Thoughts After Retirement
When I raised my hand at the Montana Pilots Association’s (MPA) Board of Directors retreat in Bozeman in September of 2003, I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I had been following the MPA’s Recreational Airstrip Committee for several years and watching them try to raise money. I even donated dogsled rides for their online auction. To boost their fundraising effectiveness I suggested they create an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 501(c) (3) Public Charity in order to solicit tax-deductible donations.
Since the MPA charter included commercial aviation a legally separate organization needed to be created, and about a half dozen attendees indicated that they would like to be involved in such an organization and I set it up.
We decided on the name Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF). We decided that it should be a national organization – not limited to just Montana – since we were now going to be separate from the MPA. After further discussion about mission, organization, location, etc., I began the process of filing the application with the State of Montana to become a Montana Non-Profit organization and then with the IRS to become a 501(c) (3) Public Charity.
During the process, I needed and asked for Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Mission Statement, logo, etc.. To my surprise, when I sent out an email asking for these, the reply was almost immediate. I then found out that several of the pilots at the organizing meeting in Bozeman had previously been involved in trying to create just such an organization several years before to be named the Backcountry Airstrip Foundation or BAF. They had already created the necessary documentation, etc., but hadn’t actually filed with a state and the IRS. It was agreed to change BAF to RAF and other necessary modifications were made, and I filed everything with the State of Montana and the IRS in December 2003.
After about 90 days, the IRS requested more documentation. I sent the IRS a one-inch three-ring binder filled with all of the information they requested. 90 days later, we received our Letter of Determination granting the RAF 501(c) (3) Public Charity status effective in December 2003.
From there the rest is history. We started with our original Board Of Directors made up mostly from the pilots at the original organizing meeting in Bozeman plus a few new ones to satisfy IRS requirements. I volunteered to be Secretary / Treasurer. By the end of 2004, we had about $15,000 in the bank and a membership of several hundred. I continued in this role for eight years retiring December 31, 2011, when the RAF membership had grown to several thousand from all fifty states and about a dozen foreign countries. The RAF had preserved, maintained, and created multiple backcountry airstrips across the country, and my RAF activities had become so involved that I was spending ten to fourteen hours almost every day trying to keep up with it. I was either going to retire or go insane!
Fortunately, the transition of my duties to a new Administrative Director and new Treasurer went fairly smoothly, and I was able to retire as “Director Emeritus” which meant that I could continue to participate in BOD activities without the right to vote. I have continued to monitor and participate as appropriate in emails and the monthly BOD teleconferences, and other activities. It’s extremely satisfying to observe how the RAF is progressing and growing on a first-hand basis. Wow! Retirement is wonderful!
I could not have imagined in 2003 what the RAF would accomplish in its first ten years and could not be more proud of those accomplishments and the members of the BOD, and the membership who make this all possible through their generous support of both their time and their dollars. And to do all of this with all volunteers except for the Administrative Director is absolutely phenomenal! Again, who would have imagined what has been accomplished. The RAF is now nationally recognized as the “go to” organization for anything related to recreational and backcountry airstrips.
I offer a big “Thank you!” and “Well done!” to all who have been a part of the RAF. Keep up the good work, and good luck. I hope I will be around and involved for the next ten years!