Pittsburgh’s largest foundation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, had its biggest year ever in 2021, approving $372 million in grants. Now, they’re adding to their leadership team as the Foundation proceeds to implement its 10-year Strategic Plan.

Bobby Zappala, chair of the business incubator and coworking space Ascender, will be a Program Officer for Social-Impact Investments, focusing on for-profit companies doing public good.

Kevin L. Jenkins, CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation (a job he will continue), will focus on the Health & Well-Being program. Jenkins will be the RK Mellon Foundation’s second Prosser Mellon Fellow, a part-time job.

The two largest grants in 2021 were the biggest in the Foundation’s history — $150 million to Carnegie Mellon University, and $100 million to the University of Pittsburgh. Paid out over 10 years, all of the Pitt grant and half of the CMU grant are for new job creation projects at Hazelwood Green — biomanufacturing (Pitt) and advanced manufacturing and robotics (CMU).

“Our Trustees have adopted a bold Strategic Plan to guide the Foundation’s philanthropy this decade, and executing that plan with excellence requires significant staff expertise,” says Sam Reiman, director of the Foundation. “We are deeply proud of the experts who already serve the Foundation — and now, with Bobby and Kevin joining the team, our ranks are stronger still.”

“It is meaningful to all of us that such accomplished professionals have decided to lend their considerable talents to our work. We are a lean team at the Foundation, intentionally so, because we want to focus the money available to us on philanthropic grants. That lean structure requires that every team member operates at a high level — and Bobby and Kevin have been doing high-level work in Pittsburgh for years.”

The Foundation began two new programs this year — Social-Impact Investments, which are investments in for-profit companies with social missions that align with the Foundation’s Strategic Plan — and Organizational Effectiveness, a new initiative to help select nonprofits to advance their organizations to higher levels of efficacy.

Bobby Zappala. Photo courtesy of the RK Mellon Foundation.

Zappala’s work with Social-Impact Investments is expected to pump at least $50 million (over the next 10 years) into for-profit companies.

“To have the opportunity to work for the Richard King Mellon Foundation, a visionary leader in the region for more than 70 years that has been pivotal to Pittsburgh’s evolution, is humbling,” said Zappala. “Moreover, the Social-Impact Investments program will provide much-needed capital for impact-focused entrepreneurs in our region, and I look forward to supporting these businesses as they grow and drive positive change. I’m eager to support the Foundation’s efforts to advance this innovative investment approach to its philanthropy.”

Jenkins is president and CEO of the nonprofit Manchester Bidwell Corporation, which works closely with its community-building affiliates Bidwell Training Center, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the National Center for Arts & Technology. Before that, Jenkins served as senior program officer for Health and Human Services and Community Initiative Director at The Pittsburgh Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest community foundations.

Kevin Jenkins. Photo courtesy of the RK Mellon Foundation.

“My work at Manchester Bidwell Corporation has always centered around the flourishing of individuals, families and communities, so the ability to bring this same focus to the work of the Foundation is an exciting and meaningful opportunity,” says Jenkins.

Founded in 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation is the largest foundation in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and one of the 50 largest in the world. Its endowment was $3.1 billion at year-end in 2020.

The bulk of the Foundation’s grantmaking is focused on its four legacy program areas: Conservation, Economic Development, Economic Mobility, and Health and Well-Being.

“I want to congratulate all 229 organizations that received funding in this record year — including 51 organizations that are new to working with the Foundation,” says Foundation Chair Richard A. Mellon. “Our grantees are the measure of our work, and we are proud to be working with these organizations to improve the quality of life for the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and to enhance conservation across the United States.”