Allow us to Make Sense of This For You
Because it’s Important!
As you know, SOS Safe Ride is a nonprofit program of the Safe Ride Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Frederick, Maryland.
Because of the nature of how innovative our program is, we get asked all the time:
“How, or more importantly, why does SOS Safe Ride operate as a nonprofit program?”
“You guys DO realize that you could be (quote-unquote) “making bank” if you were a for-profit company, right? What’s the catch?”
“No seriously… what is the catch here? No offense.”
And you know what, we understand where you’re coming from there. Hand to God.
A compliment that we often hear, is people saying that they appreciate that we’re a nonprofit that doesn’t try to “B.S.” you with buzzwords and PC speak.
We try to keep it blunt, fair, and quite frankly, honest around here. Allow us to do that right now in a section we like to call “Unmatched Transparency”.
To put this very simply: This isn’t at all about driving people home in their vehicles at 2am in the morning… because anyone could do that.
Our mission has always been to change mindsets, eliminate excuses, and more than anything show that there is absolutely no reason as to why someone should get behind the vehicle while intoxicated.
SOS Safe Ride is just one of the many bi-products of that mission.
The fact of the matter is, there are a lot of amazing organizations out there that attempt to take the regulatory/legislative route, and stop you before you ever get to the bar. They are the first line of defense.
We on the other hand, take the stance that they can’t catch every single person, alcohol and bars are not going anywhere any time soon, and OUR job is not to stop you before you get to the bar, but to stop you while you’re there. Consider us, the last line of defense.
You’re going to read this sentence several times: “This is very important. “
While SOS Safe Ride is indeed our flagship program, and the thing that we’re known for, it is only 25% of what our nonprofit, The Safe Ride Foundation, actually does.
Here at the Safe Ride Foundation, we have two arms & two legs of our organization. Most donations, depending on the size and purpose, get divided into these four “limbs” as follows:
Leg One: Direct Prevention
SOS Safe Ride is our direct and “boots on the ground” way of addressing the problem of drunk driving. The entire POINT of the program is to eliminate the incredibly irresponsible excuses of “I didn’t want to leave my car downtown”, “I didn’t want to get towed”, and “I needed my car the next morning”. Police officers share these as the top 3 excuses as to why someone chooses (keyword “chooses”) to drink and drive. With SOS Safe Ride, we virtually make that excuse invalid in Frederick County. 35% of our rides are given away for absolutely free, and in most cases, our program is 25% of the cost of any for-profit program that performs this same service, therefore making the program accessible to as many populations as possible.
Leg Two: Education
The Pump Your Brakes Booth is Frederick’s intoxication awareness program, aiming to “wake up” the common bar visitor about the effects of binge drinking. The program provides free breathalyzer tests to anyone on Market Street during busy nights of the week, as well as during alcohol-serving events around Frederick including Alive @ Five, Oktoberfest, The Frederick Fair, etc. One can be incredibly surprised at just how quickly they can get over the legal limit of 0.08 BAC, and the Pump Your Brakes Booth makes sure that we all stay aware.
Arm One: Victim Relief
The Angel Fund is the main way that The Safe Ride Foundation support families and victims that have been affected by drunk driving. Through donations from both individuals and corporate entities alike, the Safe Ride Foundation Angel Fund helps victims with medical expenses, victim relief services, funeral costs, travel expenses for families, and funding for the resources that families need during their darkest time.
Arm Two: Rehabilitation/Stewardship
In addition to the Steered Straight Program, which allows DUI offenders in Frederick County to rehabilitate their crime by way of Safe Ride Foundation volunteer work, our organization rounds out its limbs with its rehabilitation/stewardship arm, providing two scholarships and internships to Frederick County college students attending either Hood College, Frederick Community College, or Mount St. Mary’s University. Students submit a project to our board of directors on drunk driving awareness, the two winning students are awarded $1000 scholarships at the beginning of the summer.
Full disclosure. Our organization is not cheap to run. It takes innovative technology, very talented staff, a lot of research/development, as well as a hefty amount of awareness-raising (aka marketing).
When our founder Wayne Dorsey started this organization, he was 23 years old. A young African-American from West Virginia, he had zero funding when he started, zero connections, and probably zero chance of making this work given the circumstances. Now that’s not to come off as a sob story, but to paint a picture on how far this organization has come, and how resourceful that we had to be in order to see this come to fruition.
Effort > Resources.
In the beginning, we adopted a “boostrap” and “shoestring” strategy. Parts of which we still use to this day:
- For example, our office is humbly located at Cowork Frederick, for only $150/month (yes, really).
- Wayne himself is a computer engineer. This means that our incredibly intuitive mobile app…. was FREE… because he wrote all 80,000+ lines of code himself (again, really).
- All of our safe drivers and board members are volunteers. Which by the way, it is important to note that these amazing superheroes of Frederick were NOT particularly easy to find over 4 years.
- All of our vehicles, on-site marketing materials, uniforms, and office supplies… were donated!
The Point is: Absolutely none of this came easy, but nonprofits do NOT fail because of lack of resources, nonprofits fail because of lack of effort. Period. And we have effort in spades!
