A person stands in front of a cell phone on a tripod with their back toward Mono Lake holding a piece of tufa and pointing at it, the Sierra Nevada is snow capped in the distance against a blue sky.

Mono Lake philanthropy in a pandemic

Varied and generous contributions shape a successful year despite many challenges

While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted travel and activities in 2020, Mono Lake Committee members provided steady financial support that allowed the Committee to keep all staff employed and continue our work of protection, restoration, education, and scientific research without a hitch.

Membership renewals fluttered into our post office box in Lee Vining every week and month of the year. For members supporting the Committee through monthly giving, Guardians of the Lake contributions arrived like clockwork. Staff members who would have been greeting guests in the bookstore switched to provide ample phone coverage, welcoming incoming calls to renew memberships, take mail orders, and keep people connected to the latest happenings in the Mono Basin through friendly conversations.

Friends became creative. We received bundles of stamps to defray the cost of thank you notes and written correspondence. Artists shared their work for us to use in digital slideshows, for merchandise in the bookstore, and to hang on the walls of our office and field station. These unexpected gifts arrived generously and with sincere intentions to assist the Committee’s work.

Craig & Marya Phillips of Riverside increased their support with a specific goal in mind: to enhance Committee outreach programs for videos and virtual experiences. This gift came at a perfect time for Committee staff to upgrade technology for the Mono Lake Moments video series—which captured Mono Lake through the seasons—to fulfill the increased demand for virtual tours of the lake for students around the state, and also put to use for virtual Field Seminars. While the Phillipses have been supporters of the Committee for twelve years, they chose 2020 to support “little dream projects” and get them off the ground.

Gifts from donor advised funds remained strong in 2020 as members directed this support to be sent to the Committee. In addition to traditional donor advised funds, members also sent donor directed funds through local community foundations. The Committee also accepts donations of stock and received several transfers last year. Matching gifts remain a popular giving option for members whose employers provide this generous benefit.

A steadily increasing number of members chose to send contributions directly from their IRA accounts, which count toward required minimum distributions and reduce taxable income. These gifts can be advantageous for donors in their 70s and are growing in popularity because the process is relatively simple.

We are grateful to receive tributes and memorial contributions from members honoring and remembering dear friends and family members. In a year when mourning and celebrating could not take place traditionally, these contributions felt particularly significant and meaningful.

To our members, we offer heartfelt thanks. For your steadfast support, for your thoughtful gifts, we are honored you share what you can.

For more information about these giving options, or to discuss a gift to the Mono Lake Committee, please contact me by email or call (760) 647-6595.

This post was also published as an article in the Summer 2021 Mono Lake Newsletter. Top photo by Elin Ljung.