Foundation Kicks Off New 10-Year Strategic Plan with Record Year of Grantmaking

PITTSBURGH (December 16, 2021) – As 2021 draws to a close, the Richard King Mellon Foundation is closing the books on a record year. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees has approved more than $372 million in grants in 2021, by far its largest grantmaking year ever. And it so far has received 838 applications for funding, a nearly 16% increase from 2020, which was itself a record year. 

“After publicly announcing our new, 10-year Strategic Plan last January, we set about executing that plan in earnest,” said Sam Reiman, director of the Foundation. “And the community’s response has been incredible. The response showed that our Strategic Plan is focused on important community needs and opportunities, and we were determined to hit the ground running in meeting those needs and seizing those opportunities.” 

The two largest grants in 2021 were the largest in Foundation history: $150 million to Carnegie Mellon University, announced in May, and $100 million to the University of Pittsburgh, announced last month. The two record grants will be paid out over 10 years. All of the Pitt grant and half of the CMU grant are for new job-creation projects in Hazelwood Green, in biomanufacturing (Pitt) and advanced manufacturing and robotics (CMU). 

The Foundation also this year kicked off two new programs, Social-Impact Investments, which are investments in for-profit companies whose social mission aligns with the Foundation’s Strategic Plan, and Organizational Effectiveness, a new initiative to help select nonprofits to advance their organizations to even higher levels of efficacy. 

The Foundation Board approved nearly $2.7 million in Organizational Effectiveness grants this inaugural year, and approved $3.75 million in Social-Impact Investments. Most notable among the SII investments will be the winners of the Foundation’s first-ever Social-Impact Pitch Competition. The winners of the $1 million contest will be announced Jan. 26. 

The bulk of the Foundation’s grantmaking was focused on its four legacy program areas: Conservation, Economic Development, Economic Mobility and Health and Well-Being. Economic Mobility and Health & Well-Being are newly configured focuses in the Strategic Plan, succeeding the former Education and Human Services programs, respectively. 

“I want to congratulate all 229 organizations that received funding in this record year – including 51 organizations that are new to working with the Foundation,” said Foundation Chairman Richard A. Mellon. “Our grantees are the measure of our work, and we are proud to be working with these organizations to improve the quality of life for the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and to enhance conservation across the United States.” 

To manage the higher level of activity, the Foundation today also announced that two well-known local leaders are joining the Foundation staff, effective Jan. 1, 2022: Bobby Zappala, chair of business incubator Ascender, will be a Foundation Program Officer, focusing on Social-Impact Investments; and Kevin L. Jenkins, CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, will be a Prosser Mellon Fellow, focusing his part-time Foundation work on the Health & Well Being program. (See accompanying news release). 

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About the Richard King Mellon Foundation: Founded in 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation is the largest foundation in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and one of the 50 largest in the world. The Foundation’s 2020 year-end endowment was $3.1 billion, and its Trustees in 2020 disbursed $130 million in grants and Program Related Investments. The Foundation focuses its funding on six primary program areas, delineated in its 2021-2030 Strategic Plan