Your donation has a significant impact in supporting programs, place and people at the Whidbey Institute. These times call upon us to embrace wild ideas, to seek profound and enduring changes within ourselves, our relationships, and our institutions.


“There are so many of us who are committed, and who care. It’s about growing that, and it’s about normalizing that caring about life, and our future, and who we are as human beings, and all life on the planet, is not only normal—it’s the most important thing for us to be engaged in right now.”

—Heather Johnson, CO-Executive Director

Whidbey Institute 2020

The Commons: Now Under Construction

Since breaking ground on January 14, 2021, the new Commons building has rapidly taken shape! In early April, we got a glimpse of its silhouette as the first wall was lifted into place. We are so excited to see this beautiful, multi-purpose gathering space taking form. The Commons will provide welcoming space for program participants and volunteers, and substantially increase our capacity for transformational hosting.

We are so grateful to each of you who helped us reach this milestone with dedicated gifts totalling $1,020,000. This includes significant funding of $287,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and over $730,000 donated by individual donors like you! We also thank volunteer Project Manager Tucker Stevens, who stepped up to this role during his board service; designer Matthew Swett at Taproot Architects; builder Dan Neumeyer of Jade Craftsman Builders; site work contractors J & D Wallace; and staff member Thomas Arthur for managing arising needs onsite.

Our special gratitude goes out to Nancy Nordhoff for her matching gift of $200,000, and to Andy Anderson who gave $135,000 to ensure we could move forward this year. We also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Sharon Daloz Parks and Larry Parks Daloz, two Whidbey Institute Senior Fellows for whom the Commons has been a long-tended dream. Their outreach and fundraising efforts in 2019, including relationship-building with the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, helped secure a total of $549,000 for the Commons. We thank you, donors, for your multi-year pledges and one-time gifts—many given in honor of Sharon and Larry.

Construction is scheduled for completion in Autumn 2021.


Campaign Overview

We launched the Whidbey Institute 2020 capacity-building initiative in 2017, with the goal of raising $4.5 million in four years. Together, we’re evolving our Heartland facilities to better serve leaders and learners of all ages and backgrounds and permanently protecting 106 acres of public-access forests and wetlands.

In the first years of this initiative, in partnership with over 400 individual donors plus in-kind donors and volunteers, we:

  • protected 106 acres through a comprehensive conservation easement with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust
  • built new Cabin Village lodging, adding 16 beds to provide a home for 800 more program participants each year
  • built a modest new caretaker home, completed Autumn 2020, to provide safe shelter for one who cares for us

In the coming year, we will:

  • build the Commons, a beautiful meeting space for up to 30 people; through an ADA cottage, providing home for up to four program participants per session; and through additional cabins, bringing total Heartland lodging to 50 beds
  • announce plans to fundraise in a separate campaign to develop a Legacy Forest Youth Campus that provides a beautiful, comfortable, and inspiring environment for youth leadership to emerge.

Recently Completed: Caretaker Cabin

You stepped up to make a safe, warm, dry home for our Resident Caretaker possible. He moved in during November 2020!

A Four-Year Journey

In 2017, we made a commitment to strengthen the reach and resiliency of our organization through Whidbey Institute 2020. In the initiative’s first two years, we completed the Cabin Village lodging, adding 16 more beds and serving 800 more participants each year. We acquired the 30-acre Legacy Forest and established a comprehensive conservation easement to protect 106 sacred acres in perpetuity—for Earth, for the wild creatures, and for our human community. We’ve also begun planning the Legacy Forest Youth Campus: a full service home to hold the power, purpose, and potential of diverse young leaders.

This year, thanks to your generosity, we complete construction of the Caretaker Cabin and break ground for the Commons—an accessible and versatile gathering space to help us serve more groups, with greater flexibility, under the new conditions imposed by COVID-19 and whatever comes next.

With the support of you, our donor community, we’ve grown to serve more people and programs than ever before, providing the nurturing conditions that support individuals and communities in tackling the world’s greatest challenges. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who’s given to the Whidbey Institute 2020 Initiative thus far—it has truly been a community effort, and will stand as our collective legacy.

We’re so grateful to the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, matching fund donor Nancy Nordhoff, and each and every donor who’s said yes to our next big step: Commons construction.

