September 7, 2011

Some Fox Valley nonprofit organizations are hoping that one of the country’s most recognizable cars will provide them with some extra fundraising next year. The LOVEbug3 contest is recognizing individuals and nonprofit organizations with the chance to win a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle.

“There are so many negative, bad things you hear about,” said Emir Abinion, the owner of Fox Valley Volkswagen, which is hosting the contest, “We wanted to bring out the great stories of unselfishness, the stories of truly caring and helping out someone else.”

Abinion set out to “recognize the good people” two years ago by starting a contest that would allow those who do good to win a car. Although it began as a way to honor individuals, this year the contest has added a separate category for nonprofits.

“We knew there were nonprofits out there who were also hurting because of the economy,” Abinion said. “So we sought out two dozen nonprofits in the area that went along with our core values of our company.”

Starting in July, the nonprofits were listed at along with videos and descriptions of the organizations. For the first two weeks of each month until November, individuals vote for a nonprofit as well as an individual deserving of the car. While nominees must be from Illinois, anyone throughout the world can vote. The top two vote-getters each month advance to the finals in December with the chance to win the Beetle. There are new individuals each month, but the nonprofits, which went through an application process, carry over.

Last year the contest’s website received more than 3 million hits and more than 100,000 votes.

The nonprofit that wins will be required to use the Beetle for fundraising in 2012. According to Abinion, Fox Valley Volkswagen will provide marketing and fundraising assistance to that organization, which he hopes will help them raise $50,000.

“Everyone loves the Beetle, Abinion” said. “It’s a cool-looking car. It’s nostalgic.”

Donka, which has an office in North Aurora, is one nonprofit that saw an immediate tie-in with another one of its fundraising efforts. Donka’s computer-training program teaches those with physical or visual challenges, through computers and technology, to become more independent, at no cost to the students. For the last three years, Donka has held a “Joyride with Jon,” an event in which participants ride through DuPage and Kane counties on motorcycles and classic cars to raise money for the nonprofit.

“We thought the love bug (contest) could be a part of our Joy Ride,” said executive director, Leanne Stavenger-Vos, whose organization has a yearly budget of $300,000, of which only 20 percent comes from grants.

Tri City Health Partnership, which provides health care for those in need in Batavia, St. Charles, Geneva and Elburn, is another contestant in the LOVEBug3 contest. If it won the Beetle, the organization would raffle it off as part of their ongoing fundraising efforts. But, according to Kathy Rosignal of Tri City Health Partnership, the publicity provided to her nonprofit is valuable in itself.

“We don’t have a budget for marketing,” Rosignal said. “Free PR is how we get the word out. We thought this (contest) would be a great way (to do that).”

Stavenger-Vos agrees.

“It’s getting our name out there. The fact that we’re getting exposure from this (contest) is absolutely fabulous.”

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