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Unit Manual Section 9 - Fundraising

Category: Unit Manuals

Published date: Apr 12, 2024


IMPORTANT: PRIVACY POLICY AND COPY RIGHT COMPLIANCE The Commemorative Air Force (“CAF”) realizes the importance of the privacy of our members, volunteers and supporters. We have adopted a PRIVACY POLICY to explain how the CAF collects, manages, and protects personal information. It is important that the unit officers of each unit understand and follow the organization’s privacy policy as it relates to the information the unit obtains and retains for members, volunteers and supporters. This applies to information gathered as it relates to individuals who attend an event, ride an aircraft, make a donation, join a unit, and beyond. This policy will change and be updated as needed.
Please review the CAF’s Privacy Policy posted at: A. IMPORTANCE OF FUNDRAISING

Raising funds to support CAF projects is one of the most important activities of each Unit that directly impacts the Unit’s ability to fulfill the mission. Restoration projects and aircraft maintenance require substantial amounts of money for the purchase of major parts and supplies for assigned aircraft. As fundraising may be a component of many CAF activities, and because of its delicate nature, the raising of money must be strictly regulated and controlled.

The CAF is a tax exempt organization and this status accounts for much of its financial support. Because of the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service, particularly regarding tax deductible donations, strict accountability is required. For this reason, all donations must be recorded in the Unit finance statement and proper documentation sent to HQ. (See Unit Finance Guide for details). Fundraising activities must never jeopardize the CAF’s tax exempt status.

To place fundraising in its proper perspective, several things must be kept in mind.

  1. Creating and maintaining a deep and broad Culture of Philanthropy throughout the CAF is vital to achieve our fundraising objectives. This means that everyone involved in the CAF must understand that philanthropy and fundraising are vital to supporting the CAF’s mission AND that each Colonel has a role. Everyone is an ambassador for philanthropy and fund development. Fundraising-related activities are not limited to a designated few, and a Culture of Philanthropy is not isolated to designated fundraising activities. A Culture of Philanthropy includes a warm, welcoming and inclusive environment at each and every opportunity and event and often includes inviting others to join as CAF Colonels and Unit Members. It includes quality programs that demonstrate that an investment in the CAF is worthwhile. It includes sharing the mission of the CAF in a way that creates interest and appreciation of its importance. It includes each Colonel knowing and demonstrating that their connections and relationships can help advance the CAF’s mission; looking for opportunities to broaden the engagement of those around them with the CAF. It includes building relationships with supporters – not simply to gain financial support - but to help supporters understand the impact of their investment and how they are making a difference because of their investment. It includes each Colonel being prepared to answer questions of how donations are effectively used and demonstrating appreciation to supporters.

  2. While fundraising is essential to the continued success of the CAF, the CAF is dependent on volunteers and members who contribute their time and their money. The "hard sell" approach is inconsistent with the character of the CAF.

  3. People give to successful organizations, those with a good "track record." Whether or not an organization is worthy of funding is often determined by the "first impression" left by the representatives of the organization. To leave a good impression of the CAF, and to be a successful fundraiser, each Unit member must have a thorough knowledge of the CAF, its mission, goals and objectives.

    Being able to present the mission, goals and objectives of the CAF in a logical and dynamic manner, and being able to answer questions about CAF operations, policies and history takes a little "homework", but is worth the effort. It is the key to successful fundraising! Additionally, it is vital to communicate to supporters the results (outcomes) of their investment – be it in a specific aircraft, project or event, or general support for the Unit.

  4. Competition for charitable donations is fierce United Way, Cancer Society, Symphony, Boy Scouts the list of charitable organizations is almost endless. The fundraising efforts of Units must be carefully coordinated with Headquarters’ Chief Relationship Officer or Philanthropy Director for foundations or corporations with a national presence. This will help to prevent the CAF competing against ourselves.

  5. Finally, no one likes to be taken for granted. Appreciation and recognition of donors who give to support the mission, buy an item from the PX, volunteer their time, conduct aircraft tours, or the other endless ways individuals support the CAF is very important.


There are many successful ways of raising funds. Some organizations sell notecards, others cookies and still others rely on direct solicitation. The CAF’s mission is to Educate, Inspire, and Honor. Expressing this message in a manner that connects emotionally to your audience will create a higher rate of success.

