Social-Impact Investment Pitch Competition

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 Economic Development, Economic Mobility, Health and Well-Being, or Conservation.

Winning ideas will receive the following investments:

First Prize: $500,000

Second Prize: $300,000

Third Prize: $200,000

Pitch Competition applicants who do not win one of the three prizes will be considered for investment through the Foundation's Social-Impact Investment Program

To accelerate the impact and effectiveness of the pitch competition, the Foundation is partnering with three expert national and local organizations: The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, in Menlo Park, California and Boston, one of the largest venture philanthropy firms in the world; OneValley, the Silicon Valley-based global entrepreneurship platform that just set up shop in Pittsburgh, operating out of the newly renovated historic Roundhouse Building in Hazelwood Green; and OneValley’s local partner and longtime Richard King Mellon grantee, Ascender.

Here is a list of the expert national and local judges who will be advising the Foundation in selecting the winners.

July 14, 2021: Application portal opens

September 1, 2021 by 12pm EST (NOON): Round 1 applications are due. All applications must be completed through our online portal and include team members’ biographies and a 5-minute Pitch Video.

September 17, 2021: Those invited to submit an application to Round 2 will be notified.

October 1, 2021: Round 2 applications are due. Applicants will need to provide additional information about financials and upload an updated 5-minute Pitch Video.

January 2022 (exact date TBD): Public event to announce Pitch Competition winners and other applicants that are selected to receive investments through the Social-Impact Investment program.

 

Eligibility 

The Richard King Mellon Foundation Social Impact Pitch Competition is open to any individual, team, or for-profit company that has a social mission.

 

Selection Criteria

The idea must:

  • ​Be aligned with the Foundation's strategic plan. Ask how your product or technology is solving a problem that is important to the Foundation and meets the problem statements or vision of either the Economic Development, Economic Mobility, Health and Well-Being or Conservation program areas.
  • Be marketable, feasible to implement, and innovative.
  • Create a local impact in Allegheny and/or Westmoreland counties for ideas focused on Economic Development, Economic Mobility, or Health and Well-Being.
  • Create impact in areas that the Foundation has previously conserved if the idea focuses on Conservation, which is the one Foundation program that has a national footprint.

Additional consideration will be given to ideas that involve a diversity
of team members who come from a range of backgrounds and disciplines.

Use of Investment Funds

Funds will typically be disbursed as a Program-Related Investment (PRI). A PRI is a financing tool that allows foundations to provide funding to businesses to create solutions to social problems in furtherance of the foundation’s charitable purposes. PRIs for this competition include equity investments or financial guaranties. Foundations do expect a PRI to be repaid according to the terms of the investment. The terms of the investment for Pitch Competition winners will be fair and at market value. The Foundation expects that the typical PRI will take the form of a convertible note, with an interest rate between 1.0% and 3.0%, a 20% conversion discount, a maturity date of two years and customary conversion terms.  The terms of each individual PRI may differ. When funds are repaid, a foundation distributes the returned funds to other charitable purposes within one year. 

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 of the foundation's exempt purposes, 
  • Production of income or appreciation of property is not a significant purpose, 
  • 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 criteria. 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.

 

Round 1 applications are due by NOON EST (12pm) on September 1, 2021.

All applications must be completed through our online portal and include team members’ biographies and a 5-minute Pitch Video.  Any videos beyond five minutes in length will not be reviewed.  

Round 2 applications are by invitation only.

The Round 2 application requests further details about the idea and the charitable benefit the applicant proposes to further with funding. Round 2 invitees will also need to provide additional requested financial information, cvs or resumes of team members, and an updated 5-minute Pitch Video. 

Round 2 applications are due by NOON EST (12pm) on October 1, 2021.

Round 2 invitees that are considered for investments will go through a legal due diligence process.

Pitch competition winners and selected applicants that obtained investments through the Foundation's Social-Impact Investment Program will be announced at a public event in January 2022 with specific date and location to be determined. 

Still have questions? Don’t know where to start? Need a helping hand?

The Richard King Mellon Foundation hosted an informational webinar on how to develop a winning pitch on Tuesday, August 10th, 2021. View it below.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

No. We are unable to meet individually with applicants. Please review this FAQ section and view the video of the webinar that the Foundation hosted on Tuesday, August 10, 2021 at 1pm.   

If you have additional questions, please email rkmf@rkmf.org. We will be accepting questions until 11:59pm EST on August 20, 2021.

No. We welcome submissions to the pitch competition from individuals or teams that are in need for start-up funds to launch their idea or start a new business. 



Yes, you may submit your idea to the pitch competition if the lead 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.

 

 

 

No. Unfortunately, we are not able to entertain applications from companies not incorporated in the United States.


​​Program staff from the Foundation and an expert panel of advisors will adjudicate among the applicants. The Board of Trustees of the Richard King Mellon Foundation will select the final winners of the pitch competition. First place will be awarded a $500,000 investment; second place will be awarded a $300,000 investment; third place will be awarded a $200,000 investment. Noteworthy applicants not selected to win a prize may be considered for an investment through the Social-Impact Investment Program. Prize winners and any other select applicants that will be receiving an investment will be announced at the January 2022 public awards ceremony.

Richard King Mellon Foundation will host a public awards ceremony to announce competition winners and applicants who were selected for investments through the Social-Impact Investment Program in January 2022.


A Program-Related Investment (PRI) is a financing tool that allows foundations to provide funding to businesses to create solutions to social problems in furtherance of the foundation’s charitable purposes. PRIs for this competition include equity investments or financial guarantees. 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. 

The terms of the investment for Pitch Competition winners will be fair and at market value. The Foundation expects that the typical PRI will take the form of a convertible note, with an interest rate between 1.0% and 3.0%, a 20% conversion discount, a maturity date of two years and customary conversion terms. The terms of each individual PRI may differ.

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 criteria. We encourage you to consult with your legal counsel and review the IRS guidance and other resources about philanthropic PRIs before you submit your application.

No, if you previously received a Social-Impact Investment PRI from the Foundation, you are not eligible to apply through the Pitch Competition for new funding. 

 

 

Webinar Questions 

Round 2 invitees will have the option to upload a modified video if they so choose, but this is not required. 

The Foundation’s webinar provides tips and hints for effective pitching.  Applicants can pull any aspects of the talk that might be valuable to the submission.  Applicants are welcome to submit a Pitch Video up to 5 minutes length, but it can be shorter.  

Yes. Responses to Questions 1 and 3 through 9 are limited to 50 wordsYour response to Question 2 is limited to 100 words. 

An application should primarily focus on the idea (the product, technology, or service) to be funded. Applicants should provide company background as appropriate and relevant.

It is not necessary to indicate investment levels in Round 1. If you are invited to Round 2, if you so choose you can provide more information on the level of investment that is preferred.  

Please include the relevant team members for the idea you are submitting to be funded. This should include founding members and any relevant or core team members.  

Yes, we are using a standard rubric to assess applicationsWe are not sharing the rubric. Please review the webinar posted on this web site for tips on how to create a winning pitch and review the eligibility and selection criteria.  

We welcome cross-program submissions. You are required to select one program area within which your idea fits, but be sure to note the ways in which the idea traverses program areas within the written application.

The Foundation contemplates the typical PRI taking the form of a convertible note, with an interest rate between 1.0% and 3.0%, a 20% conversion discount, a maturity date of two years and customary conversion terms. The terms of each individual PRI may differ.

The maximum video length is to be five minutes. Any videos beyond five minutes in length will not be reviewed.