Lilly Endowment saw huge jump in assets in 2018

The Lilly Endowment saw its assets grow significantly last year, solidifying its position as one of the largest private charitable foundations in the country. 

The endowment’s assets jumped 29% from 2017 to 2018, rising from $11.7 billion at the end of 2017 to $15.1 billion at the end of 2018. That marks two years in a row of growth for the Indianapolis-based foundation, and the biggest increase since 2014, when assets grew nearly 31% from 2013.

The large gain can be attributed largely to the 37% rise in the stock price of Eli Lilly and Co. in 2018.

Lilly shares make up 90 percent of the endowment’s assets. Diversified stock investments account for 7 percent, and the remainder is in bonds and government securities. The prior year, the endowment did not have any investments in bonds and government securities.

The asset increase last year is enough to put the endowment ahead of other giant foundations in total assets, including the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, to name a few.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation remains by far the largest, with $47.9 billion in assets at the end of 2018.

The endowment paid $504.5 million in grants in 2018 to organizations focused on education, religion and community development. Of that total, nearly $348 million, or 69%, went to Indiana-based groups. Out-of-state organizations received $156.7 million, mostly in religious grants.

Nearly $170 million went to groups in Marion County. 

During 2018, the endowment approved 846 new grants worth a total $486.6 million. Indiana organizations were awarded $285.5 million of the new dollars, or 59%. The grants were split among the three areas the endowment focuses on—45% for community development, 35% for religion and 20% for education.

Some of the significant grants approved last year included nearly $8 million for Downtown Indy Inc. and the Indiana War Memorials Commission to enhance Monument Circle; $9.2 million to the Indianapolis Parks Foundation to restore the dilapidated Thomas Taggart Memorial in Riverside Park; $9 million to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis to expand its Dinosphere exhibit; and $8 million to Newfields to expand its capacity to host large-scale festivals.

The endowment was founded in 1937 with gifts of Lilly stock by three members of the Lilly family—J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Lilly Jr. and Eli. The endowment is a separate entity from the pharmaceutical maker with a distinct governing board, staff and location.

Since its founding, nearly $10.4 billion in Lilly grants have been awarded to 9,926 charitable organizations.

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