The CAF has partnered with Dallas-based company Mission Advancement to create a series of webinars about fundraising that are tailored to the unique qualities of the CAF. This training is designed to help your Unit develop an effective fundraising plan. Each topic has a short video that is also supported by a workbook to help you develop the applicable skills. Units can purchase each series for $300 or the combined series for $500 which includes all nine modules. This allows complete access to the training to be used repeatedly within your Unit—and with as many of your members as you wish.

If your Unit incorporates these guidelines and principles into your fundraising efforts, your Unit will raise more money to fulfill the CAF mission. And, should one of your members offer to purchase the training on behalf of the Unit, the donation will be tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

For more information or to purchase the series, please contact the Development Office at 214-330-1700, or email The training is separated into two different series and covers the following topics:

Series One • Discovering Your Second Mission • Crafting Your Story • Building a Support Base • Creating a Successful Fundraising Event • Executing a Successful Fundraising Campaign Series Two • Building and Managing Relationships • Donor Cultivation • Asking for Money • Creating a Fundraising Network


Some fundraising methods are more likely to have a higher risk or have repeatedly proven unsuccessful for many CAF Units; however, they can be successful in certain situations. If you have questions on these various activities or are unsure if the approach is appropriate for your unit, please contact the Development Office at HQ to discuss further.

  1. AIRCRAFT SPONSOR PROGRAM a. Over the years, the single most successful method of raising funds for aircraft acquisition and restoration has been the CAF Aircraft Sponsor Program. It is a proven method one that takes little effort on the part of the individual member. All that is required is enthusiasm and knowledge about how the program operates. Each member of a Unit can be an effective "generator" of funds for the CAF by becoming active in recruiting new Aircraft Sponsors.

b. Section 6 of this manual outlines the Aircraft Sponsor Program in detail. It is the responsibility of each Unit Staff Officer to become familiar with the Aircraft Sponsor Program and understand how it works. With an aggressive, positive approach to the Aircraft Sponsorship Program, a Unit can raise significant funds for restoration and maintenance of assigned aircraft. Please make sure your Unit is using the current version of the Aircraft Sponsor Form (available on-line under Forms in the Unit Manual area)


a. Experience has shown static displays of CAF aircraft to be a successful method of fundraising. Less demanding of members’ time than a full fledged airshow, yet with excellent appeal to the public, these static displays can raise thousands of dollars in a short period of time with little financial risk.

b. The potential for success depends on proper planning. A static display cannot be scheduled and executed "over night." Several key factors to consider:

i. Determine the availability of the aircraft well in advance. Many CAF aircraft tour the country with schedules prepared many months in advance. Others have set, specified maintenance periods. All require careful consideration of crew availability. Some are restricted in their movements due to their inherent mechanical and operational limitations. ii. An objective and realistic appraisal of expected attendance is necessary. Consider parking, roads, and traffic, as well as other community activities scheduled for the same date. Attention to detail, proper planning, and a good study of the "market" will increase the likelihood of success and create positive buzz in the community. iii. Carefully select the airport. Airport authorities are generally receptive to visits from CAF aircraft, however, this should not be assumed. Proper pre-planning will determine the success of a static display. Six months is the minimum lead-time to adequately plan for a static display. Items to consider: 1) Security and the number of people allowed and supported by the facility. Access to the airport may be restricted/limited. Many airports, especially those with air carrier operations, have strict security and limit the number of people on the field. 2) Are spectators allowed beyond a fence line? Is that necessary for the type of event? 3) Does the airport charge a "facilities use fee" to help defray cost of airport operations? 4) Are permits for the sale of PX items required or is a sales tax bond posted. c. Several Units throughout the CAF have annual static displays. These Units can be a valuable resource; you will find other Units welcome your questions and are frequently a wealth of information.

Please see CAFR 55-1 Procedures for Airshow/Event Approval for details. Requests should be submitted to Headquarters well in advance.

  1. PX SALES a. PX sales are a good method of augmenting Unit funds. PX sales can be combined with an static aircraft display to generate substantial money.

b. Trade shows, automobile and boat shows, and other activities of this nature are often events at which CAF members can meet the public and combine member recruiting and PX sales.

c. Designs for Unit oriented merchandise must be submitted to Headquarters Vice President of Marketing for approval prior to being placed in production. CAF logos, designs and devices are registered trademarks. Unauthorized usage may be a violation of the trademark laws and may be subject to penalty. Please see the CAF Standards Guide for details.


    On occasion, Units develop a fundraising activity that could best be termed as a "special project" or “special activity”.

