Lilly Endowment ranks as second-largest private foundation

The Lilly Endowment has become the second-largest private charitable foundation in the country, according to an analysis of top foundation assets.

The Indianapolis-based endowment’s assets reached $15.1 billion at the end of 2018, pushing it ahead of the Ford Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust, which had assets of $13.1 billion and $13.2 billion, respectively.

The data was compiled and analyzed by FoundationMark, which tracks the investment performance of more than 40,000 foundations.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation by far remains the largest private foundation, with $46.9 billion in assets.

The rise in ranking for Lilly Endowment comes after it had a strong year in asset performance. From 2017 to 2018, the endowment’s assets grew 29%, marking two years in a row of growth for the foundation.

The value of the endowment has nearly tripled since 2010, when it had assets of $5.3 billion.

The large gain from 2017-2018 is largely attributed to the 37% rise in stock price of Eli Lilly and Co. in 2018.

Lilly shares made up 90 percent of the endowment’s assets during that time. Diversified stock investments accounted for 7 percent, and the remainder was in bonds and government securities.

But since September, the endowment has sold 1.6 million shares of Lilly stock in 20 transactions, raising $388.3 million, according to government filings. The endowment told IBJ the reason for the sale is to raise cash for more grants.

Beyond the top four largest private foundations, most asset data has not yet been updated to reflect 2018 numbers. FoundationMark lists the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in the fifth highest spot, with $11.4 billion in total assets at the end of 2017.

The Lilly 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.

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