’Tis the season, as they say. Not only is the holiday season critical for many retail businesses; it is also one of the most important times of the year for nonprofits looking to maximize donor participation.
Those donors range from true believers in their beneficiaries’ missions to companies and individuals acting on the advice of their accountants to secure tax breaks before Dec. 31.
Wantagh’s Hassett Subaru stands firmly with the true believers, especially in its selection of this year’s charity of choice in the company’s Share the Love initiative: the Wantagh-based Family and Children’s Association.
The charity, which celebrated its 135th anniversary this fall, is a private social service agency offering support for just about every conceivable need. From its two shelters for at-risk teenagers to its substance-abuse programs to its broad assistance for seniors, the organization looks like the perfect fit for Hassett general manager and self-described visionary Mark Zergebel.
Share the Love is Subaru’s national drive in support of four charities chosen by the company’s management. This year, the charities are the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; the Make A Wish Foundation; which grants “wishes” to critically ill children; Meals on Wheels, which is “dedicated go fighting hunger and isolation among the nation’s homebound seniors”; and the National Parks Foundation, which funds critical programs in more than 100 national parks.
In addition, Subaru gives each franchise the option of selecting one local charity. Zergebel met FCA Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds through Dorothy Jacobs, “a longtime Subaru customer who had become a friend,” Zergebel said. “She does a lot of charitable work, and knew Jeff and the work they do, especially in crisis situations.”
“We run several programs in close proximity to Hassett, including our shelter for runaway, homeless and trafficked kids in Wantagh,” Reynolds explained. “The dollars raised will support services right here in our local community.”
Zergebel said that he and Reynolds toured some of FCA’s local centers, including the shelters in Wantagh and Freeport. “I’ve got younger kids,” Zergebel said. “I want to commit my life and my business to helping those families with less.”
Zergebel and Reynolds hit it off, Zerge-bel said. But more important than their personal rapport, they shared a vision of Hassett’s contribution that could go beyond a seasonal gift. “We’ve been doing this for a number of years,” Zergebel said of the dealership’s donations to various service agencies. “I was happy to support the other charities; they all did good work. But I wanted to do more than just hand over a check, and that’s it.”
Zergebel describes himself as a longer-term thinker, and his hope was for a business partnership involving other donors, so that his gift this year could be leveraged with others. Reynolds “and I spoke with each other several times over the last six to eight months,” he said, “and I spoke with some of his other donors about working together as a business council. They were open to the idea. That way, our donations could grow. We could establish a foundation with some of the money that could support programs in future years.”
Zergebel, who owns several dealerships in Nassau and Suffolk counties, said he could envision a much larger involvement. “But I’d like to see some success first,” he said.
Subaru will donate $250 for each vehicle that is purchased or leased between Nov. 14 and Jan. 2, with Hassett adding $50 per vehicle. Because it is a high-volume dealership, the total is likely to be significant. In addition, Hassett is extending a “friends and family” discount to customers who mention FCA when they lease or buy a vehicle.
“At a time when raising charitable dollars can be challenging and community needs are expanding, we’re thankful for partnerships like this,” Reynolds said. “Subaru has always been associated with great charities and causes; we’re lucky to have been invited into their family, and look forward to a very successful campaign.”
The Wantagh franchise sold 45 cars on Black Friday alone, and Zergebel said he expected to raise at least $50,000 this year. Subaru’s Share the Love campaign has raised more than $145 million over the past 11 years.
“We’re excited about the partnership with Hassett Subaru,” FCA’s chief development officer, Don Holden, said in a statement. “We admire . . . Mark Zergebel’s giving spirit, and welcome him and his staff as partners in fulfilling FCA’s mission to our Long Island neighbors in need.