Interesting topic, JKhedrup, thanks for opening it.
Buddhism currently being one of the fastest growing religions in the world and in progress of spreading across the novel territories of the so-called Western world, I think we'll be heading for certain adaptations/changes as an inevitable result of contact with these different cultures, their traditions, their systems of values, their society, etc.
Just as when it finally reached Tibet, Buddhism evolved there in its own unique way compared to Buddhist teachings in other parts of Asia, the same is bound to happen in the Western world too.
Now, one key social element in "Western"(-ised) countries is the emphasis on the individual (which has a long philosophical tradition in these countries). Concepts like independence, self-sufficiency, hard work, success, economical status, productivity, etc are highly positive values within this culture.
From this point of view, I don't think many Westerners, even Westerners with some interest in Buddhism (which is usually, on their own terms) will be interested in supporting monastics - in their eyes, economically unproductive adults. The latter is a category against which there's a strong social stigma in this part of the world. Supporting others outside your immediate nuclear family is not common here.
Indeed, many Westerners interested in Buddhism may not even find it desirable to deal with monastics - they may not feel they really need the Sangha part from the refuge formula after all.
In Tibetan Buddhism, for example, there's lots of emphasis on oral teachings and the personal relationship you share with your master is fundamental in your path.
But, based on what I've seen, many people in the West who turn to Buddhism aren't really into this type of relationship (an adult who puts him- or herself into another adult's hands? not common), or into Bodhisattva aspirations, or looking for a better rebirth (a concept largely alien to modern-day Western culture), rather, they are looking for some kind of universal wisdom and answers to make their lives more fulfilled and meaningful or just less miserable, right here and right now
Also, as you correctly pointed out, there are other factors - like a certain widespread suspicion towards monastics (and in particular to those of a non-Western religion) - that create an environment that can't be equated to those established in Asian countries.
All this conditions make it very difficult for a monk or nun to survive in the Western world in the traditional way.
But the way I see this challenge, as daunting as it is, it offers us a chance to rethink on the meaning of the sangha and its relationship with the lay community. As the traditional definition of "householder" is starting to blur, so might, to a certain extent, that of monk (at least in the West) - in order to better serve its original function.
I don't have the wisdom or knowledge to come up with answers on how to tackle this, but I can share my personal experience here. I decided to devote my life to the Dharma, not for me, but in the name of all sentient beings, so naturally at some point the question of taking full monastic vows did arise... But thanks to those who shared their wisdom and advice with me, I realised that, at least for the time being, taking full monastic vows would actually interfere with the path I'm walking.
So I find myself in a liminal state, being neither a householder (I'm an expat with no family, don't own a house, car, don't engage in most mundane activities that aren't justified by my practice or survival, etc) nor a fully-ordained monastic, but fascinatingly enough this unusual position allows me to act as a bridge between the two worlds, serving and benefitting both, and all my practice revolves around that.
I only spend around 5 days a month at the gompa (unless I'm there on a retreat). My days revolves around my dharma practices/study, and serving the (lay, non-Buddhist) community where I live - which two aspects summarise everything I believe in. I do have a job to support myself - and which gives me a chance to give all of myself to others - but it's an atypical job. I collaborate with an institution that provides further education/retraining for adults. I don't have a salary (nor sick leave or holidays) - I receive hourly wages for the seminars/workshops I teach. So I never know if and how much I'll work/earn the next month. But as I have no family to support I don't worry about that and after I've taken care of my needs I can then devote what time and money I have left volunteering for my community. I believe in this and I am immensely grateful to be allowed to do this. As for the various vows I've undertaken so far, there isn't a single one which I find an impediment or annoyance in my life - on the other hand, I've repeatedly found them a source of precious guidance and a stimulus to work on my shortcomings.
I don't know about the future - I'll follow my lama's advice, but as long as he finds this suitable, I actually like the idea of being able to implement the things I believe in.
So based on this personal considerations, the way I see the Sangha, it has a fundamental role in transmitting the Dharma. But does this trasmission have to mere merely doctrinal and intellectual - or perhaps by setting an example? I wonder if maybe the key to successfully integrating monastics within Western culture would be by allowing monastics to be more engaged within their communities.
Just my two cents, in all humility.
PS - Benectine monks in Medieval Europe lived by the motto: Ora et Labora
- pray and