May 2018 State of the Foundation
Your foundation just completed a good year and looks forward with energy and optimism. Operationally and financially, the Air Force Historical Foundation largely maintained or advanced its position. Whether through publishing quality scholarship in our flagship Airpower History, disseminating short items of historical interest via electronic media, conducting awards and events, or behind-the-scenes work by your volunteer Board, we continue to press to keep airpower history accessible, accurate and relevant. Our resource picture remains modestly positive, with our recently-received major bequest returning gains above our projections. We hope to grow this and future major gifts to the point they routinely cover future, more robust operating expenses. To that end, we are avoiding drawing on the corpus of those funds in order to assure the existence—if not the full potential—of the Foundation for many years to come.
Reaching our potential will require reinvigorating selected past efforts, but that is not enough. We must expand our horizons with regard to organizational partnerships, enhanced collection and sharing of oral history, leveraging the formidable storehouse of scholarship in Airpower History, and other innovative ways to draw serving Airmen to be motivated by their heritage and interested in airpower history. Equally, there are individuals and companies with connections to airpower we are not yet reaching, and we should. If we are to sustain and honor the stewardship, esteem, and respect in which Foundation members hold our Air Force’s history, we will need ideas and support from all, and as time and resources permit, financial and personal support from some of you.
The Foundation put together memorable award events this year. The 2017 Doolittle Award was presented in two different venues to the 432nd Wing: The first was at a wing-wide event at their home station, Creech Air Force Base, on January 18th, and the second was at the Air Force Memorial and subsequent Annual Awards Banquet on January 30th. The 432nd brought to Washington nearly sixty of its members for the event, which made it a very lively, “multigenerational” evening! Those in attendance were treated to personal, humorous, and very thoughtful remarks from our Spaatz award recipient General Richard B. Myers. We were also quite fortunate to have in attendance Keith Ferris, our Holley award recipient, who shared both a wonderful slideshow of some of his aviation art and some heartfelt remarks of thanks.
The success of these events has emboldened our Board to sustain this diversity going forward. We intend to increase our visibility via both Washington and other award presentation venues.
Social Media and Email Outreach
Continuing our initiative from last year’s website upgrade, we made a strong effort to expand our outreach, and achieved over 20% growth in all of our current channels: e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. This seems to be paying off with increased membership in the Associate (online) category. We have developed an ambitious slate of ideas to increase diversity of content and pace of update on the website, and your Board will be considering the best ways to economically but effectively accelerate the expansion your dedicated Foundation staff has led over the last couple of years.
The Foundation is most pleased to now have its 64-year history of published articles incorporated into JSTOR. JSTOR, short for Journal Storage, is a globally known resource that provides access to more than 10 million sources in 75 disciplines, through a powerful research and teaching platform. JSTOR collaborates with the academic community to help libraries connect students and faculty to vital content while lowering costs and increasing shelf space, provide independent researchers with free and low-cost access to scholarship. Importantly for us, it also helps publishers reach new audiences and preserve their content for future generations. Over the next months we will be working to make this available through our website to interested members and researchers, thereby giving our journal a much more visible (and rightful) place in the military history community. JSTOR has the potential to provide a small but enduring income stream, permanently leveraging the value resident in Airpower History and its predecessor AFHF publications.
This portion of the report is reminiscent of earlier years because our financial condition remains relatively stable. Our newly established investment portfolio provides us the ability to sustain AFHF far in the foreseeable future, but is not yet in position to defray significant portions of our operating expenses. The defense industry belt tightening over the past several years has hampered sponsorship by our traditional partners, without much growth in the size of the cohort of other historically-inclined corporate donors. We ended this year with more funds than we had when it started, but this was a year of exceptional investment returns. Our operating costs were covered in large part by the income generated from investment revenues and parsimoniously reducing the size of the principal--but we do not want to continue drawing from our investments to cover ongoing expenses until they reach a size where this would be sustainable indefinitely.
Here is where we stand with two months remaining in our fiscal year:
The bottom line: Your Board is grappling with a range of ideas to enhance our value to potential members and sponsors, increase services for our membership, and energize our relationship with the Air Force to ensure we are supportive and relevant to today’s and tomorrow’s Airmen. If we are successful, we can make sponsorships, bequests, and annual donation more attractive. Along with making the Foundation’s intellectual property better known outside AFHF, and accessible to non-members appropriately, we can not only close our current small gap, but reliably sustain the enhanced value the Foundation is capable of providing.
Your thoughts and recommendations are most welcome.
Plans for the Coming Year
Besides the rollout of JSTOR we are looking at several programs that might prove to be financially rewarding. The first is publishing a compendium of key Air Power History articles whose subjects have proven to be both enlightening and enduring. We believe it could be possible to market this as a text, and other interesting book ideas have been mentioned for consideration. Secondly, perhaps in partnership with a kindred organization, would be a commemorative coin from the US Mint. Numerous organizations like AFHF have successfully accomplished this. Another newly proposed initiative would involve facilitating historical exploration for small groups in airpower-relevant settings. We are looking at expansion of organizational partnerships that could drive web-savvy visitors to AFHF’s electronic media and generate interest in membership. Many of these ideas could only proceed in parallel with an increase in our electronic content, which will require resources to build and maintain. Finally, we are examining our fundraising development processes for improvement. In today’s economic environment, previous professional fundraising efforts may be worth re-examining.
Looking to the Future
It is no surprise to Foundation members that our organization has had to work hard for financial viability almost since its inception. Today, due to the efforts of previous AFHF leadership and the generosity of a long-time member, long-term existence is virtually assured—and we will remain an integral part of the air power landscape. However, this newly established solvency merely gives us the "runway" to grow into the organization envisioned by generations of Air Force Historical Foundation leaders--Spaatz, Vandenberg, Foulois, LeMay, and other dedicated Airmen.
As we close this fiscal year, I am confident AFHF has what it takes to remain a thoughtful voice within the dedicated air power community. We have a historically unique and important role promoting the legacy of airmen and educating future generations to aspire to follow in airpower’s legacy of valor, dedication and innovation. We must remain committed to broadening the air power community to help meet future complex national security challenges. I join the Board of Directors in determination to lead with respect for the past and faith in the future, and to keep our Foundation on the move and worthy of your interest, investment and support.
Finally, it is my honor to commend Dr. Richard Wolf, our dedicated editor, on the accomplishment of producing his 100th issue of this superb journal. His quiet, discerning service makes Air Power History an invaluable resource, and we are grateful for all he does.
Christopher D. Miller, USAF (Ret)
President and Chairman of the Board