A Foundation’s Humanitarian Aid Program is Saving Lives
Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti that took the lives of more than 300,000 people in January 2010, board members from the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) felt a need to do something to help the survivors. Utilizing the power of the commercial aviation industry, they mobilized resources to fly supplies and medical staff to help those in need. The operation was hugely successful and laid the groundwork for the ISTAT Foundation to establish Airlink, a charitable organization designed to provide rapid-response humanitarian relief by using vacant passenger and cargo capacity on commercial aircraft. Airlink quickly had a major impact, providing supplies and resources for the poor, needy and disaster-stricken all around the world. In 2013, due to its rapid growth, it separated from the ISTAT Foundation and became a 501(c)3 charity and, since then, has continued to thrive, receiving accolades and commitments from, among others, the Clinton Global Initiative and the Paul Allen Foundation.

While continuing to support financially the independent Airlink, the ISTAT Foundation wanted additional ways to serve its mission of using commercial aviation to help people. So, in 2013, it established the Humanitarian Aid Program. The Humanitarian Aid Program has not only helped to improve and save lives around the world, it has been incredibly valuable to the association and its membership. It’s a terrific example for how associations can make a world of difference through charitable giving, while also serving their missions.

Famine Relief and Toys for Syrian Refugee Children

While Airlink uses the commercial aviation industry to provide transportation for humanitarian aid and aid workers, ISTAT’s Humanitarian Aid Program strictly provides grants. “Commercial aviation can be a tremendous force for good because aircraft provide an unmatched ability to get people and cargo to just about anywhere on the planet safely and quickly,” said Julian Balaam, chair of ISTAT Foundation’s Humanitarian Aid Committee. “The ISTAT Foundation wanted to support this capability, which is put to great use by so many aviation charities around the world.”

This year, the foundation is on track to award $90,000 to a variety of charitable organizations worldwide that restore basic necessities and improve the well-being of those in need through air transport. This includes an urgent humanitarian aid grant of $25,000 that was awarded to Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) for famine relief in South Sudan, where the United Nations has declared a famine and millions of people face starvation. MAF is using the ISTAT Foundation funds to operate their light aircraft to move food and medical supplies to remote parts of the country that are otherwise inaccessible during the rainy season.

The Humanitarian Aid Program provides grants for food aid, medical supplies, water purification equipment and even toys. In past years, support was provided to a U.K.-based charity that provided toys donated by British children to Syrian children living in refugee camps in Jordan who had fled the civil war with only the clothes they were wearing at the time. Funds have also been granted to AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation) Flying Doctors, an organization that flies in doctors and medical supplies to remote communities in East Africa. These are just two of the nearly 30 grants the foundation has provided since 2013.

“There are so many examples, such as the Wings of Hope aircraft that flies a dentist to visit rural communities in Nicaragua where no dental care is otherwise available, the airborne general practitioners who fly to remote communities in Australia to help pregnant women, or the flying school here in the U.K. that teaches those with disabilities to fly aircraft,” stated Balaam, who also serves as director of U.K.-based Skytech Aviation Services.

Humanitarian Grant Application Process

Since the program launched, the ISTAT Foundation has awarded approximately $600,000 in humanitarian aid, including its annual grant to Airlink, and this figure is rising every year. To oversee the program, the ISTAT Foundation appointed a Humanitarian Aid Committee, which Balaam chairs. The seven-person committee consists of three foundation board members along with four others from ISTAT’s general membership. To be considered for a humanitarian grant, applicants must be registered charities that apply by Sept. 1 each year. The applications are reviewed by the committee to ensure that they meet the criteria of using commercial aviation in some way to improve or save the lives of underprivileged or vulnerable people anywhere in the world.

Following the review process, the committee presents the humanitarian grant recommendations to the ISTAT Foundation’s board of trustees for final approval. Grants are subsequently awarded to the recipients. From time to time there are urgent requests from organizations that need immediate aid due to circumstances such as global disasters. In those cases, an application may be fast-tracked, as was the case this year with Mission Aviation Fellowship, which was approved and funded within 12 days.

Balaam is in constant communication with grant recipients and provides frequent updates to the board about how grant funds have been applied. The Foundation also creates a short video each year that is played to members at the annual meeting. The video summarizes the causes to which support has been granted and the impact their efforts are having. In addition, updates are provided through social media outlets, newsletters and other association publications to ensure that the membership is kept apprised of the efforts being undertaken in the name of ISTAT.

Good Goes Around

In addition to the Humanitarian Aid Program, the foundation also supports other charitable activities, including a scholarship program for university students that was started in 1994. This year that program will give nearly $370,000 to 58 aviation-focused students globally. Additional educational initiatives include the ISTAT University program, a one-year certificate in aviation leasing and finance created and taught in collaboration with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and an internship program to help place university students into aviation careers. In all, 2016 was a record-breaking year for the foundation as it granted $663,562 in aid, education grants and scholarships to students and non-profit organizations worldwide through its various programs.

The foundation’s funding comes from a grant from ISTAT itself, as well as fundraising efforts by the foundation and donations from members. In addition to the work it’s doing around the world, the Humanitarian Aid Program is a huge benefit to the association, the industry and its members. Member satisfaction surveys repeatedly show that members are proud to be part of the humanitarian efforts. Indeed, ISTAT members say the foundation’s giving programs makes the association standout among nonprofit and for-profit competitors. It generates a good feeling among members to give back to people in need and has become an important part of the association’s brand and identity.

The Humanitarian Aid Program is not only aligned with ISTAT’s mission, it puts the entire commercial aviation industry in a good light. However, above all, the ISTAT Foundation, through the immense power of commercial aviation, is alleviating suffering, promoting human welfare, saving lives and providing hope. What could be more important than that?


  Facebook  LinkedIn  Twitter  Send to a Friend


subscribe button
feedback button
Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for 70 years.


Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin. All Rights Reserved.