PITTSBURGH – In a Zoom presentation to the community today, the Richard King Mellon Foundation unveiled its new 2021-2030 Strategic Plan – a blueprint to invest more than $1.2 billion over the next decade – and invited ideas to bring the new strategies to life.
“This Strategic Plan represents an historic opportunity to work together to help the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania, all the people, to achieve greater opportunity and prosperity. To make the greater Pittsburgh region a national and global destination. And to advance the cause of environmental conservation across the United States,” Foundation Director Sam Reiman said in the 40-minute presentation.
The Strategic Plan has six core program areas. It expands the Foundation’s historic work in economic development and conservation; launches two new program areas, economic mobility and health and well-being; and creates two new initiatives that cut across the first four program areas: social-impact investments and organizational effectiveness.
Reiman invited nonprofit organizations, and businesses focused on social impact, to submit their best ideas to bring the plan to life. Applications and questions always are welcome through the Foundation website. Also on the website are four specific requests for ideas and proposals, each for a specific component of the new Strategic Plan.
Reiman made the Strategic Plan presentation from Day Owl – a for-profit company that manufactures backpacks in Homewood. The Foundation has invested $2 million in Day Owl to help create jobs in Homewood – one of its first forays into social-impact investing.
“Social-impact investing is investing in private companies, such as Day Owl, that want to do public good – but they need capital to do it,” Reiman explained.
Reiman also explained a new initiative for nonprofits, organizational effectiveness. “The Foundation has deep respect and admiration for our nonprofit partners. Their work is hard and it is critically important. Yet many nonprofits never have resources to focus on themselves,” Reiman said. “Organizational effectiveness is about helping nonprofits who want to take their game up. It is designed to give select partners the chance to create the enhanced organizational strength and agility they need to pursue big ideas and take risks.”
Reiman said the plan, two years in the making, was influenced by the remarkable events of 2020.
”We switched gears last year and redirected more than $33 million to offset the impacts of COVID. We learned from our grantees about what will be necessary to surge out of the pandemic in the years ahead. And we learned even more when we talked anew with Black leaders last summer, about the pervasive roadblocks that too many of our neighbors face, just because of the color of their skin,” Reiman said.
The presentation was led by Reiman and the Foundation’s program team, Gabriella Gonzalez, Lynne Ventress, Grace Evans and Brian Hill, and the Foundation’s Prosser Mellon Fellow, Craig Markovitz.
The Foundation’s newest Program Officer, Curan Bonham, also joined the presentation. Bonham begins work at the Foundation next week, after nearly 10 years at Conservation International, where he is director of investments, working on innovative conservation-finance projects. Bonham has lived and worked in Italy and India. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, and a Fulbright Scholar in Chile. Bonham is a graduate of Cornell University, with a Masters in International Resource Management from the University of Montana.
Reiman said the 74-year-old Foundation also is launching its first communications operation and introduced Tim Reeves to lead it. Reeves, a Penn Hills native, was co-owner of Boston advertising and PR agency, Allen & Gerritsen. He previously served as press secretary to former Gov. Tom Ridge, and was a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“For more than 70 years, we have let our work speak for itself. And there is honor in that humility,” Reiman said. “But through our strategic planning process, we have reached the conclusion that we need to start communicating more – because it can accelerate our work. This presentation is an example. If we tell the community, as we are today, what we are doing and why – we can rally more people to the cause. We can generate a richer pipeline of ideas for funding. And we can help our grantees to advance their missions.”
The presentation is available for viewing on the Foundation’s website.
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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 projected 2020 endowment was $3.1 billion and its Trustees in 2020 awarded grants and Program Related Investments totaling $130 million.