Foundation Focus: Giving back

Honoring and advancing the work of public benefit flying organizations

May 12, 2014

bruce landsbergPaying it forward or giving it back—either way helps to strengthen general aviation and is a critical part of the AOPA Foundation’s mission. We’re here to serve by promoting safety, growing the pilot population, and protecting airports. But there are many other organizations that are doing good things to help GA. The AOPA Foundation decided last year that we could leverage our efforts by helping the most deserving of these groups to advance our cause.

There are hundreds of organizations that use general aviation to accomplish great things. They use aircraft, big and small, to support their neighbors, their communities, and a whole range of important causes. Whether they’re delivering humanitarian aid to disaster victims, transporting patients to specialized medical care, rescuing unwanted pets, helping wounded veterans get home, or protecting the environment, these groups—and the pilots who volunteer to fly for them—demonstrate daily that general aviation makes the world a better place.

But just as the AOPA Foundation needs the support of donors like you, many of these organizations need a little boost to help them grow and expand their mission. That’s why we created the Giving Back program, to honor and advance the work of such organizations.

Each year, through the Giving Back program, the AOPA Foundation provides grants of up to $10,000 to nonprofit organizations that use general aviation to do good works. The program also funds scholarships for those who want to learn to fly or pursue an aviation career.

In 2013, the first year of the Giving Back program, grants were given to 10 organizations nationwide, including Air Care Alliance, Challenge Air for Kids & Friends, Girls Incorporated of Oak Ridge, the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education, the Duluth Aviation Institute, LightHawk, the Recreational Aviation Foundation, Veterans Airlift Command, and Young Aviators (see “Briefing,” page 34). Eight flight training scholarships also were awarded, including one for Able Flight, a group that encourages people with disabilities to learn to fly. Last year’s Able Flight AOPA Foundation scholarship recipient was U.S. Marine Lt. Andrew Kinard, who learned to fly after having lost both legs while serving in Iraq.

Every 2013 grant and scholarship recipient put the money to work in ways that strengthen general aviation today and for the future. The individuals who have advanced their training through scholarship funding are natural ambassadors for general aviation, sharing their enthusiasm and excitement—not that new pilots ever discuss aviation with friends, family, or anyone else within earshot.

And the organizations that received grants can point to successes that would have been difficult or impossible without help from the AOPA Foundation. In return for funding, we ask grant recipients to keep us posted on their progress and to spread the word about the work they do through general aviation. The goal is twofold—to help charitable organizations keep up the great work, and create recognition around the many ways general aviation serves pilots and nonpilots alike.

That brings us full circle to the AOPA Foundation’s mission of ensuring the future of general aviation in the United States. The more people understand GA and the varied ways it serves our communities, and the more people whose lives are touched by general aviation, the more they appreciate it. That encourages more people to become pilots and more communities to support their GA airport.

If you work with a charitable 501(c)(3) organization that uses general aviation to fulfill its mission or if you’re an individual seeking a flight training scholarship, this is the time to take action. Grant applications are being accepted May 1 through July 10. And scholarship applications are being accepted May 31 through July 1. All applications must be submitted electronically.

You can learn more about the Giving Back program and get an application for either a grant or a scholarship online (www.aopa.org/foundation/giving-back-program.aspx). Recipients will be announced at the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In in Frederick, Maryland, on October 4. Do good things with aircraft and help us spread the word.

Bruce Landsberg leads the work of the AOPA Foundation, which funds the Air Safety Institute and other general aviation pursuits.

Web: www.aopafoundation.org