Lilly Endowment: Religion Grants

Lilly Endowment Inc.

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Grant amount: Unspecified amount

Deadline: Rolling

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, Research, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: United States

Location of residency: United States

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Lilly Endowment receives a few thousand grant requests each year, but we can fund only a small percentage of many worthwhile proposals. These guidelines, formulated over the years by our founders and the Endowment's Board of Directors, govern our grantmaking decisions.

Area of Interest: Religion

Our primary aim in this field is to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians, principally by funding efforts to encourage, support and educate a new generation of talented pastors and to strengthen current pastors in their capacities for excellence in ministry. 

We seek to help congregations be vibrant, healthy communities of faith, and we encourage efforts that make accessible the wisdom of the Christian tradition for contemporary life. We support projects that strengthen the contributions that religious ideas, practices, values and institutions make to the common good of our society. We support theological schools and other educational and religious institutions that share these aims.

Our work in religion is national in scope.


Our efforts are premised on the conviction that the local congregation is the primary place where most Christians gather in community to worship God, to learn what it means to be people of faith, to teach the beliefs and practices of Christian faith to each new generation, and to reach out to others in service and witness. Strong, vital congregations play powerful roles in the lives of those who participate in them as well as to the larger civic communities of which they are a part.

Several additional convictions also shape the Endowment's religion funding. First, we believe that the quality of pastoral leadership is critical to the health and vitality of congregations. When well-prepared, thoughtful, imaginative, able and caring pastors lead congregations, they tend to thrive. Second, theological schools play a critical role in preparing pastors for their leadership responsibilities in congregations. They are uniquely equipped to provide the deep and sustained exploration of the wisdom of the Christian tradition and the practical training pastors need in order to lead their congregations and serve their people well. Third, there is a still wider ecology of institutions (including colleges and universities, publishers and communications media, denominational judicatories and independent agencies) that support congregations and their pastoral leaders as well as conduct other crucial ministries. The Endowment seeks both to support them directly and to enable them to work collaboratively to address key challenges facing local congregations and pastoral leaders. Finally, ongoing research and other forms of sustained intellectual inquiry are necessary to help all these institutions and leaders understand and address the fundamental issues facing the church and religious life in our society today.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • The Endowment generally does not support the following:
    • Loans or cash grants to private individuals.
      •  We do not assist individuals with personal or business-related finances.
    • Requests to discharge preexisting debts of individuals or organizations.
    • Healthcare projects
    • Mass media projects
      • The Endowment does not typically fund mass media projects and limits consideration to projects that fall squarely within our specific program areas.
    • Endowments or endowed chairs
      • The Endowment targets its grants for specific purposes.
      • Except in unusual cases involving longstanding grantees or special initiatives, we do not contribute to endowments or endowed chairs.
    • Libraries
      • Except for special initiatives, the Endowment regularly declines grants to public libraries outside Marion County, Ind.
    • Outside Indianapolis
      • Requests usually are declined for building campaigns, elementary/secondary education, arts and culture, human service projects, general operating funds and neighborhood projects (except as part of invitational grant programs).