In October 1986, Richard M. (“Dick”) Fairbanks created his namesake foundation to enhance the vitality of his hometown of Indianapolis. Thirty-five years later, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation continues to focus our grantmaking, research and evaluation, and cross-sector collaborations and convenings in support of our mission to advance the vitality of Indianapolis and the well-being of its people. Since its establishment, the Foundation has awarded more than $285 million in grants, and currently awards grants within three focus areas: Education, Health and the Vitality of Indianapolis.
A well-educated population is critical to the vitality of our city and the continued global competitiveness of the United States. But in Indianapolis, too few students demonstrate proficiency in core academic subjects such as math, science and English/language arts, and too few students graduate from high school adequately prepared for college or careers. Also concerning is the chronic lack of access to high-quality educational opportunities faced by Black and Hispanic students from childhood through college, leading to racial disparities in education outcomes.
To improve education and workforce outcomes for all children and adults, we support initiatives that:
- Improve academic outcomes for Indianapolis students by supporting the conditions necessary to grow the supply of high-performing schools and programs.
- Minimize underemployment and the workforce skills gap in Indianapolis by supporting the delivery of cost-effective post-secondary education and training programs.
For example, since 2006, the Foundation has awarded more than $17.2 million to The Mind Trust, which serves as a catalyst for education innovation in Indianapolis. This grant funding supports the organization’s efforts to grow great schools and recruit quality school leaders, such as through the Relay National Principals Academy Fellowship (NPAF). NPAF trains current and aspiring principals and principal supervisors to become instructional and cultural leaders, ultimately advancing student success and increasing community engagement.
Good health is a necessary condition for success in life and is integrally linked to the ability of children and adults to thrive in school and in the workplace. Unfortunately, Indianapolis ranks at or near the bottom of almost every measure of public health and healthy living.
To help address Indianapolis’ greatest public health challenges, the Foundation has established goals to:
- Reduce the rate of tobacco use and eliminate youth nicotine use.
- Prevent and address substance use disorder.
In 2009, the Foundation awarded $20 million to help establish the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI. Today, the School prepares leaders to advance public health in Indiana and beyond, while also supporting research into some of our city’s most pressing health challenges. With Foundation funding, the School has produced reports such as The Opioid Epidemic in Indiana and Marion County and the Indiana Public Health System Review.
Vitality of Indianapolis
Technological advancements and ongoing globalization are rapidly reshaping the U.S. economy. To remain competitive when it comes to attracting and retaining employers and talent, the greater Indianapolis area must continue to focus on creating more of what the Brookings Institution refers to as “good and promising jobs” that are relevant for the 21st century economy. We must simultaneously ensure that people in greater Indianapolis are prepared to fill these jobs.
Dick Fairbanks created his namesake Foundation to enhance the vitality of Indianapolis. He believed that the Foundation could accomplish this vision by supporting key economic drivers – like talent attraction and development initiatives – that could help ensure Indianapolis remains a thriving city.
The Foundation has established the following goal in our Vitality of Indianapolis focus area:
- Identify and support key economic drivers that will help to create a more vibrant Indianapolis.
For example, since 2007, the Foundation has awarded over $11 million to BioCrossroads, which works to advance Indiana’s life sciences industry through collaborations and convenings with corporate, academic and philanthropic partners and startup investments. BioCrossroads plays a critical role bolstering the life sciences sector and by supporting the launch of initiatives such as the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute and 16 Tech that aim to accelerate the growth of the life sciences and innovation sectors in Central Indiana.
As we celebrate 35 years since the establishment of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, we reflect on the impact of our grantees and other community partners working tirelessly to improve the lives of people in Indiana. Their ingenuity and focus on quality outcomes are helping to ensure Indianapolis remains a thriving city that reflects the vision of our founder.
Claire Fiddian-Green is the President & CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.