From the Iowa Department of Transportation

Iowa’s non-profit organizations have a new, inexpensive way to promote themselves using Iowa’s license plates. Iowa law changes that took effect last year now allow the Iowa Department of Transportation to produce license plates with a space for a decal promoting a non-profit organization.

For years groups have been able to apply for what is known as an “emblem” license plate. Currently, there are approximately 40 emblem plates in production, and it can be difficult for county treasurer’s offices, especially in smaller counties, to manage the inventory for all the different license plate variations.
“The decal plate option will make inventory management easier for county treasurers and make it easier for non-profit groups to get their message out,” said LaVonne Short of the Iowa DOT’s Office of Vehicle & Motor Carrier Services.

“The application process for a group to get an emblem plate required 500 paid applications before the plate would be produced. Over the years we’ve had dozens of groups qualified for an emblem plate, but they couldn’t muster up 500 paid applications within the year time frame allowed.”
The solution comes in the form of a “decal” plate. The Iowa Legislature amended Iowa law to end the emblem plate program and allow us to produce license plates with an area left blank to allow for a decal to be applied.

“The new plates open up a lot of possibilities for non-profit groups,” said Short.

“There is still an application process and a group must prove 501(c) 3 non-profit status from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office in order to be eligible.”
The non-profit organization is responsible for designing, producing and distributing their own decal. Prior to that, decal artwork must be approved by the Department of Transportation, who will post approved decal designs on their website. Since there is no minimum paid license plate ordering requirement, smaller non-profits will be able to take advantage of the program and use it as a fundraising opportunity, Short noted.

Organizers of Cedar Valley Honor Flight are pleased to announce that a special decal promoting their mission to send area veterans to Washington, DC is now available. Honor Flight decals are $20 each and may be obtained by sending payment to Frank Magsamen, 1065 Prospect Blvd., Waterloo, Iowa 50701. Upon receipt of payment, the decal will be sent to the addres specified with the order.

Drivers wanting to display a decal need to exchange their current plates for a set of decal plates at their county treasurer’s office and pay a $5 fee. Short said, “The decals provide a lot of flexibility. A customer can apply one decal on the front license plate and another on the back, if they choose. You can change decals either by placing one over another or by getting another set of replacement plates for $5, if you want to start over with clean plates for new decals.”

“The new plate not only gives non-profit groups a new way to promote themselves, it gives customers an easy way to express their support for various groups. It also makes it easier and more cost-effective to manage license plate inventory,” Short added.

Short says the decal plates are only available on the standard issue license plate format, but like any standard-issue plate, the decal plates can be ordered with personalization,” she said. There is an additional charge of $25 for personalization and a $5 fee when the plate is renewed.”

So what happens if someone places an unapproved decal on a license plate? Short said, “Iowa Code section 321.34(13) only allows decals that have been approved by the Iowa DOT. If law enforcement sees a plate with an unapproved decal, the owner may be issued a citation.”

Decal plates are on the current standard blue and white plate background. The department is in the process of releasing the new standard plate design chosen at the Iowa State Fair, which is expected to become available in the coming weeks. Once the new license plate design is in production, it will replace the blue and white design as the background for the decal plates.

Non-profit groups seeking additional information about the decal program can logon to the Iowa Department of Transportation’s website at