Foundation Focus: Giving back

Recognizing those who do amazing things

June 1, 2013

Bruce LandsbergI’ll admit it. As president of the AOPA Foundation, I spend a lot of time asking people like you to give—your money, your time, and your commitment. Your gifts make it possible for us to fund the important work of strengthening general aviation and keeping pilots safe.

But now’s time to consider giving something back to the aviation community we love. I’ve spoken about how everyone can do something. Can you afford to donate the equivalent of two cups of coffee a month, or just one hour of flight time a year? Most of us can financially manage that, and some of us can do much more.

Your contributions to the AOPA Foundation help to support the Air Safety Institute with its dozens of free online courses and in-person safety seminars; benefit the Center to Advance the Pilot Community as it finds ways to grow the pilot population; preserve community airports across the country; and educate decision makers and the public about the true value of GA to all Americans, whether they fly or not.

As a charitable organization, the AOPA Foundation acts as a force multiplier. When we fund a program, that program should deliver far more than the cost of creating it. The Air Safety Institute’s online courses are a great example. A course may reach hundreds of thousands of pilots with vital safety information, making the cost per user just pennies. But even more important, the information can and does save lives.

But the AOPA Foundation can’t do it all. It’s about cooperation and collaboration. There are thousands of charitable organizations doing excellent work using general aviation. The GA community participates in disaster response, medical relief flying, and transportation provided by volunteer pilots.

With so much competition for resources, funding is tight. Every dollar needs to be maximized and leveraged. So, we’ve created a new program called Giving Back, which allows us to put money in the hands of groups that are doing amazing things through GA.

We plan to award the funds in three ways. First, we’ll give grants of up to $10,000 to nonprofit groups that perform charitable work through GA. Second, several flight training scholarships are awarded to individuals who want to learn to fly or pursue aviation careers. And third, free memberships are provided to armed forces personnel and teens who want to be part of the GA community.

This program is a great way to recognize the good things happening in the GA community, and we’ll partner with the beneficiaries to get the publicity their work so rightly deserves. In the case of grant recipients, we’ll ask the organizations to spread the word about the good work they do and the role general aviation plays in those efforts. Through their own websites, newsletters, press releases, annual reports, and other communication tools, these nonprofits will create a ripple effect, helping more people recognize and understand the contributions made by general aviation and the many charitable organizations that use it. In return, AOPA’s own far-reaching communications channels will tell the heartwarming stories of these wonderful charities.

Individuals who receive scholarships are natural ambassadors for general aviation who can inspire others to achieve their own aviation goals. How many times when you were learning to fly, or had just earned your pilot certificate, did you just casually let it slip that you were a pilot? How many times did others want to know more about it? For many scholarship recipients, earning a pilot certificate will be just the first step in a lifetime of personal and professional aviation achievements. For others, it will be their proudest accomplishment.

Service members and their families give so much, but often have to count every penny. Offering free memberships to those who serve our country is one small way we can give back.

And young people are the future of GA. Giving them “insider” status with a free membership through AOPA’s new youth program—AV8Rs—exposes them to GA while encouraging them to take a greater interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. It’s a great way to welcome the next generation of pilots while helping young people discover rewarding career possibilities.

The AOPA Foundation’s Giving Back program is brand-new, but we’ve set some lofty goals. We hope to award 10 grants, 10 scholarships, and 2,500 free AOPA memberships in 2013. Will you help?

Whether you want to join us and “give back” by donating to the AOPA Foundation to help support our new Giving Back program—or you’d like to apply for a grant, scholarship, or free membership—you’ll find everything you need to know on our website. We’re accepting grant applications through July 1.

Safety, pilot population growth, airports, or giving back—it’s up to you and me. Will you help?

Bruce Landsberg was named president of the AOPA Foundation in May 2010.

Take a stand for general aviation’s future—make a tax-deductible contribution to the AOPA Foundation today. Visit the website.