Inc. Lilly Endowment

Inc. Lilly Endowment

Lilly Endowment, Inc., institution founded (1937) at Indianapolis, Ind., by pharmaceutical manufacturer Josiah K. Lilly (1861-1948) as a philanthropic foundation for "the promotion and support of religious, educational, or charitable purposes"; most of its work is confined to the Midwest. The foundation is especially interested in programs designed to foster the growth and development of Christian character. It provides aid to Protestant theological seminaries and other colleges and also supports a broad range of projects in Indianapolis. Its assets in 1998 were about $15.7 billion. See philanthropy.
Lilly Endowment Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana is one of the world's largest private philanthropic foundations and is among the ten largest such endowments in the United States.

The endowment was founded in 1937 by J. K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J. K. Jr., with gifts of stock in the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company. While stock in the company is the Endowment's foremost asset, the Endowment is separate from the company. The Endowment, a private foundation, is in a different location, has a different board of directors, and is not linked to the company, except for the significant percentage of the company's stock it holds. The foundation has historically had three primary areas of grantmaking: community development, education and religion. Lilly Endowment is unique in that it is the largest private foundation in the United States that funds almost exclusively in its home city and state.


One of the Endowment's most remarkable achievements has been its Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) initiative. Over the last 15 years, this initiative has been responsible for starting and growing Indiana community foundations. Today, Indiana has more community foundations than any other state. Total assets of these foundations are nearly $1.5 billion.

From its inception, Lilly Endowment has supported numerous religious endeavors. Among these was Eli Lilly's Christ Church, in which he was involved throughout his life, beginning as a choir boy. Upon his death, a contingency of the bequest to the church was that Christ Church would stay in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. Support of a wide variety of religious endeavors was a way for Lilly to encourage character development.

Other recipients of Lilly Endowments have included the Rockefeller funded and ecumenical Association of Theological Schools and also Search Institute which lists the following dates for receiving Lilly grants:

  • 1966 received Lilly Endowment provides $50,000 for the Youth Ministry project;
  • 1974 Two major projects are under way: Readiness for Ministry for the Association of Theological Schools, funded by the Lilly Endowment;

The Lilly Endowment's rejection of a much-hoped-for national training center for youth work professionals is a major disappointment.

  • 1976 Readiness for Ministry project is successfully completed. Lilly Endowment awards additional funds to introduce the program to Association of Theological Schools seminaries over a six-year period.
  • 1981 Lilly Endowment awards grant of $273,000 for the Study of Early Adolescents and Their Parents.
  • 1988 A landmark study begins: Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations, funded by the Lilly Endowment.

Search Institute is a psychology based, not-for-profit, ecumenical Youth Research organization. It is supported by grants and contracts from foundations, corporations, and government agencies, proceeds from the sales of products and services, and tax-deductible contributions from individuals and organizations.

Another recipient of the Lilly Endowment has included the ecumenical Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations, who wish to pattern their ministry after C.E. Fuller, the father of New Evangelicalism, with one project called the Bethany Project. The Bethany Project is a pilot project in congregational revitalization funded by the Lilly Endowment, for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Hudson Institute, a conservative non-profit think tank is also a large recipient of funds from the Lilly endowment.

Art Collection

Over the years, the Endowment has acquired a collection of important Indiana paintings that were in danger of leaving the state. The collection includes paintings by members of the Hoosier Group, John Elwood Bundy and others. The paintings are generally displayed at the Endowment's offices on North Meridian Street in Indianapolis but a recent exhibition was mounted that allowed a number of the paintings to travel to several museums around the state.

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