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Despite Tougher IRS Regulations, Car Donation Ministries Thrive  

PHOENIX — Last January, a change in IRS tax law required people donating their cars to charity to deduct what the vehicle actually sells for vs. the Blue Book value, which is typically more. Analysts expected a 30-percent drop in donations at that point.

But across the country, it appears churches are still on board with this outreach; many continue to meet an ever-present community need for affordable (and sometimes free) car maintenance and “recycled” vehicles.

Many times, getting one of these ministries going involves simply gathering the congregation’s auto mechanics and car enthusiasts one Saturday a month to do minor repairs. These ministry efforts often extend to vehicle donation.

At Love Inc. in Gallatin County, Mont., for instance, a vehicle ministry team of mechanics offers minor car repairs for single mothers. The team often gets needed parts at a discount from participating local dealers. Most of the recipients are required to meet with a budget counselor as well, opening up another avenue for ministry: financial guidance.

Additionally, Love Inc. gives donated vehicles to people who are unable to buy a car, but need one. All recipients must cover insurance, title transfer fees and registration, but the vehicle is free.

The vehicle ministry team at Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Ind., is an even busier ministry that meets weekly to provide free oil changes and fluid checks. Recipients are encouraged to sign up online in advance, specifying the vehicle year, make, model and engine size (cylinders). This ministry, too, gathers and redistributes vehicles to community members in need, especially single parents.

But perhaps the best-known car donation charity is Father Joe’s Villages, based in San Diego. Founder Fr. Joe Carroll has some tips for creating a ministry people can believe in.

“Avoid claiming that 100-percent of the proceeds from your donated vehicle go to the charity,” he warns. “Every nonprofit has overhead expenses related to its auto-donation program that simply can’t be avoided.” He estimates up to 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of a donated vehicle cover costs associated with the operation of an auto-donation program, including advertising fees, towing costs, payroll and other expenses.

Carroll also recommends opening your ministry’s doors to donors. “If the organization asking for cars won’t allow donors to stop by and see its operation in action, or if it can only provide a P.O. box rather than a physical address, there’s very good reason for donors to be cautious,” he says.

* Online Car Donation gives over 92% of every car donation to support our communities! 50% seems like alot to us!

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