Grants & PRIS: Requests For Proposals

Invasive Plant Species as a Threat to Native Biodiversity

The Background

Invasive plants are threatening the ecological integrity of many of these natural lands and waters and undermining the conservation value of important habitats, including those with high biodiversity value. The Richard King Mellon Foundation is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) aimed at stopping or slowing the spread of such harmful, non-native plant species. This new initiative is aligned with the Stewardship area of the Foundation’s Conservation funding program. Applicants responding to the RFP should apply through the Foundation’s standard application process noting the program categories listed above.

Biodiversity is in decline across the United States and invasive species are among the leading factors in those declines. Invasive non-native plants are a particular problem, outcompeting many native plant species, altering and degrading food webs, and at times transforming entire ecosystems. The spread and proliferation of invasive plants in natural ecosystems is undermining the value of important habitats and compromising the integrity of conserved and protected lands and waters. Invasive plants also can degrade the services these ecosystems provide to people and communities, such as clean-water supply, flood protection, and carbon uptake and storage. Compounding these problems, climate change is increasing the pace of invasions and worsening the impacts of some invasive species. Addressing the problem of invasive species is crucial to the Foundation’s interests in conserving important habitats with high biodiversity and promoting effective and forward-looking stewardship of the nation’s conserved lands and waters.

Tackling the challenge of invasive species can range from programs and activities to prevent the arrival and introduction of new invasives; early detection and rapid response efforts to stop the establishment or spread of invaders; and control and management activities to address established invasions. Preventing the arrival or establishment of new invaders and stopping or slowing the spread of existing invaders is widely viewed as more effective and economical then attempting to reverse already well-entrenched invasions. For this reason, disrupting key pathways for the transport and spread of invasive plants is key to protecting natural ecosystems and conserved areas from additional harm from invasive plant species. 

Invasive plants spread through a variety of pathways, and researchers have identified the horticulture industry and nursery trade as one of the most significant pathways of spread. Additional pathways include outdoor recreation and travel activities, and the movement of work equipment used in construction, firefighting, disaster response, and ecological restoration activities. Changing climatic conditions also are enabling some invasive plants to expand their ranges, for instance by allowing certain more southerly species to move into more northerly states and regions.

Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible institutions include nonprofit and public sector organizations, including those operating at local, state, Tribal, regional, and national scales. The Foundation encourages partnerships and collaborations, including with the for-profit sector, to help develop and implement programs.

We encourage applications from local and state-based organizations/agencies as well as regional invasive species collaboratives. We also encourage applications from organizations and agencies led by, representing, and/or serving diverse constituencies or communities over-burdened by environmental stressors. An important note — the Foundation does not support lobbying activities.

Details on the Foundation’s basic eligibility criteria can be found on the Apply page of our website.

Funding Guidelines:

The Foundation invites proposals that focus on one of more of the following categories with a particular focus on landscapes of special concern due to unique biodiversity (described in more detail above). Note: because this program seeks to stop or slow the spread of invasive plants, proposals focused on the control and management of established invasive plants are less likely to be funded unless the program has a direct tie to the Foundation’s Western Pennsylvania Business Plan for Conservation and has the potential for broader ramifications.

Strengthening programs for restricting the distribution and sale of invasive plants in the nursery trade by improving the coverage, consistency, and proactivity of such policies.

  • This can include outreach efforts by non-governmental entities designed to promote the adoption of new programs at state or other levels of government, or to expand or improve existing programs.
  • This can include the work of state, Tribal, or local governments to implement new policies or enhance the effectiveness of existing rules.
  • Although efforts to restrict the sale of broader suites of harmful invasive plants are preferred, this can also include campaigns focused on prohibiting and/or limiting the sale or distribution of particular harmful but widely planted species.

Promoting voluntary actions to reduce the spread of invasive plants through targeted education and outreach campaigns.

  • Campaigns must address key pathways of spread, such as the sale or planting of harmful invasive plants through the nursery trade, or the unintentional transport of invasive plants through outdoor recreation or work-related activities.
  • Proposals can include education and outreach efforts focused on public engagement in the surveillance and detection of new invaders or infestations in natural areas, as part of early detection/rapid response programs.
  • Education and outreach proposals must specify the target audience, desired behavior changes, and expected outcomes.
  • Proposals should specify the areas likely to benefit from these efforts and their ecological and conservation significance.
  • Proposals can build on existing education and outreach programs or involve the development and implementation of new approaches and campaigns.

Applying climate change considerations into efforts to stop or slow the spread of invasive plants.

  • Proposals in this area should have a primary focus on the application of climate change-related information and climate-informed watchlists, rather than mostly involve the development, refinement, or maintenance of such climate assessments and lists.
  • Proposals should specify the mechanism by which climate-related information is expected to improve the effectiveness of prevention and/or early detection and rapid response efforts at state, Tribal, or local levels, or for specific high-priority conservation areas.
  • Proposals should specify the areas likely to benefit from these efforts and their ecological and conservation significance.

In addition to the criteria and considerations described above under each of the three funding categories, the following general design considerations apply to proposals under this program:

  • The effort has been designed specifically to address and disrupt key pathways for the spread of harmful invasive plant species. 
  • The effort is expected to provide protective benefits to natural ecosystems, important habitats, and/or conserved areas. 
  • Efforts can be focused at local, state, Tribal, regional, or national scales and can address terrestrial and/or aquatic systems. 
  • Targeted natural ecosystems and conserved areas can be located in remote wildlands, rural areas, or in more heavily populated suburban and urban areas. 
  • Proposed projects should accomplish one or more of the following:
    • Enhance the ecological value and/or conservation of natural ecosystems
    • Increase the capacity of communities overburdened with environmental stressors to address the impacts of invasive plant species
    • Demonstrate innovative approaches or techniques in policy advocacy, education and outreach, or in the incorporation of climate change considerations in invasive species prevention efforts

The Foundation is committed to promoting evidence-based conservation and proposals should specify metrics that would be used to evaluate successful outcomes. Given the range of different approaches that are eligible for funding under this program, there is a recognition that appropriate metrics will vary among proposed efforts. For this reason, proposals should describe a “theory of change” for how the project is expected to make a difference in disrupting key pathways for the spread of invasive plants. This should include specifying the intended goals and outcomes for the effort, the actions expected to produce those outcomes, and potential metrics for evaluating progress towards those outcomes and goals. Given the inherent challenge of tracking progress toward preventing or slowing the spread of such species (that is, documenting something that does not happen), proposals should suggest approaches for using counterfactuals as the basis for measuring progress, or for measuring intermediate progress indicators (for instance, metrics for key actions or outputs).

What the Foundation Will Not Fund

The Foundation will not fund the following through this RFP:

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


  • Applications submitted – Friday, September 9, 2022 Noon (12:00 PM) EST.
  • Proposals Evaluated – September – November 2022
  • Funds Issued for Awarded Grants – December 2022
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 [email protected] at the Foundation to discuss questions regarding this RFP.