Summertime is the Right time for a Car Wash Fundraiser

“Workin' at the car wash. Workin' at the car wash—yeah! Come on and sing it with me…car wash. Get with the feelin' at the car wash—yeah!”

Car Wash

For some reason summertime and car washes seem to go hand-in-hand just like the song says. So if you need a summer fundraiser, why not make it a car wash?

As the motors get revving this summer, it seems like everyone wants a clean car to cruise around town in. Fundraisers that provide those donating with a service are typically very successful.

Now a car wash fundraiser will be the most successful if your group or organization has a large base of teenagers or adult volunteers, which means it’s ideal for highschool groups and teams of any kind—especially the football, basketball, baseball, soccer or cheerleading squad. However, church youth groups and other group organizations that have access to teen volunteers will do just as well!

Setting up your Car Wash

The great thing about a car wash fundraiser is that it takes very little planning—and you can do it in almost any empty parking lot. If your organization doesn’t own a building with a large parking lot, you will want to approach locale business owners to use their lots. Before you do, remember that the most desirable areas will be those with easy access and high traffic.

So choose a lot that’s based in the city center, one with adequate room so that cars can line up and one that participants can enter and exit easily with their automobiles. A church parking lot will usually work best on any day but a Sunday, as church service won’t be hindered in any way, and the lot will likely be empty.

Calling all Volunteer Scrubbers and Buffers

Ideally, your volunteers will be largely made up of your youth group or team. However if you are also recruiting parents, be sure to give them adequate notice—typically groups will send home a flyer detailing the event and the need for volunteers a month in advance.

You can send home a follow up reminder in the monthly parental newsletter, and follow up with interested volunteers via a phone call a week before the event.

Ask that all volunteers commit to a two hour time slot, and create a rotating schedule so that washers get a large break from the heat. Ideally you will have enough volunteers to assign each a two hour work shift with no repeats, so they don’t get worn out.

Car Washing Supplies

If you’re planning to use a church parking lot, ask for permission and ensure that the building has an exterior water supply. You may have to provide your own hoses in addition to the following list of car wash essentials:

  • Soap
  • Sponges
  • Rags—dry and wet
  • Towels
  • Windex
  • Steel wool pads for tire shining
  • Wax
  • Buffer chamois
  • Bristol board and markers for signs (post a few volunteers on the street to wave cars in)
  • Fanny packs for all volunteers to collect keep money
  • Change cash flow

Dress for Success

The key to a successful car wash is being well prepared, and that means happy and comfortable volunteers. Ask all volunteers to wear waterproof clothing, or attire they are willing to get wet and possibly dirty.

Asking for Sponsorship

Also ensure that you have water and snacks for your volunteers. Washing and buffing cars for two hours can be strenuous physical labor. Add the fact that your volunteers are likely working in an open parking lot without much shade from the sun and exhaustion could spell disaster.

Providing drinks to ward off dehydration, and snacks to provide some extra energy is vital to your event’s success. Providing sun block, or at least asking washers to bring their own, is also very smart.

You can ask for snack and drink sponsorship via your local convenience or grocery store. Many are happy to lend helping fuel if you agree to mention them as sponsors—especially if your event is being covered by the local press. You can even give them the opportunity to set up a vendor booth and sell food and drinks to those getting their cars washed.

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