M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

“Philanthropy is changing. Once the realm of big donors who funded marquee projects and pet causes, private donations have become central to areas traditionally seen as government’s purview, including public schools, scientific research — and even the social safety net.
It’s a shift visible across Oregon: At OHSU, National Institutes of Health grants fund smaller projects, but it took a $500 million pledge by Nike founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, to drive an ambitious billion-dollar battle to end cancer. With businesses crying out for more scientifically minded workers and schools struggling to make ends meet, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, based in Vancouver, Wash., is paying to improve Northwest teachers’ ties to contemporary researchers. And as homelessness and housing worries dominate headlines across the state, even government-funded efforts to help the poorest of the poor often depend on the work of nonprofits…
But not all is gloom and doom. Steve Moore, executive director of the Murdock Trust, sees benefits in the growing role of nonprofits and foundations in what was once viewed as the public realm. “Many people start with the assumption that what government is doing is working, and that when funds are cut, the solution is just a matter of backfilling. We come at this from a different perspective,” says Moore, whose foundation specializes in looking for solutions to problems that may stymie the public sector.
“Rather than looking for more tax dollars, we can help nonprofits develop a holistic view of the community’s needs, to look for new kinds of solutions,” he says. “Governments often start from a very big picture. Nonprofits have to always start with the mission they are attempting to fulfill, and they have to always be asking what is most effective so they can satisfy their donors and supporters.”
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