    The potential for raising funds with a special project of this nature can be high. Sometimes there is significant initial capital required, and sometimes the risk is high as well, including making sure we comply with IRS regulations, and that the fundraising plan is implemented thoughtfully following appropriate fundraising concepts and best practices. Headquarters staff is available as a sounding board for fundraising activities, and requirements for pre-approval may apply. If the goal is to raise $10,000 or more through any special project or activity, please discuss the project with the HQ Chief Relationship Officer or Philanthropy Director in advance. In many cases, no other action may be necessary. In other cases, pre-approval may apply.

  2. PLANNED GIVING/ESTATE GIFTS Starting in 2017, the CAF renewed its focus on planned giving (sometimes referred to estate gifts). These gifts, where the CAF is included in a member’s or supporter’s estate planning efforts, can translate into significant funds for the CAF. Due to the legal requirements and the possible implications, the CAF’s Chief Relationship Officer from HQ is to be notified immediately of all estate gifts.

a. Individuals who include the CAF in their estate plans may be included in The Heritage Club, the CAF’s legacy planning society. More information can be found on the CAF website under Leave a Legacy – Include the CAF in Estate Planning – Join the Heritage Club.

b. Planned gifts can be made in various ways, including but not limited to: cash, stocks and bonds, real property, and insurance or annuity policies.

c. Individuals can designate the CAF, a unit, an aircraft, an endowment, various projects, or a combination of any of the above as the recipient of a planned gift. The distribution of all planned gifts will follow the direction of the donor and as outlined in the CAF’s Gift Acceptance Policy.

d. Should a unit become aware of an individual planning to leave a planned gift to the CAF or any related entity, please notify the Chief Relationship Officer. This will provide an opportunity for the individual to be recognized in The Heritage Club and also for appropriate tracking by the CAF.

e. Should a unit become aware of an individual who has Gone West who left a planned gift, the Chief Relationship Officer at HQ should be notified immediately. The Chief Relationship officer, in conjunction with the CFO and the CEO, will coordinate the fulfillment of any legal requirements for the CAF to receive the estate gift, and that the gift is used as designated by the donor and in accordance with the CAF’s Gift Acceptance Policy. Unit representatives are not authorized to sign any legal documents related to estate gifts. 6. MATCHING GIFTS

Many corporations have programs to match charitable contributions of their employees. This is a widely over looked fact and is a potential source of CAF revenue. From time to time, each member of the Unit should be reminded of this fact and asked to check with his employer if a "matching gift" program is available. Matching gift funds will follow the original donation (i.e., a matching gift donation made by an employer will go to the same place as the original donation.  For example: if the original donation was directed to the Aircraft Restoration Fund, the matching gift will also go to the Aircraft Restoration Fund.) Should the CAF not be registered with a specific employer, please contact the Development Office at and the Development Office at HQ will complete the necessary registration.  

    The image of the CAF is carefully managed. The appearance of "pan handling" or door-to-door” solicitation could tarnish our image. As such, the type of direct solicitation is limited. To "pass the hat" at a Unit meeting is one thing, but to "stand on the street corner" is quite another.

    Acceptable methods for direct solicitation of funds include:

a. One-on-one (or one-on-two) solicitation of philanthropic individuals from your local community. For more information on how to effectively fundraise in this manner, please consider the Fundraising Training Series outlined in Section B. above. Building relationships with individuals will likely be the most beneficial long-term fundraising strategy, but it takes thoughtful and consistent activities. b. Letters targeted to your existing donors and the immediate local community highlighting CAF’s mission, specific projects and asking for support. A 1% response rate is the fundraising industry benchmark for this type of activity. c. Solicitation of event sponsors from local organizations. Thoughtfully considering and creating benefits that a sponsor will receive in return, while balancing the cost to the unit of such benefits, will increase the likelihood of success. All foundations and corporations with a national presence should be discussed with CAF HQ first. Please contact the Chief Relationship Officer or the Philanthropy Director. d. Solicitation of aircraft sponsorships as outlined in the Aircraft Sponsor Program.

Other direct solicitation efforts should be discussed with the Chief Relationship Officer in advance.

