Our Future Starts Now

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If you've been around aviation for a while, you've no doubt seen the impact of all kinds of charitable efforts -- over a million kids took their first flight in a GA airplane thanks to EAA's Young Eagles program, and thousands more are learning about science and technology thanks to a hands-on project provided by Build-A-Plane. Maybe you've offered your airplane for a charity medical flight, or know someone who has benefited from an airlift in a tough time. There's probably an aviation museum near you -- most of them operate on a shoestring in the best of times, and I'll bet they're hurting right now.

But times are tough for everybody. We've all seen our net worth dwindle while our savings evaporate and people around us -- or maybe you -- are losing their jobs or taking cuts in pay. It's not easy these days to think about giving. But this is exactly when we have to think about it, because all these great organizations that contribute so much to aviation, to our society and our world, need our support, now more than ever. Many of the charitable foundations they depend on have had to cut down on giving as their own assets lose value, and donations from the public have tanked.

The good news is, it is probably easier than you think to give.

The most painless way, of course, is to give after you're gone. Did you know that 58 percent of U.S. adults don't even have a will? Why not designate some of the nonprofit groups you care about as beneficiaries?

Do you have some old aviation gear, or even an unwanted airplane, that you can't sell for what you think it's worth? Donate it to a nonprofit and at least get a break on your taxes.

Charitable trusts can be a powerful way to reduce your taxes while benefiting your favorite causes, and some special rates offered right now by the IRS make these trusts extra attractive. Mike Spector of the Wall Street Journal wrote a detailed article on this last month, click here for the full story.

Some of the more obscure groups, like the Recreational Aviation Foundation that works to save backcountry airstrips, or Careers in Aviation, which funds scholarships for kids, are struggling. These needs might seem less pressing in such tough times, but do we want a future without those kinds of opportunities?

If money is tight, there is always the gift of your time and expertise, which can have incalculable value to nonprofit groups.

Before long we'll be past this downturn, and find ourselves in the world of the future. If you want the kids who live in that world to still find aviation museums, and backcountry airstrips, and awesome hands-on airplane projects, and free intro flights, and a chance to fund an aviation career, consider giving what you can today.

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