A Look Inside the AOPA Foundation

Jennifer Storm is VP of the AOPA Foundation. Courtesy AOPA

I recently bumped into Jennifer Storm at Sun n' Fun in Lakeland and I had to admit that after congratulating her on her new role as VP of the AOPA Foundation, I really knew next to nothing about the organization. She took a few minutes between meetings and the noise of the nearby airshow to bring me up to speed.

She told me the AOPA Foundation is the philanthropic wing of the association and funds a host of great outreach work like the well-known AOPA Air Safety Institute (ASI), the You Can Fly program, the Rusty Pilots program, the database to connect pilot up with local flying clubs, the high school aviation STEM curriculum, the airport ambassadors and the flight training scholarship program for high school students. "I didn't know that," I said. "I honestly knew about the programs but never realized they were all funded by the AOPA Foundation. I thought that money came out of my annual AOPA dues." Storm just smiled back at me like I wasn't the first person to have that light bulb moment.

And who better to know about these important benefits to AOPA members than Storm who began her association career following a stint of instructing at her alma mater, the University of North Dakota. Her first AOPA job was developing ASI education programs and then as director of AOPA’s Airport Support Network, before heading up public relations and leading the association’s flight training initiative that eventually morphed into the You Can Fly program. She left AOPA for a while to gather some fundraising experience with the United Way before returning to head the foundation.

Storm's fundraising skills will come in handy since the Foundation's need for donations never ceases. As a 501(c)(3) all donations are tax deductible, similar to those given to National Public Radio, minus the in-your-face pledge drives. Storm said there are many ways to give, including Friends of GA, where anyone can send one-time donations of as little as $25, or expand them to monthly. There's also the famous Hat in the Ring Society named for legendary World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker. Storm said, "Hat in the Ring Society members are philanthropist-pilots who "throw their hats in the ring" with charitable donations between $1,000 and $5,000 every year. Donations of much greater amounts are also available through the Foundations' President's Council, President's Ambassador, Founders' Society and the New Horizon Society.

So, if you’ve enjoyed a Rusty Pilot session, or truly want to help bring aviation education to students at the high school level or simply appreciate the Air Safety Institute’s work, like the annual Nall Safety Report, or the You Can Fly effort, those programs don’t just happen as this reporter learned a few weeks ago. Dig into your pocket just a bit, even if it’s just a one-time $25 donation and put your money where your mouth, like mine, often is. I did and it was absolutely painless.

Also, members can double the impact of your donation to the AOPA Foundation by contributing to the 2019 You Can Fly Challenge. For every dollar the AOPA Foundation raises to fund the You Can Fly program by Aug. 31, the Ray Foundation will match it dollar-for-dollar up to $2 million, for a potential total of $4 million to help get and keep more pilots flying.

Rob MarkAuthor
Rob Mark is an award-winning journalist, business jet pilot, flight instructor, and blogger.

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