The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust plans to shift a significant part of its philanthropy efforts to conservation and animal welfare causes, starting with a $1 million gift to Marian University's EcoLab announced Thursday morning.
The gift will establish an endowment to support programs and staffing for the university's 55-acre outdoor classroom near the White River.
The $343 million Pulliam trust has been a major source of grants to social-service organizations, which received 80 percent of the trust's $11.1 million in donations in 2010.
Going forward, 25 percent to 35 percent of the budget will go to conservation and animals, said Michael Twyman, director of grant programs in Indiana. (The trust divides its grant-making activities between Indiana and Arizona.) In social services, the trust will narrow its focus to programs that promote "self-sufficiency," so some groups that have received grants in the past will no longer be eligible, he said.
The Pulliam trust expects to give away about $14 million next year.
“Protecting animals and nature” has always been part of the trust’s mission, but it accounted for a relatively small portion of grants—$1.9 million, or 17 percent, in 2010.
Twyman said the trustees decided to shift their giving strategy after reviewing past practices in light of the stated three-prong mission. Plus, Twyman said, "Mrs. Pulliam’s love for animals and nature is more obvious and closer to the heart of the benefactors than anything else.”
Pulliam, who died in 1997, was a journalist and businesswoman who married Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis News publisher Eugene Pulliam. She was the founding secretary-treasurer and a director of Central Newspapers Inc.
The $1 million grant to Marian is one of the largest gifts the trust has made to a single organization, and Marian University will rename the EcoLab the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab.
Marian is looking to raise $5 million in all for the EcoLab endowment.
The EcoLab site was originally a landscape designed for the Allison estate known as Riverdale. Marian restored natural habitats, including wetlands, for its own academic programs and opened the area to local schools and teachers. The Pulliam trust previously gave $250,000 for the EcoLab's creation.
"Through a shared vision of what an ecology laboratory on a university campus can do to advance environmental stewardship, research, and quality science education, the trust and Marian University is leading the way in creating a model of national significance,” Marian President Dan Elsener said in a press release.