Laguna Beach used car donation venture is driven by generosity

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CarDana CEO and founder Anthony Glenn displays a statement for a donated 2004 Chevy Suburban whose estimated sale price was $1,093. Its actual sale price: $3,000, which resulted in a larger donation to Orange County United Way. Photo by Barbara McMurray

By Barbara McMurray, Special to the Independent

As an automotive tech industry entrepreneur, Anthony Glenn’s success afforded him a home in Laguna Beach and the traditional trappings of success. But it seemed somehow empty to him.

In 2017, Glenn incorporated a new, car-related venture that aims far higher: to spread generosity and goodwill to the nation’s 1.53 million nonprofits.

The 20-year Laguna Beach resident created CarDana to address the inequities and dismal reputation of the charitable vehicle donation industry and turbocharge funding received by charities.

CarDana’s name is derived from Glenn’s practice of Buddhist meditation. “Dana” (dahna) is a Sanskrit word meaning generosity. CarDana literally means “generous car.”

Glenn started his career in automotive marketing and sales in Ventura County in the early 1990s. In 1997, the founders of Cars 4 Causes invited him to join the board of their newly formed nonprofit. Over 17 years, Cars 4 Causes served 18,000 charities but the organization was plagued by operational and management issues. In 2014, Cars 4 Causes hired Glenn as its CEO. After taking the job, he learned of the scandal that ultimately led to a $1 million settlement with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and then-Attorney General Kamala Harris.

“The more I dug into its numbers, the clearer it became that its reputation for questionable practices was well-deserved,” he said. “The sale of a donated $1,500 car might result in a donation of only $25 to a charity. Donors were unhappy with the valuation of their car and were left with questions about whether their gift made any difference. I knew it could be done better.”

Glenn said he helped prosecutors shut down the organization, pay the involved charities, and penalize three individuals behind the scheme. This experience played a large role in his decision to develop CarDana, which averages four times the proceeds a charity typically receives.

CarDana wants to revamp this opaque industry in three ways, Glenn explained: using technology to reduce inefficiencies, thus increasing the amount charities receive from each donated vehicle, to level the playing field so small charities have access to these fundraising dollars, and to create a seamless donor experience centered on trust and transparency.

A potential donor can visit CarDana’s website to see how much their car will likely sell for based on Kelley Blue Book ranges. Projected costs related to the donation are outlined—towing, auction, DMV fees, and CarDana‘s flat 20% fee, with an estimate of how much their selected charity will likely receive. CarDana’s statement takes it a step further and describes what the nonprofit can accomplish with the net proceeds. Upon a transaction’s closing, the donor gets a report showing a line-by-line comparison with the previously projected fees. In 93% of CarDana‘s donations, the charity receives more money than the initial projection.

Two separate UC Irvine initiatives accelerated Glenn’s business. In 2017, CarDana won a position in the Wayfinder Incubator, part of the UCI Beall Applied Innovation program (also known as The Cove), which culls and cultivates Orange County’s best entrepreneurial ideas. The following May, CarDana won the UCI New Venture Competition in the social enterprise category. His startup also nearly made it to the final cut of “Shark Tank.” Normally, Glenn would be working from The Cove’s plush campus offices, but due to COVID-19 he works, appropriately, from his Laguna Beach garage.

CarDana currently has 20 local charities in its pilot program, including Orange County United Way, CASA of Orange County, Orangewood Foundation, and Shea Center for Therapeutic Riding.

Orange County United Way staffers had a positive experience with CarDana, according to a statement.

“Over the last year, we’ve been able to easily refer potential donors to them, and have seen proceeds come back to our organization to support our mission in Orange County,” the nonprofit’s statement stated.

Glenn’s vision is to raise capital and scale up in the next year to take CarDana’s fund-generating power nationwide.

His vision: a charity of any size anywhere in the nation will be able to easily build a free profile on the CarDana platform and receive a dedicated URL to add to its website, social posts, and newsletters. This takes a potential donor to the organization’s donation site where a car owner answers four simple questions and CarDana takes it from there.

“The money from CarDana’s first car donation went to Orangewood because I lived there many times as a child,” he said. Orphaned at five years old by the death of his mother, Glenn lived in dozens of foster homes. “This is a powerful way of giving back.”

“I trust that CarDana will eventually support me and generate significant money for organizations that are solving a vast range of societal problems,” he said. “We’ve received ample positive feedback from our charities and the donors who support them. Our early investors are pleased with the results. For me, this creates joy.”

Barbara is a writer and marketing consultant. Find her at mcmurraymarketing.com.

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