• Ariana Friedlander

"It's not like I didn't have hope. I didn't know how."

Like many organizations a year ago, the Board of Directors of Shadowcliff realized it was losing close to 90% of its revenue for the year due to COVID. There was no way we could open a high touch by design, retreat center safely.

Photo by Carl Sniffen

At the time there was an immense amount of uncertainty. How are we going to manage without our primary source of income? How are we going to pay our staff? How are we going to survive this complete and utter disruption?

Early on, it was clear, we didn't know-how. But we were all committed to figuring it out.

We kept our year-round staff and applied for the PPP loan. Each of us leaned in to our strengths doing our part to contribute to finding a way forward.

Our treasurer created a bunch of financial models. Our staff explored safe ways to open the cabins. Our fundraising team kicked into high gear. We charged forward knowing that we had a dedicated community thanks to our 60+ year history.

With that in mind, we made communications with our community a top priority. We provided regular updates, letting them know where we stood and that we were hard at work figuring things out.

As a non-profit educationally focused, environmentally friendly, spiritually rooted retreat center, the original structures were built over 30 years by 600 volunteers from over 40 countries. Nestled in the majestic Rocky Mountains, our short season of operation typically begins Memorial Day Weekend.

In normal years, we would have over 50 volunteers working through the month of May to help us open for the season. In 2020, that, of course, was not an option. It was a huge loss for our community. Gathering at Shadowcliff for volunteer weekend has been a longstanding tradition that fills us all up.

On top of the financial quagmire, we were all grieving the loss of connection with the place and people of Shadowcliff.

But we persevered.

We did what many enterprising, community-based organizations did. We took to Zoom - creating virtual gatherings. And those events allowed members of our community from all over the world to come together. People who haven't been to Shadowcliff for years reconnected.


We shared stories, rekindling our love for the place and the people. The board and staff efforts expanded to include the collective contributions of our tribe.


We experienced the magic of Shadowcliff offsite. And we raised money.

For months, we continued putting one foot in front of the other. Reimagining how we serve our mission and live our values in the world of COVID. Working together, like bees building a hive. Each person pitching in, doing their part, making individual contributions to the whole.

This month we are closing out the fiscal year with a surplus in our budget.

Upon reflecting on enduring the most unusual season of our existence (in addition to COVID, we were threatened by the East Troublesome Fire), Board Chair, Skelly Warren, recently observed "It's not like I didn't have hope. I didn't know how."

To which another board member replied, "that's faith."

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