Greet the Giver: Cars for a Cause

Naples Auto Donation Center assists charities with added revenue

Bill Walsh of Naples Auto Donation Center.

Bill Walsh of Naples Auto Donation Center.

There aren’t many charities designed to help other charities.

Enter Bill Walsh, unsung hero and Operating Manager of the Naples Auto Donation Center. This nonprofit, volunteer-run, fully-licensed car dealer turns one person’s trash into a charity treasure trove. “We’re a non-payroll, fully volunteer organization. We try to give other nonprofits a chance to gain a revenue stream through auto donations,” Walsh said.

“You have to be a licensed dealer, so legally they can’t take auto donations. We’re an insured, bonded, licensed auto dealer from the state of Florida. All of our profit goes to help local charities.”

Walsh’s charity has touched many nonprofits in less than two years. It’s all run on a simple method. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. Just trying to give it a little grease,” Walsh said with a smile.

He began the charity to help Friends of Foster Children and in its first year the center raised about $100,000 for local charities. According to Walsh, they’re on track to double it in 2013. Walsh’s devotion to helping children comes from a very special place near his heart. His liver, actually.

How would you describe your charity to

the community?

We’re a local nonprofit that is designed to help other nonprofits gain additional revenues through auto donations so they can succeed in their mission to help the community.

Why do you devote your time to this cause?

Laying in a bed at the Mayo Clinic, having the head of the transplant center say to you that you have 24 hours to live unless you get a liver transplant gives you a chance to reflect.

Then to find out that the organ that saved your life was from a pediatric organ. It came from a child. So a family suffered the tragic loss of a child, and their last wish was to save my life. I rededicated my life 10 years ago. I had to be a good steward of that gift that family gave me. I’m just a regular guy that’s made a career in the car business.

How did you come up with this concept?

What does an old car guy know that he can do to help kids? I know how to make money with cars, how to fix them, I’ve had a couple used car dealerships before. When I was looking for an organization to do this for, every single one of them had the same issue. ‘How can we raise more revenue? So I decided to open an auto donation center. We now have a growing list of nonprofits who never took auto donations before, but now they have a little extra revenue stream.

Why do you benefit Friends of Foster Children specifically?

People have bad things happen to them in their lives. Some of them go on to become counselors, they want to help people. Unfortunately, I was a victim of child abuse. Today, there are organizations out there that know just what to do. When I was a kid you kept it to yourself. Whoever wants to use our service, we lend it out to them. It’s a blessing to the community and we just serve the people.

What type of challenges have you faced?

This is our second year. It took us a long time to get our nonprofit status. We took in about 80 cars last year, we’ll take about 130 this year. Slowly, the word is getting out that we exist. The reality is we’ve never had an open house, anything in the newspaper, and I don’t advertise. I don’t have a marketing budget because I want everything to go to the nonprofits. We aren’t going to spend 30 percent of our funding on marketing and advertising. I’ve been looking for sponsors. I’m hoping to pick one up in the auto business. Why not adopt a little nonprofit like this and sponsor them? It’s difficult to get help, my wife, daughter, myself, we do it all.

What type of recognition do you receive from the nonprofits you help?

They are all very appreciative. The Salvation Army used to take in cars but it was a nightmare because you have to be so involved. We take of it for them now. There’s so many things in the motor vehicle you need to know. These charities are delighted because we do all the work. They have money coming in without doing a thing. We have our own nonprofit tax number.

We provide all of the IRS paperwork. Any time a nonprofit can gain a revenue stream without doing any work or have any liability, it’s a winning combination. We would like to provide this service for every nonprofit in the area. I guarantee if you talk to a church full of people, everyone knows someone with a car sitting in the backyard. People are calling the junkyards to get rid of their car. We’ll pick it up for free, get hundreds or thousands for the nonprofit of their choice and they get a tax write-off.

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