In July 2014, Lilly Endowment Inc. announced the statewide challenge grant to community foundations, totaling $66 million, with incentives that included matching dollars.

This matching opportunity was the sixth phase of the Endowment’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) initiative for Indiana community foundations. The GIFT initiative was designed to help local Indiana communities develop the philanthropic capacity to address their own needs and challenges.

“I was shocked when I heard the news that Lilly Endowment was offering a million-dollar opportunity for Grant County. I am continually impressed with the Lilly Foundation's support of communities within our state. The GIFT initiative was a wonderful opportunity for our Grant County Community Foundation to partner with Lilly Endowment in order to grow our endowments,” said Chad Leighty, former board president of the Community Foundation. “The benefits of the challenge grant, the hard work of our Foundation staff, and the generosity of donors will touch the lives of so many in our community for years to come.”

Since 1990, the value of Indiana’s community foundations that have regularly participated in GIFT grew from $30 million to almost $2 billion, and more than $915 millionwent back into the communities through local grants.

This GIFT matching grant greatly enhances the local community and Indiana as a whole. In 1990, when the first GIFT grant was made, Indiana was home to only a dozen community foundations. Now, there are 94community foundations and county affiliate funds in Indiana, serving each of Indiana’s 92 counties.

When Lilly Endowment invited the Community Foundation of Grant County, Indiana, Inc. to apply for $1 million in matching funds as part of the GIFT initiative, our governing board caught the vision and welcomed the challenge.  The deadline—March 31, 2016—was tight.  We had 18 months to raise $1 million to qualify for the matching dollars.  So, how did we do?  Drum roll, please…

The Grant County community responded with such incredible support that we met the match!  More than 340 donors contributed to 95 existing endowment funds.  Plus, there were 15 new endowment funds established as donors took advantage of the rare opportunity to receive matching dollars.

“This is a job well done and a tribute to both the staff of the Community Foundation and the members of our community who see the good, the positive, and the potential of Grant County” said Mary Eckerle, Community Foundation Board President

In addition to this, the generosity from Lilly Endowment will also have an immediate Grant County impact.  A requirement of the GIFT grant was that 50% of the donations be used to match the Foundation’s unrestricted endowment funds—the funds used for annual grantmaking in the community. Because we were able to meet the matching goal, the Foundation’s grants committee will have an immediate and additional $100,000 in new money to distribute this first year alone. These unrestricted endowed funds will be used to award grants to our local non-profit organizations throughout each year.  Plus, as these funds are invested to grow over time, they will grow and create a greater impact year after year. Once again, our donors rose to the challenge, pooled their resources, and created permanent legacies through endowment giving.  We are humbled and thankful for their abundant generosity!