations and affiliate funds making grants to support local charitable organizations in all of Indiana’s 92 counties. The combined community foundation assets have grown from $100 million in 1990 to nearly $3.6 billion at the end of 2017.

Through this new phase of the GIFT initiative, the Endowment is recognizing the inherent capacity of community foundations to provide civic leadership in Indiana, according to Dr. Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“By helping localities identify their priorities and discover ways to address them, the program invests in the leadership roles of these civic hubs that can help our communities’ civic spirit flourish,” Pasic says. “Because community foundations are uniquely positioned as creatures of their communities for their communities, they can help crystallize how people can work together to shape their future. GIFT inspires, and it brings added fuel to the process through its well-designed matching, planning and leadership grants.”

According to Gibble, the GIFT leadership grant opportunity comes at a time when her foundation is ready to accelerate its leadership in the county of about 75,000 residents east of Indianapolis. It has some experience to build upon. For example, HCCF regularly convenes stakeholders to identify assets and address opportunities. Since 2015, HCCF also has led efforts to invest in educational attainment through an early childhood literacy campaign. When foundation leaders learned that 40 percent of the county’s children scored below state standards for kindergarten readiness, HCCF partnered with the Hancock County Public Library and the Dollywood Foundation to bring the Imagination Library Program to the county. The program provides books for the homes of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The first child was enrolled in 2016. Now 1,200 children take part. HCCF established an endowed fund to pay for the program, leveraging the 2014 Phase VI matching grant.

Hancock County Community Foundation


“With GIFT Phase VII planning grant funds, we hope to determine if there is a pattern that weaves a thread between the important challenges and opportunities our county faces,” says Gibble. “Is there a gap HCCF should fill?”

Like HCCF, the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County (CFMJC) was founded in 1991 as a result of the first phase of GIFT. Jefferson County along the Ohio River in southeastern Indiana is home to about 32,000 residents. In 2018, the leadership grant opportunity was a welcome invitation for the foundation to flex its leadership muscle, said CFMJC President and CEO Bill Barnes.

Back in 2012, CFMJC took on a leadership role when it realized that artists and arts and culture organization administrators were longing to leverage the arts as a driver for community engagement, economic development and improved quality of life in the region. Barnes joined the arts leaders for a series of conversations. No one knew where to start, Barnes recalls, so the foundation decided it needed to be the convener, the advocate and the organization that helped people set goals and get strategic.

In 2014, the Madison Area Arts Alliance was born. Among other activities, the alliance promotes art in the community, supports a network for artists and encourages artistic entrepreneurial activity in Jefferson County.

Now, Barnes says it’s time for the community foundation to take on leadership to solve a more pressing set of challenges—Jefferson County’s high rates of cardiovascular-related illnesses, suicide and substance abuse. Since 2017, CFMJC has been working with the King’s Daughters Hospital (KDH) to learn about the causes and consequences of the troubling health statistics. With a GIFT leadership grant possibility on the horizon, Barnes says he believes CFMCJ and the KDH Foundation can be a force to help reduce the number of suicides, improve heart health and strengthen support for people affected by addiction.

“This is like something we have never done before. The stakes are high. We have talked about this as a board and part of the challenge is how do we get our heads and arms around it,” Barnes says. “It’s a little scary. It’s big. But we believe it’s the right thing and the right time.”

The Endowment is allocating $5.75 million for Phase VII leadership planning grants, which it intends to make in 2019. In 2020, the Endowment plans to invite community foundations to seek implementation grants for their leadership efforts. The Endowment is allocating up to $43.2 million for leadership implementation grants.

Greenfield, Indiana


Initiative Information