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Last week, I wrote about where Cloud Nine’s funding comes from, and made the point that, despite what some people have believed over the years, I do not simply pay for all of this out of my own pocket, nor am I able to. With Cloud Nine’s annual operating budget being over $100,000 per year, there are few individuals who could afford to do this on their own. Your donations are what make it possible for Cloud Nine to keep performing its mission of saving homeless pets around the country.
That said, I am not only Cloud Nine’s Founder, President, and Chief Pilot, but I am also a donor to Cloud Nine, and have been since the beginning. Let me explain.
Back in 2009 when I started Cloud Nine, I truly did not know if it would succeed or fail. The economy was poor, and non-profit organizations were closing left and right. It was truly a bad time to start a non-profit organization. I did the research on my own to formulate a business plan (non-profits need business plans, too) and then used my money to start Cloud Nine with the incorporation costs and filing the 501(c)3 paperwork with the IRS (which isn’t cheap – they charge $750 and provide no guarantee that you will receive your status). I made Cloud Nine’s original website myself. It’s worth noting it didn’t take long for someone to volunteer to make a new web page – I am not a very good web designer. I also purchased the Piper Aztec that Cloud Nine used from its inception up until the end of last year as its primary plane.
Starting out, I was Cloud Nine’s largest benefactor, and would remain that way for some time, with no intent of ever being repaid. The intent, though, was to move away from me paying for as much as I was, because it simply wasn’t sustainable. The same holds true today. Just like everyone else, my life outside of Cloud Nine has its financial ups and downs, and relying on me for funding I knew would be a guaranteed means of failure.
The plan worked, and with your help we’ve been able to keep Cloud Nine’s operations going for over 3 years. That doesn’t mean that my donations stopped immediately, though.
Throughout Cloud Nine’s time, there have been expenses that have come up that I’ve covered as needed. Sometimes this has meant paying for fuel because our credit card type isn’t accepted at the fuel stop. Sometimes this has meant paying for some small repair to the airplane that Cloud Nine hasn’t had the money for. I structure these as loans, but the reality is that, come December 25th, I give Cloud Nine a Christmas present – and that is loan forgiveness. This amount varies depending on the year, but ends up being several thousand dollars. I do this for the same reason you make your donation to Cloud Nine – because I believe in the cause. However, this bucket is limited, and has bounds. We asked for your help last year when we needed some flight instruments in Sugar Pop repaired because the costs were $15,000 – the most significant cost we’d had at the time. The reality is that we try to have savings for these sorts of items when they come up, but we often times aren’t able to have as much of a cushion as we’d like. This comes from a combination of low donations and not having sufficient time to save up for some of the large recurring expenses on aircraft such as engines and avionics upgrades.
Cloud Nine never has paid me for my time, either, which has been an extensive donation. I put my Commercial Pilot Certificate to work for Cloud Nine. For any other person or company, this would be $300 per day that I would get paid. For Cloud Nine, it’s free. The flight time is really the smallest amount of my time investment to Cloud Nine. Early on, Cloud Nine was taking up 40-60 hours of time per week for me, on top of the 40 hours per week at my normal day job. These days it has tapered down somewhat, and a typical week involves 10-40 hours per week of time invested. I have spent many weeks away from home for Cloud Nine (in 2010, I spent greater than 6 months away from my home), and for several years sacrificed having any personal life to the cause of Cloud Nine.
Today, Cloud Nine needs your help more than ever. We are faced with having the greatest expense since our inception – needing a total of $60,000 to purchase new engines for Sugar Pop, our Cessna 310. These engines will not only return us to service, but have several noted improvements over our previous engines, that we expect will make Sugar Pop faster and safer, improving the range of missions we can perform. Yes, I will be making a personal donation towards the engine fund and returning Cloud Nine to operations. In the past two years saving for Sugar Pop’s engines, we’ve saved half of that with your help. With your continued help, we’ve made a substantial impact in the remaining $30,000, but still have a long ways to go. Please make your donation today at www.cloudninerescueflights.org/donate