WHAT IS THE AIR FORCE AID SOCIETY?
The Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) is the official charity of the United States Air Force incorporated in 1942 as a non-profit organization whose mission is to help relieve financial distress of Air Force members and their families and to assist them in financing their higher education goals.
The roots of the Society go back to 1942 in response to General Henry “Hap” Arnold’s concern that members of his Army Air Forces faced unique hardships in meeting the challenges of World War II. He wanted a national organization which could provide emergency assistance to the wives and children of war victims and assure the availability of educational assistance to those families.
IS THE AIR FORCE AID SOCIETY AN OFFICIAL USAF ORGANIZATION?
No. The AFAS is a private non-profit organization, designated as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization by the IRS. However, since the Society exists ONLY to help Air Force members and their families, there are close ties to the official Air Force. The Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel acts as the Society’s principal liaison with the Air Force, publishing a directive authorizing support for AFAS activities at base level.
WHERE DOES THE AFAS GET ITS FUNDING?
The AFAS has always relied on individual donations to fund its activities. Air Force members have generously contributed to the Society throughout its 76-year history. Early donations funded emergency assistance programs and allowed the Society to put some money aside in an investment fund for contingencies and future program growth. That investment fund now earns income which is used to supplement annual contributions so that all emergency assistance needs can be met, education programs can be strengthened, and community enhancement initiatives can thrive.
WHY ISN’T AFAS PART OF THE CFC?
AFAS is one of four Air Force charities that receive donations through the Air Force Assistance Fund (AFAF) campaign. These AFAF charities are different from the CFC charities in that they provide services exclusively to the military (active/retired/guard/reserves and their families)—and deny service to the general public. The CFC was created in 1957 to provide a single fundraising campaign where federal/military employees could combine all fundraising for the civilian community into a single annual campaign. The idea of combining the AFAF campaign with the CFC campaign was tried in 1972-1973. The result was that both the CFC and AFAF policy makers were unhappy. CFC policy makers objected to including the AFAF charities that provide service exclusively to Air Force members and not the general public because they felt it violated the core reason for the CFC which was to open federal/military doors to the outside charities. Contributions to the internal AFAF charities plummeted as their mission became lost in the larger CFC campaign. As a result, the first totally independent AFAF campaign was held in 1974 and has continued as a single annual separate internal campaign since.
DO DONATIONS COVER ALL AFAS ASSISTANCE DISBURSEMENTS EACH YEAR?
No, donations only cover about one third of the funds distributed each year. The Society must rely on paybacks of existing loans and investment fund income to satisfy emergency needs.
HOW MUCH OF DONATED DOLLARS IS SPENT ON AFAS PROGRAMS?
Every dollar donated to the Society supports our emergency assistance, education grant, and community enhancement programs. In 2018, the Society received $7.4 million in donations, including $2.3 million from the Air Force Assistance Fund campaign. During the same year, AFAS provided nearly $21.4 million in total support to Airmen and their families. For every dollar donated in 2018, the Society provided three dollars in assistance to Air Force families. In order to close this spending gap, the Society relies on the repayment of interest-free loans and the income earned on the Society’s investment portfolio. This allows the Society to satisfy 100% of emergency assistance requirements in addition to funding the education grant and community enhancement programs. The return generated by the Society’s investment portfolio also funds the staffing and other operating costs necessary to run the organization’s national headquarters office in Arlington, Virginia.
HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU KEEP IN RESERVE?
