- The economic downturn and school budget cuts inspired an innovative program, through which Reno's Dolan Auto Group has given a quarter-million dollars to local schools in just five years.
- Teachers get to propose projects they'd love to do — things that cost $1,000-$5,000 and couldn't happen otherwise — and Dolan awards the money, while also asking area citizens to match the amount.
- "If they can raise $500 of a $1,000 project, we're going to match that $500," said CEO Ryan Dolan.
RENO, Nevada — Dolan Auto Group may be located in a very grown-up city, but it's the kids that this multi-brand dealership is focused on each fall.
For the fifth year, the Toyota, Scion, Lexus, Mazda and Kia dealership group is running its "Class Project" crowd-funding program, which kicked off right after Labor Day. The winners are the northern Nevada schools, which will get $60,000 in Dolan's money and the same amount in donations from the community.
Dolan CEO Ryan Dolan said the idea came up five years ago, in the midst of an economic downturn and budget cuts for the schools. The idea is clear from the tagline: "You Back It. We'll Match It." Anyone can create or back a project to benefit a northern Nevada school and, Dolan said, "If it reaches its funding goal, we'll match it dollar for dollar!"
Anyone familiar with Kickstarter's format will appreciate the Dolan twist on it: People can read about the projects teachers would like funding for and choose where their donation will go. Several projects are posted on the Dolan Auto Group Crowd-Funding page, including the Hugh Gallagher fourth-grade classroom's request for science and engineering supplies, which has successfully reached 133 percent of its funding goal. The Carson Middle School's request for money to build storage for band and orchestra instruments is 76 percent funded, while other projects have further to go.
Each proposal has 45 days to come up with donations from the community, which Dolan matches if it reaches 100 percent of the goal. If it doesn't reach the level of matching funds, the project still gets to keep whatever donations it did take in. The whole event won't end until community donations reach the $60,000 mark, because Dolan Auto Group is determined to give the whole amount away.
The school project "has developed to become a huge part of our brand," marketing spokeswoman Kristin Stith told Edmunds. "When people think about Dolan Auto Group, they think about giving and community involvement."
The Dolan Auto Group started as Reno Toyota 30 years ago and later added Lexus and Mazda-Kia dealerships. Today the trio of dealerships are all under the Dolan umbrella as Dolan Toyota Scion, Dolan Lexus, and Tom Dolan's Reno Mazda-Kia.
Edmunds says: Those kids have parents, and those parents will not forget what dealer took a leadership role in enriching the school experience.