Lilly Endowment approves Johnson County Community Foundation for $200,000 leadership grant

Published: October 23, 2020 by Johnson County Community Foundation

The Johnson County Community Foundation (JCCF) has received a Community Leadership Grant of $200,000 as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s seventh phase of its Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT VII) initiative. With the grant, the community foundation will launch an Employer Resource Network (ERN), a 10-year old, nationally tested program that places success coaches in the workplace of participating companies. The success coach is a confidential resource that employees can access on a predictable, ongoing basis. Success coaches serve as a direct conduit to community resources that provide relief for many issues including reliable transportation, workplace conflict, childcare, housing challenges, family challenges, etc. While the focus is on entry-level and low-wage employees, the services will be available to all who work for ERN member companies.

JCCF is one of 84 foundations in Indiana receiving grants through this round of GIFT VII grantmaking. Lilly Endowment created GIFT in 1990 to help local communities in Indiana develop the philanthropic capacity to identify local needs and challenges. It launched GIFT VII in 2018 and made available a total of $125 million to help foundations strengthen their leadership capacities in the towns, cities and counties they serve. Lilly Endowment expects to make additional GIFT VII grants in the coming months.

“What an exciting opportunity for Johnson County,” said Bob Romack, board chair for JCCF. “The ERN program was initially envisioned to be a valuable resource for Johnson County businesses looking at workforce development, recruitment and training opportunities for their employees. Now with the ongoing pandemic and additional workforce issues created, the ERN program is going to be even more valuable when stabilizing Johnson County’s businesses and employee base.”

As part of GIFT VII, JCCF was awarded a planning grant of $100,000 in 2019 to convene local stakeholders to identify, prioritize and assess opportunities and challenges in Johnson County. In March 2020, JCCF was invited to apply for a GIFT VII Community Leadership Grant to implement strategies and activities identified during the planning period.

“The planning period was an eye-opener for us,” said Gail Richards, president & CEO for JCCF. “When we convened our leadership Design Team, we had preconceived ideas of what the needs were in Johnson

County, including implementing a childcare program and/or a community arts initiative. As JCCF convened the Design Team, conducted surveys and listened to community stakeholders, it became clear very quickly that a proposed workforce development initiative was what was needed to address long-term community development. Prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate was less than 3% and while that was outstanding, it was creating recruitment and retention issues for businesses across Johnson County, hence the idea of launching an ERN program to help alleviate those issues. With the ongoing health crisis and higher unemployment rate, new issues have surfaced amongst businesses and their employees making an ERN even more critical.”

Since receiving the Community Leadership Grant, JCCF is assembling a Community Core Team and has begun working with ERN USA to tailor Johnson County’s ERN to the local community. JCCF has invited over 20 businesses to attend an information meeting to determine interest in bringing a success coach and subsequent services to their place of employment. It is anticipated, during the first year, that at least five Johnson County companies will participate in this initiative. The ERN member companies will become the driving force behind this initiative and help identify the success coach to work with their employees.

“It has become clear that while there were workforce challenges before, the pandemic has created new issues and/or magnified pre-COVID issues for businesses and employees,” said Richards. “The expectation with the GIFT VII Community Leadership Grant is to address the issues, stabilize and enhance our local employee base. Programs such as an ERN will help Johnson County continue to thrive long into the future.”

Established 30 years ago, JCCF is a local nonprofit organization providing donors a simple, powerful and highly personal approach to giving—so their gifts do good works within the community, forever. JCCF meets the nation’s highest philanthropic standards for operational quality, integrity and accountability. The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations Program requires community foundations to document policies for donor services, investments, grantmaking and administration. Since established, JCCF has made grants and scholarships of over $20 million and manages $32 million in assets.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it 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. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

A special thanks to our Platinum Community Partners!

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