  1. APPLYING FOR GRANTS Seeking financial support from foundations/corporations is a viable fundraising source, and Units are encouraged to explore community foundations and foundations in their local vicinity. It is in the best interest of all Units, and the CAF as a whole, to coordinate any efforts seeking funding from national foundations, national corporations or foundations outside the unit’s immediate community with the CAF HQ Chief Relationship Officer or Philanthropy Director in advance. This is to ensure that such foundations do not receive multiple and conflicting submissions from the CAF. If your Unit is located in an area with another Unit nearby, it is also suggested you coordinate relationship building activities and submissions with the other Unit(s).

a. Submitting Grant Applications Units may seek funding from local foundations up to a maximum of $10,000. For amounts of $10,000 and above, first discuss your grant request with the Philanthropy Director or the Chief Relationship Officer. Most local foundations will require the completion of a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) or grant application. Building a relationship with the foundation in advance of any LOI or grant application will increase the likelihood of success. Prior to applying for any grant funding, the following steps are required from the Unit: 1) Review the requirements of any funder related to the grant to ensure that the local Unit’s submission meets the expectations. 2) Ensure the local Unit is prepared to meet any grant requirements, which may include project reporting at a future date. 3) Be prepared to establish a mechanism to ensure any grant requirements are met. If a grant is accepted by a foundation, it is the Unit’s sole responsibility to ensure that any requirements or expectations set by the foundation are met in a timely manner.

b.   When a Grant is Awarded or Denied, or no response after 90 days

When a grant is awarded or denied, or if the funder does not respond 90 days after the submission, the following steps are required from the Unit: 1) A copy of the complete grant submission, including any attachments, as well as the acceptance, declination letter, and any other communication, should be sent to the Philanthropy Director or the Chief Relationship Officer at HQ for record maintenance. 2) Should the grant be awarded, implement the mechanism to ensure any grant requirements are met. 3) If acceptance of the grant is contingent on signing any agreement by the CAF, that agreement, along with all supporting documentation, must be immediately forwarded to the Philanthropy Director or the Chief Relationship Officer for review and signature before the Unit accepts any funds. These forms must be signed by HQ.

c. Exceptions

For certain projects, it may be necessary for a Unit to seek funding from outside their local community. When this need arises, the Unit should contact the Philanthropy Director or Chief Relationship Officer prior to applying for the grant to ensure there are no other solicitations underway to that same foundation, or some other significant reason not to proceed. In certain situations, a joint application by multiple Units and/or HQ may be the best approach to maximize the support from the foundation/corporation and achieve the best possible outcome. Once approval to proceed is received, the steps outlined above for submission and reporting will apply.

The above fundraising methods are not the only available fundraising methods; however, these are the methods that many CAF Units have successfully used, and experience has shown them to be among the most effective. However, a discussion on fundraising would not be complete without looking at a few methods which have proven to be unsuccessful or at best, risky:

  1. AIRSHOWS IN NEW UNITS Often new Units consider the idea of promoting an airshow as a major fundraising project. An airshow is probably the most difficult and challenging method of raising funds for the CAF. Statistics show the average Unit sponsored airshow loses money. At best, the amount of revenue produced does not justify the effort and physical risk to the aircraft and equipment. Manpower required to produce a show, solicit airshow sponsors, the amount of "up front" capital needed and the possibility of inclement weather, all decrease the likelihood of such an event generating large sums of money. Combined with the costs associated with getting CAF aircraft, crews and volunteers to the site, it becomes obvious that airshows are not a reliable method of raising funds. A good plan, experienced volunteers and significant relationships in the community are vital to success. One positive is that airshows have produced significant numbers of new members in the past. Please see CAFR 55-1 Procedures for Airshow/Event Approval for details.


Crowdsource fundraising can be exciting and rewarding. Starting in 2015, CAF HQ began using crowdsourcing as a fundraising tool with significant success. The success of these activities was not by accident; it required a significant amount of time, effort and analysis.

There are two different types of Crowdsource fundraising campaigns: (1) the CAF’s annual 12 Planes of Christmas campaign; and (2) Unit-developed crowdsource fundraising campaigns.

a. 12 Planes of Christmas Campaign

Recognizing the value of the crowdsource platform to benefit the CAF Ghost Squadron®, the annual 12 Planes of Christmas campaign was introduced in 2015, and as of January 2024, had raised over $2.3M for aircraft restoration and maintenance. This very visible and active month-long fundraising effort focuses attention and efforts by CAF HQ and the Units to raise funds for participating aircraft.

i. Selection Process: Units apply to be selected as one of the featured 12 Planes of Christmas and receive special promotion during the campaign. With input from CAF HQ staff, the board of the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum makes the final selections. Any aircraft not selected to be highlighted as one of the featured “12” planes can still participate in the campaign.

