How Three Associations Are Clearing The Air In Colorado

Demonstrating the powerful change associations can bring about when working together, three Colorado groups have partnered to help clear the state’s air by ridding its roads of high-emitting vehicles. Here’s a look at how the organizations came together behind a common purpose.

Denver residents are breathing a little easier today, thanks in part to the collaboration of three Colorado associations.

Over the last several years, the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA), the Colorado Auto Recyclers Association (CAR), and the Colorado Broadcasters Association (CBA) have worked together on behalf of the Clear the Air Foundation to remove more than 1,000 high-emitting cars from the road.

“For many years in the Denver area, in June, July, and August, if you looked west to see the mountains, where you’d typically be able to see a clear view of the mountains, you wouldn’t be able to because visibility was so poor,” said CADA President and CEO Tim Jackson.

The friendships you make with other associations … can come back and benefit you later in untold and countless ways.

When it comes to air quality and cars, all it takes is one bad apple to spoil the proverbial bunch. While vehicle emissions technology has improved greatly over the last couple of decades—new cars today are 99 percent cleaner on particle emissions than cars made 15 to 20 years ago, Jackson said—older, high-emitting cars pollute more than all other vehicles combined.

As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in What the Dog Saw: “In Denver, five percent of the vehicles on the road produce 55 percent of the automobile pollution.”

Armed with this knowledge, CADA founded the Clear the Air Foundation in 2007.  “Our members said, ‘What we really should do is have a targeted effort to take those old, high-emitting vehicles off the road and recycle them,’” Jackson said.

While CADA members were able to get the cars off the road by accepting donations or trade-ins at their dealerships, they needed a place to put them. That’s where CAR came in.

The association, which serves as an umbrella organization for the state’s salvage yards, auctions the donated vehicles via its online bidding platform—kind of like an association version of eBay, Jackson said—where their members bid on vehicles to recycle or salvage.

Once they’ve successfully bid on one of the donated cars, recyclers pick up the vehicle at no cost to the donor, who gets a tax write-off. Proceeds from the auctions, which average around $300 for each car, go toward college scholarships for automotive tech programs in Colorado and surrounding states.

“With CAR, having that relationship and being connected to them was vital to the core success of our efforts,” Jackson said. “We had to have places to go with the cars. We had to have a way to extract or cash in the value of these donated vehicles, and it works well for [CAR] because all of their members are looking for these type of cars because that’s the business that they’re in. It really created a win-win.”

In fact, the Clear the Air Foundation created a win-win-win solution when it brought in the Colorado Broadcasters Association to help generate greater promotion for its recycling program.

The foundation took advantage of one of CBA’s programs, in which nonprofits receive a designated amount of broadcast time on CBA member radio and TV stations in exchange for a donation to the association.

Since it contributed $10,000 to CBA’s program, the Clear the Air Foundation has derived more than $250,000 worth of advertising based on the free airing of TV and radio spots, Jackson said. The partnership has led to a considerable increase in the number of calls the foundation gets from private-sector companies or consumers interested in donating their old vehicles.

The three-way partnership between CADA, CAR, and CBA is just another in a long line of examples of associations working together as powerful advocates and catalysts for change and societal good. A key ingredient of the Clear the Air Foundation’s success was drawing on existing relationships among the associations that had been developed over a number of years, Jackson said.

“This may sound like a cliché, but relationships matter,” he said.  “The friendships you make with other associations and others even outside the confines of your industry can come back and benefit you later in untold and countless ways.”

How has your association partnered with other associations, either within or outside your industry, to work on a common cause? Let us know in the comments.

Denver's air is looking a lot more clear these days thanks to a green initiative. (iStock/Thinkstock)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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