One year ago today, Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney was killed in the line of duty as he tried to execute a search warrant. Not long after his death, friends and family established a memorial fund to serve the Seacoast in his name.
The Chief Michael Maloney Memorial Fund has some big plans. Support the families of wounded or fallen public safety officers, fund existing community programs, and award scholarships to high school grads. John Pickering is a retired state trooper. He’s been with the project since it started.
“Michael and I had been friends for many, many years. He was my closest friend," Pickering says. "And when all this happened I helped with the family getting the benefits and stuff that they were supposed to be getting. And we decided that with the community outpouring of support that we had received, that it would be nice to pay back the community.”
So Pickering worked with the family to establish the fund as a new non-profit organization. He says the organization got a jump-start with a memorial run last spring. They expected 20 runners to raise funds and turn out to honor Maloney. They got more than two thousand. Later on, a golf tournament added to that sum.
Since the fund is in a transitional phase, Pickering doesn’t want to go into exactly how much money it’s raised. But he’s proud that in a short amount of time, it will start making a difference.
“We are anticipating giving out at least 10 scholarships this year. We have a fairly decent sum of money. But you know, for us to continue doing the things that we anticipate doing, we need to keep the funding coming," Pickering says.
Executive Director of the New Hampshire Center for Non-Profits, Mary Ellen Jackson, says establishing a memorial fund is a common reaction when a beloved member of the community dies--especially under tragic circumstances.
But, she says, many of these funds follow a clear pattern, ultimately fading away.
“The arc is, in the beginning, there is a flood of funds. And then in the years to come, people go back to their old patterns of giving," Jackson says. "So you know, I hear about this tragedy, I give to it, and the next year, I might give a little less, and then the third year, I’ve gone back to supporting the groups that I did in the past.”
Economists around the country who specialize in philanthropy and giving behavior say there just isn’t any data on the survival rate of memorial funds over time.
But there are some statewide stats on non-profits as a whole. On paper, New Hampshire’s non-profit sector is huge—more than 8,500 organizations. But Jackson says four-out-of-five of them are small-scale, with less than$500 thousand to their names. That abundance, she says, creates a larger issue for the sector as a whole.
“And this day and age, there are limited dollars, there are limited causes you can give to," Jackson says. "And instead of recreating the wheel, we highly recommend you look around your community, you see if there’s a similar, of if not the same, organization being created.”
The Molly Bowden Memorial Scholarship program in Columbia, Missouri is a good example of that concept.
In 2005, Bowden was a 26-year old police officer making a routine traffic stop. The driver shot her. Bowden ultimately died of her wounds.
Not long after, her family established a scholarship fund at her alma mater, Columbia College. In its first three years, it raised $107 thousand. College staffers manage the fund, which has awarded scholarships for seven years. Development Director Lindsay Lopez gives the community a lot of credit. But she says a lot of its success also rides on having a built-in donor network.
“In addition to that, it is about the Columbia College community. We are present in 13 states, we do have 35 campuses. So we’re a very large operation,” Lopez says.
Of course, not all independent memorial funds stay small-scale and fade away. One of the most famous examples is the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
But it can be a tough slog.
The last police officer who was killed in the line of duty in New Hampshire was Manchester’s Michael Briggs, in 2006. There doesn’t appear to be an independent memorial fund set up in his memory, like the Maloney fund. But a Manchester credit union offers a scholarship in his name. The public safety building was renamed in his honor, and a community center is also named after Briggs.
Back on the Seacoast, John Pickering has faith that the Chief Michael Maloney Memorial Fund won’t just carry on—it’ll grow.
“The Seacoast of New Hampshire has never seen a tragedy like this, to any of its public safety officers. It brought everybody together," Pickering says. "And I think just by being able to give back to the community the way that we hope to give back, and just the fact that Michael was who he was, and was so well-known and well-respected. I think we’re going to keep his memory alive for a long time."