Montana Chapter 517 "Licenses" Fundraiser
October 18, 2006 — EAA Chapter 517 of Missoula/Stevensville, Montana, has devised an innovative way to raise money for its current and future youth education efforts. In return for sponsoring the state's aviation-themed vanity license plates, the chapter receives a portion of the registration and renewal fees, which helps to fund its Young Eagle efforts and aviation summer camp for kids.
Chapter 517 President Steve Rossiter said the project came together earlier this year and shows promise. While exploring the state website, Newsletter Editor Frank Tremper discovered that Montana has a large number of sponsored license plates available, and that sponsoring organizations receive $20 from every plate issued or renewed. With an estimated 5,000-6,000 pilots in the Big Sky state, and an uncounted number of aviation enthusiasts, sponsoring the specialty plates seemed to be a perpetual chapter fund-raising program.
After discussing the idea, the chapter's board of directors approved the project. The chapter submitted the necessary paperwork and designs, the state approved them, and by late July Montana Department of Corrections' License Plate Factory was producing EAA-sponsored aviation specialty license plates.
To cover the state's start-up costs, the chapter had to write a $4,000 check (and it was ready for that, thanks to the sale of a donated Kitfox). The chapter also hired a firm to help create the plate's design, in which a Piper J-3 Cub flies in front of billowing white clouds. Along the bottom are the words, "Fly Big Sky Country."
The state sold five plates in the waning days of July, netting the chapter $100. The chapter earned $900 in August, and it hasn't received the September results yet. "With the number of pilots and aviation enthusiasts in our state, we should be able to handle 200 plates in a reasonable period of time," Rossiter said. "Of course, every year when people renew we get another $20 back, so it's not just a one-shot deal. It's the steady income that we're looking forward to."
Rossiter said chapters in other states might have a similar opportunity. A web search indicates that many states offer a variety of specialty plates, so interested chapters should check with their state's DMV to see what's available.
"I hope that members in other states can have that type of opportunity at a reasonable price," Rossiter said. "It was mostly just a bureaucratic process getting from the starting point to where the thing ended, and we're pretty encouraged with what we're seeing so far."