When looking at the American Bonanza Society’s offerings, you have to wonder: How can they do all that with membership dues at just $70 a year?
It comes down to two organizations working hand in hand: The ABS and the ABS Air Safety Foundation.
“The American Bonanza Society is the membership organization,” explains Thomas P. Turner, executive director of the air safety foundation. “It exists to support the members. It sells books, it sells memberships, it publishes and pays for the magazine — all of the things that are related to attracting, recruiting and retaining members are ABS functions. They put on all of the events — the convention, our presence at Oshkosh and everything.”
Then there’s the foundation.
“We do all of the educational and technical content,” he said. “If members had to identify what area they were in when they were interfacing with us, most of the time it would be foundation stuff. But the reality is, I see the foundation as providing the product to the American Bonanza Society so that ABS has something to sell to its membership.”
He explained that all the technical advisors who help members are part of the foundation. New “products,” such as the flight instructor academy to teach CFIs how to instruct in Bonanzas, are created through the foundation.
“We joke that Whit (Hickman, ABS executive director) keeps the lights turned on so I can do the fun stuff,” Turner said with a laugh. “But he looks at it the other way. He likes what he is doing, so it works out really well.”
But where does the money come from for all the services and products members receive? Through donations to the foundation.
Started in 1979, the foundation survives on donations ranging from as little as $25 up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It’s no surprise that many ABS members are also donors — even when they are no longer members. Just recently the foundation introduced planned giving, which encourages members to leave a donation to the foundation in their wills.
“Just this past year, we had a $250,000 donation that came from a guy’s will,” said Paul Damiano, ABS president. “His donation was in honor of one of the guys who gave a lot of money to the ABS in the early days.”
Damiano, who lives in Spruce Creek in Florida, notes that many ABS members who are his neighbors are also donors.
“It’s kind of a joke that Spruce Creek generates about 15% or 20% of the giving because there’s some guys here who are well off and they regularly give thousands of dollars a year to the Air Safety Foundation,” he said.
According to Hickman, it’s important not only to the members, but also the foundation donors, to provide quality services and products.
“We want to put our money where our mouth is,” he said. “If you’re going to donate to us, we want to show you that we’re using it in the right way. We’re all one.”