A carwash fundraiser can be a great opportunity to raise money for any cause in a single afternoon. If done right, you can make several thousand dollars to go towards your cause or charity. As your team is preparing for the big day, there are a few tips and tricks that you may not have thought of to get the most out of the afternoon.
From tax implications to maximizing your revenue, take a look at these 10 important tips that you may not have thought of:
1. Understand Your Tax Structure as an Organization Beforehand
Depending on what type of organization you are operating under, it’s probably a good idea to check to see if donations are tax-exempt. For non-profit organizations (and some schools) you may have your 501(c)3 Federal Tax ID. This is actually pretty helpful to have if you are looking to participate in AutoBell’s Car Wash Fundraising Program. This can be a good turnkey way to run your car wash, since they provide gift cards that you can later sell, but they do require this type of document in order to allow your team to perform services. Keep in mind that I am no tax expert, but it’s a good idea to consult with your organization’s treasurer or tax expert.
2. Select a Good Location
When it comes to running a carwash fundraiser, there are a few things to keep in mind. One of the most important factors to a successful day is the location. You want to select a very high traffic area preferably near an intersection, where people will be forced to stop and pay attention to what is around them.
Here are a few ideas that I have heard mentioned:
- Police station
- Gas station. One of the most popular options I’ve seen.
- Big box store parking lot (Some have mentioned K-mart or Walmart as being good locations)
- School parking lot. If you’re raising money for your school, this is one of the easiest and most obvious places to have a car wash. However, if you’re school is not in town (like my old high school!) you may want to reconsider
- AutoBell or another carwash franchise. As mentioned earlier, this is a good option if you are looking for a full turnkey operation.
You will also want to check with local business owners beforehand to make sure you are free to use the area for carwashing. If at all possible, consider using eco-friendly products and make use this as a selling point when you begin advertising. Some cities have rules against water runoff and contamination, so it might be smart to make sure you aren’t in violation.
3. Create Wash Packages
Another quick tip you may want to consider to maximize your profits is to create different wash packages for your customers. In addition to creating signs, create another with various wash packages.
Your basic wash option may include just a basic wash, while an ‘ultimate package’ could include full interior detailing, washing, exterior polishing and tire dressing. Below is a simple car wash package for inspiration:
Source: Millburn Car Wash
4. Create a Simple Checklist and Delegate Responsibilities
The last thing you want is to forget an important purchase you will need to make beforehand (like sprayers, nozzles, etc.). It may be a good idea to create a simple checklist and distribute it to everyone involved. For example, your wash team can decide what supplies you need to purchase ahead of time and who’s bringing what.
You’ll obviously need cleaning supplies like soap for the outside, as well as any interior cleaning products, a registration table, money box, etc. Below is a free printer-friendly checklist you can use (or edit) to help you get started:
5. Create a Promotion Plan
Having a good marketing and promotion gameplan goes hand in hand with a sales strategy. This can be as simple as designating a few team members responsible for creating and promoting the event on Facebook and other social media channels.
Your promotions team should also be responsible for creating signage for the event, like flyers, posters, banners, and road signs. On the day of the event, you’ll need a few people holding signs to drive traffic to the event itself. Be sure to indicate what cause or charity you are raising money for to avoid any kind of confusion.
In addition to the streetcorner your carwash is at, consider targeting a couple additional busy intersections to set up at. You can work in shifts with your wash team throughout the day, making sure everyone gets a break from washing cars all day.
If your budget allows, you may also want to consider running an ad in your local newspaper or radio station or even an ad on a local news site. It really depends on your demographic and what medium your audience prefers.
Facebook is also a great advertising option if you can afford it. They offer some pretty good targeting options to ensure you reach the most people as possible in your town or geographic area.
In terms of the graphics you will need, if you don’t already have a graphic designer on your team, you can use websites like Fiverr.com to get custom flyers, logos, and just about anything you need created for as little as 5 dollars!
Anything bright and eye-catching is perfect for signage or flyers, with a large headline. Pick up a couple of bright green or yellow posters and markers, and you’re good to go.
6. Consider Add-on Items
While your customers are waiting to have their cars washed, you can also sell other items to increase revenue. Since summertime is probably the most popular for car washes, lemonade or other ice cold beverages are a great option to increase overall revenue. Having baked goods available is also an easy add-on for bringing in extra money.
