‘Wheels for Wishes’ misleads donors

It's unjust the organization hasn't been punished for its misleading advertisements.

Keelia Moeller

The nonprofit car donation organization Wheels for Wishes was recently unearthed as a misleading scam — and not entirely a nonprofit one at that. 
 
The company advertises that any cars donated to it will benefit the Make-a-Wish foundation. The Wheels for Wishes slogan reads, “Donate Your Car. Benefiting Make-A-Wish Minnesota.”
 
Wheels for Wishes is also advertised as a nonprofit organization, which leads many people to donate their cars to the group.
 
But Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson recently discovered that Make-A-Wish only receives about 20 percent of the revenue from “Wheels for Wishes.” 
 
Furthermore, the rest of the revenue from Wheels for Wishes is kept by the Car Donation Foundation — the nonprofit overseeing the group — and two other for-profit companies owned by Wheels for Wishes’ founders. 
 
With this said, it becomes crystal clear that Wheels for Wishes is not what it seems.
 
To make matters worse, when confronted, the Car Donation Foundation defended its behavior, saying that the business has very high marketing and operational costs. 
 
Regardless of any allegedly high costs, it is unacceptable for an organization that is marketed to benefit Make-A-Wish Minnesota to only donate 20 percent of its revenue to that particular foundation.
 
The car foundation has also generated $108 million in revenue from 2011 to 2014. It is the largest car foundation in the United States.
 
Nearly all the cars donated to Wheels for Wishes were limited to donators who desired to help out Make-A-Wish. 
 
Unfortunately, Swanson does not have the authority to file charges against the company. All she can do is ask “Wheels for Wishes” to change its false advertising strategies and document the change within 30 days. 
 
To me, this lack of punishment is unjust. 
 
Cancer and its incessant destruction is something I am all too familiar with — both my father and grandfather were victims of the disease’s wrath.
 
Make-A-Wish provides a beacon of light in the struggle with cancer — something that any cancer victim deserves. To make a misleading promise to a young child with cancer and then take a sizeable portion of this promise away is inexcusable.
 
As I see it, we would be justified to shut down the entire Wheels for Wishes program and give all of its revenue to Make-A-Wish Minnesota. 
 
This, of course, is out of the state’s authoritative boundaries. So instead, I would like to push toward absolute transparency when it comes to vehicle donation advertising. It would also be beneficial to create stricter guidelines for when organizations are or are not allowed to label themselves as “nonprofit.” 
 
Car donation organizations have the power to make a huge difference, but until our state’s Legislature oversees them more carefully, we should never take the advertised integrity of these companies at face value.