Toyota helps nonprofits—and its image—with vehicle giveaway

The automaker is proving its commitment to philanthropy by providing cars to 100 charity organizations this summer, ratcheting up consumer interest by conducting the voting on Facebook.

Toyota had a tough year in 2010. Recalls of several of its cars for acceleration issues left the company’s public image a little bruised.

Meanwhile, nonprofit organizations all over the country were hurting, too. Charitable giving had dipped in both of the previous years, though it did tick back up a bit in 2010 itself. A lot of those organizations, such as, say, a soup kitchen that couldn’t pick up donations because it had no van, could have used something to drive around.

The folks at Toyota knew this and realized they had the means to fill the need and boost the company’s image. So in March 2011, the automaker launched 100 Cars for Good, a Facebook program in which visitors could vote each day for 100 days for one of five charities to get a free car.

The program is back this year, running through Aug. 21, and it’s only drawing more attention.

A history of giving

Charity is nothing new to Toyota, says Michael Rouse, the company’s vice president of diversity, philanthropy, and community affairs. It’s been giving to organizations in need since the mid-1980s, he says. Since 1991, the year the company started tracking its various arms’ charitable giving, it has exceeded $550 million total in philanthropy, he says.

A lot of that giving didn’t really happen in the public eye, though.

“The philosophy of all of that has always been that we don’t want to spend a lot of money talking about what we do, we’d rather take the money we have available and do good things with it,” Rouse says.

After the 2010 recalls, the company’s upper management wanted to burnish Toyota’s image as a corporate citizen, so Rouse and his team looked to other campaigns, particularly Pepsi’s Refresh Project, which offered $20 million in grants to organizations with ideas to help communities.

“We did not have that kind of a budget,” Rouse says. “We were sitting in a meeting racking our brains about what to do and how to do it, so I said, ‘We don’t have so many dollars to give away, but we’re a car company. One thing we do have is cars.'”

Organizations often ask Toyota for help in that department, he says. School districts might raffle off cars to raise money, for instance. Nonprofit organizations need vehicles, generally trucks or vans, for their work. Others ask for hybrids to help with environmental causes.

Rouse presented the idea of giving cars to nonprofit organizations—for their use, not to be raffled off—to Toyota’s U.S. Philanthropy Committee, which approves or rejects all such national program proposals, and was told to go for it.

“When we presented it to top management, there was a lot of enthusiasm about it,” he says. “It made the Toyota car or truck the star of the show.”

The go-ahead came in September 2010, which meant Rouse’s team, Toyota’s affiliate companies, advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, and other partners such as Creative Zing, only had a few months to hammer out all the details.

The details

Toyota determined pretty quickly that all the donations should go to organizations rather than needy individuals. There would just be too many entries, Rouse says.

“We would need a whole floor full of people to deal with the requests,” he says. “One thing we can do is provide assistance to organizations that help those people.”

The group also settled pretty fast on the place to set up the program: Facebook. Rouse and the others knew users were going to vote on the winners, and they wanted to thwart cheaters.

“It’s a little harder to game the system when votes are only coming through one portal,” he says.

The ad agency, Saatchi and Saatchi, did the creative work on the Facebook app while Creative Zing worked on rules and methods to ensure winners really were who they said they were.

The period for organizations to apply—with a video, written information, and a plea for why they needed the car—lasted two weeks in March in each of the last two years. In 2011, Toyota got about 2,400 applications. This year, the number exceeded 4,200.

Rouse says interest really grew after organizations discovered that they really could win a car after last year’s competition. “In the interim, there were charities that were contacting us, trying to figure out more information from us, when we were going to do it again,” he says.

A third-party group of philanthropy and corporate responsibility experts whittled the number of applicants to 500 finalists. Toyota was looking for a diverse group of organizations, Rouse says. The company wanted entries from each state, representing organizations of different sizes and missions. That’s what Toyota instructed the committee of experts to look for, he says.

When it comes to the voting itself, Rouse says Toyota tries to keep it as fair as possible. Organizations go up only against others of similar size, and the order of the candidates is random.

The payoff

For the 500 finalists, the rewards of participating in 100 Cars for Good are more than the chance to win a car. They each get an HD video camera, $250 in Facebook ad credit, and a kit of sample tweets and press releases. Organizations that don’t win a car get $1,000.

Last year, one organization that came in second place in one day’s voting, Greater Phoenix Youth at Rix, sent an email to its community laying out all the benefits from being in the program. It increased visibility, made staff more fluent in social media, and inspired teamwork.

“I shared that with all our executives at a meeting, because I was just so moved,” Rouse says. “There’s a whole set of side benefits that go way beyond the vehicle.”

