When Fundraising Meets Game-Changing: “We’re the first nonprofit in Arizona to become a used car dealership”
Looking for a program that strengthens ties with local businesses, allows donors larger tax deductions and potentially gets you an 800% increase in revenue? If it sounds too good to be true, well…it’s not. The trailblazing idea earned Arizona Humane Society the 2021 Diane & Bob Hoover Innovation Award. We recently caught up with AHS to dig into the details of the program—and hopefully provide a splash of inspo for those wishing to give this a try.
The Association: When and how did you get the idea to change your existing vehicle donation program?
Arizona Humane Society: In the spring of 2019, we performed an audit of our Wheels for Wags vehicle donation program and found we were leaving a significant amount of money on the table through the existing process, in which we were sending all vehicles to auction through a third-party vendor. We realized that if we brought the program in-house and handled the entire process ourselves, we could generate significantly more revenue to support our programs.
The Association: Please share briefly how the program works. How it is different from a regular vehicle donation program?
Arizona Humane Society: Most nonprofits utilize a third-party vendor to manage their process, including sending the vehicle to auction. The revenue generated is split between the nonprofit and the third-party vendor. We manage our program entirely in-house from start to finish. We pick up the vehicle, service it for repairs and then, because we have acquired a dealer’s license, we are able to sell the vehicle ourselves directly to the public, typically at high Kelley Blue Book or dealer retail value. This usually equates to an average of more than 300% in additional revenue for most vehicles, compared to what you’d receive in auction value.
The Association: When presenting the idea to leadership, what were some of the points you used to support the program?
Arizona Humane Society: In addition to bringing the process fully in-house, the other big change we recommended was servicing the vehicles and repairing any significant damage. This greatly increases the value of vehicles, which not only leads to an increase in revenue for our organization, but also provides a much larger tax deduction for the donor, often 300-400% more. That is a key selling point to drive customer interest in our program.
The Association: What has the impact been to date?
Arizona Humane Society: In our first full year with a dealer’s license operating under this new process, our net revenue was more than eight times what we had generated the prior year. That equates to the funding necessary to allow us to save an additional 400 sick, injured and abused pets.
The Association: Do you have any advice for other agencies who’d like to give this idea a try? What’s the first thing they should do, and what challenges might they look out for?
Arizona Humane Society: The process to get started can take time. In Arizona, we required a full six months to obtain a dealer’s license. You also need to be willing to invest in staff and resources. We have several full-time staff members, as well as a dedicated location.
Video: Overview of Arizona Humane Society’s Wheels for Wags Vehicle Donation Program
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