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

OVERVIEW: Murdock focuses its grantmaking 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. Much of that funding goes to science research through a handful of initiatives.

IP TAKE: Murdock prioritizes the natural sciences and the acquisition of knowledge in the Pacific Northwest. One of the largest foundations supporting the region, Murdock is an accessible grantmaker open to new proposals.

PROFILE: M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust is limited in its geographic scope, but not in terms of its volume and variety of giving. The foundation, created in 1975 and named for tech businessman Jack Murdock, focuses its grantmaking in the Pacific Northwest and seeks to “nurture and enrich the educational, spiritual, cultural and social lives of individuals, families and communities” in the region.

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

The foundation’s Scientific Research Grants program supports “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. “Training students in conducting research is an important consideration” when determining grant funding.

Murdock also has several targeted science research programs in its Initiatives Funding Area, which have narrower focuses but include promising opportunities. Initiatives in this area include support for science and natural science research “at four-year undergraduate institutions across the Pacific Northwest”; a Partners in Science program that places high school science teachers in university laboratories between school years; “funding to support scientific research in the form of major scientific instrumentation”; 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 prioritizes “private, predominantly undergraduate colleges and universities in the Trust's grantmaking region.” Examine Murdock’s past grantees on 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 a LOI prior to submission, but staff will  answer questions. Before submitting a letter of inquiry, remember that the application process varies by program, so it is important to closely review the guidelines for each specific program. In order to facilitate the application process, the foundation provides this handy flowchart to, a paper on “Writing Great Grants,” and another on Application Planning Resources.


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