Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM)


Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM) provides free wheelchairs to the poor, crippled and disabled persons living in developing third-world countries. FWM believes that when Jesus Christ lived in this world, He had special love for the sick and crippled. They try to share the same concern now for the poor, especially those with physical immobility. The chairs are distributed free to those in need, regardless of one's religious affiliation if any. FWM is a nonprofit organization and donations are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. In addition, it is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

Contact information

Mailing address:
9341 Irvine Blvd.
Irvine, CA 92618-2618


Phone: (949) 273-8470


Organization details

EIN: 311781635

CEO/President: Mr. Don Schoendorfer, Ph D

Chairman: Mr. Jim Franklin

Board size: 10

Founder: Mr. Don Schoendorfer, Ph D

Year founded: 2001

Tax deductible: Yes

Fiscal year end: 06/30

Member of ECFA: Yes

Member of ECFA since: 2004


Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM) provides free wheelchairs to the poor, crippled and disabled persons living in developing third-world countries. FWM believes that when Jesus Christ lived in this world, He had special love for the sick and crippled. They try to share the same concern now for the poor, especially those with physical immobility. The chairs are distributed free to those in need, regardless of one's religious affiliation if any.

Don Schoendorfer's approach was to engineer a wheelchair costing less than $52. His design was to use components that are manufactured in high volume for other products. By this method, they enjoy a low piece price cost. He removed every extra feature possible, ending up with the least expensive design that will satisfy a large portion of the world's need for wheelchairs. This wheelchair design lends itself to manufacture by highly efficient companies where assembly costs are relatively low.

Wheelchair Components:

    For a wheelchair you need a chair. He selected the least expensive chair he could find - a molded plastic patio chair. Perfect! It's waterproof. It's durable. It's comfortable to sit in for long periods. It's washable. It's made in many countries. You can drill holes in the arms and legs so it can be mounted on the frame.
    A wheelchair needs wheels. Don selected 24 inch bicycle wheels. For added durability he selected bicycle tires made for mountain bikes. The difference between the ones they use and those on millions of bikes made around the world is a special wheelchair hub. Theirs is considerably stronger. The mountain bike tires allow their chair to transverse rocky, uneven, and even muddy terrain that would be impossible in a regular wheelchair. They are frequently asked about using inflatable instead of hard tires. Inflatable tires allow movement over terrain that would be impossible with a hard tire. There is almost no place on earth where the tools to repair a flat tire aren't available.
  • Front Castors
    You need castors for the front legs. Don found 8 inch diameter castors that are inexpensive but rugged enough for this wheelchair.
  • Frame
    For a wheelchair you need a frame. They started with steel conduit because he could bend it himself. Once he got something close, Don took it to a steel fabrication company in Los Angeles called Mark IV Metal Products. ( There Gonzo Viana used his creativity and his years of experience to turn his crude design into something that could be mass-produced. The bends in the single piece frame follow the contours of the molded plastic chair. At the same time, the frame is something that can be made relatively inexpensively.
  • Improvements from the original design
    They found a new wheelchair supplier and they've made upgrades to the wheelchair. It is more effective and comfortable for a larger number of users.

    Among the improved design features are side panels placed alongside the seat of the wheelchair, giving more protection from anything thrown up from the ground by the movement of the chair. The wheel has been fitted with a hand-rim to make the propelling of the chair easier and cleaner; the footrest has been repositioned for easier entry into the chair and more comfort while in the chair, the brakes are better, and the axle is larger, creating more strength and durability and propulsion once the chair is set in motion. The wheelchair is still relatively lightweight and is now more rugged and suitable to the locations where it's being utilized.
  • Complete!
    These parts, plus a few dozen nuts and bolts and miscellaneous pieces is all that it takes to make one wheelchair. Another benefit from this design is standardization. There are relatively few parts, so there is little to stock for repair.
The plan was to ship the wheelchair in a kit - for two reasons. One reason is that they take up less space that way. They can pack 550 kits in a standard 40 foot container. The second reason is that in most countries the labor to assemble a kit will be very low. With little training, someone who is good with his or her hands can make three wheelchairs in one hour. Each kit also includes a bicycle tire pump and a couple of tire patches.

Don made assembly instructions with photographs so someone who cannot read English can learn to assemble these kits. They supply an assembly tool kit (5 simple wrenches and air pump) with every 20 wheelchair kits.

FWM verified that volunteers in developing countries can easily manage wheelchair assembly. They shipped 43 wheelchairs in kit form to Luanda, Angola. Their assembly team consisted of 16 young Angolan volunteers using simple hand tools.

