Just what IS this Foundation?

June 22, 2011 by Bruce Landsberg

When an organization asks for financial support (polite term for money) potential donors sometimes ask some tough questions. Normally, in the blog we discuss safety and the other challenges that face GA but this week I’d ask your forbearance to explain why this Foundation was created and what it does. Many of you understand and donate–others may wonder. This is my response to an email from a member.

“Thank you for your open and honest response. It’s always helpful to hear from the membership and not to believe our own press releases!

In 2007, the leadership felt there was a need to expand the philanthropic opportunities beyond safety to include growing the pilot population, preserving airports and improving the perception of GA. AOPA has been asked to do much more and we only recently raised dues which doesn’t begin to cover all the challenges. Since the Air Safety Foundation (ASF) was running so well, the decision was to leave that alone and create a new Foundation, the AOPA Foundation (AF) that would handle the funding for all four areas.

Several things happened along the way. There was a change in AOPA leadership, the economy tanked, and we established two non-profit entities that shared much of the same name. This created confusion and extra expense. A year ago, in 2010, AOPA’s trustees decided to combine the two organizations, AOPA Foundation and ASF into one organization. The Air Safety Foundation became the Air Safety Institute and resides under the bigger AOPA Foundation. Donors have the option to specify donations for safety or for the other three areas that fall under the broad category of preserving the future of GA. All funding that was designated for safety remains so dedicated.

As a non-profit, AF cannot lobby or get into advocacy issues. Education in the four initiatives is allowed and essential. With airports, for example, it’s much better to work with the community to educate them on the benefits of GA, and to address irritation areas so that political forest fires never get started. Economic impact statements, flying friendly (noise reduction) , and safety all fall into that category.

Why can’t AOPA fund much of this, as it has in the past? Two reasons: Mainly, the needs have expanded tremendously as have AOPA’s efforts. Thirteen years ago the Airport Support Network and Airport Watch didn’t even exist. The decline in the pilot population had not been recognized as the well-defined issue that is has become and the explosion of media miscues and need for response explains why that is now essential. The second reason is that non-dues revenue has declined somewhat with print advertising in the magazine down (as it is with most print media) and electronic media not yet picking up the slack.

Given the tax laws, it makes sense to use charitable dollars for the critical education issues mentioned. PAC donations to AOPA (not the Foundation) are also welcomed and are used for advocacy, as they always have been. The future of GA, as we know it, is under massive pressure so there is strong justification for this effort.

Most importantly, thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain, perhaps in too much detail, the logic of our appeal. We hope that you will still consider the Foundation worthy of your charitable gifts and by all means, feel free to designate them as you desire.”

I’m pleased to say that this pilot responded with a nice donation–once he understood what was being done and why. At this writing, about 10% of the AOPA membership makes a contribution to the Foundation. If we could get 25% to just donate the equivalent of one hour of flight time annually that would make a huge difference in the fight to preserve the future of GA. Please visit the AOPA Foundation website  to make a donation.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Bob Williams

    Good summary, very useful and helpful. Am a Hat in the Ring supporter and I confess I didn’t know how the AF pieces fit together, so many thanks for your comments.

  • Bruce Ziegler

    I recently heard Hal Shevers speak at a university event where he stressed “Learn, Earn, Return”. I think that applies to the AOPA Foundation as well. General aviation has provided me with some utility and a great deal of personal enjoyment and staisfaction. I am happy that I can return at least a meager amount to something that has given me so much. Interesting comment about the impact if 25% of the membership would donate the cost of an hour’s flying time. I think more emphasis should be given to the fact that all donations are significant, regardless of the amount.

  • Bruce Landsberg


    Of course, you are correct. We appreciate all donations regardless of size because that is tangible proof that the Foundation’s effort are worthy of support.

    I also understand that some people who support what we do are not financially able at this time. My hope is that when they are able they will remember that all these good things just don’t happen or that it is always somebody else’s responsibility. If everybody would contribute appropriate to their ability we could really start to make a serious impact. All it takes is time and money.

  • John P Collins

    Occasionally we should attempt to skip the politics, personal preferences and foolish carved in concrete irrational opinions in favor of somewhat of a return to the basics of right /wrong, fairness and logic. Certainly not an easy task but dooable with some effort.

    The case at issue is a fairly simple one; “Take down the fence and close down the EPA. Case closed.

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