Several types of foundations and trust exist in Indianapolis: community, private, conversion, and corporate. Together, these grant makers support a variety of charitable purposes in the city. Indianapolis civic leaders John Holliday, Evans Woollen Sr., and John P. Frenzel Ii in 1916 founded one of the earliest community foundations in the U.S., the Indianapolis Foundation. Indianapolis Foundation is part of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, which includes many family foundations such as the Efroymson Family Fund and the HERBERT SIMON FAMILY FOUNDATION philanthropies.

J. K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli Lilly And J. K. Lilly Jr. founded lilly endowment, Inc. in 1937. It is by far the largest grant maker in Indianapolis, and one of the largest in the United States. Other civic and community-minded families also have created family foundations including the ARTHUR JORDAN Foundation (1928), and the Nicholas H. Noyes Jr. Memorial Foundation (1951), W. C. Griffith Foundation (1959), the Clowes Fund, the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Christel Dehaan Family Foundation, Glick Philanthropies, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

Early giving in Indianapolis emulated national trends by grappling with social problems of the times. The Indianapolis Foundation did not award grants for seven years, as it preferred to survey social issues first. Its first grant underwrote the salary of a nurse for disabled children. The foundation’s archives reveal that its direction and management have been remarkably consistent over the years. In its emphasis upon innovative projects and capital expenditures contributing to the health and well-being of Marion County residents, the Indianapolis Foundation has been a pacesetter in local philanthropy.

Lilly Endowment has awarded billions of dollars in grants through its focus areas of religion, education, and community development. It supports nonprofit organizations in several focus areas. In the mid-1970s, for example, the endowment partners included the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, the Commission for Downtown, and the Corporate Community Council to expand Indiana Convention Center, which included the construction of the Hoosier Dome. The upgraded facilities have subsequently attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the downtown area each year. As part of its community development portfolio, Lilly Endowment supports community foundations throughout Indiana, including all counties within the Indianapolis MSA, through its Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) initiatives.

Indianapolis also has several philanthropies resulting from mergers of nonprofit and for-profit corporations. Among these conversion foundations are Anthem Foundation and Lumina Foundation. Corporate foundations are private foundations that derive grantmaking funds primarily from the contributions of a profit-making business, yet operate as separate, legal organizations. The Eli Lilly and Company Foundation receives funds from the profits of the corporation but usually functions independently of the corporation. The corporate foundation also supports the company’s employee volunteer program.

Healthcare foundations exist that support their parent companies’ mission. These foundations receive funds from a variety of sources, sometimes including income-producing activities, and serve a single institution. Indianapolis is home to the Eskenazi Health Foundation, James Whitcomb Riley Children’s Foundation, Indiana University Health Foundation, Community Health Network Foundation, St. Vincent Foundation. Operating foundations, such as the Walther Cancer Foundation and the Regenstrief Foundation, received funds from their founder and serve a single purpose.

The Indiana Philanthropy Alliance (IPA), not itself a grant-maker, is an important resource for Indiana foundations and trusts. IPA represents philanthropic organizations, companies, and individuals from all 92 Indiana counties. Collectively, IPA membership holds over $21 billion in assets and awards more than $862 million in grants annually.

Foundation Center indicates 873 grantmaking organizations are registered in the Indianapolis metro area, 505 of which are in Indianapolis. Twelve grant-makers each control over $1 billion in assets in the state. Purdue Research Foundation and Indiana University Foundation rank fifth and sixth respectively, with similar endowments under management.

Revised June 2021

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