A Multi-Year Project with Multiple Focus Areas

Legacy Forest Acquisition

Aggregates our 106-acre campus and updates conservation easements throughout.

Heartland Improvements

Scales our main campus facilities up to meet current and near-future demand.

Legacy Forest Youth Campus Upgrades

Supports youth and young adult camps and provides space to prototype new programs.

Legacy Forest Acquisition

“There’s a deep thread of community that makes this place tick and still anchors this place. This land is surrounded—literally, surrounded—by people who came here to be part of this organization, and to continue their love of this land and this place.”

—Robert Mellinger, Land Steward

“Formal inclusion of Legacy Forest as part of the Whidbey Institute guarantees access for future generations to precious and much-loved places, improves our ability as an organization to serve our constituency, and honors the heart and soul of the forest as well as the restorative programmatic work that takes place here.”

—Gabriel Shirley, former board member

Acquisition of 30-Acre Legacy Forest

In November 2015, we entered into a purchase agreement for 30 acres near Storyhouse from founders Fritz and Vivienne Hull. Focus area 1 completes payment for this purchase of this community resource and updates conservation easements across our 106 acre campus—protecting the beloved whole of the land. 

The Legacy Forest acquisition aggregates our Clinton campus, including an educational campus and walking trails; creates space for the Institute to welcome more inclusive, cost-accessible youth and social artistry programming; and supports a next generation of leaders through ongoing partnerships with organizations that use the space, including Calyx School, PYE Global, Power of Hope, and the Hull’s Spirit of Legacy program.

Heartland Improvements

“We all know how crazy our world is becoming, and at the same time how critical we are in the tipping points. Many of us know it. Many of us feel it. And there are places where the key work can come together.”

—Ross Chapin, architect

Focus Area 2 increases Heartland-area lodging by 24 guest beds, adds support facilities, and meets the growing needs of current Institute program partners.

These capital investments will create an additional earned income stream, enabling the Institute to move beyond its current reliance on donations to support basic operations and channel donation income into program and scholarship support.

architectural Renderings courtesy Ross Chapin Architects

Click thumbnails below to view gallery

Check out our Facebook photo album from the Meadow Row installation process, November 2017!



Legacy Forest Youth Campus Improvements

“How can we live in a way that will really help create a better future—not just for ourselves, but for our young ones and for those coming after?”

—Vivienne Hull, Founder

After the completion of the Whidbey Institute 2020 Campaign for Legacy Forest acquisition and Heartland improvements, we plan to launch fundraising for Legacy Forest Youth Campus: supporting sustainable use by youth and young adult camps and provide space to prototype new programs. Additions will include a bathhouse, commercial kitchen, three-season camping platforms, and caretaker’s cottage. Improvements will include improvements to the existing infrastructure, including septic and restroom upgrades. Stay tuned for more on this exciting next step!


Films by Mark Forman


 Building is being strategically staged to occur as funds are raised, bringing earned capital back to the Whidbey Institute on the shortest timeline possible. To accomplish this, we are partnering with allies in green building design, peer networks, individual donors, and corporate and foundation supporters.

Main campus buildout goals include:

  • 24 additional beds (some ADA accessible), primarily configured as private rooms
  • Individual and shared bathrooms
  • Laundry/support facilities
  • Refurbishment of existing residential lodging facilities, including renovations to “Granny’s”
  • A gathering space in the Cabin Village area, to support breakout groups
  • A kitchen facility for small groups and campers

Legacy Forest Youth Campus buildout goals include:

  • A bathhouse
  • A commercial kitchen
  • Three season camping platforms
  • A caretaker’s cottage
  • Septic and restroom upgrades to support Storyhouse as a community gathering space

Underlying building goals and principles include:

  • Serving as a living lab for regenerative design
  • An aesthetic informed by the natural beauty of our northwest island
  • Using materials that meet the standards of the Living Buildings Challenge
  • Energy and water use strategies that provide a foundation for the Whidbey Institute to transition to self-sufficiency onsite
  • Facility siting decisions that support real use patterns of the Institute, while also integrating with and respecting the forest ecosystem

Each new bed can generate $12,000–$15,000 in annual income, freeing future contributions to be dedicated to scholarships, new program development, and land care.