Equity Agenda for Marion County

Equity is economic opportunity.
Equity is justice.
Equity benefits us all.

As we work towards building a stronger community for all, we are guided by our current five-year strategic plan (which ends in 2023). We are actively engaged in the multiple initiatives featured here. The Indianapolis Foundation has aligned its funding priorities and grant investments in the community around our shared mission with CICF and five community leadership initiatives. Those initiatives are:

  • Economic Mobility
  • Criminal Justice Reform and Violence Reduction
  • Family Stabilization
  • Neighborhood Empowerment and Placemaking
  • Dismantling Systemic Racism

These initiative areas have multiple projects with desired outcomes that drive activity in one of two high-level strategies: 

  • Interrupt systems that unfairly hold people back or create new systems based on principles of equity
  • Create or lift-up environments to empower people and neighborhoods

We believe all people can rise out of poverty by acquiring skills that lead to living wage jobs and if they are not held back by inequitable policies.

Business Support Organization Ecosystem 

The brilliance, grit and imagination of the entrepreneurial and small business landscape in Indianapolis is strong—however, there are very few supports dedicated to and culturally competent for minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned enterprises. The Indianapolis Foundation is convening business support organizations and players in the entrepreneur development space to co-create a suite of services, infrastructure development supports, technical assistance programs and other initiatives that will create a sustainable ecosystem for Black and Brown business owners.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Replicating the entrepreneurship accelerator and training program brought to Indianapolis by Cincinnati-based not-for-profit MORTAR which includes, among other programming, a 15-week professional development course for Black and Brown entrepreneurs
  • Providing project grant support and seed capital for investment in businesses led by Black and Latinx entrepreneurs
  • Supporting consultants and stipends for cohort members to co-create a specific suite of services and technical assistance programming that leads to infrastructure development for Black and Brown entrepreneurs and small business enterprises

BY Plus Partnership with Indiana Constructors Roundtable

The Indianapolis Foundation received a grant of $7,313,200 from Lilly Endowment Inc. in 2021 through its initiative, Enhancing Opportunity in Indianapolis. The grant supports a construction trade training program called BY Plus: Good People, Good Jobs, Good Careers. The program is led by the foundation in collaboration with Indiana Construction Roundtable Foundation, Indianapolis Legal Aid and NeighborLink. Participants of BY Plus learn construction skills and receive certification in the construction field while receiving on-site job experiences by providing home repairs for seniors with limited financial resources. Trainees are paid for their work and receive wrap-around services, including legal support, to better connect to meaningful employment and career opportunities in the construction industry, while overcoming life barriers and learning to give back by helping seniors. Over 250 people per year will complete the program and be on a path to middle class via a meaningful career.

We believe residents have a right to live in safe communities and many roots causes to violence can be addressed at the neighborhood level engaging residents in the work. We also believe we need to commit to better outcomes for people interacting with the criminal legal system.

Elevation Grant Program

For seven years The Indianapolis Foundation has been the City of Indianapolis’s grantmaking partner in distributing “crime prevention” grants to community-based organizations. Between 2015-21, $2-3 million per year was distributed to not-for-profit organizations—many who are grassroots—addressing factors that led to criminal activity like youth engagement and access to employment, education, and affordable housing. In 2021, an additional $1.2 million was allocated from the City County Council for crime prevention funding. This funding was distributed to each of the 25 council districts with an equity formula—giving more money to districts with higher crime rates and less to those with lower rates. In 2022, with federal American Rescue Plan funding, the City and The Indianapolis Foundation agreed to leverage the progress and relationships made in the community over the past seven years and truly scale community-based responses to violence in the neighborhoods. A commitment of $15 million per year for the next three years—a $45 million investment—will truly engage residents and grassroots organizations toward unified outcomes addressing crime and violence. The new name, the “Elevation Grant Program,” represents the foundation’s approach to these partnerships—lifting up or elevating the gifts, ideas, relationships and resolve that overflow in our resident leaders and giving them the freedom and resources to address issues close to home.