For Toyota itself, the program means a lot more visibility for its philanthropic efforts. Nearly 27,000 people have viewed the video explaining this year’s 100 Cars for Good program, and the company’s Facebook posts about the program routinely get hundreds of “likes.”

The company’s trying to get everyone involved, too. Last year, “everywhere possible, we delivered vehicles at a Toyota dealership,” Rouse says. “It opened up a relationship.”

At one event in St. Louis, it meant even more philanthropy. The dealer there gave each local charity that won a car an additional $5,000. (Image via)

COMMENT

20 Responses to “Toyota helps nonprofits—and its image—with vehicle giveaway”

    Tinisha Turner says:

    Greetings, I am a Dallas County TX nonprofit organization that provides bagged meals to those in need. We are in desperate need of a spacious, reliable, working vehicle (SUV, large sized 4dr sedan, or passenger van) to provide meals on a daily basis to those without homes or in need that two-three persons may occupy to disburse meals.

    amelia dela cruz says:

    I would like to know how I can get a car from a charity I am a mother of three children and I am homeless ,I would like to have a car so I can at least,take my children to school instead of walking 5 miles to take my children to school from the parks where we stay so please help me to find a donated car .

    Freedom Fields says:

    Freedom Fields is a startup nonprofit organization that supports our First Responders, First Receivers, Dispatchers, Corrections Officers, Military, Faith-based Leaders and the families of these heroes that deal with PTSD and Compassion Fatigue. Our organization combats suicides, Divorces and mental health issues that our heroes and their families silently fight on a daily basis. We need vehicles for our staff to reach out to our heroes and their families when they need our help.

    Catina Richard says:

    Cattymac foundation is a new start up non-profit that mentors inner city girls from Chicago. We are need of vehicles to transport poor girls to our facility. Cattymac conducts life skills classes to young girls. It is our hope that we empower our youth to make wise healthy life decisions.

    Pebbles Blair says:

    Please help our homeless Ministry we are in need of a van to drop of clothes , toys and shoe , food to homeless people.

    Carol J Watson says:

    I’m a very sick permanently disabled mother of two. I’ve never received any child support of any kind. I live in severe pain. I have a hole in my left foot that’s from being diabetic and have a bunch of broken bones in my right foot which already has a plate and screws in it. I live on a huge hill and public transport as well as school buses do not come up here. I have no transpoertation and humbly ask if there is any way you could help me out? I would be so greatful from the bottom of my heart if you would consider donating a car to my family!!! God bless you!! Sincerely, Carol Watson

    Valerie Tate says:

    A way out Community Development Outreach is in need of a Van. A way out Community Development Outreach is a nonprofit organization that embraces the concept of neighbors helping neighbors. We sponsor youth entrepreneurship workshops, summer reading program, coat, food and sock giveaway drives, school supplies, report cards rewards program, tutoring, mentoring, adopt a school ,summer feeding program and much more. A van donation would help us tremendously in our endeavor to give HOPE to others. Helping other people
    Excel.

    James Smith says:

    Please consider our nonprofit: Healing the Wounded, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) operation located in Lawrenceville, GA, is really struggling, and in need of a vehicle to assist with clients and other organizational business.

    Respectfully,
    James Smith, BSC, CADC II, ICADC
    Healing the Wounded, Inc.
    Lawrenceville, GA 30045
    https://www.healingthewoundedinc.org/

    Mark May says:

    We as a disabled school require assistance with suitable vehicles for our learners.We collect these learners from home and drop them in the afternoon.We require at least 3 passenger vehicles of which 2 of these vehicles need to be fitted with wheelchair lifts.

    Please assist our school as a lot of these learners cant get to school because of transport.

    Thanking You

    Mr M May

    Eros Cerebral Palsy School
    116 Tarentaal road
    Bridgetown
    Cape Town

    Yonela Edward says:

    Hello i,m the mother of 5kids struggling to make ends meet, I have a small stall to support my family all they depend on it to put food on the table,going to school just everything, all i,m asking for from u is ur support to grow my stall to be something bigger, I have many ideas to grow business but I,m lacking finance, I would be glad to have a scholar transport for my kids n add other kids from the community n take them to school, please help this poor mother

    Kunbi Alabi says:

    Gracesprings healthcare services ,as a adult day care and home health care organization require assistance with suitable vehicles for our clients. We pick up these clients from home and drop them in the evening. And sometimes take them for medical practitioners appointments.
    We require at least 4 passenger vehicles of which 2 of these vehicles need to be fitted with wheelchair lifts.
    Please assist our IRS 501c organization as a lot of these clients cant get to our location because of transport.

