M.J. Murdock Trust surpasses $1 billion in giving

The Vancouver foundation has invested more than $1 billion in PNW communities since 1975

Steve Moore visits with Nonprofit representatives
Steve Moore, executive director of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, visits with a collection of nonprofits as well as Foundation Partners during the Trust’s Connecting for Good event in September. The Trust just announced that it has surpassed $1 billion in giving since launching in 1975. Courtesy of Megan Henson

When M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Executive Director Steve Moore talks about the Trust’s announcement today that the foundation has surpassed $1 billion in giving since launching in 1975, he immediately calls out the Trust’s partners who made reaching this milestone possible.

“Our ability to do this is really built standing on the shoulders of the people who have gone before,” Moore said. “And it really takes an ecosystem of support … I think about the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington, the Kuni Foundation, the number of family foundations … individual donors who are such a critical part of that ecosystem.”

Today, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust officially announced that it has officially made more than $1 billion in cumulative grants to nonprofits that serve the Pacific Northwest since opening its doors in 1975. Leaders of the foundation marked this milestone by celebrating the work of the previous 44 years and shared their vision for the nonprofit’s next $1 billion in giving.

“This is an incredibly exciting day in the history of the Murdock Trust,” Moore said. “We are humbled by the commitment, dedication and impact we see every day from the thousands of nonprofits with which we have been fortunate to partner over the years. Reaching this milestone is a testament to their service as well as the foresight of Jack Murdock and the hard work of our dedicated staff.”

When asked if he could pinpoint which specific grant was the one that put the Trust over the $1 billion mark, Moore laughed and said that although that was a great question, there is no way they could know which grant was the one.

“We have about 80 grants that we review every quarter,” Moore said. “We kind of thought that during our spring meeting it would happen (we would surpass $1 billion), we don’t really know for sure until the decisions are made until they end of the meeting when we tally everything up.”

The average Murdock grant is about $250,000 but they range from $50,000 to $700-$800,000 and occasionally higher, said Colby Reade, director of communications with the Trust.

Since its founding in 1975, the Murdock Trust has made 6, 718 grants totaling $1,005,703,799 to more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations working in the arts and culture, scientific research, health, human services and educational sectors serving communities in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

“We believe that the fruit of our work grows on the trees of others,” Moore said. “The groups we support are on the front lines, serving vulnerable populations across our region, educating children and young adults, inspiring the next round of game-changing scientific research, providing life-saving healthcare and treatment, enriching our communities through performance and artistic expression, all while working to serve and uplift all people of the Pacific Northwest. We are so fortunate to have played a small role in their mission and work.”

Magenta Theater – a community-based, all-volunteer theatrical organization dedicated to providing the Vancouver/Portland area theater goers with the best in live, local entertainment – is just one of the numerous nonprofit organizations that have received game-changing grants from the Murdock trust.

Tom Hubbard, lighting director at Magenta Theater, said they had considered applying for a Murdock Trust grant years ago, but it wasn’t until they decided it was time to pursue a new LED stage lighting system and realized the project’s total cost that it became obvious that it was no small fundraising effort, and they needed financial help.

“We believed our project was viable and within the mission of the Murdock Trust,” Hubbard said. “From our first fact-finding meeting at Murdock’s office, the creation and submission of our Letter of Intent, the construction of the formal application, Murdock’s site visit and to the awarding of our grant, the team at Murdock was there to guide us through the process and lend their support.”

Hubbard said Magenta’s own year-long fundraising program raised 50% of the needed money; the Murdock Trust grant supplied the remaining 50%.

“With our new LED system no installed the future is bright, no pun intended,” Hubbard said. “Today we have a safer system for lighting operators, significantly reduced our electrical costs and opened new areas of theatrical expression for our lighting designers, directors and actors. We are proud of the partnership we have developed with the Murdock Charitable Trust and look forward to working with their team again.”

Looking ahead

With assets of nearly $1.3 billion – grown from $91 million in 1975 – the Murdock Trust can anticipate granting about $50-$60 million per year moving forward, depending on economic factors. As foundation leaders reflect on the last 44 years of grant-making, they find themselves less focused on the past accomplishments and more interested in looking forward to the next $1 billion in grants.

“Really we just plan to continue to do what we do,” Moore said. “We want to stay focused on serving nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest and continue to serve those sectors that we serve. We’ll continue to do that, and continue to also think of ways that are contextually significant needs to nonprofits at this time.”

Moore pointed out that the Murdock Trust’s new building down on the Vancouver Waterfront is a great example of how the Trust continues to provide nonprofits in the area with whatever they need to succeed.

“We built our offices so there would be at least two of three spaces where organizations can use our space for whatever they need – a strategic planning day, board meeting, whatever,” Moore said. “We’ve seen a huge uptick in the amount of times that groups have used the space. We just had a group in here today saying how helpful it is to be out of their offices, in our offices, and having that visual encouragement to think and do their work.”

As exciting as this $1 billion milestone is for the Trust, Reade said there is no way that the foundation would have ever hit this mark without the work of numerous nonprofits, nonprofit professionals and volunteers, and community members.

“They really allow us to partner in the hard work they’re doing,” Reade said. “Without these nonprofits allowing us to be a part of their work, we don’t have a purpose.”

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.