AOPA President Craig Fuller announced May 24 the intention to merge the association’s two 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, the AOPA Foundation and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, into a single entity known as the AOPA Foundation. Bruce Landsberg, currently president of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, will lead the combined organization as president of the AOPA Foundation.
“All of the work currently done by the Air Safety Foundation—the online courses, the in-person safety seminars, the flight instructor refresher courses, all of it—will continue,” said Fuller. “Our AOPA trustees, the Air Safety Foundation’s Board of Visitors, and AOPA’s senior management all agree that air safety remains a top priority.
“To that end, once the organizations are merged, all of the current Air Safety Foundation staff will transition into the AOPA Foundation and continue their phenomenal educational outreach as the Air Safety Institute.”
Safety is one of the four pillars on which the AOPA Foundation was formed two years ago. The other three are expanding the pilot population, protecting general aviation airports, and enhancing the public perception of general aviation. The AOPA Foundation raises funds to finance projects that support those four primary missions.
“In short, our mission is to keep pilots safe and safeguard the future of general aviation,” said Landsberg. “The legal, financial, and tax details involved in the intended merger are still being worked out. But money already donated specifically to the Air Safety Foundation will remain dedicated to air safety education, and donors will continue to have the ability to give directly to air safety efforts.”
Operationally, the merger will eliminate confusion and allow efforts in each of the four primary mission areas to be more closely integrated where appropriate. The Air Safety Foundation has a 60-year history of program development and fundraising, experience that will be invaluable to the rest of the combined foundation.
As a result of the intended merger, Karen Gebhart, current president of the AOPA Foundation, will be leaving the association in July.
“Our members have had no greater advocate for general aviation and our freedom to fly than Karen Gebhart,” said Fuller. “Since she first joined AOPA in 1994 as vice president of marketing, rising eventually to executive vice president of non-dues revenue, Karen was constantly looking for and creating products and services that enhanced the members’ flying and lifestyles. Later, as executive vice president of communications, Karen oversaw AOPA’s efforts to tell GA’s story to the nonflying public. And as president of the AOPA Foundation she has spearheaded AOPA’s fundraising efforts in a challenging economic climate.
“Her effort on behalf of the association and its members deserves the deep appreciation of the entire general aviation community.”
Because details are still being worked out, a timeline for concluding the merger is not yet available. The AOPA Board of Trustees will need to approve the final plan once it is completed.