Frequently Asked Questions

All documents can be found below, or you can email Nikki Pirain, Information & Grants Manager at [email protected] and have them sent to you directly.

General Nonprofit & Public Sector Application:

Nonprofit & Public Sector Reporting:

General For-Profit (Social-Impact Investment) Application:

For-Profit (Social-Impact Investment) Reporting:

The Foundation uses an outside investment consultant, Russell Investments, for public manager selection.  Therefore, any inquiries to the Foundation for public manager mandates will not be reviewed.  All private manager inquiries should be made to our Assistant Treasurer, Edward J. Morgan ([email protected]).

A company must demonstrate that their product, service, or technology addresses our charitable goals, which were recently updated as part of the Foundation’s 2021-2030 strategic plan. The plan’s framework includes four key pillars: economic development, economic mobility, health and well-being, and conservation. If your business addresses any of the problem statements within these categories, and creates positive impact in Allegheny and/or Westmoreland counties (with the exception of conservation, which is national in scope), there is likely sufficient impact alignment.

We encourage you to consult with your legal counsel and review the IRS guidance and other resources about philanthropic PRIs before you submit an application.

Please check back at our website. It is updated frequently. 

Any questions about the application may be submitted via email to [email protected]. We will be responsive to all thoughtful inquiries. 

There must be at least one authorized signature on the executive certification document 

The Foundation’s SII application is the starting point for a rigorous due diligence process which will be pursued as expeditiously as possible. Applications may be submitted at any time. 

Your company may incur legal fees during this process, for which the Richard King Mellon Foundation cannot provide reimbursement. Also, your leadership team and other staff will need to dedicate time to meeting with Foundation staff, providing materials and answering questions.   

The first step in the process is for you to submit an application through the SII application portal on our website. In the application, you will provide information about your company and how your company contributes to broader social good. We will also ask for information about where that proposed charitable benefit will occur, along with further detail about your business plan and the charitable benefit that your organization seeks to create with funding.   

The Foundation’s staff and legal counsel will use this information to conduct an initial assessment of whether a proposed PRI aligns with our 2021-2030 Strategic Plan and meets the IRS charitable purpose requirements. If we determine that your initial proposal is not a good candidate for a PRI, we will inform you and decline your application. 

If we determine that your initial proposal is a good candidate for further consideration, we will reach out to schedule time to meet and initiate our diligence process. During this meeting, our staff will address questions around impact, executive leadership and management, business models, financial projections, operations and strategy, among other areas of importance. If necessary, staff may conduct site visits or require further diligence inquiries to determine whether an investment is appropriate. 

Yes. You may submit an application if your company is based anywhere in the United States. Unfortunately, we are not able to entertain applications from companies not incorporated in the United States. For ideas focused on Economic Mobility, Economic Development, or Health & Well-Being, if your company is located outside the Pittsburgh region, please be sure to address within the application how your idea will positively impact Allegheny and/or Westmoreland counties. If your proposal is related to our Conservation program area, the positive impact you seek to generate can be anywhere in the United States. 

The primary goal of a PRI is to achieve charitable benefit. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service allows a foundation to provide a PRI if the investment fulfills all three of the following criteria: 

  • The primary purpose is to accomplish one or more of the foundation’s exempt purposes
  • Production of income or appreciation of property is not a significant purpose, and 
  • Influencing legislation or taking part in political campaigns on behalf of candidates is not a purpose. 

The IRS provides additional guidance that further clarifies each of these criterion. We encourage you to consult with your legal counsel and review the IRS guidance and other resources about philanthropic PRIs before you submit an application.

A convertible note refers to a short-term debt instrument (security) that can be converted into equity (ownership portion in a company). They are structured as loans to convert it to an equity stake of the company in the future. We are also able to structure investments as Safes where appropriate.

A PRI is a financing tool that allows foundations to provide funding to for-profit businesses to create solutions to social problems in furtherance of that foundation’s charitable purposes. PRIs can take many forms, including loans, equity investments or financial guaranties. Foundations do expect a PRI to be repaid according to the terms of the investment. When that happens, a foundation distributes the returned funds to other charitable purposes within one year.

