Specialized License Plates

Specialized license plates in North Carolina identify the cars they mark with a variety of organizational emblems. Universities, fraternal organizations, NASCAR drivers, charitable foundations, and even a few museums raise money with specialized plates. Car owners pay $20 – $30 annually for each plate and these funds are divided between the fundraising group and the State. $10 per year for each license plate goes into a special state fund for building visitor centers, beautifying highways, and promoting tourism. As a result, most cultural heritage organizations benefit indirectly from the specialty license plate program.

A few cultural heritage organizations have designed their own plates, gathered enough subscribers (300) to send the designs into production, and received donations of $10-$20 per purchased plate each year. The Department of Motor Vehicles’ list of 100 specialty plates includes two representing museums—the Maritime Museum’s “Protect Wild Dolphins” plate and a plate promoting the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum.

As with most fundraising programs, the potential of specialty plates takes time to realize and effort to publicize. The Department of Cultural Resources gained legislative approval several years ago for another specialty plate to commemorate the Civil War Sesquicentennial. As of this posting, DCR has pre-sold less than one third of the 300 necessary to move the design into production and has had to extend the deadline for pre-sale. If enough license holders buy these plates, DCR will be able to promote the Sesquicentennial in a new way and have a recurrent funding source for commemorative events and State Historic Sites battlefield preservation projects.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has been among the most successful beneficiaries of the specialty plate program.  The Foundation has raised over 3 million dollars with its distinctive gold background and blue and green landscape design. According to Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Ward, “At a time when tax revenues are stretched to the breaking point, we have used this funding to build restrooms, boardwalks and other amenities that have made the parkway a more enjoyable and safer experience.” This recurring funding source, however, is currently in jeopardy as a result of a bill in the state legislature that would eliminate full color plates by 2015. The controversy may be taken up again by the State Senate in 2013.

Has your organization considered the specialty plate program as a fundraiser? What plate designs are popular in your community?

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About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on August 7, 2012, in historic sites, museums, public programs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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