Barrier Buster, School-based and Public Policy Programming

There are gaps in funding and interventions the foundation knows to be effective that cannot be funded by the federal dollars coming for the Elevation Grant Program. Providing flexible capital to any organization doing critical work and our Elevation Grant recipients and other resident leaders to overcome basic financial obstacles of their neighbors—such as rent, food, utility and healthcare and prescription costs—is an essential component to success. The Indianapolis Foundation also has a strong relationship with Warren Township Schools and the Youth Assistance Program they have developed. Their success at “reparative justice” for youth getting into trouble and programs keeping students out of the criminal justice system is very successful. The foundation is wanting to replicate this program —which had its founding and expansion in Hamilton County, funded by Hamilton County Community Foundation—in other school systems across Indianapolis. Additionally, The Indianapolis Foundation and its affiliate partners—CICF and Hamilton County Community Foundation—are investigating how education, advocacy and public policy engagement is needed in our sector and how the foundations might participate in order to address systemic issues related to the root causes of poverty and crime.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Creating a Barrier Buster Fund used by Elevation Grant grantees and Community Ambassadors to alleviate immediate financial hardships on residents
  • Expanding Elevation Grant program dollars to fund grassroots organizations doing important work but not organized as a 501(c)(3) charity through fiscal sponsorship
  • Sponsoring two additional school corporations in Marion County to establish Youth Assistance Programs
  • Supporting The Indianapolis Foundation’s environmental scan of the not-for-profit sector’s engagement in public policy work and a recommendation for the foundation’s future role

We believe communities are most successful and thriving when investments are resident-driven and when neighborhoods have access to culturally relevant art, nature and beauty every day.

Neighborhood Preservation and Community-Led Development

Giving residents more voice, influence and power in neighborhoods targeted by outside developers, allows for greater control over residential and commercial development. Neighborhoods in-and-around downtown are currently experiencing gentrification that many times displace long-term residents and small, family-owned businesses. Community engagement in economic development projects is sorely lacking in most instances, which then results in unwanted housing stock and failed mixed-use projects due to not listening to or including the needs or desires of existing residents. The Indianapolis Foundation is working closely with neighborhood leaders in Haughville and Riverside—as well as other locations close to downtown—for them to be more in control of future development. Creating new and strengthening existing community development organizations, purchasing and holding land in trust until culturally competent development is realized, supporting Black and Latinx developers, organizing community leaders, and accumulating capital for resident-led development is a priority for the foundation and its neighborhood partners.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Grantmaking to local Black- and Brown-led not-for-profit community development corporations and developers for infrastructure development and organizational sustainability
  • Investment in real estate deals for housing, mixed-use and commercial development in projects wanted and developed by resident leaders

Community Empowerment Pathways

As part of The Indianapolis Foundation’s commitment to elevate environments that empower people and neighborhoods, a multi-year series of resident-focused workshops, convenings and trainings were launched in 2021. The goal is to provide infrastructure development and direct support to the leaders of new and existing Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) grassroots, not-for-profit organizations, as well as increase outreach efforts to organizations not even yet established as formal charities. Workshops and other programming include Resident Leadership Facilitation, Race Power and Class Overview, Grantwriting, Financial Management, Interest-based Negotiation and other organizational capacity topics. Annually, over 300 resident leaders, grassroots organizers, and not-for-profit employees are expected to participate in these workshops. As leaders emerge and become more established, one-on-one coaching, cohort support teams and other more intensive supports are offered. The Indianapolis Foundation will also invest over $500,000 each year in grants to organizations whose leaders have advanced through these programs. The result will be a stronger, more effective, cohesive and sustainable Black- and Brown-led not-for-profit community.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Unrestricted grantmaking to local Black- and Brown-led not-for-profit organizations for infrastructure development and program delivery
  • Sponsorship of events and speakers for community organizing for leaders to attend national programming and trainings

Connected Communities

CICF and The Indianapolis Foundation are lead partners with the City of Indianapolis and 12 not-for-profit partners to build greenway trails and other bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that will connect Black and Latinx neighborhoods to job opportunities, education providers, healthcare providers, healthy food, IndyGo rapid transit stops, parks and social and cultural destinations throughout Marion County. Through a $25 million investment from the City and an additional $25 million from Lilly Endowment, Inc., it is estimated that over 20 miles of new and revitalized trail connections will be built and close to 20 miles of new bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure will be added to our existing system. To secure this tremendous investment, The Indianapolis Foundation agreed to raise and maintain a $1,000,000 stewardship and maintenance fund to establish an ongoing funding source for repairs and maintenance for these new public amenities. Black and Latinx neighborhood residents will be an important part of the grant process.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Contributions to the Greenways Stewardship and Maintenance Fund at The Indianapolis Foundation for the ongoing care and upkeep of bicycle and pedestrian trails

We believe that everyone should have equitable opportunities to obtain housing, transportation and health services.

