Funding Programs: Conservation

Conserving precious lands and habitats across the U.S.


The Problem

In Western Pennsylvania and across the nation, important habitats are imperiled, threatening biodiversity and undermining people’s quality of life.

Our Vision

Wildlife flourishes and people thrive in those once-imperiled habitats, through strategic land protection, stewardship, and activation, and sustainable economic development that deploys renewable energy and new technologies that foster livable communities and healthy natural systems.

Investment Areas

Areas We Invest In

Since its founding in 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation has committed more than $1 billion to conserve and restore critical habitats in Pennsylvania and across the United States; to promote sustainable economic development; and to help create livable communities. The Foundation’s Conservation program has four investment areas: habitat conservation; stewardship; activation; and sustainable communities. The Foundation uses innovative financial approaches across all four investment areas, including program-related investments (PRIs) and other mechanisms to maximize the impact of its funding.

Habitat Conservation



Sustainable Communities

Request for Proposals


Apply for a Grant

Our application portal is open and accepting grant applications for funding through its Conservation program. All applicants should apply using the General Application.  Applications may be submitted on a rolling basis.

Requests for Proposals:
The Foundation periodically issues Requests for Proposals in specific areas of its Strategic Plan.  Learn more Apply Now

Our Impact

In 2021, the Foundation awarded 73 grants and program-related investments totaling $48,260,925 to advance its Conservation strategy, as articulated in the Foundation’s 2021–2030 Strategic Plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: Conservation

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.

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

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 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.   

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.