CarShare becomes nonprofit

Threatened with extinction only a month ago, the 1-year-old Ashland CarShare has been notified by the Internal Revenue Service that it will be approved for non-profit status, opening the gate for a steady flow of tax-exempt donations and grants to add to recent gifts that are keeping the organization afloat.

"We're really pleased at the outpouring of community support from very generous people who helped us bridge the gap," said CarShare Executive Director Becky Brown.

In April, CarShare had used up its initial $30,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation and had failed to win tax-exempt status after a year-and-a-half of wrangling with the IRS. Donations had slowed to a trickle.

"I guess it was Senator Merkley's office," Brown said. "Three days after they contacted the IRS, the IRS called us with positive news, saying they just wanted a little more clarifying paperwork, but that they intended to approve us very soon."

CarShare had set a goal of 82 members as the amount needed to stay in the black. It has just passed that, totaling 84 in the past month.

Since announcing its possible demise in April, CarShare received a $2,000 anonymous gift and a $1,000 donation from a community member, along with $500 collected at a fundraising event at Standing Stone, said Brown.

Donations can now be made at the group's Web site, www.ashlandcarshare.com. Donations over $50 are tax-deductible.

The new status allows CarShare to aggressively seek foundation grants, said Brown. Until the nonprofit status is firmly in place, donations will be processed through a fiscal sponsor, Bread for the Journey.

One big piece still not in place is finding a "pass-through partner" — a company or individual with a state tax liability who can advance CarShare the $15,000 it will receive in two months from a state Business Energy Tax Credit, says board member Kat Smith. The partner would deduct that liability from its taxes, allowing CarShare to have the funds now.

CarShare members lease hybrid Toyota Priuses, paying $3.95 an hour and 30 cents a mile, plus $25 a month for membership. Those driving fewer miles pay $7.95 an hour and 30 cents a mile, with no membership fee.

CarShare was created with the goal of helping get cars off the road, reducing carbon and toxins in the atmosphere and offering drivers an alternative to the average $8,000 a year cost of a private car.

CarShare is entirely run by volunteers and has no office; staff members work from their homes, she said.

The gifts and nonprofit status, said Brown, "are band-aids that give us hope we can wade through this transition period."

Smith added, "We're powered up and ready to move into the future."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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