The foundation also has fallen far short of voluntary standards set by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, an Arlington, Va., organization that helps donors make informed judgments about charities.
The alliance says that at least 65 percent of an organization's total expenses should go for grants. In the case of the Shelby foundation, grants represented no more than 13 percent of expenses in any of the four years for which tax documents were reviewed.
Alliance COO Bennett Weiner said the expenses don't appear to be out of line; the organization just isn't spending much of what it takes in.
Weiner says at least two-thirds of all charitable organizations adhere to the alliance's entire list of 20 standards. Among the guidelines is having at least a five-member board of directors. Shelby's board has had
only three members - Shelby, his wife and Neil Cummings, general counsel for Shelby Automobiles Inc. The board recently expanded to five members - adding Luft, Shelby's licensing chief, and Amy Boylan, president of Shelby Automobiles.
Luft said the foundation plans to comply with another alliance guideline: scheduling regular deliberations on grant allocations. Starting this month, he said, twice-a-year meetings will be held to decide where proceeds will be donated.
In addition, the foundation retained Wells Fargo Bank to help set up an endowment fund and better manage its money.
"Prior to bringing Jenni on, the foundation had no direction," said Luft, referring to Shreeves, the executive director. "There was no infrastructure. It was Carroll's little foundation, and we had a modest amount to give out."
Last year, Shreeves, a full-time employee, launched the group's first national fund-raising campaign when it raffled off a vintage Cobra. The result: the sale of $485,000 in raffle tickets - almost as much as the nonprofit took in through all of 2005. This year, the foundation is raffling a Ford Shelby GT500 donated by Ford.
Before Ford began donating cars, almost half of the foundation's revenue came from individuals who contributed $100 to $200 in exchange for Shelby-autographed memorabilia.
"The corporate sponsorship from Ford has taken us way up," said Luft, 51, a former Walt Disney and Hilton executive. Now, he said, the charity has a responsibility to Ford to account for how the proceeds are used.
After a nearly 30-year separation, Ford and Carroll Shelby went back into business together in 2005. Ford hired Shelby to help with development of a Mustang variant that went on sale last summer as the Ford Shelby GT500. Ford's sponsorship of the Shelby charity was a natural outgrowth of the new collaboration.
Ford spokeswoman Whitney Drake says the cooperation with Shelby's foundation is a good fit.
"Carroll is the oldest double-organ recipient," Drake said. Shelby received the heart transplant and later a kidney from his son, Mike, in 1996. "If he
hadn't benefited from his transplants, he wouldn't be with us today to help us collaborate on new products. This is another way for us to give back."
So far in 2007, the foundation has received $725,000 in cash through the auction of two Ford-donated Shelby GTs. Ford sold them at a Barrett-Jackson auction and then turned the proceeds over to the foundation.