Henry L. Hillman Foundation


The Henry L. Hillman Foundation’s mission is to inspire, invest in, and leverage great ideas and initiatives for outcomes that improve the quality of life in Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania.


Henry L. Hillman (1918–2017) was a nationally prominent business and civic leader who, for many years, chaired the Hillman Family Foundations as well as the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of The Hillman Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During the 1960s, he transformed the company from its roots in heavy industry into a broadly diversified global investment holding company. He multiplied the family’s holdings many times during his business career. In 1964, he created the Henry L. Hillman Foundation to support the improvement and growth of the Pittsburgh region.

Always forward-looking, Mr. Hillman was one of the nation’s first investors to identify the potential of private equity funds. In 1972, The Hillman Company became a founding limited partner in Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, an early and still influential venture capital firm. Kleiner Perkins provided the seed money for some of Silicon Valley’s earliest startups, including Genentech, Hybritech, and Tandem Computers. The Hillman Company also was a founding limited partner in the leveraged buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) in 1976.

“Imagine unique solutions” was one of Henry L. Hillman’s guiding business and philanthropic principles.

As a civic leader, Mr. Hillman played an integral part in the Pittsburgh Renaissance of the 1940s and 1950s. This famed urban turnaround was a volunteer civic and public effort that has made the city a more attractive place to live and work and diversified the region’s economy.

He served as a director or trustee of ACTION-Housing, Inc., the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Carnegie Institute, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Maurice Falk Medical Fund, Penn’s Southwest Association, Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association, Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.

As president of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development from 1967 to 1970 and as chair from 1970 to 1973, he broadened its emphasis to address problems of African-American economic inequality. One major initiative during this time was the Minority Entrepreneur Loan Program to assist new minority-owned businesses in southwestern Pennsylvania.

“I think it was participation on those boards that got me interested in philanthropy,” Mr. Hillman reflected years later. “When you participate in a place where you and your family live, you get a good feel for what needs to be done.”

Striving to change Pittsburgh physically and in terms of social justice, he saw how people working together could bring about transformative change.

Mr. Hillman was the husband of the late Elsie Hilliard Hillman (1925–2015), civic and political leader, philanthropist and activist with a lifelong interest in Pittsburgh. Together, Mr. and Mrs. Hillman accrued 67 awards and 11 honorary degrees, tributes to the teamwork that characterized the couple during their 70-year marriage.

The hallmark of Mr. Hillman’s philanthropic leadership was his commitment to making Pittsburgh the best city it could be. “A lot of people think it’s easy to give away money,” he has said. “But if you’re not careful you can just throw it away. I have discovered that giving intelligently and effectively can be just as hard as investing intelligently and effectively.

“Here in Pittsburgh,” he added, “we have the opportunity to drive social change with model projects that can benefit cities everywhere. Some of what we want our philanthropy to do is to try to be as innovative as I hope our business has been.”


  • Pittsburgh, PA

Grants Approved, 2018


Grants Paid, 2018


Guiding Principles

The Henry L. Hillman Foundation works to ensure that Pittsburgh’s considerable strengths, assets, and advantages are fully leveraged to make it one of the world’s most innovative and forward-looking cities, with a reputation for solving big problems through civic leadership and collaboration.

  • Pittsburgh is the perfect urban laboratory. Pittsburgh is just the right size for innovation—large enough to face the same issues as bigger cities and regions around the country and the world, but still small enough to make positive change happen here and therefore serve as a model for others. The Henry L. Hillman Foundation targets its investments on perpetually improving the Pittsburgh region, where Henry and Elsie Hillman chose to make their home and where they had deep personal, civic, and business roots.
  • A venture-based approach to philanthropy can yield substantial benefits for the community and grantees. In the modern innovation economy, where Henry Hillman provided early and substantial leadership dating back to the 1960s, startup businesses are scaled through a multi-stage growth and investment process. Similarly, Foundation funding can be deployed in increments designed to maximize the probability of long-term success, particularly for new and higher-risk nonprofit ventures.
  • Strengthening Pittsburgh as the core of the region is essential for prosperity. Around the world, metropolitan regions are increasingly expected to lead the way in innovation and serve as centers of economic growth and cultural vitality. In this light, southwestern Pennsylvania’s overall trajectory will, in many ways, be dependent on the continued success and transformation of the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Funding Priorities

In the 2017–2020 time frame, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation will maintain its broad interest in initiatives that are timely and designed to take advantage of an emerging opportunity, but will prioritize investments that align with the following “portfolio” focus areas:

Food Economy

Improving the local food system, including production, processing, distribution, access, consumption and resource/waste recovery

Leveraging Technology and New Business Models

Advancing innovations that greatly improve the effectiveness of nonprofits and government in solving community problems

Innovation Ecosystem 2.0

Reinventing the region’s innovation infrastructure through economic and workforce development initiatives for the modern economy

Maintaining and Renewing Pittsburgh’s Neighborhoods

Revitalizing disadvantaged communities through neighborhood-based investments in real estate, housing, art, and other public infrastructure to improve regional quality of life

Inclusive and Participatory Democracy

Making Pittsburgh a more equitable and welcoming region with high-functioning and participatory democratic institutions

Maternal and Child Health

Lowering rates of premature morbidity and mortality among the region’s most vulnerable mothers and children



  • Community / Economic Development
  • Cultural Advancement / Arts
  • Education
  • Environment / Conservation
  • Health / Medicine
  • Human / Social Services

Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicant organizations must be classified as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code and as public charities under Section 509(a) of that code.
  • The geographic focus of the Foundation’s grantmaking program is the Pittsburgh/southwestern Pennsylvania area.
  • The Board reserves the right to approve grants in other locations at its discretion.
  • While the Foundation entertains requests from a wide variety of organizations, most grants are initiated at the direction of the program staff and Board of Trustees of the Foundation.

Application Procedures

  • Requests are accepted only through the online application process.
  • The grant portal functions best in Chrome, Safari or Firefox internet browsers.
  • Applications are reviewed weekly; however, please allow sufficient time for the review and consideration, and a timely response.
  • There are no fixed deadlines for the submission of applications.
  • The Board of Trustees meets at least annually to approve requests, but may meet as often as every quarter.
  • Please direct all questions regarding the application process to Carol Long at 412-338-3466; specific project-related questions should be directed to program staff.