Funding Programs: Social-Impact Investments

Social-Impact Investments


The Problem

The nonprofit and public sectors alone cannot provide all the ideas, resources, and talented people needed to advance the Foundation’s strategic priorities.

Our Vision

The Foundation’s social-impact investing enables mission-driven for-profit companies to secure the risk capital, networks and resources they need to develop products, deploy services and address societal issues at the individual and community level.

Investment Areas

For-profit investments for social good

The Social-Impact Investments (SII) program enables the Foundation to work with businesses and capital markets to pursue promising opportunities for charitable purposes. In this way, we promote social good while addressing market failures. SII works across the Foundation’s four core program areas: Conservation, Economic Development, Economic Mobility and Health & Well-Being. Prior to applying to the SII program, be sure that your company and the products or services align with the Foundation’s 10-year Strategic Plan and fit within one or more of those four core program areas.

Our SII goals

Program-Related Investments

Investment areas

Request for Proposals


Apply for a Grant

Apply for a PRI

The Social-Impact Investments program is accepting funding applications. We welcome applications from for-profit partners creating both financial returns, and charitable impacts consistent with the Foundation’s Strategic Plan. Interested companies should apply through our SII general application. There are no deadlines; 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. And the Foundation twice has solicited SII applications through Social-Impact Investment Pitch Competitions. Learn more

Apply Now

2021-2030 Strategic Plan

As we continue to implement our 2021-2030 Strategic Plan, we are committed to sharing insights into the outcomes produced by our grantmaking. Learn More

Our Impact

The Foundation approved 18 Social-Impact Investments in 2021, totaling more than $3.7 million.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: Social-Impact Investments

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.

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.

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.

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 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. 

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

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

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

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

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.