Sorry if this seems like I'm re-hatching this topic, but I wanted to pass along this response from the Observatory after my girlfriend contacting them seeking more info. For what its worth:
Thank you very much for your e mail -- my apologies for the delay in
response. And thank you especially for your interest in helping the
Observatory in the Seek the Peak event.
As you know, the Observatory is a private, non-profit, 501 c 3 organization,
supported n part by memberships. Many folks mistakenly believe that the
Observatory is a government organization of some sort -- tied intimately to
the state or federal government.
We certainly can take care of the first possibility quickly. The Observatory
is not a State of New Hampshire entity, and receives no money from the State
-- in fact, we make a payment to the State for use of space in the Sherman
Adams Building atop the mountain. We make a lease payment based in part on
revenue raised at the summit museum and through Observatory educational
programs at the summit. (No criticism meant to the State, but perhaps in
other states there would be more consideration given to the educational
value which the Observatory museum offers to State Park visitors...)(We also
do some bartering with the State of our services for some utilities costs.)
Our relationship with the federal government is more complicated. We do
receive a contractual payment from the National Weather Service for weather
data generated at the summit. Though we currently take hourly observations,
we are only paid for one-third of these. The current annual amount paid to
the Observatory for these observations is $37,000; that only covers a very
small amount of the cost involved in round-the-clock staffing of the summit
and related support costs (heating fuel, electricity, food, transportation,
supplies, and equipment).
We do receive other federal support from time to time. Such support can come
through contracts (being hired to do specific work on a government project,
such as testing visibility sensors for the FAA, or performing icing tests
for the Army Corps of Engineers), through competitive grants (such as for
specific research or educational projects from the National Science
Foundation), or through special-purpose grants (such as our current Research
Infrastructure Upgrade through the National Weather Service). Generally,
such support is of limited duration and for specific projects, and it does
not support basic, ongoing operational costs.
When it comes to those basic expenses of running the Observatory, we depend
on a variety of sources, out of necessity, and because we believe that
having variety in funding sources is a prudent thing to do. In addition to
the NWS contract for observational data, we also rely on sources such as
museum revenue (admissions and museum shop sales), tour income, overnight
and day program income (such as from winter EduTrips and Summer Seminars),
fees for outreach presentations, and the like. We also approach for their
contributions -- sometimes with success -- corporations (such as Subaru of
America and L.L. Bean) and private charitable foundations (such as the
Gladys Brooks Foundation, which has provided generous support of our
research library). The real core of our support, though, is from individuals
and families who support us through their memberships in the Observatory,
and who sometimes augment that through special gifts, large or small.
Support through Seek the Peak is associated with this type of support.
Our total budget for this fiscal year is about 1.1 million dollars,
including capital expenditures and expenses for maintaining our summit
weather station, research work, and educational programs (though not
including the NWS supported infrastructure work.) To support that work, we
are expecting from about 5 to 10 percent of the total to come from corporate
support, about 15% to come from federal sources (for contracts or specific
research projects), and the rest we need to raise from the other sources
noted above - including personal donations from people who wish to support
our work, including weather observations (to help in mountain safety,
forecasting, and better understanding of our climate), research (in topics
such as air quality and aviation safety), public education (ranging from our
website to school programs), and mountain safety (including helping, as
feasible, with Mount Washington search and rescue, and, we hope, avoiding
accidents through our education efforts).
So, that's perhaps a more detailed answer than you were looking for, but I
hope it helps you in your generous efforts helping us!
Director of Programs
Mount Washington Observatory