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Chapter Donation Tips and Tricks

By David Leiting, EAA Lifetime 579157, Chapter Field Rep. II

August 2020 – Recently, an EAA chapter leader reached out to see what sort of donation guidance EAA offered to chapters. Initially, my mind went towards the fantastic webinars that Patti Arthur hosts for chapters. Specifically Patti's webinar titled Chapter Chat: Donations and Contributions to Chapters, which is available here.

Patti's webinar regarding donations primarily focuses on the legalities, tax benefits, and potential pitfalls when accepting donations of cash or property. She also discussed donations of completed aircraft, as well as partially built or unbuilt kit aircraft. However, the chapter leader who reached out was more specifically looking for tips in regards to soliciting donations to help fund the chapter's hangar project.

While responding to this chapter leader, I realized EAA offered little in the way for guidance for this sort of activity. I decided to put my "chapter leader" cap on and brainstorm a short list for this ambitious leader. Here is the brief list that I was able to compile!

  1. Always mention the chapter is a 501(c)(3) and that the chapter's charitable purpose is education and support of young aviators. Major donors tend to prefer supporting programs benefiting youth.

    If your chapter is not yet a 501(c)(3) or if the chapter is unsure of its 501(c)(3) status, a great place to start is by viewing Patti Arthur's webinar titled Chapter Chat: Applying for Charitable Status — Filing the 1023EZ, which is available here.

  2. Come up with a professional letterhead you can use on the donation solicitation letter. When able, present these letters face to face so the donors can make a personal connection. In addition, customize each letter. It may even help to add why this person/company's support makes sense to them.

  3. Set a funding goal and remain public about reaching this goal. This will give donors an idea of how they can help and what progress the chapter has made. It never hurts to seed the fund with a few "sure thing" donors. Consider what those close to the chapter will donate. A growing fund will prove to new donors that this is a concept worth supporting.

  4. Seek a donor willing to match funds, for example, XYZ Corp or John Doe will match all donations dollar for dollar up to $10,000. This will encourage other donors to support the chapter's cause.

  5. Consider selling lifetime chapter memberships for a limited time. This is an opportunity to gain some quick cash, while giving members the chance to express their lifetime commitment to the chapter. In exchange for a lifetime membership, consider a plaque with the lifetime members' names displayed or a special chapter lifetime member hat/shirt. Typically, $500 to $600 per chapter lifetime membership is a reasonable ask.

  6. Although I am happy to provide guidance on seeking donations, I will admit that I am not the expert in the room. This is where a quick internet search can help supplement this article. Check out the following sites!

If your chapter has any tips for seeking donations or has more questions, be sure to post them to the EAA Chapter Leaders Chat on Facebook!

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