Yes, we consider applications from organizations that are not based in Allegheny or Westmoreland counties. In your application, you should be clear about why and in what ways the project will serve economic development in these counties.   

To receive Foundation funding for an Economic Development application, the initiative needs to focus on economic development in Allegheny or Westmoreland counties. If your organization has an idea to economically activate lands the Foundation has historically conserved to promote sustainable rural economic development, please consider applying through the Foundation’s Conservation program.  

Arts and culture organizations are pivotal economic drivers in the region. The Foundation has historically focused on enhancing the cultural experience in Downtown Pittsburgh, but will also consider applications from organizations outside of Downtown that support the region’s economic development. 

The two programs focus on different populations and have different goals. The goal of the Economic Mobility program is to improve the social, economic and academic outcomes of children and young people, aged 0 through 24, who are living in poverty. The goal of the Economic Development program is to foster the economic prosperity of the Pittsburgh region. Investments within the Economic Development program’s Talent Development and Employment Opportunities areas focus on adults aged 18 and above. Both programs require that services and activities occur within Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.  

The Foundation will not fund ideas that include regranting to individuals. The Foundation may fund applications that include regranting from a lead agency to other agencies who are identified in the submission as participants in a collaboration. In this case, the regranted funds are solely to support the collaborative activities described in the submission. We will consider ideas in which organizations provide technical assistance in areas where they have expertise or are working with pre-identified partners, who will then assist with the implementation of the proposed project. 

For organizations that are eligible to receive support for indirect expenses, we do not have a recommended ratio.

Yes, you can include indirect expenses in your proposed budget if your organization is not a postsecondary or research institution.

We define indirect expenses as those expenses categorized as “Management and General;” “Administrative and Management;” or “Fundraising” according to the IRS and FASB functional expense allocation guidelines.

Yes, the Foundation provides general operating support for organizations that are not postsecondary institutions or research institutions.

In the application, you will encounter a question about the type of support that you are seeking. You can select from the following options: Capital Support; General Operating Support; Land Acquisition; Project Support.

The Foundation is generally not providing multi-year grants at this time. The majority of our grants are twelve to eighteen months.

Questions about a declined application may be submitted via email to[email protected]. The Foundation aspires to reply to all inquiries but, given the volume of applications the Foundation receives, we cannot commit to answering every such inquiry.

The Foundation normally has Board meetings in the Spring, Summer and Winter.

You will immediately receive an email confirming that your application was successfully submitted. There are not specific timelines associated with the review of a funding application.

  • For Nonprofit Organizations (General Applications): Click Here
  • For-Profit Organizations (General Applications): Click Here

Please reach out to Lisa Reed at [email protected], Nikki Pirain at [email protected], or [email protected] for assistance.

No. If you do not have financial statements that are compiled, reviewed, or audited, then you may want to work with a fiscal sponsor. The fiscal sponsor would submit an application on your behalf.

If you do not have audited financial statements, you may upload the type of financial statements required by Pennsylvania law based on your gross annual contributions.

Yes, your fiscal sponsor should submit the application. Your fiscal agent should also submit their financial statements, audits, board of directors, other information requested in the “Organization Information” and “Executive Certification” sections of the application. The fiscal sponsor should clearly indicate in the executive summary that they are acting as a fiscal sponsor and that you are the agency leading the work.

If you do not have an IRS tax determination letter confirming charitable or tax exempt status, or your organization does not have the infrastructure to manage its finances and operations independently, then you may want to consider working with a fiscal sponsor.

A fiscal sponsor is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service that acts as a funding steward for a project that does not have 501(c)(3) designation.

Yes, please make sure that you have signed MOUs, letters of support, or other documents indicating commitment to participate and upload those as “Additional Documents” in the final section of the application.

The General Application accepts proposals on a rolling basis. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) have specific timelines for submission that are indicated in the detailed guidance on our website.

Nonprofit and public sectors organizations can apply to one or several RFPs and submit via the general application for other activities. Each application should be substantively different from the others.  

