Intrigued by an AOPA Air Safety Foundation mailing seeking donations, Mike Lazar called the telephone number listed and was surprised by who he reached: Bruce Landsberg.
Landsberg, who at the time led AOPA's safety and pilot education efforts, explained that a small, efficient group raised funds and created safety programs for pilots and invited Lazar to a Board of Visitors meeting to learn more about the Foundation and how it was donor-funded.
Now he and Edward McNeil, who Lazar introduced to AOPA and the foundation, are encouraging pilots to make legacy gifts to the foundation to ensure AOPA’s sustainability for years to come, even during difficult economic times.
“Legacy gifts provide an additional source of funding and are a powerful way to make a truly significant impact on the future of general aviation,” said Mike Tompos, AOPA Foundation vice president of philanthropy.
“Dues are not used to support AOPA’s charitable programs,” Lazar said, pointing to AOPA’s You Can Fly program and the AOPA Air Safety Institute's educational efforts, as well as other initiatives. Lazar and McNeil had originally started donating to what was then the Air Safety Foundation because of its popular in-person seminars that they said helped change the safety culture of GA across the country. Now, the Air Safety Institute produces in-person seminars, online training courses, safety videos, a CFI newsletter, and much more—all still free to pilots.
Lazar encouraged pilots to think about the $100 hamburger flights they’ve made over the years and the freedom to fly that they have enjoyed in large part because of AOPA’s work—and give back.
“The whole purpose of legacy is to not provide a specific dollar number but whatever is in your capability to give,” McNeil said. Pilots could also leave their aircraft to the foundation, or make the foundation a beneficiary of a retirement account or life insurance policy as another form of legacy giving.
Those who include a legacy gift in their plans will have their name added to the Legacy Court at AOPA headquarters that Lazar and McNeil designed and funded with the help of other contributors. The wall currently has space for 2,500 names, and an additional 2,500 names can be added after the first group is filled.
“The important thing that is accomplished is the continuity of the organization,” Lazar said, adding that the United States has the largest GA community in large part because of AOPA’s work.
Those who are interested in legacy giving can visit the foundation’s website or call 301-695-2320.