8 Tips for a Successful Car Wash Fundraiser
With summer here, you’re probably planning to organize a car wash to raise money for a school, church, or charitable cause. If you’ve ever attended one before–whether as a participant or customer–you know there are things you should and shouldn’t do.
Once you have your volunteers and team members (you should have at least five) who are committed to making this work, follow these eight tips for having a successful car wash fundraiser.
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1. Pick a Date: Because you want a lot of volunteers to attend, pick a date 4-5 weeks in advance so everyone can plan around it. Saturdays work best for car washes as many people are on the road without the time constraints of daily commutes. Have a backup day planned in case it rains. Schedule the event to take place from 9 or 10am to 2 or 3pm.
2. Find a Location: Go for a place that has a large parking lot and is easily accessible from a main road or intersection. See if there are any community events that will be drawing traffic which you could be near. Just make sure you ask the parking lot-owner for permission and don’t get in the way of normal business. Ask the property owner about insurance for event liability. This location should have access to water, too.
3. Plan Ahead: Check your city/county environmental laws about drainage. Then, gather your supplies (the more you can borrow, the better): 5-gallon buckets, eco-friendly soap, towels, sponges, brushes, a 150-foot garden hose with spray nozzle, signs, a donation bucket, a clothesline for drying towels, and any other service items (wax, window cleaner).
4. Advertise: Get the word out before the day of your event through flyers and PSAs (if a non-profit fundraiser) that specify when, where, who, why, and how much. Pre-sell tickets ahead of time for those who are interested. Create bright posterboard signs with fun graphics and expressive words.
5. Organize your System: Assign each participant a specific job, like an assembly line. This is both for preparation (location scouting, procuring supplies, etc.) and on the day-of (washer, drying, money collector, advertisers). Determine a fair, attractive price that will still make you money; $5 is typical but you could have two different prices depending on the size of the vehicle. Meet a half-hour early on the day-of to coordinate and set everything up. Have your system organized like a drive-through.
6. Wash Well: Keep the actual washing/drying between 12-15 minutes; if it gets busy, be prepared to break into two lines. Start by rinsing the car using the hose (once all the windows are closed), then drench your sponges in soap and scrub the entire car, including wheels, windows, and license plates. Begin on the roof and work your way down. Rinse the car again, keeping it from drying until you’re done–especially if it’s hot out. Keep your buckets filled with clean soap and avoid getting dirt/gravel in your sponges. Have drinks on hand for your workers!
7. Sell Other Things: While your customers are waiting to get their car washed, sell them things like drinks, baked desserts, hot dogs, snacks, and such. You could even charge a little extra for fancy services such as waxing, vacuuming, or washing windows with special cleaner.
8. Find a Balance: This is probably the most difficult aspect when working with a group of volunteers. Finding a balance between having fun but staying on task can be tricky. Be sure to be loud and get attention from passers-by, but still be polite and behaved enough to make people want to stop. If you do, you’ll have a fantastic car wash fundraiser.
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Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.