Please visit our Application Primer, where you can learn about the nuances of our nonprofit and public sector funding application. We also encourage you to log in to our portal and explore.

The first step is to check your organization’s tax status and verify that you are eligible to receive philanthropic funding. After that, you can submit an application through our online portal. We will only consider applications submitted through this portal.

Foundation staff will reach out to you after reviewing your proposal if they have questions. If you have questions, please email [email protected].

It is unlikely that you can meet with a program officer before submitting. In general, program officers are not available for a discussion until after a proposal has been submitted. You can also email [email protected] with questions.

Only nonprofit or public sector organizations that have received general operations or project support funding within the past three years are eligible for Organizational Effectiveness grants.  

We welcome proposals that span funding programs. In the application, you will encounter a question titled “Funding Program.” Select the Foundation program that addresses the majority of your proposed outcomes.

Each program focuses its funding on different regions.

  • Conservation funds nationally.
  • Economic Mobility and Health & Well-Being exclusively fund efforts that serve Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.
  • Economic Development and Social-Impact Investments mostly fund efforts that serve Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. These programs will occasionally, on a case-by-case basis, consider funding projects based in other western Pennsylvania counties.

Please refer to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/lobbying

  • The Foundation does not fund lobbying, advocacy, or political causes or events.
  • We comply with all laws and regulations, including prohibitions on funding terrorist activities.

Please review our 2021-2030 strategy and our Funding Programs to understand our priorities and how your application might align with them. You can also visit our Grants page to view previously awarded grants. We also encourage you to read our Annual Report to learn more about our strategy and funding programs.

Your organization must have a valid U.S. IRS Tax ID. We do not consider applications on behalf of individuals or from outside the United States.

No, the Foundation is generally not providing multi-year grants at this time. Currently, the majority of our grants are twelve months to eighteen months.

Nonprofit and public sector applicants can submit different proposals to any of the RFPs at the same time.  

For-profit companies and entrepreneurs are only able to submit a proposal to the Employment in the New Economy: Supporting Disconnected and Gig Economy Workers RFP

We encourage you to prioritize carefully with your organization, and we recommend that an organization submit one proposal to each RFP. However, the logic model describing the proposed initiative may contain several types of activities that are critical for the project’s success.  

If you are submitting a proposal as part of a large regional research, university, or healthcare institution, we will consider ideas from multiple divisions within the institution. You should coordinate with your institution’s development office before responding to an RFP or completing the General Application to the Foundation.

Grants are the primary form of financial support utilized by the Foundation, but it encourages innovative approaches to conservation such as program-related investments. Given the scale of the nation’s conservation challenges, partnerships with public agencies and for-profit companies are looked upon favorably.

Yes. The Foundation bases its decisions whenever possible on data-driven, scientifically backed evidence, and therefore supports and recognizes the importance of research. Planning efforts also are supported with the expectation that they will lead to programs that advance the Foundation’s Conservation strategy.

While Southwest Pennsylvania is our home and an area of particular interest to the Foundation, the Conservation program is national in scope and has made and will continue to make investments throughout the nation.

Yes, we consider applications from organizations that are not based in Allegheny or Westmoreland counties. In your application, you should be clear about why you are interested in serving children and young adults in these counties. 

We recognize that children who are economically disadvantaged reside in all communities. We foremost serve these children, regardless of the community where they live in Allegheny or Westmoreland counties. We also understand that children whose low-income household is in a middle- or upper-income community may have difficulty accessing the resources present in that community.

All three criteria (household income, age, and county of residence) are important to our funding consideration. Applicants who only meet one or two of these criteria are less likely to receive Economic Mobility program funding.

We do not require grantees to verify the household income of each child they serve. Grantees may use proxy measures to estimate the number of children who reside in low-income households. For example, if a grantee is serving a representative sample of a school population, and 70% of the students in the school are identified as economically disadvantaged, then the grantee reasonably could assume that at least 70% of the students served by the program are economically disadvantaged.

We do not have a specific definition of “low-income” that we require all grantees to use. Our grantees describe the children and young adults they serve by using widely established definitions such as free or reduced-price lunch eligibility or the federal poverty level.