We welcome for-profit partners who are creating charitable social and environmental impacts alongside financial returns to apply through our Social-Impact Investment (SII) Application.
Our For-Profit Social-Impact Investments program enables us to work with businesses and capital markets to pursue promising opportunities for charitable purposes that promote social good and address market failures. We primarily use Program-Related Investments (PRIs) to provide funding to for-profit partners.
New Social-Impact Investment Pitch Competition
The Richard King Mellon Foundation is looking to invest at least $1 million in novel products, technologies, or services from social-mission oriented for-profit startups through our second SII Pitch Competition.
Applications closed at 11:59pm on Monday, October 10th, 2022. For more information, please review the FAQ section below.
Read about this year’s expert panel of judges.
Pitch Competition FAQ:
The Foundation will identify three winners, each of which will receive an investment ranging from $250,000 to $500,000, structured as a convertible note.
Any startup seeking investment from pre-seed to series A financing is appropriate. We are not looking for idea-stage concepts, nor would we fund a well-established business where risk capital is not critical to the company’s growth strategy.
In order to invest in for-profit entities, the Foundation must demonstrate that the company’s 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, there is likely sufficient impact alignment. (Our Conservation program is an exception. Conservation is our one national program, and so conservation-based applications can bring positive benefit anywhere in the United States).
Our investments are structured as typical convertible notes. We are comfortable participating in or leading an investment round where appropriate and will structure specific terms accordingly. For more information about philanthropic investments in for-profits, please read the “What is a PRI?” section below.
Yes, you may apply to the pitch competition if the company is based 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 and Well-Being, if your company is located outside the Pittsburgh region, please be sure to address how the idea will positively impact Allegheny and/or Westmoreland counties within the application. If your proposal is related to our Conservation program area, that positive impact can be anywhere in the United States.
Thiry-one local and national leaders with expertise in business, entrepreneurship, conservation, economic development, economic mobility, health and well-being and philanthropy agreed to judge the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s second annual social-impact pitch competition. For the complete list of judges, click here.
The Foundation will publicly announce the winners in December, upon completion of a thorough diligence process. However, we will be in communication with all applicants throughout the review process once applications close on October 10th.
Due to the staff’s limited bandwidth, any questions about the application should be submitted via email to email@example.com. We will be responsive to all thoughtful inquiries.
What is a PRI?
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 the 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.
How is a PRI from a foundation different from other types of investments in a company?
The primary goal of a PRI is to achieve charitable benefit. The IRS 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 nuanced 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.
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.
Application and Diligence Process
The first step in the application process is for you to submit a proposal 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 proposed to further 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 strategy 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.