Grant Guidelines & Procedures

Lilly Endowment receives a few thousand grant requests each year, but we can fund only a small percentage of many worthwhile proposals. These guidelines, formulated over the years by our founders and the Endowment's Board of Directors, govern our grantmaking decisions.

Areas of interest

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

On a statewide level, we routinely offer initiatives to support community foundations and United Ways.
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Our education grantmaking revolves primarily around our interest in improving education in Indiana, with special emphasis on higher education and on programs designed to increase the percentage of Indiana residents with bachelor's degrees. We support a number of invitational grant programs, many of which are aimed at the abilities of Indiana's colleges and universities to increase the state's educational attainment level.

We also support on an invitational basis programs that enhance higher education opportunities for African-Americans, Native Americans and Latino Americans throughout the country.
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Our primary aim in this field is to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians, principally by funding efforts to encourage, support and educate a new generation of talented pastors and to strengthen current pastors in their capacities for excellence in ministry.

We seek to help congregations be vibrant, healthy communities of faith, and we encourage efforts that make accessible the wisdom of the Christian tradition for contemporary life. We support projects that strengthen the contributions that religious ideas, practices, values and institutions make to the common good of our society. We support theological schools and other educational and religious institutions that share these aims.

Our work in religion is national in scope.
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Youth and Philanthropy

Besides grantmaking in our three principal areas of community development, education and religion, the Endowment also awards grants in support of youth development and to advance and study 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 occasional 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.
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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 to grants for community development and elementary/secondary education.  Exceptions include occasional funding for national programs that complement or relate to our work in Indiana.

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

Our work in religion is national in scope, as is our support relating to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.

Grants for international purposes are limited to a few United States-based economics and public policy programs affecting North and South American countries.
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The Endowment generally does not support the following:

  • Loans or cash grants to private individuals. Most grant money is awarded to charitable entities. We do not assist individuals with personal or business-related finances.
  • Requests to discharge preexisting 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 targets its grants for specific purposes. Except in unusual cases involving longstanding grantees or special initiatives, we do not contribute to endowments or endowed chairs.
  • Libraries. Except for special initiatives, the Endowment regularly declines grants to public libraries outside Marion County, Ind.
  • Outside Indianapolis. Requests usually are declined for building campaigns, elementary/secondary education, arts and culture, human service projects, general operating funds and neighborhood projects (except as part of invitational grant programs).
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Application process

If you believe your charitable organization has a request that fits within our guidelines, we suggest that you write us a preliminary letter of no more than two pages. The letter proposals tell us about your organization, the project you have in mind 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. E-mailed or faxed requests will not be considered.

For arts and cultural organizations in Marion County, Ind. -- Several local grantmaking foundations have collaborated on the development of a shared grant application form. This form was developed in consultation with leaders of local arts and cultural organizations with a goal of making fundraising efforts more efficient. The Shared Grant Application Form may be used to apply for general operating support. For specific project requests, the Project Grant Attachment Form may be completed along with the Shared Grant Application Form. While Lilly Endowment will accept these shared forms from local arts and cultural organizations, applicants are not required to use them, and the Endowment reserves the right to request additional information. Applications may be submitted in hard copy to the attention of Ms. Ronni Kloth, program director. Links to the forms are below.

Arts and Cultural Organization Shared Grant Application Form

Arts and Cultural Organization Project Grant Attachment Form

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Approval process

A program director generally reviews grant proposals. Those that meet the criteria for consideration proceed to the appropriate division for review, then to the corporate officers, and finally to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors considers grants in March, June, September, November and December. The grant review process takes three to six months. All grantseekers receive written notification of our decisions.

Please mail correspondence to:

Program Office
Lilly Endowment Inc.
2801 N. Meridian St.
Post Office Box 88068
Indianapolis, IN 46208-0068

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