Grants & PRIS: Requests For Proposals

Addressing Learning Loss for Pre-K through Grade 12 Students

The Background

In October 2022, economists from Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research found that recent learning losses in K-12 students’ math attainment “would represent a 1.6 percent decline in present value of lifetime earnings for the average K-12 student (or $19,400), totaling $900 billion for the 48 million students enrolled in public schools during the 2020-21 school year” if these learning losses remained permanent.

A comparison of 2016-2019 and 2022 PSSA and Keystone Assessment data from the PA Department of Education suggests that students in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, who may not be represented in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, have also experienced learning losses in the areas of math and English and Language Arts. Students categorized in the “Historically Underperforming” subgroup by the Pennsylvania Department of Education – a non-duplicated population of students with disabilities, students who are economically disadvantaged, or English Language Learners – scored lower than the “All Students” population on the PA exams in 2022. Additional data from the PA Department of Education’s Future Ready Index suggests that students of color disproportionately experienced learning loss compared to their peers. Based on local data, it is feasible to believe that local students may – like their national peers – experience a decline in lifetime earnings if urgent action is not taken.

Request for Proposals

The Richard King Mellon Foundation is issuing a Request for Proposals that aims to reduce or eliminate disparities in math, reading, and science literacy[1] among young people ages zero to 24 years who reside in low-income households in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. Proposals submitted for this Request for Proposals fit within the Economic Mobility program’s Educational Attainment investment area.

The Foundation will consider all submitted proposals that urgently seek to increase student success in math, reading, and science literacy by providing learning opportunities in in-school, afterschool, or other wraparound learning settings that accelerate and deepen students’ mastery.

Submitted proposals must clearly describe:

  • How learners from low-income households in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties in PA will be engaged in and benefit from the proposal;
  • The use of high-quality and evidence-informed learning resources, instructional practices, and learner activities;
  • Professional development and instructor supports that contribute to increased learner success;
  • Feasible, measurable outcomes, including target metrics that describe the degree of change in behaviors, knowledge, and skills that are expected to result from the proposed activities;
  • How the proposed outcomes align with the outcomes embedded in the Foundation’s Economic Mobility funding program; or
  • Evaluation methods that use a variety of data; empower learners to co-create success with educators; and deploy best practices in learning and implementation science.

The Foundation also strongly encourages collaborative proposals that engage multiple partners in the proposed activities, including sharing missions and goals, co-creating and sharing programs and services, and partnering in systems change.

[1] Science literacy “enables people to use scientific principles and processes in making personal decisions and to participate in discussions of scientific issues that affect society.” Science literacy includes understanding the subject matter; using the scientific process to ask, find, or determine answers to questions; and assess the quality of scientific information.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 1996. National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


Examples of ideas that may be considered include, but are not limited to, the items noted below. These are solely illustrative and not proscriptive. Applications may include a variety of services, products, or technologies. The Foundation welcomes a range of ideas and encourages thoughtful experimentation.

Planning & Innovation

  • In collaboration with local education stakeholders, develop a feasibility assessment and implementation recommendations for the delivery of systematic, high-quality and high-dosage tutoring interventions at scale
  • Conduct stakeholder engagement and planning to identify opportunities for changes in school systems and schedules that accelerate student learning
  • Conduct applied research, including developing prototypes of educational technologies, that advances the science of learning and makes it accessible to educators in school and out-of-school settings


  • Provide early literacy resources and training for caregivers and early childhood educators to expand access to high-quality literacy instruction
  • Deliver programming that increases students’ learning using resources that are: aligned to state standards, incorporate evidence-based instructional activities, and relevant and engaging to the student population that would be served


  • Expand the use of promising interventions, including technologies, to increase math proficiency for hundreds or thousands of students
  • Create and deploy communications assets or other toolkits that help parents and caregivers navigate the landscape of learning supports that are available in and out of school
  • Provide technical assistance to educational entities in the Foundation’s focal counties to expand implementation of evidence-based practices

Nonprofit & Public Sector Organizations

The Foundation’s general eligibility criteria apply to the RFP. Please review our application FAQ. Additional detailed instructions for how nonprofits and public sector organizations should complete the application can be found in this PDF.

Funding Range

For all types of grants awarded to nonprofit and public sector organizations through the RFP, the Foundation expects to fund projects in the range of $150,000-$500,000, depending on the complexity of the proposed project, the number of collaborators, and the type of support (Planning and Innovation, Implementation, or Scalability).

If an application is truly exceptional, the Foundation may consider providing more funding than this range. Successful grantees may be invited to apply for follow-on funding or additional capacity-building funding opportunities at the conclusion of the grant.

Types of Support

The Foundation expects to provide three types of support for nonprofit or public sector organizations through this RFP. The funded activities must be conducted within 6-24 months.

