Three hats worn by COPA directors


I’ve been on the COPA Board of Directors for five years now and I’m just beginning to feel like I know what to do.

The life of a COPA Director can be complicated. In the process of executing our responsibilities each of us wears at least three hats, not including what we do outside of COPA.

Although our next Director elections are more than a year away I thought this might be a good time to tell you what being a COPA Director is all about so your can start thinking about the next elections, both from an elector’s viewpoint and that of a candidate.

Prior to the next elections we plan to provide both potential candidates and members much more guidance than we have in the past in the hope of generating more interest and participation.

First and foremost Directors are responsible for the governance of the association. For the most part they engage in this activity only at Board of Director meetings, of which we have three per year, usually 1 or 1 1/2 days in length. Occasionally there are extraordinary meetings held by teleconference to deal with specific issues.

At Board meetings policy is set, budgets are approved, major issues are discussed and strategies developed to deal with them, our on-going legal challenges are reviewed, member services are discussed, etc. The Board provides guidance to COPA management on what COPA members expect COPA to do.

While the governing process only takes place at meetings, the Board of Directors provides the primary link between the association and the owners (members). Each Director brings to the table a unique aviation background, unique qualifications and a unique link to COPA members in his or her constituency.

Through the democratic process of discussing and voting on motions and resolutions Directors call upon all of this experience to reach a consensus on action which is best for our members as a whole. To be effective, a Director must be actively engaged in Personal Aviation and involved with COPA members at the local level.

This brings me to the second hat COPA Directors must wear. Because Directors are elected on a regional basis members consider Directors to be their COPA representatives. This implies a lot more than participating in Board meetings.

Directors engage in their own particular style of aviation with other members in local COPA Flights or flying clubs. They attend fly-ins, safety seminars, flying club social activities and in the process of doing so connect with the membership. They are occasionally invited to speak at a meeting of a COPA Flight or flying club, which is an opportunity to brief members on some of the burning issues COPA is dealing with and gather input from members. Most Directors welcome this opportunity.

Directors are often asked by local members, or COPA Flights, for information or to be pointed in the right direction for information and help. Sometimes Directors are just sympathetic listeners to members’ aviation problems. This type of interaction is good in that it gives Directors the input they need to form a picture of the needs and concerns of members. Nonetheless, it is an additional responsibility requiring time and availability.

There is a third hat worn by COPA Directors is that of advocacy. Many Directors get involved with advocacy issues in their constituencies, often by supporting the efforts of a COPA Flight. This can range from keeping airstrips open to local airspace restrictions.

Advocacy often involves attending meetings with local governments, meeting with local Flights, writing to government officials, doing research and making presentations. In this capacity Directors extend the reach of COPA HQ providing a local connection to important issues.

There is a fourth, occasional, hat worn by some Directors. There are temporary requirements for committees or task forces to do some specific work for the Board. Directors volunteer for these assignments based on their availability and interest. For some this can add considerably to their workload.

Sound like a lot of work? It can be. But, as in any volunteer situation, some individuals have the time and are willing to share it while others have other commitments and simply can’t give as much of their time. Of course the very minimum a Director must commit to is the time to prepare for and attend all Board meetings. This can amount to 15-20 days per year. Some Directors give 100+ days per year to COPA. Something in between is what is needed from most Directors.

So what are the rewards? There are no monetary rewards, unless you count re-imbursement of expenses and a free trip to the convention. But aside from that the rewards are great. Being part of this exclusive team of people dedicated to preserving Personal Aviation for our 18,000 members, not to mention all those non-members who benefit, is extremely rewarding.

Directors build some great friendships that last a lifetime. Meeting so many pilots across the country and being told how much they appreciate what COPA is doing for them is very satisfying.

But perhaps the most rewarding for me is the opportunity to learn so much about the activity that I love so much, from those that have gone before me. There really is an incredible wealth of experience and expertise among the COPA Board of Directors and the COPA Staff. In my five years I have gained far more that I have given back. I only hope that in the next few years I can balance the scales.

So when our elections roll around next year I want you to think seriously about who would make a great Director for your region. If it’s not going to be you, make sure you carefully evaluate the list of candidates and then be sure to cast your vote.

This dedicated team of volunteers will work hard for you, but they need to know the members are behind them.

Meanwhile, keep your prop spinning.