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License plates bring millions to Massachusetts charities and nonprofits

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License plates are major moneymakers and marketing tools in Massachusetts, raising more than $5 million a year for various nonprofit groups across the state
License plates are major moneymakers and marketing tools in Massachusetts, raising more than $5 million a year for various nonprofit groups across the state.
“I view these funds as absolutely essential,” said Leo Cakounes, chairman of the Barnstable County Commissioners, who oversee an organization that uses revenue from the popular Cape and Islands specialty license plate to help cities and towns fund economic development programs and grants through the Cape Cod Economic Development Council.
Since Massachusetts began offering specialty plates in 1994, they have brought in more than $96 million for various nonprofit groups, according to a review of Registry of Motor Vehicles records. The RMV currently offers 28 specialty plates, raising money for a diverse array of causes, including state-run homes for veterans, professional sports teams’ charitable foundations, alternatives to abortion, the Massachusetts Environmental Trust Fund and cancer research.
Most of the specialty plates cost an additional $40 above normal registration fees. For most of the plate sales, $28 of that extra $40 goes to the associated charity or nonprofit. The remaining $12 covers the cost of manufacturing the plate.

PHOTOS: Specialty license plates in Massachusetts 

When drivers renew their plates every two years, the full amount of the extra fee goes to the charity or nonprofit.
To create a specialty plate, a nonprofit group must collect 750 initial applications and deliver a $100,000 bond to the RMV, which will hold the bond for five years or until 3,000 specialty plates are issued. If fewer than 3,000 plates are issued during that initial five-year span, the RMV will discontinue the plates.
The statute changed in late 2015 to lower the minimum requirements for initial applications, potentially allowing smaller charities to pursue specialty license plates.