If your nonprofit organization needs a vehicle either for your own use or for a prize in an upcoming fundraiser, it's often worthwhile to approach car dealerships. A single dealership won't always be able to afford to give away cars and vans for charities, but the odds are much better if you approach the right company with a compelling opportunity that would benefit you both.

Finding Car Dealerships That Donate Vehicles to Nonprofits

Most car dealerships are small businesses, so they won't always be able to afford to donate vehicles to charity. Those that have donated cars in the past may be willing to help your charity now or in the future. Perhaps the best way to find out who may be a good candidate is to simply ask by writing a letter, making a phone call or dropping by in person.

Networking is always a good idea, so talk to the people in your organization, particularly those on your board who may have contacts in the business community. A business owner may be more likely to discuss your proposal if he knows someone involved in your organization as opposed to being approached by a stranger.

Sending a form letter or a generic email to every dealership in the county may save you time but is unlikely to be your best approach unless your organization is extremely well-known. Keep in mind that a vehicle is a sizeable donation for anyone, so investing the time and effort in making your request personal will likely open more doors for you than a form letter.

Matching Your Request to the Right Company

There are several reasons nonprofits need vehicles and several reasons they may approach a dealership. If you need a new vehicle as a prize for an event, approaching used car dealers won't be a good investment of your time. However, if you're looking for a vehicle that your organization will be using to drive around town, a used-car dealer may be more willing to help since the cost is lower than a brand-new vehicle.

For a used vehicle, a car dealership isn't your only option. Car rental companies, for example, may be willing to make car donations to nonprofit organizations. You can also contact local repair shops and auto-body shops. If they have a customer with an expensive repair, the customer may be willing to donate it to charity and buy a new car instead. You'll then just need to talk to the shop owner about donating time and parts to help you get it in working order.

Keep in mind that local dealers are more likely to help local charities. If your nonprofit isn't local, you may be better off contacting an automobile manufacturer directly. Manufacturers that work with nonprofits usually make applications available only during specific times of the year. Be certain to read the requirements carefully to see if your organization qualifies before filling out the application.

Approaching a Dealership for a Vehicle Donation

When approaching a dealership or other company for a vehicle donation, make certain that you explain exactly what you need and why you need it. You should also explain what your organization does and how the donation will benefit others beyond your own organization. Be prepared to provide information on your organization's budget, testimonial letters and letters of recommendation from people your organization has served in the past.

Give the dealer good reasons to help your charity, like adding the dealership as a sponsor in your advertising. You should also develop a media campaign to help promote the gift, which will promote your organization while promoting the donor as a benefactor and a community-minded business. Be certain to remind the dealer that he can be eligible for a significant tax deduction based on the market value of the vehicle, and that you will provide him with a written acknowledgement of the vehicle to be filed with the IRS.

If you need a vehicle to use as a prize in a fundraising event, explain how much money you expect to raise and for what the proceeds will be used. If the dealer is unable to provide you with a vehicle, perhaps the owner will be interested in making a cash donation or giving you a free or reduced-price lease on a vehicle.