M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
Left: Two volunteers working on a roof; Top Right: Young boy pointing at a butterfly on a flower; Bottom Right: Fox in a grassy field with flowers
Left: Habitat for Humanity Portland; Top Right: Woodland Park Zoo; Bottom Right: Columbia Land Trust

The month of March holds special significance for me and my journey with the Murdock Trust. It was two years ago this month that we announced that I had agreed to assume the role of CEO. I joined an incredible group of leaders and partners in stewarding the mission and legacy of the Trust as we earnestly pursue the common good of the Pacific Northwest. And it was at this time last year that I had an opportunity to share the next phase of renewal at the Murdock Trust as we prepared to transition our organizational operations to a sectoral model. 

Internally, we have referred to this work as “Project Phoenix” named for the mythical being that regenerates time and again, growing a new form based on its prior incarnation. We purposed to refresh and renew versus fully remake the Trust. Driven by a desire to leverage modern tools to support greater impact and efficiency, we are working to build on a trusted foundation, established over five decades of thoughtful development, while being bold in establishing new systems, processes, and structures that can serve the emerging and evolving needs of our constituents. 

Today, I am thrilled to share that we have achieved several key milestones in this work: 

  • The Trust has officially launched a new Grants Management System (GMS), Submittable. Our new GMS introduces several core elements that we believe will help better serve the nonprofits we support. Our Chief Program and Impact Officer, Pauline Fong, has more to share on this strategic transition on our website
  • The Trust has also officially published the unique framework that structures each of our new sectors. These sectoral strategies do not fundamentally change who and what we fund, but rather help refine our approach and priorities in each area of work. The intended result is greater clarity for nonprofits we support and increased impact from our investments as we work toward sustainable and innovative solutions to the intractable challenges facing our region and beyond. 

You can learn more about each of our new sectors from our sector leads on our website: 

I want to extend my personal gratitude to all of you in our community who have helped speak into our process, providing insight and context regarding how our work intersects with yours and how we might think differently about the way we deliver service and support. Whether through responding to our surveys, meeting with staff, providing direct feedback after a meeting, or proactively articulating your organization’s needs or the needs of your sector through the broader public discussion, your input has helped us strengthen our approach. 

I also want to personally thank the entire Murdock Trust Team for their hard work and commitment to this process that we have navigated over the last year (while continuing to process hundreds of grants, more than a dozen programs, and countless constituent engagements in service to our mission). In particular, I want to shout out our Grants Management Team – Marybeth Stewart Goon, Camrynne Six, Lisa Torres, Jason Lee, and Francesca Cruz – who have worked tirelessly to build our new system and our Project Phoenix team and Sector Leads – Pauline, Lorin, Jill, Moses, Rudy, Kimberly, Michelle Charbonneau, Danielle Neumann, Conner Peckham, and Colby Reade – for their dedication to a thoughtful, constituent-focused process. I also want to thank Mike True, our CFO, for his input on our financial documentation and dashboard updates.  

Finally, I want to thank our Trustees for their thoughtful engagement and wise discernment as we have navigated this process. In their unique role, John, Jeff, and Jeff provide the most critical lens in helping to ensure our work upholds the evergreen values established by Jack Murdock while adapting to serve the emerging needs of our region as he wished when crafting the foundation for the Trust. My personal thanks to the three of you for your presence, counsel, and guidance as our team has navigated this complex process.  

We will share more as we live in to our new model, including how we continue to refine and refresh our system based on lived feedback from those we serve. In the meantime, I wish you a joyous spring and a season of glorious renewal. 

-Romanita Hairston, CEO

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