For most families living in poverty, home ownership seems about as realistic and attainable as having a picnic on the moon with a talking donkey. But since opening for business in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has been working to change that by building affordable new homes as well as renovating or repairing older ones to make them safer and more energy efficient. A stellar organization near and dear to many hearts, Habitat for Humanity relies entirely on volunteer labor to build, renovate, and repair, and the bulk of their funding comes from private and corporate donations.
Habitat for Humanity’s Cars for Homes donation program makes it easy to donate your old car to this noble cause. While many charities accept car donations, not all of them choose the best intermediary organizations to work with, and as a result, they often see a shamefully low percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the vehicles donated to them.
However, in keeping with their reputation for fiscal responsibility, Habitat for Humanity’s Cars for Homes is monitored and managed by full-time Habitat staff. Car donations are processed through Advanced Remarketing Services, a national commercial fundraising company that accepts car donations through their free tool, Car Donation Wizard to accept donations for Habitat for Humanity and hundreds of other local and national charities.
Building Simple, Affordable, and Sustainable Homes
In 2008, 23.6 percent of people with incomes below the poverty line changed residences, compared to 17.5 percent of those with incomes of 100 to 149 percent of the poverty line. Frequent moves by families living in poverty are often unplanned, precipitated by the inability to pay rent and bills or the need to escape the poor quality or unsafe conditions of poverty housing. And while we all know that moving is a major pain in the neck, research shows that our aching muscles are nothing compared to the effects of frequent residence changes on school-age children, who are put at a social, developmental, and educational disadvantages as a result. And the other realities of poverty – parental stress, dangerous neighborhoods, and poor nutrition, to name a few – don’t help much, either.
Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to help families break the cycle of poverty by providing affordable, decent, and safe homes built with sustainable materials whenever possible and always with an eye toward energy efficiency to ensure the lowest possible utility bills and carbon footprint.
Families apply to the program and are chosen based on factors like their level of need, their willingness to put hundreds of hours of labor into the construction or renovation of their home and other Habitat for Humanity homes in the community, and their ability to pay off the loan, which is usually a no-profit mortgage loan or other innovative financing method that helps keep the monthly payments affordable.
Habitat for Humanity built its 800,000 th home in 2013, and in that year alone, they helped 100,000 families build, repair, or renovate their home. That’s a lot of children who are now able to set down roots and develop relationships in their neighborhood and perform better school without having to worry that they might be in a new classroom the very next week.
Habitat for Humanity on Guidestar
Guidestar is a nonprofit organization that compiles information on every charity that’s registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. With a free account, you can search any nonprofit organization and look at their financial data, including their IRS Form 990, to help you determine their reputability and how they handle their finances. These are important considerations when choosing a charity to donate your car to.
The most efficient charities spend at least 75 percent of their funding on running their programs, with the remaining 25 percent or less going toward administrative costs and fundraising. Charities that spend 60 to 74 percent on programs are considered satisfactory. If a charity spends less than 60 percent of their annual revenue on programming, you should probably find another charity that will use your money to actively work toward their mission.
According to their Form 990, Habitat for Humanity spends a full 85 percent of their revenue on building, renovating, and repairing homes. Just 4 percent goes toward administrative costs, while 11 percent is spent on fundraising. That makes Habitat for Humanity a highly efficient organization, and you can rest assured that your donation will be put to direct use building homes.
But What About Advanced Remarketing Services?
A charity can be highly efficient and still work with a money-grubbing fundraising company that keeps the bulk of the proceeds of the sale of the vehicles. Happily, this is not the case with Habitat for Humanity’s Cars for Homes.
Advanced Remarketing Services is a commercial fundraiser that processes car donations on behalf of Habitat for Humanity and scores of other charities through their own car donation tool, Car Donation Wizard. According to the Habitat for Humanity website, this company passes on at least 80 percent of the gross revenue from your vehicle donation to your local Habitat affiliate.
If an intermediary organization passes on 75 percent or more of the proceeds to a charity, they’re considered to be highly reputable. Those who pass on 50 to 74 percent are somewhat reputable, while the ones who return less than 50 percent are considered unsatisfactory at best and downright despicable at worst.
To complicate matters, some intermediaries forward on a different percentage of proceeds to different charities, which can range from 20 percent to 100 percent, depending on the charity.
To get an idea of the overall percentages passed on by Advanced Remarketing Services to various charities, I headed over to the Charities Section on the website of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of California, which requires all commercial fundraisers soliciting donations in the state to file annual disclosure reports, which you can look at on the OAG website. A search of the 2012 Commercial Fundraising Report, the most recent on file with the OAG, had just two entries for Advanced Remarketing Services, which showed that they sent along 83 percent of vehicle donation proceeds to Independent Charities of America and 86 percent to UNICEF. That’s a pretty good indication that this commercial fundraising organization is honest, reliable, and efficient.
The Bottom Line on Habitat for Humanity’s Cars for Homes
Are you looking for a worthwhile, financially responsible organization to donate your old car, truck, boat, motorcycle, or RV to? I highly recommend Habitat for Humanity’s Cars for Homes program, which is managed by equally reputable and responsible Advanced Remarketing Services through their free vehicle donation tool, Car Donation Wizard.
It’s a win-win: You get rid of that old clunker for free, and a family in poverty gets a new home. That’s one heck of a great tradeoff.