Making an Impact in MetroWest – Caroline Murphy, Director of Programs

Programs are an integral part of the Foundation’s work in the community and span a variety of initiatives including grants, educational programs, action projects—and many others. Caroline Murphy, our Director of Programs who joined the Foundation in 2015, shares some of the successes and why she is so committed to the Foundation’s work.

After participating in the Foundation’s Youth in Philanthropy program during her senior year of high school, Caroline had her eyes set on a career in the nonprofit sector, but never envisioned that one day she would teach the YIP program, and eventually lead the programs team at the Foundation.

A MetroWest native, Caroline credits her parents for instilling values of community and philanthropy at an early age. The YIP program then gave her a broader understanding of philanthropy and the impact she could make in the community. She has since worked for various nonprofits in MetroWest where she even wrote grants to the Foundation for MetroWest and hosted visits from YIP classes. Every choice eventually led her back to the Foundation and the opportunity to serve as Director of Programs at the Foundation.

The following are excerpts from our conversation with Caroline.

What motivates you?

Supporting our communities drives all that I do. I love that my job is different every day, the diversity of our programs and the breadth and depth of our work keeps it interesting. Our programs have expanded based on the needs in the community during the past eight years I’ve been here, and it’s an honor to respond and be a trusted resource to this community.

Meeting with people, developing relationships and thinking strategically about how to most effectively and efficiently do our work is really motivating. We are all working towards the same goal of improving life in MetroWest for everyone and it’s wonderful to have so many colleagues and partners in this work.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

It’s difficult to pinpoint just one aspect of my work that I enjoy most, since there are so many! I like to talk with and partner with nonprofit organizations in our region–share in their success and listen to their challenges, while thinking about how we can be a resource, whether it’s grant funding, training or creating connections with others. My relationships with our nonprofit partners help us add value to our donors and community collaborators by lifting up their stories and the needs in our region.

I also get excited when reading Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) students’ applications, since I know what they’re about to embark on. It’s so rewarding to hear from parents of YIP participants about the dinner table conversations that the program has sparked, and their gratitude for the program and its lasting impact on their students.

Being involved with the development of our other educational programs is especially rewarding and meaningful to me because when I worked at other nonprofits, I benefitted from attending some of the Foundation’s programs. Having been in their roles, I understand what our nonprofit partners are looking for, the tools they need to do their jobs more effectively, and through our programs we strive to provide that. I also benefit from our programs as I continue to learn and grow.

How does your work directly benefit the MetroWest community?

Almost too many ways to mention here! Grants, programs, engaging youth and families in learning about philanthropy, supporting our fundholders and donors in their philanthropic journey, action projects, investing in opportunities to improve life overall—it’s sprinkled everywhere across our communities. Our impact was especially clear during the early days of the pandemic, and our momentum continues today.

What are some significant accomplishments?

Our responsive efforts during the height of the pandemic led us to opportunities to partner with the State and Federal government to receive funds and disperse them at a local level. It’s been quite an undertaking and a privilege to be able to disperse funds throughout our community which we wouldn’t otherwise have had access to.

Building and launching Impact MetroWest, our interactive data website that tracks over 50 indicators was also a highlight. I could see the value for our work at the Foundation and also what it could do for nonprofits in terms of making the data more accessible. I wish I’d had Impact MetroWest when I was grant writer! It informs my work at the Foundation every day.

The insights gained through Impact MetroWest led to the creation of our Action Projects—Equity in Education and Workforce Development.  It’s enabled us to go deeper, convene other funders and pull together resources to address equity issues in our region. We’re building now with an eye towards the future. Everything we do is working towards what we want our communities to look like, and the opportunities we want everyone to have here in MetroWest.

What are some challenges, and how are you overcoming them?

As you can imagine, there is never enough funding, and the needs are so great. Being in this position and knowing the needs can be daunting, especially when you don’t have the resources to respond to everyone and everything. The responsibility is on our team at the Foundation to know our communities and the needs, to ensure resources are going where they are most needed.

We’re continually finding ways to help our community better understand the needs throughout the MetroWest. One of our roles as a Community Foundation is to lift everyone up by doing our work, through our combination of funding and programs. It’s a unique model.

How can others help further the Foundation’s objectives?

We’re here to be a resource, and it really does take a community! Helping spread the word and championing the many facets of the Foundation’s work is so important. And of course the obvious—funding. We are so grateful to our supporters and partners, and look forward to all that we can accomplish together throughout the MetroWest community. We would always welcome more to join us!

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