M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Murdock Trust Completes Center for Effective Philanthropy Comprehensive Assessment of Work; Receives Top Marks

Feedback is critical to the success of any organization. The only way we know we are hitting our targets and can identify areas for improvement is by engaging in a regular dialogue with our partners and stakeholders. In this dialogue it is essential we really listen to what they have to say. At the Murdock Trust, we work intentionally to ensure communication lines remain open between our team and all of the organizations with whom we work and partner. We often have these discussions as a part of our daily routine and we are fortunate that our partners are willing to connect with us on a consistent basis to make this a reality.

However, as helpful as these ongoing touchpoints are in steering our course, it can also be valuable to take a step back from time to time and look at the big picture. It’s like cleaning a home. Every night before you go to bed you may load the dish washer, run a load of laundry and wipe down the kitchen counters, but then every few weeks you break out the rubber gloves and scrub the bathroom and mop the floor. Once or twice a year, you may go even bigger and empty the closets and de-clutter your garage.

It is in this spirit that the Trust conducts a Grantee and Applicant Perception Report on a regular basis. Administered by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), this scientific survey engages recent applicants and grantees on a host of topics regarding their experience working with the Trust – from how we communicate at various stages of the process to our accessibility and attitude. This provides hard data we can benchmark over a curve of several years. In addition, the CEP conducts similar surveys for many other foundations across the country and provides data that shows how the Trust compares with a defined cohort of our peers.

Our team is currently reviewing the results of our 2017 report and we are very pleased by the feedback. The response rate was outstanding and so were the comments! You will find more detail regarding key findings of this survey below, but we were pleased to see that organizations feel communication between the Murdock Trust and grantees/applicants is strong and the Trust has a positive impact overall on the areas we fund: arts and culture, health and human services, education and scientific research.

We believe we must constantly review our efforts and results as an organization in order to continually improve. As we move into 2018, the Murdock Trust staff are already using this data to identify ways we can provide more efficient and impactful support for the nonprofits we serve.

Key Findings: What’s Working

  • Grantees felt very satisfied with their overall experience working with the Murdock Trust. Most grantees share that the credibility of the Trust was an asset to them as they pursued additional funding from other sources, and they feel that the Trust has a significant, positive impact on their organization, ranking in the top 3 percent among cohort foundations in this category. For example, survey participants shared …
  • “Murdock is invested in the success of our organization, beyond just financially. […] The humility and focus of their staff toward seeking our better good has caused us to be stronger both in practice and policy. We always feel respected and are encouraged to move forward and do well.”
  • “[The Murdock Trust’s] funding process is extremely thorough. In large campaigns, I usually work the [Trust] grant first and use this as a model to complete proposals for other foundations.”
  • “Every interaction has provided valuable insight on how to improve our organization. While the funding has been an obvious blessing and help to our organization and our mission, the counsel and guidance has helped us get stronger for years to come.”
  • The Murdock Trust does not take a transactional approach to grantmaking. We invest in establishing long-term relationships with our applicants and grantees so that we can be a valued resource beyond a single application. This effort is resonating, as grantees rank the Trust at the top of our cohort when it comes to measuring the quality of our interactions and clarity/consistency of communications. Similarly, grantees and applicants say the Trust is one of the most approachable and accessible foundations in our cohort.
  • The Murdock Trust values in-person engagement onsite with prospective grantees. This approach provides a unique opportunity to better understand the impact of a proposal firsthand. All Trust grantees receive an in-person site visit from one of our program officers. In comparison, less than 50 percent of grantees received a site visit from foundations in our cohort.

Key Findings: Where We Can Improve

  • The Murdock Trust must continue tracking with the changing landscape nonprofits face. While Trust staff work diligently to understand the full scope of issues facing applicants and grantees, there is always room for improvement. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to educate our team, nonprofit and foundation leaders and civic leaders regarding the social, cultural and socioeconomic challenges that affect the work of the nonprofits we serve.
  • The grant process does not stop at the award. Like all foundations, the Trust is eager to see how projects progress over time. Our grantees share that our reporting process is quite straightforward and adaptable. We will use this feedback to learn from others to identify strategies and continue improving in this area.
  • Continue to refine our vetting process. The Letter of Inquiry process is designed to help us ensure that a proposal and the Trust are a good fit before proceeding to the more rigorous application phase. We heard that there were a few instances where an organization learned later in the process where their request did not align with our funding priorities. While these are rare, we will continue to refine our review process and provide early guidance to applicants to set clear expectations up front.

We are grateful to the grantees and applicants who took the time to complete our survey and provide us this valuable feedback. Our process is not perfect, but we are pleased to know that our team is among the top in our field and these results will aid in our work to improve our efforts to more effectively and efficiently serve and support nonprofits across the Pacific Northwest. While we are always seeking to grow and improve, we are pleased to see that feedback on our efforts is very positive and our work is meeting the vision Jack Murdock gave to “nurture and enrich the educational, social, spiritual and cultural lives of individuals, families and communities.”

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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