CARS Takes Hassle Out of Charity Vehicle Donations
By: David Ibata
By April, The Salvation Army corps in Columbus, Georgia, had sold the maximum allowable number of donated vehicles for the year – five, because Georgia law says that at six you need an automobile dealer’s license. Then another vehicle came in. And another. And another.
The corps had 14 sets of wheels by late summer.
Corps officer Captain Joshua Hinson, understandably, looked forward to the Georgia Division’s partnership then being finalized with the CARS organization. CARS – Charitable Adult Rides & Services – is a San Diego, California-based nonprofit that takes delivery of donated vehicles on behalf of other nonprofits and sells them in exchange for a percentage of the sales proceeds.
“It’s a way for us to avoid having a dealer’s license,” Captain Hinson said. To get a license under Georgia law, he said, “we’d have to set up an office with a dedicated phone line, in the same place as where the cars are. Right now they’re at our shelter. Then there would have been all the paperwork.”
Adult Rehabilitation Centers and the Army’s larger commands may have the volume and wherewithal to be licensed as dealers and to sell donated vehicles on their own. But smaller posts might see too few cars and trucks in a year to justify the trouble and expense.
“Through the years, we’ve been getting a lot of requests from people wanting to donate a vehicle, and we really have not had a program at the corps or service centers to accommodate that,” said Gary Spivey, divisional store consultant for the Georgia Division.
“Pick-ups were an issue, and Georgia has regulations on the sale of vehicles,” Spivey said. “It got to the point we were turning away many customers who wanted to donate vehicles because we really weren’t set up to handle them. But now we are.”
CARS was founded in 2003 to help Jewish Family Service raise funds through vehicle donations (the program currently supports its “On the Go” transportation service for seniors). It soon began assisting other charitable groups.
Today CARS partners with more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Sierra Club Foundation and The Salvation Army North and South Carolina Division, a partner since October 2013. CARS accepts cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, boats, motorcycles, ATVs, RVs, trailers and airplanes.
“We work with nonprofits helping families in the community, a cancer foundation, animal welfare, veterans groups,” said Kathleen Walters, CARS director of partner development. “We help them make a marketing plan and a program to reach out to supporters and say, hey, if you can’t give us a monetary donation to help with the cause, we can accept your car.
“It’s another way for people to help a cause they love.”
Vehicle owners in Georgia wishing to donate to The Salvation Army can go to a designated CARS website and select from a drop-down menu the corps or service center closest to them. They fill out an online form and submit it. Or, they can call 855-500-RIDE (7433).
“A customer that wants to donate a vehicle of any sort, running or not, can go to this website or call this number and CARS, the organization, will handle everything from scheduling to pick-up through the final stages of auctioning off the car,” Spivey said. “At that point, the information goes back to the corps or service center, which can issue a customer a donation receipt for the amount the car sold for.”
Walters said that CARS works with 400 vendors across the U.S. and Canada to dispose of vehicles – from scrap dealers for clunkers, to the collector-car experts at Barrett-Jackson Auction Co., who found a buyer for a Maserati.
CARS’ share of the proceeds typically ranges from 20 to 30 percent of the sales price. In return, besides handling vehicle sales, CARS creates an individualized, online landing page; print and web graphics; email content, and social media posts. It also offers complimentary marketing and development coaching.
“The way the process works, it’s just like people are still donating to the Army,” Captain Hinson said. “It takes a lot of work off my staff at the Family Store. They’re able to focus on other things. And it’s easier for you to donate your car than it used to be. Hopefully, it will bring more people to be part of the process.”