Donating that weed-ravaged heap out back is a good way to earn brownie points with the neighbors, and it can earn you a tax deduction as well. Car donations to charity is big (huge!) business in the U.S., and because it’s largely unregulated, it’s also a great opportunity for scammers and ruthless money-grubbers to take advantage of the generosity of their fellow Americans and make beaucoup bucks to fund their soulless, solid-gold lifestyles.
Happily, DonatingisEasy.org doesn’t appear to be one of those scourges. Their website makes it clear that they’re “powered by CARS,” which, they inform you, is a service-oriented car donation management program that accepts vehicle donations on behalf of over 500 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. They even give you a phone number you can call if you have any questions about their organization, and it’s this kind of transparency you want to see when you’re considering donating your vehicle to charity.
CARS on the California Attorney General’s Website
Donatingiseasy.org invites you to take a look at their corporate filings over at the California Attorney General’s Office website, and they even provide a link. But the link is to the AG’s Commercial Fundraiser Reports Search tool, and I couldn’t find any filings under the names “donatingiseasy.org” or “CARS.” So I fired off a quick email to Jamie Anderson, the general manager of CARS, to find out what the what. Jamie responded within ten minutes, advising me that their legal name is Charitable Adult Rides & Services.
But I still couldn’t find anything on the AG site, until a little more digging revealed that Charitable Adult Rides & Services is the legal name for the nonprofit arm of the organization and Charitable Auto Resources is the legal name for the for-profit arm.
CARS (Charitable Auto Resources) on the California Attorney General’s Site
The for-profit Charitable Auto Resources, which handles the nuts and bolts of the donations to donatingiseasy.org, isn’t the greatest organization in terms of the percentage of proceeds sent along to the charities they support, but it’s not the worst, either.
I perused some of the paperwork they filed with the Attorney General, and found that roughly 64 percent of the net proceeds are passed along to the charities. For a commercial fundraiser to be highly satisfactory, they should pass along to the charity at least 75 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of the car, the net being the sale price of the car minus the towing, paperwork, and auction fees.
Passing along about 64 percent of the proceeds makes CARS “somewhat satisfactory.” They’re certainly one of the higher-return organizations we’ve seen around these parts, compared to the vast majority of commercial fundraising companies, which often take a lion’s share of the proceeds and send along as little as 13 percent of the proceeds to charity.
CARS (Charitable Adult Rides & Services) on Guidestar
Guidestar is a nonprofit organization that compiles financial and other information on every charity in the U.S. that’s registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Guidestar is invaluable for quickly checking out a charity’s track record for spending, which is the number one factor in determining how efficient they are at working toward their stated mission.
To quickly get to the meat of the matter, you have to look at the charity’s IRS Form 990, which is what nonprofits use to file their taxes. Part IX of Form 990 is the “Statement of Functional Expenses,” and it breaks down the year’s expenses into three categories:
- Programming, which are the activities conducted by the charity that promote the charity’s stated mission.
- Management, which includes things like salaries, rent, and office supplies.
- Fundraising, which is the amount of money the charity spends to try to get people to donate goods, services, and cash to their cause.
To be considered highly efficient, a charity must put 75 percent or more of their funds toward programming, with the rest split between management and fundraising expenses.
According to their 2013 Form 990, the mission of the non-profit entity CARS is to “serve the transportation needs of older adults who are unable to drive through shuttles, group transportation, excursions, and volunteers, and helps other nonprofits with their vehicle donation programs.”
In 2013, CARS’ total expenses amounted to $3,418,001, with 71 percent of that amount, or $2,440,022, put toward programming. Remember, 75 percent is considered highly efficient, so CARS is just shy of being a highly efficient charity.
It would appear that most of their program funds go to support On the Go, a low-cost transportation service for elderly adults in the San Diego area. On the Go is a division of Charitable Adult Rides & Services, Inc., and the actual services are provided by Jewish Family Services of San Diego.
The Bottom Line for Donatingiseasy.org
If you want to donate your vehicle to benefit one of the charities that contracts with donatingiseasy.org, you can feel pretty good about donating through donatingiseasy.org. If you want to support the On the Go program, you can feel really good about donating your vehicle through donatingiseasy.org.
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