At the time of this writing’s last update (edited Jun 01, 2023), the ENTIRE Safe Ride Foundation (meaning both arms and both legs listed above) runs on a board-approved budget of about $138,000 (up from $75,000 in 2019).
We have long list of expenses that you can find on our Guidestar page, however to give you the skinny, our foundation’s four biggest expenses are:
- General Liability and Vehicle insurance (shocker, right?) – 22%
- Payroll and Consultants – 34% (Before you ask, our highest paid employee is our part-time Executive Director who is annually remunerated for $44,000)
- Vehicle upkeep/fuel – 8%
- Promotion – 16%
Here’s the question we always get. “How do we raise funds to keep this organization running? The rides are dirt cheap, so how can you afford $75,000 a year?”
We’re fortunate to have grown to a point where we have several streams of income, but let’s break it down from largest to smallest:
- Largest: Grant Revenue (i.e – Federal, State, and Local Foundations)
- Sponsorship Revenue (i.e. – Corporate entities such as Budweiser and Allstate)
- Fundraising Events (i.e. – The “Over the Limit” Comedy Fest)
- Safe Ride PLUS Memberships
- Individual Donations
- Smallest: – The Individual Rides from SOS Safe Ride
If that “blows your mind”…. it should. Yes, one of our SMALLEST sources of income is the individual rides from SOS Safe Ride.
- Most users of our program are members of Safe Ride PLUS (and therefore get their rides for Free)
- We give away free rides ad-nauseum (i.e. – If the bar asks us to take care of someone, if a person simply has no money, or out of the kindness of our hearts)
- The program itself is already cheaper than Uber/Taxi’s as it is
Considering all of these things, the reality is that we are not raising funds “hand over fist” with SOS Safe Ride alone as some may flatteringly perceive. We naturally need to charge a small fare for the program in order to help sustain its very expensive costs, however, in its current state it is self-sustainable ONLY with the existence of Safe Ride PLUS, as we simply give away too many free rides to make it work financially otherwise.
However this is completely by design.
To explain, (and again, this is very important) if the SOS Safe Ride program were a for-profit company, and therefore operating without the subsidies of Governments, Businesses, Events, and Individuals alike… this amazing program would subsequently cost roughly FOUR TIMES as much as it does in its nonprofit state. To give a few examples, see such for-profit companies such as Dryver , Homerunners, and DShofer. Frankly, we do NOT want cost to be (yet another) reason why someone drinks and drives, and by operating the program under our nonprofit foundation we’re able to facilitate this and eliminate that possibility…. and if worst comes to worst, we’ll give someone their ride for free as it is… because to be honest, if we fiscally could, we would make EVERY ride free.
To drive this point home (pun intended), it goes without saying that the reason we do this is not to meet a quota or chase financial gain, but to fulfill our mission and to do exactly what we said we would do…. create a culture in Frederick County where a person can not even THINK of an excuse to drink and drive.
Vehicle Safety & Driver Vetting:
Let’s talk about drivers and safety!
We’ll just be completely blunt here sothat there’s absolutely no confusion:
- All drivers, whether they’re volunteers or those performing community service, are fully vetted and background-checked prior to becoming drivers. (Of course)
- All drivers are subject to random drug tests, driving tests, and other quality control measures.
- Community service volunteers do exist, however they only drive the follow cars (as in not your car).
- We do carry state-required liability insurance for the organization, however to be crystal clear, as it states in our Mobile App Terms of Service and our Ride Service Agreement, SOS Safe Ride drivers are always covered under the customer’s vehicle insurance, and the volunteers are also not required to carry their own additional auto liability coverage (although some drivers do). For additional clarification view our Ride Service Agreement and Maryland Commercial Auto Insurance Requirements
- Bottom line: We’re called “Safe” Ride for a reason, we’ve performed over 16,000 rides as of June of 2023, and have never had an accident (big knock on wood). Rest assured that we have every intention and skillset to make sure that you get home safely and securely, and all of the legal measures are in place to make sure that we, you, and your vehicle, are protected. You are fully within your right to not use our program if you so choose, as there are other transportation options available in Frederick County. We love what we do, we’re fighting for a great mission, and as long as the story ends with you not drinking and driving, that’s mission accomplished as far as we’re concerned.
And finally, how all of this affects YOU!
Because how we’ve set this nonprofit up, and more importantly because of all of the support that the Frederick County community has provided us over the years with their funding, with their brains, and with their time… we are proud to share that SOS Safe Ride has now provided 15,000 rides home, 12 Collegiate Scholarships, 12,000 Free Breathalyzer Tests, and over $18,000 in Victim Relief Services within Frederick County since it’s inception.
VAGUE GOALS YIELD VAGUE RESULTS: And so to be specific, we do an average of about 60 rides per week at this current stage in our growth, and by the end of next year we aim to get to 100.
The main way we’ll do that is not just with funding (for app upgrades, marketing, and infrastructure), but with people (we need manpower, we need drivers, we need you).
Scaling up is hard, but we’ve done much harder things in our history that will make this seem like a cakewalk.
It all starts with you, so thank you so much for hearing this long schpiel in our quest for full nonprofit transparency. And with love, we hope that we earn and keep your trust, which is what we cherish most in our donors and supporters.
Stay Safe, and know that we appreciate you
-The Safe Ride Foundation