Utah’s Original and #1 Choice in Charity Car Donation

The National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho established one of the country’s first ‘cars for charity’ operations in the country, and remains Utah’s #1 most trusted choice.

You know those small turn of the century businesses who built customer loyalty, offered incredible customer service, and met specific community needs with their business model?  For example, it’s like those mercantile businesses in southern towns. For a century or more that store was the one place everyone for miles around shopped for their groceries, clothing/cloth, housewares and tools.  Then along with the connection of the railroad, and the development of the mail system came the Sears Catalogue.  The People could now shop by mail order. It was a revolution that put many, many small town mercantile out of business — or those who adapted and rolled with the punches, improved their inventory to micro perform by not having to warehouse or manage certain inventory that could be received by mail ordered. They’d keep their inventory local, fresh okra? Yes.  Bottled butter beans, obviously. Cheerwine, without a doubt.  They honed the art of MICRO performance suited to just their own community needs.  Those small mercantile groups, who had their finger on the pulse of their own community for 50 0r more years then were challenged again with the onset of franchise operations.  By 1926 the first Sears store were starting to be built everywhere.  Now the local mercantile shop had real competition.  But then what happened around 80 year later would close up every mom-and-pop small business across America: Internet commerce.  After more than 100 years, Sears pulled up stakes everywhere because they resisted internet buying.  Sears counted on that brand loyalty for over 100 years, and they lost the bet along with K-Mart, and others.

Charity car donation is a lot like that, we’ve had to change and adapt.   We were one of the first 5 cars-for-charity operations. We built our model after a group in Texas who came up with this genius idea of turning ‘One man’s junk into another man’s tax deduction.’  As a girl who was a mechanic assistant (to her dad) since the age of 6, Kidney Cars donation was a job tailored to a specific skill set which felt, I alone possessed.  I spent years combing swap-meets and wrecking yards with my dad for parts, I spent many hours over open pans of gasoline with a wire brush cleaning up gunky car parts (in case you wonder what’s wrong with me), and using my tiny child fingers to reach into the tight places of a motor with a wrench to get to the spark plugs.  We never had less than 8 vehicles sitting around the property (some were ours, most were my dad’s customers).  But I grew up loathing the junk yard that was my East County San Diego home.  When I went to college, I was hired as a research assistant at the Brigham Young University Library working on critically important Jewish-American literature projects which required yearly grant renewals.  I became pretty good at reporting with great care, the work that was being done, and helping the Humanities Department to obtain the grants necessary to finish the work.  It was deeply satisfying work, and I immersed myself in the materials celebrating the country’s most well known authors and screenwriters in American history.  I am so grateful, I am at a loss for words to describe what those years of experience did for me, or to say how those books and ideas influenced me for good.   After college, a friend who knew I wrote grants told me I should work for his mom ‘for the summer.’ She was starting a car donation program.  Imagine my shocking realization at the convergence between my past life as a mechanic assistant and present life as a grant writer/ fundraiser.  Can you imagine? But there it was, a job tailor made for me.  I had illusions of grandeur of clearing out every house in the country that looked like mine growing up; littered with derelict Volkswagens and Ford trucks. The heavens presented me a way to clean up every community of junk cars leaking their oil and antifreeze into the bare dirt where they’d been parked for 3 years.  This is where Kidney Cars was born.  The key was the free towing and the tax deduction.  Keep in mind, that up until around 1990 it would cost you $30-80 to hire a wrecking yard to come get your old car.  The world changed because of charity car donation.  We created a program where the charity would pick up your car for FREE, and then hand you a tax deduction (often times better and easier than trying to sell the broken down car yourself). I was armed with the goods to make this happen and Utah picked up what I was laying down. No state in America is as generous as Utahns when it comes to charitably taking care of their own. We have received a letter from every Utah governor since 1990 thanking us for helping Utahns in a way government never could. We have partnered with other charities to get the jobs done: hospital systems, social workers, groups that promote organ donation and who scour centralized medical records to find those at highest risk of kidney disease through AI.  Kidney Cars has provided an incredibly long and smooth ride, but we’ve easily racked up 350,000 metaphorical miles on that engine. It’s time for an overhaul.

Times change. After 30 years of experiencing the delirious generosity Utah Kidney Cars donors and building a brand Utahans could trust, came the competitor interlopers: Out of state 3rd party  operators and out-of-state charity advertisements.  They advertise for car donations in Utah from New York, New Jersey and California but the money doesn’t stay in Utah.  Sadly the funding is not disseminated TO UTAHNS.  There have even been outright fraud operators, saying they were “charities,” but were handing out vacation hotel stays instead of tax receipts. Who knows where the money goes? There were BIG businesses interloping charity donations through the pay-per-car managing of car donations.  Yes, it’s just like the mom-and-pop stores being driven out of business around 1910 by bigger operators. Unfortunately, we built such an internet friendly model for car donation, but too few people do enough online research to understand that out of state operators (where charity is concerned) literally rob the neediest Utahans of charity funding: housing, medical car, kidney transplant costs, transportation to and from dialysis.   That’s how we started the Utahns helping Utahns campaign.  The idea is, sometimes bigger isn’t better.  Bigger sometimes mean sharing the charity dollars with businesses not patients. Many smaller charities have turned to these 3rd party businesses to run their car donating programs.  While it allows the charity to focus on their charitable mission, they lose up to 40% of the money earned on every car donation.  By using the local web address to make a Kidney Kars donation, 100% stays in Utah and Idaho to help locals.  While some of our partners must rely on 3rd part car companies to manage their donations, we still do it the old fashioned way by answering our own phone.  That way, we’re not paying someone else to do it.  That way, we give the most amount of money possible, directly to the kidney patients in Utah and Idaho who need it the most.

Unlike what happened to small businesses because of the advent of internet shopping, car donation is actually better at mico-performing for locals.  Higher accountability, and providing funding to the medically needy in Utah and Idaho communities. Where charity car donation is concerned, bigger is not better.  Bigger means, less money goes to the charity, and more money goes to the businesses that run the charity program.  Kidney Kas has resisted this change by remaining hyper-local in order to provide maximum charity funding, without needing to a 3rd party doing the work. We do our own work. So research before donating a car–sometimes a slicker website, and 24 hour phone operators are convenient, but they rob the charitable work of the money intended to fund the mission.  Please keep this in mind when considering who to donate your car to.  When you call our (801) 226-5111 number or visit your call/donation lands in Provo.  So if your call doesn’t land in Provo, it’s a NO GO.  See what I did there?  We’re in our Provo, Utah office 9-5/ M-F (801) 226-5111. Free 48 hour towing and  the HIGHEST tax deduction that also keeps the donation funds local, to help Utah and Idaho Kidney patients who need it most.

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