THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM

(No tagline)

Mission

To explore the High Desert’s unique landscape, cultures, wildlife, history and arts, connecting our visitors to the past and helping them discover their role in the present and responsibility to the future. A multidisciplinary educational institution, the Museum promotes a balanced awareness of regional issues and inspires personal exploration and learning through fun, engaging and evocative exhibits, programs, educational classes, excursions, and special events. Programs are consistent with the Museum's leadership role as a partner with elementary, secondary, and higher education efforts and as a partner with regional and community organizations.

Ruling year info

1976

Executive Director

Dr. Dana Whitelaw

Main address

59800 S Hwy 97

Bend, OR 97702 USA

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EIN

51-0179336

NTEE code info

Cultural, Ethnic Awareness (A23)

Natural History, Natural Science Museums (A56)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (D01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

As the largest cultural institution east of the Cascades, the High Desert Museum has a unique opportunity to serve rural communities in central and eastern Oregon.

Many individuals and families in the area are navigating poverty. Compounding economic challenges, there are fewer educational and cultural resources as compared to urban areas and families must travel far to take advantage of them.

In addition, rural communities are often viewed as homogeneous places, ignoring their rich diversity of cultures, experiences and perspectives.

We have identified key priorities: 1) provide access to thought-provoking arts and cultural experiences that create positive community impacts; 2) develop platforms for community dialogue that incorporate diverse voices and contribute to community cohesion; and 3) create innovative STEAM education programs that help rural families and students overcome barriers to STEM-related employment. These are embedded within goals named in our strategic plan.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Wildlife Exhibits

Engage with animals from the High Desert region, including birds of prey, reptiles, otters, and porcupines.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Our permanent exhibits include: the Spirit of the West, which immerses the public in the history of the High Desert region; By Hand through Memory, which relates the past and present of American Indian groups living in the High Desert. In addition to these exhibits, we present at least nine new exhibits each year that range in subject from art and history to science and the environment.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Our 1904 living history ranch allows the public to experience life on the High Desert. Visitors can feed chickens, sweep the porch, water the garden, and play games- all in a day's work on Mrs. Miller's Ranch.

Population(s) Served
Adults

From 3 to 18 year olds, the Museum has a wide variety of programs to meet the educational needs of Oregon's youth. Our early education programs include Animal Adventures, which brings the a story, craft and Museum animal to local libraries. Our K-12 programs include STEM field trips, Discovery Classes, Kids' Camps, Frontier Days, and Water Festival. Teens can learn from the Museum through our teen volunteer program. We also offer professional development opportunities for teachers.

Last year, 12,000 students from 20 of Oregon's 36 counties participated in our K-12 education programs. Many of these programs are offered for free or at reduced cost ensuring equitable distribution of learning opportunities.

We recently received a $250,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to conduct an innovative study of how STEM experts can use the art form of storytelling to reach rural families. This grant places the Museum and other Central Oregon organizations at the forefront of STEAM research.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people

Lectures, Weekend Workshops, Field Trips, Natural History Pub, and a variety of other programs are all part of the Museum's mission to connect people to the past, present and future of the High Desert region and to serve our community. These programs cover a wide range of subjects, including art, history, environment, natural history, and science.

Last year, programs associated with our exhibit, Art for a Nation, represented our most extensive community collaboration to date. We partnered with several local organizations to immerse the public in the art, culture, and history of the 1930s through 25 programs.

Population(s) Served
Adults

The Museum's daily talks include: the High Desert Natural History Walk, Bird of Prey Encounter, Porcupine Encounter, High Desert Reptile Encounter, Spirit of the West tour, Carnivore Talk, High Desert Fish Tales, and Otter Encounter. During the summer months, we also offer a Raptors of the Desert Sky and Desert Dwellers programs. Raptors of the Desert Sky is one of our most popular programs. Visitors are able to observe these birds in their natural setting as they fly from perch to perch over the audience's heads.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of children served

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Total number of exhibitions

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Exhibits

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

( rotating exhibits in a year)

Total number of free admissions

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Complimentary admissions of 15,859 and discounted admissions of 13,564

Total number of paid admissions

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Total number of volunteers and hours and value

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

207 unique volunteers contribute 25,161 hours valued at $639,844

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Museum leadership identified five primary goals in the most recent strategic plan. They are to amaze visitors with meaningful experiences; to inspire stewardship and a sense of place; to engage new audiences; to ensure future financial stability; and to build leadership for the 21st century.

To amaze visitors with meaningful experiences we will cultivate dialogue, expand arts engagement, implement engaging programs and exhibits, and create experiences to include diverse voices.

