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A potential multi-million dollar impact investment fund is rolling out in Pittsburgh that will establish a program to assist in the development and adoption of innovative technologies for the nonprofit sector.

BNY Mellon awarded a little over $1 million to The Forbes Funds this month as seed funding toward what is expected will be a much larger multi-million impact investment fund when all is said and done, says Matt Zieger, executive in residence for Social Innovation at The Forbes Funds. Zieger recently moved here from Harrisburg to take the lead on the fund’s development.

This will be the first large co-investment fund of its kind in the region focused on private equity investment and social enterprise, he says. The fund will invest in selected local companies, entrepreneurs and organizations who, in turn, will develop technical solutions and products targeted for nonprofits with the goal of empowering them to more effectively advance their missions.

The idea behind impact investments is to influence communities in a positive way while generating a financial return for investors. The Forbes Funds, a supporting organization of the Pittsburgh Foundation, hopes to deploy the platform regionally and BNY Mellon hopes to replicate it globally.

The first step will involve research to discern the needs of the nonprofits community. More than 150 nonprofits are expected to participate in multiple sessions beginning on Nov. 18th to identify pressing needs in the community. Once the research phase is completed, the fun begins in the form of a challenge to entrepreneurs and innovators to develop new tools to assist nonprofits.

“Maybe it’s (products to address) transportation, city food deserts or access to good health care,” says Zieger. “We don’t want to be too prescriptive. To maximize success, we want to have a prototyping round and have entrepreneurs pitch to us.

“Pittsburgh has all the assets to be a leader in the world in solving these big challenges. It’s a matter of connecting those dots,” he says. “Our goal is to bring together research institutions, accelerators and all the capital sitting on the sidelines and build that platform right here–putting Pittsburgh on the map as a leader in innovation in solving these challenges.”

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared in Fast Company, Ozy and Pittsburgh Magazine.