The nonprofit and public sectors alone cannot provide all the ideas, resources, and talented people needed to advance the Foundation’s strategic priorities.
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.
For-profit investments for social good
Our SII goals
Through the SII program, the Foundation aims to:
- Invest in regional expertise to support the development of products, services and novel technologies that will benefit the region and society
- Complement existing offerings to companies not eligible for traditional grant support
- Leverage talent and innovation from local institutions to uncover new opportunities
- Explore collaborations with industry to advance new technologies
- Improve communications and access to capital for a broad range of companies
- Attract new companies and talent to the region
- Help to create and promote employment opportunities
- Explore new finance mechanisms to attract additional sources of capital
- Promote partnerships between for-profits and nonprofits to adopt new finance strategies aimed at growth and sustainability
- Support innovative funding approaches by government
The Foundation primarily uses Program-Related Investments (PRIs) to provide SII funding to for-profit companies. Typically, SII PRIs are structured as convertible notes. We are industry agnostic and are open to any phase of company development, beyond the idea stage.
SII investments are made in for-profit companies seeking to achieve a public good in one or more of the Program Areas of the Foundation’s Strategic Plan: Conservation, Economic Development, Economic Mobility and/or Health & Well-Being.
Priority: Conservation – In Western Pennsylvania and across the nation, important habitats are imperiled, threatening biodiversity and undermining people’s quality of life. The Foundation envisions that 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. Conservation is the Foundation’s one national program area. The Foundation’s Conservation program investment areas are: Habitat Conservation; Stewardship; Economic Activation of Rural Communities around Protected Landscapes; and Sustainable Communities. Positive social impacts in these investment areas can be anywhere in the United States.
Priority: Economic Development – The region’s economic prosperity is hindered by a widening gap in economic opportunities among residents and education systems that are not keeping pace with what the workforce of the future needs to compete in the innovation economy. The Foundation’s vision is for a region that is an engine for economic growth and vitality by investing in the ingenuity and creativity of its population, enhancing individuals’ economic prosperity, and strengthening our sense of community. The Foundation’s Economic Development program investment areas, all focused in Allegheny and/or Westmoreland counties, are: Talent Development; Employment Opportunities; and Community Building.
Priority: Economic Mobility – In Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, children in lower income households have less access to opportunities that contribute to economic mobility in adulthood. Also, community-level factors create obstacles that impede some children’s pathway to economic mobility. The Foundation envisions that all children and youth living in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties will be able to access their most promising future. We invest in pathways to opportunity for vulnerable children and youth to overcome the obstacles to achieving economic mobility. The Foundation’s Economic Mobility program investment areas, all focused in Allegheny and/or Westmoreland counties, are: Educational Attainment; Future of Work; Supportive Living Environments; and Places of Opportunity.
Priority: Health and Well-Being – Many individuals in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties are unable to live a healthy life due to conditions in their communities, lack of integration across sectors, and differences in the availability of quality supports and services. The Foundation envisions that everyone in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, particularly the most vulnerable, has the opportunity to live a healthy life. The Foundation’s Health and Well-Being program investment areas, all focused in Allegheny and/or Westmoreland counties, are: Healthy People; Healthy Communities; and Advancing Science.
Request for Proposals
The Foundation periodically issues Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to solicit proposals on specific subject areas of its Strategic Plan, areas that the Foundation believes are worthy of greater focus. There currently are four pending RFPs – two in the Economic Development program area, and two in the Economic Mobility program area. Those pending RFPs can be reviewed here.
Historic RFPs can be submitted at any time through our General Application.
Apply for a Grant
Social-Impact Pitch Competition Application
To best address the most vexing social problems facing our region, we need a wide range of solutions from our best thinkers. The Richard King Mellon Foundation is looking to invest in novel products, technologies or services from social-mission oriented for-profit companies through our Pitch Competition.
Pitched ideas must align with the Foundation's program areas in Conservation, Economic Development, Economic Mobility, or Health & Well-being.
Application deadline is Friday, September 22, 2023 at NOON.
2021-2030 Strategic Plan
The Foundation approved 18 Social-Impact Investments in 2021, totaling more than $3.7 million.
FAQ: Social-Impact Investments
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.
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 Foundation normally has Board meetings in the Spring, Summer and Winter.
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 is generally not providing multi-year grants at this time. The majority of our grants are twelve to eighteen months.
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.
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.
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.