Housing to Recovery

In 2019, The Indianapolis Foundation and the City of Indianapolis created the Housing to Recovery Fund—a $10 million initiative to strengthen the permanent supportive housing system and fund wrap-around services to keep newly housed individuals and families stable and healthy. The three-legged stool of permanent supportive housing requires an apartment, a rental subsidy or voucher and intensive case management services. The City has over 500 permanent supportive housing units opening between 2021-23. The 500 vouchers needed have been identified. The homelessness service continuum now needs to build its infrastructure to support more social workers, case managers and housing and health navigators to provide the needed services to this population. A Housing to Recovery Fund pilot with Horizon House has proven this concept. Of the 120 people in the pilot program, 98% have been stably housed for over 18 months, 92% have obtained health insurance, 76% have been to physical and/or behavioral health appointments, and interactions with law enforcement and the judicial system have been reduced by over 75%. This model costs approximately $7,000 per person per year and, while on the streets, a person experiencing homelessness can cost the public sector and hospitals over $30,000 in supports annually.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Outcomes-based contracts tied to performance awarded to not-for-profit service providers targeting specific newly housed populations
  • Program administration and evaluation, and infrastructure support to help change public support policies for more Medicaid reimbursement for permanent supportive housing services

The foundation is committed to becoming a fully inclusive, anti-racist and multicultural organization moving forward. And, we believe systems that were created or are maintained to unfairly hold people back must be replaced with new systems based in equity.

Racial Equity Training

Beginning in 2016, the foundation committed every staff and nearly every board member to attend a two-day racial equity training called “Undoing Racism” (now called “Interrupting Racism for Children”). The shared experience of this training and subsequent personal and organizational learning journeys have been instrumental in CICF’s mission change and generational commitment to helping create a community where all individuals have equitable opportunity to reach their full potential—no matter place, race or identity. As a true believer that understanding our racist past—and its current ramifications—must inform our strategies for the future, the foundation wants to provide educational experiences and the opportunity to attend them to as many leaders and residents in the community as possible. In 2021, the foundation entered a multi-year partnership with Racial Equity Institute (REI) and its in-depth approach to training based on its “Groundwater Analysis”—which identifies racial issues that must be addressed in the “groundwater” that feeds into our “lakes,” which are our systems that directly impact our “fish,” or the individuals in our communities. The foundation is committed annually to a minimum of 1,000 people locally participating in these series of trainings and other local, regional and national training opportunities.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Sponsoring racial equity training workshops in Indianapolis and travel for local leaders to regional and national racial equity training conferences

Movement of 10,000 (MVMT10K)

The Indianapolis Foundation has launched the development of a robust digital platform that will catalyze a campaign to mobilize people in Central Indiana to dismantle systemic racism. The platform will assist in recruiting and engaging at least 10,000 people in the community to learn about our country’s and region’s history of systemic racism and its present ramifications. The platform will also encourage participants to engage with others across the community and pledge a personal commitment to make anti-racism a life’s practice. Locally based tech company, Haystack, is designing, building the architecture, and providing thought leadership in developing the platform. The web-based and mobile app will launch in 2022 and we expect to have 10,000 people committed to this movement by the end of 2025.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Corporate sponsorship opportunities that support the ongoing annual administration of the digital platform

Festival of Black Joy

The Indianapolis Foundation has been approached by Black resident leaders to help establish an annual Festival of Black Joy. While other local events focus on certain aspects of the African American experience, a festival completely dedicated to the joy, abundance, gifts and pure cultural celebration of being Black is wanted. Starting with a social media campaign asking the community, “What is Black Joy?” the organizing committee is developing an inaugural festival for fall 2022 to be held in Riverside Park and a more extensive event in 2023. Hip hop, jazz, gospel and other music and dance performances will be featured, as well as cooking and food, arts and crafts, roller skating and other culturally specific activities will be presented and round out what will be a truly joyful celebration.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Corporate sponsorship for festival operations, national and local musical and dance acts, etc

Black Professional Resident Theatre Company

The Indianapolis Foundation, as co-owner and co-founder of The District Theatre on Massachusetts Avenue, is helping resource the founding and early development of what will be the City’s first Black-founded, Black-run and Black-governed professional Equity resident theatre company with a commitment to paying all of its artists union wages. The company will reside in The District Theatre. The foundation is co-creating this arts organization with local Black theatre artists and also helping established Black arts organizations. The goal is to organize the theatre in 2022, search for is founding artistic or producing director in 2023 and launch its first season by 2024.

Funding and Co-Investment Opportunities Include:
  • Recruiting the founder and hiring the operational team
  • The first four years of operating support
  • Sustainability grants for long-term existing Black theatre organizations in Indianapolis
  • Fellowships and other trainings for Black theatre artists
  • Support for The District Theatre venue

The Time is NowBecome our partner in creating a stronger and more equitable Indianapolis community for all. The time is now.

We are committed to the work, but we cannot do it alone.

The initiatives and projects outlined here are already underway. We invite you to join us and others in a partnership to make a community-wide investment toward our collective goal. We are stronger when we work together.

For more information about our work in any of these initiatives or to learn about how you can be a partner, please reach out to one of our team members.

Rob MacPherson
Vice President of Development & Strategy
317.634.2423 x509

Leroy Robinson
Director of Development & Major Gifts
317.634.2423 x122