Beleaguered Big Sur institutions turn to crowdfunding

Beleaguered Big Sur institutions turn to crowdfunding

In February, as news spread that a dozen monks were stranded at the end of a winding, washed-out, two-mile road in their Benedictine monastery in the hills above Big Sur, a crowdfunding campaign got underway to bring relief.

“We did around $30,000 in the first 24 hours,” says Jill Gisselere, director of development for the monastery, which is known as New Camaldoli Hermitage. She still sounds surprised: “The story just went kind of viral — this story of these monks being stranded really resonated with people from around the world.”

Repairs to its road are projected to cost the monastery more than $250,000. Meanwhile, with paying guests unable to reach New Camaldoli, it’s also losing some $75,000 to $100,000 in monthly revenue.

But the crowdfunding campaign is helping keep the monastery afloat and putting it on the road to recovery. By mid-April, New Camaldoli had raised $280,000 via GoFundMe. It had raised $200,000 more through PayPal contributions and personal checks.

In the wake of the winter storms and the emergency that has ensued, numerous other Big Sur groups have turned to crowdfunding campaigns to offset physical damages and lost income. They include venerable ones like the Esalen Institute and Henry Miller Library.

Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn — a nonprofit getaway, dating back to 1930 — is nearing its original $50,000 fundraising goal and is now shooting for $80,000. It lost its parking lot and four of its 20 cabins to slides and fallen trees.

There’s irony in Deetjen’s crowdfunding success; it’s a proudly retro place. It doesn’t take online bookings, doesn’t offer Wi-Fi or any other internet access, and asks patrons not to use cellphones in their rooms. It even asks guests to sign in via its old-fashioned registry book.

We try to stay with the old ways as much as we can,” said manager Jeanne Crowley.

But tech-savvy guests offered to assist with fundraising, helping send out email blasts to 23,000 past guests and launching the crowdfunding campaign, which Crowley has taken over.

“Now we’ve got GoFundMe. We’ve got Facebook,” she said, but added, “I haven’t quite taken on Twitter yet.”

All of this publicity for beleaguered institutions makes it hard for Ivy LaValle, sole proprietor of the Big Sur Garden Gallery, where business has ground to a halt. It’s a converted greenhouse on Highway 1, a cozy place where she sells the work of local artists: quilts, paintings, prints, clothing, jewelry and the like. She doesn’t earn a fortune; she, too, is an artist, and her business is a labor of love.

Like her neighbors, LaValle turned to crowdfunding, seeking to raise $22,000 to pay the gallery’s bills and some of her own living expenses, since the gallery is her only source of income. But so far, she’s raised less than $3,000. Amid the other, more high-profile cries for financial assistance, its been hard for her to gain attention for her own, she says.

“I don’t have huge name recognition,” LaValle says. “I don’t have deep pockets or the reach on social media that some of these other places have.

That has consequences, and not just for LaValle.

Every day that I’m not open means that I’m not writing checks to other artists in the community,” she says.

Crowdfunding Big Sur’s recovery

Some of the businesses and institutions seeking donations online to help rebound from the winter storms:

Big Sur Garden Gallery

New Camaldoli Hermitage

Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn

Esalen Institute

Henry Miller Library

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Published at Fri, 05 May 2017 17:00:27 +0000