Youth leadership group lands $11.6M grant from Lilly Endowment

The Indianapolis-based Center for Leadership Development, which promotes personal development and educational attainment for minority youth, has landed an $11.6 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, the organizations announced Tuesday morning.

CLD, founded in 1977, called the grant “transformational.”

“We cannot overstate the impact of Lilly Endowment’s generosity,” CLD President Dennis Bland said in written remarks. “Expanding CLD’s reach will move the organization from transforming individual lives to transforming entire communities, breaking cycles of poverty and serving as a model for other cities facing challenges in education, public safety and building a diverse workforce. Thank you to Lilly Endowment for prioritizing minority youth in Indianapolis and for supporting organizations that seek to positively impact their future.”

CLD will receive $8.6 million immediately. The other $3 million has matching conditions designed to encourage additional contributions to support CLD’s mission and programs.

The organization said the funding will be directed toward three major goals:

— Helping establish support services and mentoring for CLD students attending colleges and universities where a significant number of CLD alumni are enrolled;

— Expanding CLD’s outreach efforts at satellite locations across Marion County, increasing the number of students served and amplifying the organization’s message;

— Supporting CLD’s effort to build its endowment and support long-term sustainability.

CLD offers programs and initiatives for students in 4th through 12th grade and their parents that promote five cornerstone values: character, education, leadership, service and career.

The organization said it serves 4,200 youth and adults in programs annually and has had an impact on more than 20,000 since its inception.

“Lilly Endowment is proud to have supported CLD since its very beginning because of its commitment to the character development, leadership formation, and academic and career success of African American and other minority youth,” N. Clay Robbins, Lilly Endowment’s chairman, president and CEO, said in written comments. “The testimonies of CLD alumni to the impact CLD has had on their lives is quite compelling, and our community benefits every day from their leadership.”

Leaders founded CLD in 1977 after noticing that many minority students were held back by similar issues:

— A lack of exposure to the many career opportunities and options available;

— A lack of awareness of the demands, expectations and preparation required to excel and take advantage of career opportunities;

— Absence of a substantial number of African American professionals who could provide guidance, mentoring, role modeling and simple encouragement.

The group said current research shows those issues haven’t gone away and some are getting worse.

CLD said 44% of its students come from single-parent households; 47% receive free or reduced lunches; and 35% come from one of seven “hot spot” high-crime ZIP codes. The group said it intentionally develops programming and services to help students and families in those circumstances.

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3 thoughts on “Youth leadership group lands $11.6M grant from Lilly Endowment

    1. I heard him speak last night about the CLD and the impact they are making and I have to say it could not go to a more deserving org!

  1. This is an awesome announcement for such a deserving organization! As a Center for Leadership Development (CLD) alum, I’m honored to now serve as the organization’s Alumni Association President. It is my pleasure and so fulfilling to live out the five core values of Character Development, Educational Excellence, Leadership Effectiveness, Community Service, and Career Achievement emphasized and learned through the CLD programming. If you are a CLD alum please reach out to the Alumni Association at to find out how you, too, can give back to the organization. We would love to speak with you! Congratulations CLD and thank you Lilly Endowment!