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Celebrating the Resiliency of Pacific Northwest Nonprofits

Groups across the region embody a spirit of selfless service, but they need our help now more than ever.

Presented by M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust By Ben McBee September 28, 2020

Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Society has had to stay nimble to continue supporting the wildlife and the employees who care for them as best as possible.

In relatively normal times, the work of nonprofits helps ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to flourish and thrive. In the unsettling reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, their contributions are vital to the strength and stability of our region. Since its founding in 1975, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has provided a variety of grants and resources to help serve and support the nonprofit sector in the hope that, when our community is in need, these organizations would be prepared to serve.

“The manner in which nonprofits across sectors have rapidly pivoted their service models to address both the dramatic increase in need for support and the manner in which that support is delivered is nothing short of incredible,” says the Trust’s Executive Director Steve Moore. “We have been grateful to have the opportunity to come alongside and support their important work, but we are far from done yet.”

A Caring for Our People webinar hosted by Washington Nonprofits

Similar to the Trust, Washington Nonprofits exists to be a resource for various partners across the state—community food banks, child care providers, and youth tutoring programs, to name a few—by offering advocacy and operations leadership.

“When Covid-19 hit in March, some organizations faced tough decisions about whether or not to cancel the galas they had spent months planning,” says Executive Director Laura Pierce. “We created and hosted webinars to help hundreds of nonprofits determine how to best approach their events, as well as provided guidance on workplace safety and online meetings. We also work to make nonprofits and their impact visible to policymakers.”

The new Pacific Seas Aquarium, supported by a generous investment from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Operating at one-fourth of normal capacity, after three months of being closed, Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Society (a 501(c)(3) entity) had to stay nimble to continue supporting the wildlife and the employees who care for them as best as possible. “So far, one of the biggest accomplishments is not only the number of new supporters—75 percent of the donors were new to our organization—but the amount of support,” explains Executive Director Ruthann Howell. “We have already exceeded our goals in several areas by July of this year.”

They’ve also made their annual events virtual, broadening their audience and growing educational opportunities with the high school that’s located on its grounds. She adds, “Most recently, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust made a significant investment in our new Pacific Seas Aquarium, which focuses on our home waters here in the Northwest, as well as all along the Pacific down to Baja.”

SMART Reading expanded its book giveaway infrastructure during the pandemic.

SMART Reading knows how the simple magic of a book can change a child’s life trajectory, and their efforts are keeping those bright futures alive despite the pandemic.

“We worked quickly to create programming alternatives to fit online and physically distanced schools, including a new virtual reading program with live and prerecorded offerings, expanded book giveaway infrastructure, and new outreach methods directly to parents,” explains Executive Director Chris Otis. “We will be providing schools with a menu of partnership options for virtual one-on-one reading opportunities and books to keep for their students.”

Strict safety and social distancing measures at a recent Broadway Rose dance class

The performing arts face challenges as well. For example, Portland’s renowned Broadway Rose Theatre Company hasn’t sold a ticket in six months. All productions, workshops and camps have been canceled, and studio expansion projects are on hold. Still, in true “the show must go on” spirit, the company has shared virtual programming, such as Cast Reunions, Meet the Staff, and Midday Cabarets, with its patrons on social media platforms to continue artistic development and education.

“We were also able to hold some in-person dance and vocal classes at the theater,” explains Founder Dan Murphy. “We adhered to strict safety measures, and by painting six-foot-in-diameter circles on the stage, each three feet apart, each student maintained social distancing while also wearing masks.”

With the season of giving drawing near, the message is clear: we all need to continue to face this challenge together in order to serve the common good. The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust calls on all individuals, families, businesses, government agencies, faith-based groups, funders, and partners to give generously and seek ways that they can each contribute to help serve and support the people and organizations that lift up our region.

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