  • Planning and Innovation grants focus on experimentation and the development of new ideas. Recipients might describe activities such as piloting services or completing a feasibility study. Any evaluation activities should focus on understanding successes, challenges, and future possibilities resulting from the initial project.  

  • Implementation grants are for more developed concepts and services that are currently being conducted and need further infusion of funds to support reaching populations more deeply or with further intentionality. Recipients of this funding often have demonstrated past successes and have capacity to engage in iteration and evaluation.

  • Scalability grants are focused on projects and ideas that have been tested within one population group or in one geographic area with promising success; they need an infusion of funds to expand the reach of the program to other population groups or geographic areas. This funding supports extending the reach of a promising model or project.

Grant funds awarded through this RFP may be used for a variety of expenses such as program and service delivery, consultant fees, evaluation, or “overhead” or administrative expenses.


For the purposes of this RFP, the Foundation offers additional guidance about collaborative proposals from public sector and nonprofit organizations.

Public sector organizations:

  • may serve as the lead agency submitting a proposal
  • may participate as collaborating partners on proposals submitted by nonprofit organizations
  • include entities such as school districts, courts, or departments of health or human services

Nonprofit organizations:

  • may serve as the lead agency for all types of grants
  • may participate as collaborating partners for all types of grants

Entrepreneurs &
For-profit Companies

The Foundation’s general eligibility criteria apply to the RFP. Please review our application FAQ. Additional detailed instructions for how for-profit companies should complete the application can be found in this PDF.  

Funding Range

The Foundation expects to invest in the range of $250,000-$500,000 as a convertible instrument or Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE). Please visit the Foundation’s Social-Impact Investments program to learn more about funding opportunities for for-profit companies.

Types of Support

The Foundation expects to provide support for entrepreneurs and for-profit companies with a social mission at either of the following stages through this RFP.

  • Implementation-focused program-related investments are for entrepreneurs or businesses that have developed at least a minimum viable product but are still seeking product-market fit and need further infusion of funds to support reaching populations more deeply or with further intentionality.
  • Scalability-focused program-related investments are for entrepreneurs or businesses with well-developed products or services and have established relationships with their customers and end-users; they need an infusion of funds to expand to additional customer segments or geographic areas. 

What the Foundation Will Not Fund

The Foundation will not fund the following items through this RFP:

  • Endowments
  • Advocacy, political causes or events
  • Existing deficits or retroactive funding
  • Event sponsorships
  • Student scholarships


Round 1: CLOSED

  • Applications are due – Monday, April 17, 2023 Noon (12:00 PM) EST
    • Nonprofit/Public Sector Application here
    • Entrepreneurs and For-profit Companies here
  • Funding status notification – Friday, June 30, 2023
  • Funds issued for awarded grants- Friday, July 14, 2023

Round 2:

  • Applications are due – Wednesday, September 13, 2023 Noon (12:00 PM) EST.
    • Nonprofit/Public Sector Application here
    • Entrepreneurs and For-Profit Companies here
  • Funding status notification – Friday, December 22, 2023
  • Funds issued for awarded grants – Friday, December 22, 2023

Download a copy of this RFP here.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: Request For Proposals

We encourage you to prioritize carefully with your organization, and we recommend that an organization submit one proposal to each RFP. However, the logic model describing the proposed initiative may contain several types of activities that are critical for the project’s success.  

If you are submitting a proposal as part of a large regional research, university, or healthcare institution, we will consider ideas from multiple divisions within the institution. You should coordinate with your institution’s development office before responding to an RFP or completing the General Application to the Foundation.

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, the Foundation provides general operating support for organizations that are not postsecondary institutions or research institutions.

In the application, you will encounter a question about the type of support that you are seeking. You can select from the following options: Capital Support; General Operating Support; Land Acquisition; Project Support.

Yes, you can include indirect expenses in your proposed budget if your organization is not a postsecondary or research institution.

We define indirect expenses as those expenses categorized as “Management and General;” “Administrative and Management;” or “Fundraising” according to the IRS and FASB functional expense allocation guidelines.

For organizations that are eligible to receive support for indirect expenses, we do not have a recommended ratio.

The Foundation will not fund ideas that include regranting to individuals. The Foundation may fund applications that include regranting from a lead agency to other agencies who are identified in the submission as participants in a collaboration. In this case, the regranted funds are solely to support the collaborative activities described in the submission. We will consider ideas in which organizations provide technical assistance in areas where they have expertise or are working with pre-identified partners, who will then assist with the implementation of the proposed project. 

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.   

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. 

Any questions about the application may be submitted via email to [email protected]. We will be responsive to all thoughtful inquiries. 

Nonprofit and public sector applicants can submit different proposals to any of the RFPs at the same time.  

For-profit companies and entrepreneurs are only able to submit a proposal to the Employment in the New Economy: Supporting Disconnected and Gig Economy Workers RFP

Have a Question?

Please contact Lynne Ventress at the Foundation to discuss questions regarding this RFP.