RCCF Awarded $100,000 GIFT VII Community Leadership Grant

The way in which a community chooses to handle the need for change directs its ability to remain relevant and ultimately thrive. According to Ball State University’s Indiana Communities Institute (ICI) the single most important element in strengthening local economies is attracting and/or retaining talented individuals. Population decline is a serious challenge for Rush County, which is on target to lose 10-30% of its residents by the year 2050 if no changes are implemented.


Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded a $100,000 Leadership Grant to the Rush County Community Foundation that will be used help address this challenge as part of the seventh phase of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT VII) initiative. A diverse cross-section of county-wide participants will convene to create a community advancement action plan with guidance from ICI to enhance the quality of life in Rush County for current and future residents.


The Rush County Community Foundation 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.


We’re so grateful to Lilly Endowment for the investments they continue to make throughout the state and for our community,” said Alisa Winters, RCCF executive director. “We look forward to convening residents from all parts of our county to develop this plan, utilizing previous input and visioning creative new ideas.”


As part of GIFT VII, the Rush County Community Foundation was awarded a planning grant of $50,000 in 2019 to convene local stakeholders to identify, prioritize and assess opportunities and challenges in Rush County. In March 2020, the Rush County Community Foundation was invited to apply for a GIFT VII Community Leadership Grant to implement strategies and activities identified during the planning period.


Findings from the 2019 Community Insights Conversations coupled with a subsequent online survey completed with the support of the planning grant, point to a call for change. While 47% of participants strongly agreed that Rush County is a great place to raise a family, only 37% strongly agreed that it is a great place to live.


This speaks to our collective feelings about loving our small towns, rural/ag lifestyle and the people of our county,” noted Winters. “But amenities such as trails, parks, beautification efforts, better housing options, a community center and broadband Internet access will help us love where we live even more and ultimately, help Rush County attract new residents. The work completed by this group and the resulting projects will help bridge this gap.”


The plan itself is scheduled to take up to nine months to complete and will include four phases with assistance from ICI along the way. During phase one a small group of community leaders will meet to review the process and lay groundwork. The second phase is scheduled to last up to eight weeks and will involve communities throughout the county building teams, gathering data and seeking additional input. The third phase includes a three day hands-on educational experience. Participants will receive a condensed version of the Community Development Course attended by leaders in 2019 as part of the planning grant. Three additional components will address community-based data analysis, the Community Wealth Framework and the development of agendas and strategies. This work will define and create the action plan. Phase four will include up to six months of coaching by ICI to begin implementing activities from the plan.


Work on the plan is currently scheduled to begin in the spring of 2021 but is subject to change as necessary due to the pandemic. Activities identified from the plan will most likely begin in 2022.


The sense of excitement surrounding the collaboration and cooperation between City and County is equally as strong as the design of this plan and resulting projects and activities,” Winters said. “RCCF is proud to be facilitating an opportunity that could define Rush County’s next chapter.”


Meeting the philanthropic needs of Rush County since 1991, the Rush County Community Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit public charity established to serve donors, award grants and scholarships, and provide leadership to enrich and enhance the quality of life in Rush County, Indiana, not only today, but for our future generations.


Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and 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.


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