Welcome to the MSSA Scholarship Foundation Website. This is my first opportunity to share with you information about our organization, mission, and activities. Before expanding on these topics, let me tell you about our origin.
For those of you who are not familiar with MSSA, the acronym stands for Maryland Saltwater Sportsfishermen’s Association. For over 20 years, MSSA has represented the interests of Maryland’s saltwater recreational anglers through activities designed to help protect our marine environments and provide educational and angling experiences that are valued by its members. Organized into regional Chapters, MSSA provides its members with regular meeting opportunities, guest speaker programs, activities for Youth Groups, Veterans, and the elderly, and conducts an annual series of competitive fishing tournaments in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. MSSA is active politically to ensure the voices of the State’s recreational anglers are heard in the many debates that help determine the regulatory environment that governs our sport. To learn more about MSSA, please go to their website, www.mssa.net.
In the early 1980’s, the environmental condition of the Chesapeake Bay was raised to a crisis level when it became necessary to impose a complete moratorium on the stiped bass fishery. The stock of this important natural resource had declined to the point where its survival was in question. Only bold action could save the prime resource that supported a billion dollar commercial and recreational market and was the fish of choice for generations of anglers in the mid-Atlantic region. MSSA was one of the leaders to fight for the passage of the moratorium and in doing so, increased the awareness of its members to the dangers of declining water quality, loss of marine habitat, and the emergence of new strains of waterborne diseases that were destroying the oyster population and were beginning to be observed in other species including the striped bass.
Episodes such as the moratorium gave rise to the issue of sustainability of our marine resources. In considering how to improve their sustainability, MSSA leadership struck upon the idea of an education-based solution. If young students graduating from High School or already enrolled in courses of study leading to degrees in marine sciences, environmental engineering/analysis, or natural resources management could be encouraged to earn these degrees, then there was a good chance that they would devote their professional careers to find solutions to the myriad problems that affect the health of both the Chesapeake Bay and our coastal waters.
In 1995, the MSSA Scholarship Foundation Inc., a Tax Exempt, 501 (c) (3) corporation, was established to serve as the executive agent to implement the fund raising and candidate generation processes that would ultimately yield a qualified, motivated cadre of environmental professionals devoted to solving these problem.
You can learn more about our Foundation, the work we do, and the results of our past efforts by going to the ABOUT US Tab on the Home Page. We are proud of our past and the successes of the many students who have been recipients of MSSA Scholarships. This history is the basis for my enthusiasm about the future and the reason I am writing to you today about the steps we are taking to broaden the scope of our ambitions.
In December, 2010, prior to becoming the President of the Scholarship Foundation, I presented a Vision Statement to the Boards of Directors of both MSSA and the Scholarship Foundation regarding steps I felt would be necessary to achieve the goal of increasing the amount of money available for scholarships beginning in 2011.
The first point raised was a restatement or refocusing of our purpose as a Board. Historically, the Foundation’s Board had concentrated its efforts on the collection of applications for scholarships, evaluation of the candidates’ qualifications, and the award of scholarships to those deemed best suited to pursue college degrees in disciplines related to the marine environment. Fund raising had been largely a function of Chapter donations, raffles, and a limited number of sustaining gifts from friends of the MSSA. I preferred to refocus our efforts to put FUND RAISING as the primary duty of the Board. In short, if we are successful in raising more funds, it follows that we can award more and/or more valuable scholarships to deserving candidates. Without a shift in emphasis toward fund raising as our primary responsibility, it would be difficult to move beyond the funding level achieved in 2010 of about $20,000.
To achieve this goal, the Board would need to expand the scope of the marketplace for fundraising. My personal perception is that the Scholarship Foundation, while connected to and dependent upon MSSA for its primary support, is, in fact, an agent of the people of the state of Maryland. I believe this program, or process of investing in the future of our marine resources through the Scholarship Foundation, is a worthwhile investment for all Maryland citizens, businesses, and public and private institutions. A key goal of our expanded outreach program must be to include all of these communities in our “prospects list” and then develop the media appropriate to reach them.
Clearly, we would expect the greatest fund raising successes to come from those citizens, businesses and institutions that have a direct link with marine activities. Individual anglers, tackle manufacturers and dealers, the charter boat industry, marina operators, boat builders and dealers, other conservation/environmental organizations, university research programs and state governmental bodies such as the Maryland DNR are all obvious potential sources for donations. If you look back on the means we have used historically to raise money, we have asked our members and people we know care about the environment if they would donate. Chapters have responded by selling tackle and merchandise at fishing shows to raise money. One member gave a boat that sold for almost $9000 that was the largest single donation I know of. The Board has conducted raffles and auctions to raise money. All of these activities are helpful and have built the program to its current level.
What do we need to make these things happen? First, I proposed to the Board that we need a separate MSSA Scholarship Foundation website. The site would provide us with a presence in the community of fundraising organizations. Because it is the World Wide Web, it puts our program on the global stage with one click of a mouse. Our experience in MSSA with a functioning website has enabled us to sign up members, sell merchandise, accept applications for tournaments, and collect funds through a secure financial system. A website would bring the same benefits to the Scholarship Foundation. We would gain immediate access to 24 x 7 availability to anyone who wants to learn about our program or donate money or a car or a boat or stocks or bonds, or property. Credit card donations would trigger automatic letters of thanks and proof of tax deductibility.The challenge I propose to the Board for the future is to develop and implement a comprehensive marketing program that reaches beyond these obvious targets and to conduct this program in a rigorous, systematic way based on current information that provides us with points of contact within each of these constituencies. Our goal is to raise collections to $100,000 over the next donation-award cycle. To succeed, we must contact and solicit participation through contributions of money, securities, tangible assets, real property, and proceeds from wills, estates and trusts. If we do these things, the Board will put in motion a process whereby we can increase the amount of funds for scholarships AND build an ENDOWMENT that is the key to long-term growth and stability of the program.
The candidate application process is ideally suited to be managed within a website. Forms and FAQs will enable anyone to download an application. A website would allow us to link our organization with businesses and institutions that support our efforts and would exponentially expand our reach to individuals and other organizations who become prospective donors. Such a site would become the centerpiece of the program, carry our message and provide current information to everyone who visits it.
Much to our satisfaction, you are reading this on www.mssascholarships.net, the website we now have to help us fulfill our dreams for a better tomorrow for Maryland’s future generations of saltwater anglers.
I believe this should provide you with enough information about us to make a decision whether you want to join our efforts to preserve our precious marine resources or not. You can learn more about how to donate on the Donations page. We have tried to make this as easy as possible using DonationSafe™ software to securely facilitate your gift giving by credit card. There are many other ways you can help us. To find out how, refer to the DONATIONS section of this site. Go there and make a difference.
Peter D. Abbott President MSSA Scholarship Foundation, Inc.