M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Grants for Science Research


OVERVIEW: Murdock focuses its giving almost entirely in five Pacific Northwest states: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Similar to a community foundation, it supports a wide range of programs intended to better the lives of people in the region. A chunk of that funding goes to science research through a handful of initiatives.

IP TAKE: Murdock has shown a preference for natural sciences and the acquisition of knowledge, and should be on the radar of any researcher in the Pacific Northwest. One of the largest foundations supporting the region, Murdock has many entry points and is open to new proposals.

PROFILE: Murdock is limited in its geographic scope, but anything but in terms of its volume and variety of giving. The foundation, named for tech businessman Jack Murdock, gives to several interests so long as they benefit the Pacific Northwest and “seek to strengthen the region's educational, spiritual, and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways.”

Compared with the hundreds of overall grants made by Murdock, science research is one of the more restrictive in terms of eligibility. LOIs from individual researchers are generally not accepted, with funding usually going through select universities, and only applications from research institutions or major universities, generally in the Pacific Northwest, are eligible.

To start with, the foundation’s Scientific Research Grants program gives support “for projects in the natural sciences where the main objective is the acquisition of new knowledge,” though Murdock will also consider proposals in medicine and engineering. Keep in mind that “Training students in conducting research is an important consideration” when determining grant funding.

Murdock also has several targeted science research programs in its Focused Program Grants in Science area, which that have narrower focuses but include promising opportunities. Initiatives in this area include support for general science and natural science research; a Partners in Science program that places high school science teachers in university laboratories between school years; “funding to supplement the establishment of new faculty positions”; and a Commercialization initiative that gives “one-time funding to support projects at select public research universities that have special merit for the commercialization of bench discoveries and translating those to the market.”

It’s worth noting that for most of the Focused Program awards, the foundation’s preference is to support “private, predominantly undergraduate colleges and universities in the Trust's grantmaking region.”

Murdock gives breakdowns of its funding by program area as well as annual lists of grantees at its Grants Awarded page.

For institutions or researchers interested and eligible for Murdock's programs, LOIs can be submitted online. The foundation will not review an LOI prior to submission, but it staff willing to answer questions.

Before sending in that LOI, though, a few things to keep in mind. First, the application process varies by program, so it will be important to closely review the guidelines for your specific program. You might also want to take a look at this handy flowchart to get a clearer idea of the application process, as well as its paper on “Writing Great Grants” and its list of “Things to Consider” for more insight into its priorities.


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