Updated:
Original:

Attorney general: Car donation charity isn't very charitable, misleads donors

Author:

Minnesota's attorney general is taking a Minnesota-based car donation organization to task for not donating very much of the proceeds it collects to actual charities, and steering some 80 percent of what it collects to two for-profit companies owned by the group's founders.

In a compliance report released Wednesday, Attorney General Lori Swanson accused Car Donation Foundation, which operates Wheels for Wishes, of only turning over 20 percent of the proceeds it collects from vehicle donations to local Make-A-Wish chapters.

When CDF receives a car donation, it either sells or scraps the vehicle and pays a percentage of the proceeds to local chapters.

According to Swanson, between 2011 and 2014, CDF spent 78-82 percent of the gross proceeds from donated vehicles on fundraising, advertising, and overhead, with only 18 to 22 percent of the proceeds going toward a charitable purpose.

Cozy relationship between nonprofit and for-profits

In addition, those fundraising services were provided by two for-profit companies owned by Bill Bigley and Randy Heiligman, the same people who run the CDF. Swanson claims the two companies received $36 million over the past four years, while Make-A-Wish chapters were paid $23 million.

One of the for-profit firms, National Fundraising Management, managed the charity's fundraising and operations activities. The other, Metro Metals Corp., managed the vehicle donations by arranging for towing, scrapping or selling them through auction, the Star Tribune reports.

DriveSafely.net, a site that promotes traffic safety, did a review of the CDF earlier this year and urged its readers not to donate through the organization.

DriveSafely.net did the math on how much of a car's value actually goes to Make-A-Wish if it's donated through Wheels for Wishes:

If the vehicle sells for scrap or at auction for $500, Make-a-Wish gets $90. The remaining $410, minus the fees and costs related to processing, goes to:

  • Bigley and Heiligman's for-profit fundraising company, National Fundraising Management.
  • Bigley and Heiligman's for-profit auto salvage company, Metro Metals Corp.
  • Bigley and the Heiligmans' compensation for running the nonprofit.

As for that compensation, the writer looked at tax returns filed by the CDF for 2012, and reported these findings:

  • CDF President Bill Bigley's compensation was $265,261; he worked an average 30 hours per week.
  • Vice President Randy Heiligman's compensation was $266,599; he worked an average of 10 hours per week.
  • Secretary Roberta Heiligman's compensation was $117,169; she worked an average of 10 hours per week. She is married to Randy Heiligman.

Swanson also said CDF has been misleading donors in its ads by using the name Wheels for Wishes along with Make-A-Wish, but not disclosing that CDF is the recipient of the donations, KARE 11 notes.

Swanson said Make-A-Wish and the CDF have 30 days to respond to the issues raised in the compliance report, and she has the authority to take legal action if she believes it's warranted.

FOX 9 reports that Swanson has also forwarded her report to the Internal Revenue Service, which could scrutinize the CDF's tax-exempt status.

Neither Bigley nor Heiligman has responded to several media requests for comment.

Next Up

motorcycle

Crash in southern Minnesota kills motorcyclist

The crash happened Saturday at Highway 42 and County Road 14 in Highland Township.

Oli Udoh

Vikings-Cardinals: 5 things you can count on happening

The Vikings need a win in the desert but will they get one on Sunday?

Kyler Murray

How can the Vikings stop Kyler Murray?

The Cardinals quarterback accounted for five touchdowns against the Titans.

Red's Pizza in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

'Landmark' Wisconsin pizza joint to close amid worker shortage

The restaurant has been a local favorite since 1957.

Ky Thomas

Potts, Gopher defense dominate Buffaloes

Trey Potts ran for three touchdowns in a 30-0 victory in Boulder.

police tape, crime scene

Suspect dies by suicide after 11 hour standoff in Wisconsin motel

The standoff occurred at a motel in Balsam Lake.

U.S. district court minnesota - federal court

Four sentenced for home invasion on northern Minnesota reservation

The incident took place in October 2019 on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

Screen Shot 2021-09-17 at 10.42.39 AM

4-year-old girl killed by falling branch in Mankato is identified

She is from South Dakota, and was attending the Mahkato Annual Traditional Powwow.

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 6.35.24 AM

No. 1 Lakeville South dominates No. 2 Eden Prairie

The Cougars ran away with the Class 6A showdown.

Lake Nokomis

Boy hospitalized after being rescued from Lake Nokomis has died

He was one of two children pulled from the Minneapolis lake.

Related