I’m sure that your answer to the question posed in the title above will be that the tuition fees participants pay to register for the safety seminars cover all the expenses. You are partially right, but the cost of holding COPA Pilot Proficiency Programs (CPPP)s, online classes, and weekend events is actually greater than the tuition collected. Think about it. There are the instructors, equipment, logistics, the rented venue, food and beverages, transportation and maintenance of the flight simulators, updating of the presentations, and of course, administrative costs. So the question remains – how are the seminars funded?
Before we delve into the long answer, let’s review a little history. Each of you should understand what the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA®) represents. The organization was conceived in the early 2000s by volunteers. It facilitates member pilots getting together via the forums and in person – specifically Migration and regional events - for safety and operational information, as well as camaraderie.
Eight years ago the COPA Board decided that COPA needed to be legally separated from any safety and training activities. They identified a need for a foundation to which tax-deductible contributions could be made and those contributions used to fund specific training programs and safety initiatives. Therefore, the COPA Safety and Education Foundation was created, known as COPA SEF. It is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and 100% of its operating expenses come from donation by corporations, members, individuals and tuition fees. COPA itself is NOT a tax-deductible entity for donations, as it is primarily related to social activities related to the Cirrus aircraft and its pilots.
Subsequent to creation of COPA SEF, the COPA Training Foundation, LLC was created and is solely owned by COPA SEF. The COPA Training Foundation was formed to protect COPA SEF from any liability in the case of an accident or lawsuit. Liability of course depends upon the facts of each individual case, but the goal was separation of COPA SEF from liability exposure for activities of the COPA Training Foundation, LLC.
Now back to how the CPPP is funded; COPA SEF seeks charitable contributions in compliance with the rules governing 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. With these tax-deductible donations, COPA SEF directs funds to the COPA Training Foundation, LLC, which executes the CPPP and related safety and training activities. It must also be emphasized that CPPP is not solely for Cirrus owners, but for pilots of any technically advanced aircraft.
To recap, your CPPP and related safety seminars are totally funded by the COPA SEF 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The COPA organization does not fund any of the safety seminars, nor does it fund COPA SEF. It may, with the consent of the Board of Directors, make donations to the COPA SEF, but such donations are on a voluntary basis and COPA SEF cannot rely only upon such funds. The only funds available are from tuitions and donations.
In summary, the enrollment fee at a CPPP does not result in a break-even weekend expense. Depending on the number of participants it can certainly be a loss event. When you partake in the excellent safety programs, please think about donating the equivalent of one tank of gas to COPA SEF. This will allow the foundation to continue to present excellent safety seminars and continue to improve existing programs and develop more.
To make a donation, please contact any one of our SEF Trustees or visit the Donate page on the COPA website.
The original version of this article was written by Robert D. Miller and was published in the March 2021 Issue of COPA Pilot.