Guest Opinions

To fund the best nonprofit ideas in Idaho we need one thing: collaboration

Terry Stokesbary
Terry Stokesbary

It’s an exciting day at the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. We just announced that we have awarded $1 billion in cumulative grants to nonprofits serving the Pacific Northwest, including more than $50 million right here in Idaho, since opening in 1975.

Moments such as these are a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the impact of the thousands of nonprofits we have partnered with over the years and celebrate their hard work, dedication and commitment to serve the common good. But while we will take a moment today to consider the past, our entire staff finds our attention drawn directly to the future, asking:

What about the next billion dollars? How do we want to shape the future of our grant making to best serve the diverse communities that make up the Pacific Northwest?

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might expect. While our instinct may be to make a broad proclamation about our future funding vision, in truth our plans lie in the hands of the nonprofits we serve, as always.

Since our inception, the Murdock Trust has not sought to direct the work or focus of the nonprofits and organizations we partner with. We believe firmly that individuals and groups on the front lines of a community know best how to serve the unique needs and seize the unique opportunities that present themselves to those who live and work in that region.

But as much as we look to the groups we serve for guidance, we do recognize that one factor is critical to the success of all people living across Idaho and the broader Pacific Northwest.

We must foster an ecosystem of collaboration.

Research has shown communities thrive when groups that normally might not cross paths come together to address a common issue. Sometimes these conversations can be challenging when perceived political opponents work to set aside partisan differences and collaborate to address a common challenge like affordable housing, homelessness or mental health issues, or when groups simply don’t know where they overlap and how to begin. But the data is clear. This approach ensures a broad base of support for solutions that serve the entire community.

If we want the state of Idaho to flourish in every corner and for every community to thrive, it is critical that all representatives of our region – business leaders, government officials, health care representatives, nonprofit professionals, educators, faith-based leaders, individual community members – stop emphasizing the lines that divide us and instead join a productive, constructive discussion that focuses on collaborative solutions.

The Murdock Trust is committed to invest our next billion dollars to continue to fund the best ideas to make Idaho and the entire Northwest flourish for individuals and families, and we recognize that requires a thriving ecosystem of collaboration. We must be willing to reach out to those we perceive to hold different values so we can build solutions together and create effective, unconventional collaborations.

Terry Stokesbary is senior program director for the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.