The Air Force Aid Society has worked hard over the years to maintain a reserve fund that adequately supports the level of program services it provides. These funds are subject to the careful oversight of the AFAS Board of Trustees and the AFAS Headquarters managerial staff with professional oversight provided by a third party investment advisor hired to help manage the portfolio. Income generated by investing the Society’s reserve funds is critical to maintaining the current level of program spending. To bridge the spending gap between the annual cost of the Society’s programs and operations, which averages approximately $15 million per year, and the $6 million in donations it receives each year, the Society must pull approximately $9 million from its investment reserves to break even. The Society’s reserve fund also provides the flexibility to adapt to change and the ability to assist with significant unforeseen emergencies such as natural disasters or government shutdowns. To support Air Force families affected by Hurricane Michael in Florida, the Society was able to provide $6.5 million of support in 2018 using regular reserve spending and by pulling additional funds from the reserve portfolio. As a result, at the end of 2018 the Society’s investment portfolio and operating cash holdings dropped to just short of $182.5 million.
HOW MANY AIR FORCE PEOPLE DID THE SOCIETY HELP LAST YEAR?
Over 37,000 assists were provided to Air Force members and their families, totaling $21.4 million in total assistance last year. In response to Hurricane Michael in Florida, over 5,000 Air Force families were given $6.5 million in relief aid to help support their recovery.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR AFAS ASSISTANCE?
Active duty and retired Air Force members and their dependents are eligible for AFAS assistance, as are the dependents of deceased Air Force personnel who died on active duty or in retired status. Air National Guard and Air Force Reservists are also eligible when serving on extended active duty over 15 days under Title 10, U.S. Code.
HOW DO AIRMEN APPLY FOR AFAS ASSISTANCE?
Airmen or eligible family members who have an emergency need and are at an Air Force base may apply online or in person at the Air Force Aid office in the Airman and Family Readiness Center. To apply online enter the AFAS Member Portal (https://my.afas.org/memberportal) to access the Application for AFAS Financial Assistance.
WHAT IF AN AIR FORCE MEMBER NEEDS HELP BUT ISN'T NEAR AN AIR FORCE BASE?
AFAS maintains a cross-servicing agreement with emergency relief organizations of the Army, Coast Guard and Navy/Marine Corps so Air Force members can request help through those offices when no AF facility is relatively close to the member/family. If not near any military installation, contact the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces by calling (877) 272-7337. ARC-SAF will render assistance on behalf of HQ AFAS and will be reimbursed by HQ AFAS.
WHAT KIND OF ASSISTANCE DOES THE AFAS NORMALLY PROVIDE?
Most AFAS interest-free loans and grants are for short term or one-time emergencies such as food, rent, and utilities. We also help with car repair and emergency travel requirements. Each case, regardless of the request, is treated individually, and the Society will review all requests for assistance and try to help if the assistance falls within the general thrust of the AFAS charter.
DOES THE SOCIETY HAVE ANY OTHER PROGRAMS?
The Society is always examining ways to be more responsive to the Air Force community. Programs such as “Give Parents a Break” enable base officials to offer periodic child care at specified evening and weekend times. This is particularly helpful when a spouse is deployed or other personal emergencies occur. Other programs such as Bundles for Babies, Car Care Because We Care, Child Care for PCS and the Phone Home program are currently available at many bases.
IT'S OBVIOUS THAT THE AFAS HAS ACTIVE PROGRAMS AND AMBITIOUS GOALS. BUT WHO DO YOU REALLY HELP?
The numbers speak for themselves! In 2018, 79% of emergency assistance dollars was provided to the Active Force (including eligible Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard). Another 21% supported Air Force retired and widowed persons. Support to retired and widowed persons increased in 2018 due to Hurricane Michael support.
WHAT PROGRAMS ARE SPONSORED BY THE SOCIETY TO HELP AIR FORCE MEMBERS PAY FOR EDUCATION COSTS?
The Society currently offers the General Henry “Hap” Arnold Education Grant Program which helps offset some expenses of higher education by providing grants of at least $500 up to $4000 to dependent children and spouses. These grants may be used toward payment of tuition, books and fees, or other direct education expenses. The program is based upon financial need and students must apply every year to demonstrate financial need to be eligible. Additionally, the Society’s Education Fund also supports other education programs such as our Merit Scholarship of $5000 to at least 10 qualifying incoming freshmen and our Supplemental Education Loan Program.