ii. Expectations of Units During the Campaign: Active participation and promotion at the Unit level plays a significant role in the fundraising success achieved by each aircraft and active participation at the Unit level for any aircraft participating in this campaign is expected.

iii. All donations during the Campaign are processed by the Development Office at HQ, and then funds are transferred to the designated aircraft account. This will result in accurate tracking of the effectiveness of this campaign and to facilitate the donor receiving the correct tax acknowledgement letter. Should a unit receive a donation directly that is related to the 12 Planes Campaign, the donation should be immediately forwarded to HQ for appropriate handling. All aircraft donations received in the month of December, or any aircraft donation designated as a 12 Planes of Christmas donation, regardless of when the gift is received, is included in that year’s campaign.

iv. Campaign Costs

The costs inquired by HQ for the 12 Planes of Christmas Campaign are significant – both in time by HQ staff to develop, manage and promote, and the hard dollar costs such as printing, postage, advertising and promotion. The ASAP assessment applies to all funds raised during the 12 Planes of Christmas Campaign, and only partially offsets the hard dollar costs incurred by HQ during the campaign.

b. Unit-Developed Crowdsource Fundraising Campaigns

While crowdsource fundraising campaigns should not be your Unit’s primary fundraising method, they can be a component of your annual fundraising strategy.

i. If a Unit wishes to develop a separate crowdsource fundraising initiative from the 12 Planes of Christmas, please notify CAF HQ ( during the development and in ADVANCE of launching your campaign. This is due to the national level presence of crowdsource fundraising efforts, and so HQ is able to plan accordingly should there be an increase in required tax acknowledgement letters. It is also best not to have too many Unit-led crowdsource campaigns underway simultaneously.

ii. The recommended tool for a Crowdsource Fundraising Campaign is FundRazr, the same tool used for the 12 Planes of Christmas campaign.

ii. To support the success of the 12 Planes of Christmas, no Unit-developed crowdsource fundraising campaign may occur from October 1 to January 31st.

iii. To assist Units in launching successful campaigns, a reference sheet called “Crowdfunding Tips for CAF Units” has been created. It can be found on the Development website at Please review before launching any crowdsource fundraising campaign.

iv. For additional guidance, please contact the Chief Relationship Officer or the Philanthropy Director.


Many state laws prohibit raffles. Several states lump them with "Bingo" under the general gaming laws. The authorities may turn a "blind eye", but the fact remains, a raffle may well be illegal in a given area. However, if a Unit determines that raffles are legal in its state or area, the Unit may document that fact to CAF HQ, as explained in the Unit Finance Guide, and request specific permission to hold a raffle. Please contact the CAF’s CFO at Headquarters for details.

  1. BINGO

Laws in many states provide for the distribution of earnings from bingo to local non-profits. While Bingo operations are legal in Texas, there are specific laws that apply and the local unit must comply with these requirements. Should a Unit wish to participate in bingo operations outside the state of Texas, please contact the appropriate state agency and forward any relevant information to the CAF’s CFO at Headquarters. Please allow considerable lead-time as such operations are usually processed very slowly by state agencies.


  1. Introduction: Fundraising at the Unit level may be done by a paid staff member or a CAF member/volunteer who works collaboratively with the Unit Staff to meet the Unit Staff’s expectations and goals for generating essential revenue to operate the Unit in accordance with CAF Policy.

  2. Any paid staff member with responsibilities related to fundraising must perform their responsibilities in compliance with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Code of Ethical Standards as outlined. Please specially note the information regarding compensation, bonuses & finder fees. Additional information can be found here:

  3. The duties of this paid staff member, who may have additional administrative duties, along with fundraising, may have a different job title for example, Director of Development or Community Liaison. (These duties are to be set by the Unit Staff and coordinated and approved by CAF Headquarters). Please refer to Guide 10, Unit Level Employee and Contractors for more information regarding paid staff.

  4. The duties relating to fundraising must be specified in any job description for any paid Airbase Staff administrator whose position must be approved by CAF Headquarters and should include building a Culture of Philanthropy within the Unit staff. This position may include but is not limited to the following suggested duties: a. Direct liaison with CAF Headquarters’ Chief Relationship Officer and Philanthropy Director b. Marketing manager/assistant
    c. Special Events manager and on-site contact d. Community Liaison e. Facility manager f. Museum tour coordinator g. General office duties as assigned

    Contact the CAF Chief Relationship Officer or Philanthropy Director for questions related to fundraising.

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