To inspire stewardship and a sense of place we will expand off-site field trip opportunities, increase engagement in citizen science programs, use art to inspire appreciation of the High Desert, and update our master plan.

To engage new audiences we will strengthen our access initiatives to under-served populations, develop programming for young adults, and continue collaborating with other institutions.

To ensure future financial stability we will operate on a balanced budget, maintain cash reserves, build the endowment, and continue to strengthen internal financial processes and policies.

To build leadership for the 21st century we will increase board diversity, monitor and strengthen the cultural health of the organization, provide professional development for staff and volunteers, and build awareness and advocacy for the work of museums at a state level.

The High Desert Museum's board of trustees consists of 27 members, whose expertise ranges from law, finance and nonprofit management to education, forestry and art. Board members meet quarterly, serve on one of five committees, align our mission and strategic plan with fundraising goals and contribute financially to the Museum.

A well-qualified leadership team effectively manages the Museum. Executive Director, Dana Whitelaw, provides leadership for the organization, coordinating growth in attendance, exhibits and programs, and fundraising. As previously state, she holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology and has more than 20 years of experience developing and managing educational programs and organizations. Director of Programs, Christina Cid, has a Ph.D. in Science Education and over 15 years of experience developing and implementing educational programs. Under her leadership, we established several new education initiatives, including intensive professional development workshops for area teachers. Director of Development, Heather Vihstadt, has a Masters in Nonprofit Management and she is a Certified Fund Raising Executive. She has revitalized our donor base and introduced a planned giving initiative. Director of Communications, Sandy Cummings, worked as a journalist for NBC News for 23 years and has won three Emmy Awards for her work as a producer. She has established a strong online presence for the Museum and expanded our outreach through social media. Director of Finance, Carmen Melamed, has over 10 years' experience in finance, including at the University of Oregon. Since arriving at the Museum, she has brought changes to the store and café that have contributed significant revenue growth and she has made improvements to policies and procedures.

The 40 additional full-time staff in are highly qualified to serve in their respective roles; many are experts in their fields.

In addition, the Museum has nearly 200 volunteers who generously contribute their time and talent on a regular basis.

Collectively, this team is well suited to fulfill the organizational goals.

Since launching the Museum's Changing Exhibits initiative in 2008, attendance rates have increased by 25%. And, over 95% of respondents to our exit surveys consistently rate our exhibitions as “excellent" or “good" in all categories.

However, success may be best measured through the words of those directly affected. For example, as part of our access initiatives, we distribute free passes to local social service organizations. These passes help provide moments of normalcy to children and families who are experiencing extremely difficult situations. CASA of Central Oregon recently wrote: “Children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect often miss out on normal childhood activities like spending a day at a museum. These tickets provide our volunteer advocates an opportunity to share that experience with the children they represent, or to pass them along to a foster family who can create new memories together." After participating in our Energy and the Environment class, one middle school student commented: “I learned so much about energy and solar panels. You convinced me to want to be an engineer and build new stuff." One parent in our Little Wonders program, which provides complimentary memberships to Head Start families, commented: “We're really thankful that we get to come and see everything and do it as a family. It's a really wonderful experience." Each of these transformative experiences represents the successful realization of the Museum's goals in serving our community's needs.

In terms of finance, the Museum has experienced several years of positive growth based on a diverse and healthy revenue stream. Our three primary sources of revenue are earned income (approximately 50%), individual and corporate donations (25%) and governmental and foundation grants (15%). Our total endowment is just over $3 million, and we recently launched a planned giving campaign that will provide additional growth and sustainability for the institution.

In regards to leadership, senior staff have recently taken part in numerous professional development opportunities ranging from attending the National Conference for Smithsonian Affiliates to the Annual Meeting of the Western Museums Association to the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation series. Speakers often present at Board and staff meetings and staff are encouraged to partake in workshops and online webinars. Regular trainings are provided for volunteers as well.

Financials

THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM

Board of directors
as of 5/26/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ryan Hagemann

Western Oregon University

Term: 2016 - 2022

Marilyn Beem

Ryan Bounds

Gretchen Brooks

Gail Hayes Davis

Julie Drinkward

Delia Feliciano

Jim Franzen

Peter Hall

Ryan Hagemann

Sharon Hewitt

Cameron Kerr

Randy Miller

Kevin Palmer

Don Paterson

Tom Triplett

Lori Ray

Michael Hollern

Greg Rasmussen

Peter Richter

Dana Whitelaw

Steve Shropshire

Susan Skalski

Rich Wininger

Kathryn Collins

Al Kennedy

Nelson Mathews