Center for Leadership Development receives $11.6 million grant from Lilly Endowment

Transformational grant positions organization to expand reach, program offerings

INDIANAPOLIS – Since 1977, the Center for Leadership Development (CLD) has provided enriching programs to supplement and reinforce tens of thousands of African American and minority youths’ learning and developmental experiences. The organization will soon have the ability to reach many more youth with expanded program offerings thanks to an $11.6 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The transformational gift was announced Tuesday morning during an event featuring supporters, employees and Indianapolis civic, business and philanthropic leaders.

“We cannot overstate the impact of Lilly Endowment’s generosity,” said CLD President Dennis Bland. “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, Lilly Endowment, for prioritizing minority youth in Indianapolis and for supporting organizations that seek to positively impact their future.”

The grant will build on more than 40 years of CLD work in Central Indiana by:

  • 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 will receive $8.6 million of the grant right away. The balance of the grant has matching conditions designed to encourage additional contributions to support CLD’s mission and programs.

“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,” said N. Clay Robbins, Lilly Endowment’s chairman, president and CEO. “The testimonies of CLD alumni to the impact CLD has had on their lives are quite compelling, and our community benefits every day from their leadership. We are pleased that this new grant will help enable CLD to reach even more young people and enhance their CLD experiences.”

During the mid-1970s, a group of Indianapolis civic and business leaders identified several factors they believed were severely limiting African American youth from achieving – or even aspiring to achieve – academic, college and career success:

  1. Lack of exposure to the many career opportunities and options available.
  2. Lack of awareness of the demands, expectations and preparation required to excel and take advantage of career opportunities.
  3. Absence of a substantial number of African American professionals who could provide guidance, mentoring, role modeling and simple encouragement.

These visionary leaders founded the Center for Leadership Development to address these issues and named S. Henry Bundles Jr. its first president. CLD’s dynamic program model is committed to teaching five cornerstone values:  Character. Education. Leadership. Service. Career. The organization refers to these values as the CLD Principles for Success, all driving toward one result:  Achievement.

“Indianapolis can boast significant job growth over the last several years, but we cannot celebrate these advances until everyone in our community is benefiting from our city’s prosperity,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett.  “This generous grant from Lilly Endowment will empower the Center for Leadership Development to advance a more equitable and inclusive economy for Indianapolis – one that looks less like the past and more like the future.”

“Like many cities, Indianapolis faces several challenges, but none greater than equity,” said City-County Council President Vop Osili. “In Central Indiana, African American youth are almost twice as likely as white youth to be disconnected from both work and school. CLD has a proven record of transforming the lives of minority youth and their families, helping them to overcome pervasive challenges. We must support these organizations and the critically important missions they fulfill.”

Relevant Facts & Statistics

  • In a 2017 Measure of America survey conducted by the Social Science Research Council, 19.3% of the African American youth in Central Indiana, ages 16-24, were found to be not engaged in school or work pursuits compared to 10.4% of their white peers.
  • In third through eighth grades in Indianapolis Public Schools, the overall ISTEP+ pass rate in English/language arts is 33% for African American students compared to 59% for their white peers. In math, the divergence is greater – 20.3% for African Americans versus 48.9% for white students. Similar achievement gaps exist in other school districts throughout Marion County.
  • 44% of CLD 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. CLD has intentionally developed programming and services to address the achievement gap and reaches students and families in challenging circumstances.
  • In 2017, CLD served 4,200 youth and adults and provided 10,200 service touches to these individuals.
  • The high school graduation rate for CLD alumni is 94% compared to an average high school graduation rate of 80% for African American students statewide.
  • CLD’s overall program participant retention is greater than 80%.
  • Tens of thousands of students and parents have gone through programming and/or received services from CLD, and more than 10,000 students have completed Self-Discovery/Career Exploration Project and become CLD alumni.
  • CLD serves students in fourth through 12th grades and their families, then follows and supports CLD alumni to college to increase college completion.
  • By strategically connecting with schools, communities, businesses and industries, higher education, funders and youth and their families, CLD inspires a higher level of academic and career achievement in African American youth.
  • CLD and participating colleges have offered more than $30 million in scholarships for CLD alumni to attend colleges and universities in Indiana and beyond.

Center for Leadership Development

The Center for Leadership Development offers youth and adult participants an enriching and engaging experience that helps them achieve personal and academic success. Our programs encourage high, realistic expectations and equip youth with the skills, understanding, confidence and hands-on guidance they need to develop personally, excel academically and build a value system of achievement. Over 40 years, we have enriched the lives of more than 20,000 youths and their families. For more information, visit

Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a national private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J. K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Co. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

Media Contact:

Chad Mertz

[email protected]