    Hope Mattox says:

    Greetings our church in need of a van to pick up the elderly to bring them to church and also we pick the senior citizens up for Lunch and brunch Monday thru Friday to let them know that they are not forgotten and we Love them but we need a Van to do this. Please contact me Generation of Faith Hope for the Elderly. There is Hope for All People!! For God so Love the World!! Please email mattoxhope@yahoo.com

    mike phineus says:

    Action for community change is a startup nonprofit organization that supports women, girls, children and youth
    We need vehicles for our staff to reach out where we are doing our programs
    Please email:mikephineus32@outlook.com

    Stephanie Buckley says:

    Hi, I’m a lady who minister’s weekly at a nursing home. I get dropped off every Tuesday. I would love to go to other nursing homes and to incarcerated women, to bless others. My church is 501-c3. I am ordained through my church. So, would you please, prayerfully, consider blessing me; so, I might bless others? Thank you, Stephanie Buckley

    Stephanie says:

    Our church is in need of a van. We do a lot of outreach visiting shut-ins, nursing homes and prisons. We also would like to start bussing people to church. Our church is Harvestfield Pentecostal church in Amherst, VA. We are 501 c 3. Phone number is 443-660-7298

    Stephanie Buckley says:

    The residents at Johnson’s Senior Center, where I minister; were inquiring where I go to church. They want to go with me. Unfortunately, Johnson’s does not have transportation and neither does my church. I don’t have any vehicle. My church is on Facebook. It’s Harvest Field Pentecostal in Amherst, VA 24521. The phone number is 434-660-7298. That is Pastor Steve Ramsey’s number. Our church is 501 c 3. Please, consider blessing our church; so we can haul these dear people to God’s house. Thank you so much, Stephanie Buckley

    The Place4Grace says:

    Dear Madam or Sir,

    The Place4Grace, a 501 (c)(3) working to restore families and advocating for children impacted by incarceration. Our programs serve families and children of imprisoned men and women with a focus on family literacy, providing an environment for extended father and child bonding time, advocacy, and restoration. We provide our Family2Child Literacy Program in 16 prisons throughout California and hold Camp Grace, a five-day music and arts camp where children spend extended bonding time with their incarcerated parent, three times a year.

    The Today Show is coming to our Camp Grace at Salinas Valley State Prison in July to film Camp Grace and our important work connecting children with their incarcerated parents.

    We urgently need a three-row vehicle to transport the campers to the three prisons at which Camp Grace is held, and hope that we may be considered for a donation.

    We thank you for your consideration.

    Sandra Gonzales
    Director of Operations and Development
    Fighting for Families Impacted by Incarceration
    P.O. Box 750
    Menifee, CA 92586
    https://www.theplace4grace.org/

    Kganya Yabatho Dropping Centre says:

    We are an organization based in the township of Soweto in Emdeni North, We cater for orphans, vulnerable children and senior citizen. The organization is called Kganya Yabatho Dropping Centre. Children are being fed in our centre daily, we feed about 500 and more children daily. We request Toyota to provide us with a van because, we are normally called to fetch food by donors and our challenge is we don’t have a vehicle of our own to collect food from various donors. That cause us to spend money the organization does not have. we believe if you could donate, that will play a very important part in the organization.

    regard
    our email is Ifo@kganyayabatho.co.za or kganya.yabatho@gmail.com

    Jerome McIntosh says:

    My name is Jerome McIntosh and I’m a missionary under Eikon Ministries. We are engaged in leadership development training for middle school students in rural Eutaw,Alabama. We are in dire need of a van or 25 passenger bus to transport kids back and forth to our activity sites. Currently, we are using 2 cars which is very uncomfortable and packed. We have 17 kids enrolled in leadership development training and constantly getting more. Transportation is vital to the overall program as we are always picking up and dropping off kids. We also take trips frequently. Please consider us(Leadership Eutaw) as a candidate for one of your van donations. It would certainly be worth your investment. My direct contact number is (334( 830-0718.

    Nthabiseng Mofokeng says:

    We are an NPO organization that deals with the youth, the elderly, disabled etc.. We do home visits clean, assists with buying of groceries to our program called :adopt a family, we offer soft skills, mentorship, work readiness, farming, poultry, Mr & ms uniform to build the boy/girl’s self esteem, we also offer carpentry skills, Megatronics skills etc.. The main purpose of us giving this skills it’s because we want to have the community that can be able to plant and grow their own food & be able to do things for themselves.

    Kind regards
    NTHABISENG MOFOKENG
    FOUNDER & CEO HELPING-HANDZ NPO
    0847222787

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