While your customers are waiting to have their car’s washed, having a designated waiting area (under a tent or preferably inside) might be a good place to offer these add-on services or products as well as a place to collect donations.
7. Choose the Right Date
Avoid major holidays like Labor Day, July 4th, or other busy holidays were people are likely to be out of town or tied up. It might be a good idea to pick at least two dates in case of bad weather that you can print or use in marketing materials.
Also be sure to pick a good time. You want to avoid washing cars late at night or too early in the morning, so decide what time you want to get started.
Based on our research, somewhere around 10:00-11:00am is a good time for washing cars, and before 5pm or sundown, depending on location.
8. Design a Good Layout for Your Carwash
Depending on where you are planning to have your car wash, be sure to have an idea of how you want customers to enter and exit the premises. For example, you may have a registration table for handling cash, credit cards, or tickets you have already pre-sold.
Another section of the parking lot could be a customer waiting area with snacks or drinks you can sell or provide in return for a donation.
Depending on how large your staff is, you could potentially have several wash stations separated by cones, one for a basic wash, one for premium, etc.
9. Organize Your Team
Simply showing up and washing cars isn’t probably the best option to really maximize your success. Many have suggested organizing your volunteers into various teams prior to the event, which I think is a great idea. Not everyone may want to wash cars for 5 or 6 hours, so you can switch up with other team members throughout the day. One advantage of splitting into teams is the fact that everyone will understand what they are responsible for bringing. While there can be some overlap, here are a few basic functions to consider:
This team should be responsible for creating your marketing and promotions gameplan leading up to the event. Assign responsibilities like who will be responsible for creating and posting signage, flyers, and running social media. You also should think about who will be working to attract cars be holding signs, etc. More on that in a second.
Before you get started, decide who on your team is best prepared to wash cars throughout the day. For strangers that happen to drive up and stop by, you want to make sure that this team actually knows how to properly wash cars, rims, tires, and what to avoid in order to not damage vehicles.
A good option to stay eco-friendly is to use biodegradable soaps. Simple green makes an affordable soap specifically for washing cars that I found here on Amazon. They specialize in biodegradable soaps, sprays, and pretty much everything you’ll need for a car wash.
As with the former, you will need to have a team that is responsible for drying (and possibly detailing) the exterior of the vehicles you are washing. Their job is to make sure the wash team didn’t miss a spot, and can even apply some detailing spray if you have the budget.
Forming a team that cleans and details the interior is up to you, but can be a great option if you plan to focus on making the most money per car. You’ll need supplies to clean both leather conditioner/wipes, a vacuum, and general purpose detailing wipes or spray for example.
Your sales team’s main function will be managing money at the car wash itself, and beforehand. One strategy that you may want to try is to sell car wash coupons (or tickets) prior to the fundraiser itself to begin generating money instantly. Some people will likely forget about your carwash anyway (or have other plans), so it’s a great strategy.
One benefit of having a sales team, is that you can expand your reach beyond the traffic you will receive on the day of your fundraiser. In addition to selling tickets, approaching local sponsors is another income stream that I will discuss in a minute.
If you sell tickets prior to the event, you might want to think about having an inclement weather date printed on the ticket. Just in case it rains, you want to have a backup option for people who already purchased tickets. One website I found that can print 250 event tickets for around $25 is uprinting.com.
You may only want a couple people on your sales team (obviously trustworthy people good with handling money!) but can really help make your event financially successful.
10. Consider Approaching Local Sponsors to Provide Supplies
Depending on how large your fundraiser is, selling sponsorships in advance to local businesses in order to purchase supplies or provide extra revenue can be a great strategy. Your sales team can either accept cash and feature their logo or signage throughout the carwash, or find a sponsor that can help provide the supplies you will need.
For example, you local print shop may be able to help out with providing signage (with their logo featured), as well as help out with printing any other marketing materials you may need.
Hopefully you have what you need to have a successful carwash fundraiser that makes the most money possible for your charity or organization. I realize some of these tips may be a little too cumbersome for your organization, which is totally fine. They’re just meant to give you an outline of what could possibly increase your rate of return by structuring you fundraiser like a business.
Getting everyone involved early on can really make it a fun experience instead of a dreaded activity no one wants to participate in. Have any other tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments for what has worked for you in the past!