September 5, 2022

WRFI is in my blood. I was privy to early conversations between co-founders Dave, Tim, and my former partner, Matt when they were tossing ideas around (in the back of Dave’s garage in Missoula, Montana) about how best to launch the Field Institute. That was 1993. I was there in 1994 when the first course departed for Southeast Alaska, with seven students kayaking the Inner Passage. I met numerous students from those early courses in my backyard, as they gathered to pack together.

A decade later I was elected to the WRFI Board, and more recently, I served six months as the interim executive director as the Board Hiring Committee conducted a nationwide search for WRFI’s next dynamic leader, Matt Baker-White.

Through the years, my dedication to WRFI’s mission and respect for its work have grown exponentially. And now, as WRFI approaches its 30th year, I want to share why, and ask you to join me in launching our new Sustainer Donor Campaign.

What’s a Sustaining Donor?

A sustaining donor is any donor who gives monthly. The donor (you!) picks the level of support and generally has the same amount deducted automatically from their bank account every month. It is an effortless, seamless, and effective way to support your favorite organization(s). And as a sustaining donor, your gifts are always tax deductible. I am personally a sustaining donor for six of my favorite organizations (including WRFI) and can’t recommend this method of giving enough. Automatic monthly donations are the easiest way to lend consistent support to those organizations who are doing the bravest, toughest, most impactful, life-changing work that I most admire.

Become a Sustaining Donor Today!


WRFI offers a comprehensive outdoor college experience: Our courses provide an education like no other. Academically rigorous, intellectually challenging, and place-based experiential education like ours fosters learning steeped in curiosity and deep in critical thinking – learning that is as wide as it is high. Small groups (6-12 students) led by two instructors ensure that each student receives plenty of one-on-one time as well as the opportunity to develop meaningful friendships with a close-knit group of other students. Students backpack, paddle, or bike through some of the wildest country in the intermountain west, learning from Indigenous elders, foresters, geologists, land managers and ranchers as they travel. I am proud to be a part of educating tomorrow’s leaders in environmental and social change.

“People ask me how my course went, but how do you talk about something that changed your life in such a huge way? The only way to process the experience is to take the information you learned and the experiences you had and start to shape your life in accordance.”

Amy Dorfman, University of Vermont

A Pandemic History Lesson

For nearly three decades, WRFI has built its growing budget primarily on a single income source: student tuition. Tuition, of course, will always be a main source of support for WRFI. But as the Covid19 pandemic unsparingly demonstrated (for WRFI and thousands of other non-profit organizations), a single income stream can be fragile and fleeting, and even lead to an organization’s demise.

WRFI pushed through the pandemic and is still thriving. But we learned a valuable lesson. In the wake of a precarious year in 2020, we are rebuilding WRFI to be more resilient. More stable. More sustainable.

The Many Ways in which WRFI Benefits from Your Monthly Contribution

Our goal is to increase individual giving to 25% of our budget over the next five years. And we’re kicking off with this Sustainer Donor Campaign. Monthly donations from a multitude of contributors are vital to WRFI for so many reasons:

  • Predictable, recurring revenue
  • Better managed cashflow
  • More accurate budgets
  • Generating more funds
  • Stronger investments
  • Improved donor retention
  • Reaching new demographics

And here’s the most important reason of all: Monthly donors tend to give 42% more annually, compared to one-time donors. For many people, spreading donations out over the course of the year is much easier to manage financially than a single one-time gift. Just think of the impact you could have on a young person’s life and career for the cost of a couple of lattes, craft beers, bottle of wine or a pizza a month.

Please join us in building a stronger WRFI today. Every donor who signs up to give monthly will receive a bonus of the rarely-sighted WRFI retro T-shirt!

Become a Sustaining Donor Today!