FWM is a nonprofit organization and donations are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. In addition, it is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

Mission statement

Transforming lives through the gift of mobility

Statement of faith

FWM expresses its Statement of Faith as follows:

  • We believe that there is one living and true God, eternally existing in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, equal in power and glory; that this triune God created all, upholds all, and governs all.
  • We believe that the Scriptures of the old and new testaments are the word of God.
  • We believe in God the Father, an infinite Person of Spirit, perfect in holiness, wisdom, power and love; that He concerns Himself mercifully in the affairs of men; that He hears and answers prayers; and that He saves from sin and death all who come to Him through Jesus Christ.
  • We believe in Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit. We believe in his virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, and teachings, his substitutionary atoning death, bodily resurrection, ascension into Heaven, perpetual intercession for his people and personal, visible return to Earth.

Transparency grade


To understand our transparency grade, click here.

Financial efficiency ratings

Sector: Relief and Development

CategoryRatingOverall rankSector rank
Overall efficiency rating322 of 49452 of 65
Fund acquisition rating457 of 49463 of 65
Resource allocation rating385 of 49459 of 65
Asset utilization rating50 of 49413 of 65

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Balance sheet
Receivables, inventories, prepaids$358,450$639,941$267,122$341,428$344,989
Short-term investments$0$1,008,130$0$0$0
Other current assets$0$0$0$0$380,000
Total current assets$1,762,701$2,192,031$2,840,611$1,714,776$1,756,157
Long-term investments$205,959$176,503$150,715$0$0
Fixed assets$286,056$338,122$249,792$123,504$121,536
Other long-term assets$15,165$15,165$7,869$253,163$607,210
Total long-term assets$507,180$529,790$408,376$376,667$728,746
Total assets$2,269,881$2,721,821$3,248,987$2,091,443$2,484,903
Payables and accrued expenses$368,914$655,963$372,460$120,161$208,591
Other current liabilities$4,071$17,227$26,292$31,895$33,405
Total current liabilities$372,985$673,190$398,752$152,056$241,996
Due to (from) affiliates$0$0$0$0$0
Other long-term liabilities$205,959$176,503$150,715$125,534$112,054
Total long-term liabilities$205,959$176,503$150,715$125,534$112,054
Total liabilities$578,944$849,693$549,467$277,590$354,050
Net assets20192018201720162015
Temporarily restricted$831,204$350,626$689,233$840,113$1,337,224
Permanently restricted$0$0$0$0$0
Net assets$1,690,937$1,872,128$2,699,520$1,813,853$2,130,853
Revenues and expenses
Total contributions$10,780,792$10,160,698$10,611,476$10,025,810$10,404,162
Program service revenue$96,355$85,378$108,985$96,749$110,691
Membership dues$0$0$0$0$0
Investment income$0$8,130$0$0$0
Other revenue$10,594$0$0($60,057)$0
Total other revenue$106,949$93,508$108,985$36,692$110,691
Total revenue$10,887,741$10,254,206$10,720,461$10,062,502$10,514,853
Program services$8,361,140$8,343,953$7,357,811$8,215,792$7,625,009
Management and general$730,530$719,215$613,151$552,252$506,292
Total expenses$11,068,931$11,081,598$9,834,794$10,379,502$9,627,692
Change in net assets20192018201720162015
Surplus (deficit)($181,190)($827,392)$885,667($317,000)$887,161
Other changes in net assets$0$0$0$0$0
Total change in net assets($181,190)($827,392)$885,667($317,000)$887,161

Response from ministry

No response has been provided by this ministry.


Mid 1970s Don Schoendorfer witnessed a crippled Moroccan woman crawling across a dirt road which planted a seed that germinated in 1999 when he invested his education and professional expertise as a PhD Mechanical Engineer to create a simple, rugged, and inexpensive wheelchair. The mental picture of the crawling woman's anguish and loss of dignity had haunted him for years until God opened a path for Dr. Schoendorfer.

Program accomplishments

FWM has given wheelchairs to those in need in the following countries:

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Belize
  • Cuba
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Trinidad
South America
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
Eastern Europe
  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Belarus
  • Moldova
  • Romania
  • Ukraine
  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Cameroon
  • Comoros
  • Djibouti
  • DRC
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Malawi
  • Morocco
  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Somaliland
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
Middle East
  • Afghanistan
  • Iraq (via Kuwait)
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Lebanon
  • Pakistan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan
  • West Bank/Gaza
Asia and The Pacific
  • Bangladesh
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Fiji
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Nepal
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Tonga
  • Viet Nam