Should I Donate My Car To Children’s Hospital Of Los Angeles?

Childrens Hospital Of Los Angeles Car Donation

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Children's Hospital Of Los Angeles
What’s more appealing to the cynic than a non-profit hospital? How about a non-profit hospital for children? Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) is a highly respected facility that provides medical care for about 104,000 children every year. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, CHLA depends entirely on donations to treat children and provide a huge number of programs and services.

CHLA is one of only 8 children’s hospitals in the U.S. that are ranked in all 10 pediatric specialties, and it’s the only one in that category on the West Coast.

Still, I just had to check them out on GuideStar, a nonprofit organization that gathers information on all 501(c)(3) charities and provides most of it for free. A quick look at their IRS Form 990 confirmed what I already assumed to be true: CHLA is a highly efficient charity, spending 83 percent of its total revenue on programs and just 15 percent on management, and a practically unheard of 2 percent on fundraising.

So rest assured that if you want to donate to CHLA, your money will not be wasted.

There are lots of ways to give, including donating your car. So if you have an old rust bucket lying around or even a decent car you don’t feel like going through the hassle of selling, you can donate it to CHLA. However, they don’t handle car donations themselves, but rather use Riteway Charity Services, a commercial fundraising company that takes care of all of the details of the donation and gives a percentage of the proceeds to the hospital.

A Quick Note About Intermediary Organizations

Although many charities accept vehicle donations, few actually handle the donation themselves. Rather, they use an intermediary organization, which is typically a commercial fundraiser or, in fewer cases, a nonprofit fundraising organization.

Some of these middlemen are highly reputable, passing on 75 percent or more of the proceeds of the vehicle’s sale to the charity. Other middlemen are a little less philanthropic, keeping up to 50 percent of the proceeds. And unfortunately, there are a number of unscrupulous–dare I say soulless?–organizations that keep more than 50 percent, and sometimes as much as 90 percent, of the proceeds. These are the guys you want to stay away from at all costs, or your charity will get a bag of coal while the intermediary sips from a $275,000 bottle of 1907 Shipwrecked Heidsieck while yachting across the Pacific.

Review of Riteway Charity Services

Riteway Charity Services is a for-profit fundraising company that works with hundreds of charities in California. According to their website, they’re a family-owned, Los Angeles-based fundraiser with 25 years of experience with processing donated vehicles.

I started my search at the Better Business Bureau, but Riteway isn’t BBB accredited, which simply means that they haven’t applied or paid for accreditation. And that’s fine…unless they have something to hide!

Which, happily, doesn’t appear to be the case. I struck gold with the California Office of the Attorney General, which compiles a number of yearly reports on charities and fundraising entities operating in California. I scoured the “Summary of Results of Charitable Solicitation Campaigns Conducted by Commercial Fundraisers in Calendar Year 2012,” and found 25 entries for Riteway before I felt like I had a decent enough idea of where they stand in terms of reputability, meaning, of course, how much of the proceeds they forward on to the charities they work with.

Apparently, they don’t send along the same percentage to everyone. Typically, the percentage the charity gets from the intermediary depends on factors like the cost of processing the vehicle and the value of the vehicle. I’m not sure how Riteway determines how much the charity gets, but here’s a sampling of percentages they passed on in 2012 to the 25 charities I randomly compiled.

Out of 25 charities, 7 got less than 50 percent of the proceeds. The lowest percentage was 36.43 percent, which was paid to the Peter Zippi Memorial Fund.

Ten of the charities on my list got between 50 and 74 percent of the proceeds. Remember, 50 percent or more means somewhat reputable, while 75 percent and up means highly reputable.

The remaining 8 charities on my list got 75 percent or more of the proceeds, including four that got 100 percent: three churches and the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles.

Great! But how much does our charity in question, CHLA, get? The only way to find out was to call CHLA. I spoke to Christian in the Foundation office, and she informed me that they get close to 100 percent of the proceeds from Riteway. “They take just a small fee and give us the rest,” she said.

Riteway Charity Services, Inc. FAQs

Do you still have questions about Riteway Charity Services? Here are some answers to the most common questions you might have in mind:

What vehicles can I donate to charities in contract with Riteway Charity Services?

Riteway Charity Services accept every type of vehicle there is, just like other vehicle donations processors. They don’t care whether it’s rare, classic, customized, or a plain car, so long as they can sell it for you. They even accept golf carts! You can also sell them a boat, or a jet ski. Even snowmobiles and ATVs are welcome in addition to ordinary cars, motorcycles, SUVs, trucks, RVs, trailers, or campers. They don’t have to be in perfect working condition either as they accept vehicles even if they’re not running anymore. Buses, heavy equipment, and commercial vehicles are accepted, too.

What documents do I need to prepare to donate a vehicle? 

The only document that you’ll need is your vehicle’s registration or Certificate of Title, or Registration (no lien holders). In case you don’t have it, don’t worry. You just need to call them to see if they can obtain a copy on your behalf. The process is very simple and can be completed within three to five minutes.

What is your basis for determining a vehicle’s value?

The value of your vehicle will first depend on the condition and type. High-value vehicles are marketed by Riteway Charity Services to a specialized buyer who can pay higher. The total value of your vehicle will also be determined by how much it will be sold after they have improved it.

Meanwhile, if your vehicle turns out to be of little value, they will try to include it in their auction program (at no cost for you).

They also use the following publications for reference:

“Determining the Value of Your Car” (Publication 4303)

Bottom Line for Riteway Charity Services, Inc.

Riteway Charity Services is obviously a fair and reputable organization, although it appears, based on my entirely unscientific research, that they may play favorites with some charities. Or maybe they give larger percentages to charities with a higher volume of car donations. Either way, if you want to donate your car to CHLA through Riteway, you can do so with confidence that the vast majority of the proceeds of your donation will fund programs at CHLA.

If you go through Riteway to donate to another of their partner charities, make a quick call to the charity first to find out how much they’ll get.

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