Car Wash Fundraiser – Guide to Raising Money Successfully

Car wash fundraisers are popular for a reason. They take little money to run and a few volunteers – and organizations can raise hundreds of dollars in a single day! It can also be a fun and easy way to get younger team members including students and volunteers involved in fundraising. So, how can you…

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Car Wash Fundraiser – Guide to Raising Money Successfully

Car wash fundraisers are popular for a reason. They take little money to run and a few volunteers – and organizations can raise hundreds of dollars in a single day!

It can also be a fun and easy way to get younger team members including students and volunteers involved in fundraising. So, how can you ensure the success of your car wash fundraiser?

This article shares steps, tips, ideas, and FAQs to help make your next car wash a money-making event.

7 Steps to Organize a Successful Car Wash Fundraiser

Car washes don’t take much money or workforce to run, but there are steps you mustn’t skip.

Note: Before you start with any car wash fundraiser, you must ensure car washes are legal in your area. In some communities in the United States, water runoff can contaminate drains and water sources and endanger people and animals.

1. Choose the date and location

If your community does allow a car wash, the first step you’ll take is to decide on the best day and time for your car wash. Midday Saturday or Sunday is generally the best option since most people are already off work and driving around in the community.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re planning your location –

  • Choose a busy road.
  • Try to stay near your community, especially if you’re fundraising for a church or school.
  • Make sure you get the property owner’s approval.
  • Make sure you have access to water with a hose or water system.

2. Determine your budget

Finalizing your budget is one of the vital steps to take during any event planning, and car wash fundraisers are no different.

As we mentioned earlier, car washes don’t cost much to run, but you can do a few things to lower your event’s expenses.

Before spending any money, you’ll want to determine the cost of the supplies you’ll need.

The most common objects include –

  • Hoses
  • Buckets
  • Sponges
  • Washcloths
  • Dry towels
  • Soap
  • Polishing tools and products
  • Markers
  • Posterboard

If you include a concession stand for donors to enjoy while they wait, additional costs may include the following –

  • Soda
  • Water
  • Cups
  • Napkins
  • Chips
  • Cookies

Once you have a good idea of how much these items will cost, you’ll want to find as many ways to save money as possible, including –

  • Borrowing cleaning supplies
  • Using free tools like Canva for flyers and posters

As you determine your expenses, you’ll also need to finalize the event’s income. When choosing how much to charge, decide if you want to offer different packages or one price for each car.

3. Assign each team member a job

Now it’s time to find the best way to use your volunteers or team members. Car washes have enough jobs to keep all your volunteers busy for the day.

You can assign team members to the following positions –

  • Car washers
  • Sign holders and greeters
  • Payment collectors
  • Concession vendors
  • Game hosts
  • Fundraising officers
  • Social media and email communication managers

When you assign people to these jobs, do your best to find the best job for the volunteer, and don’t be afraid to move people around if you see something not working.

4. Set up an online donation form

You have assigned your team members the job of fundraising. But how do you facilitate that? Simple – with an online donation form that is quick and easy for your donors!

If you’re already using an online fundraising solution, it should be easy for you to set up your donation form for this purpose. With Donorbox, it takes only a few minutes. You can customize your donation form with your brand color, add donation tiers with context about the impact of each tier, ask any additional questions, and more.

Donorbox donation forms come enabled with Donorbox UltraSwift ™ Pay, which includes digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, and PayPal to make for a 4x faster checkout! With QuickDonate™, they can log in to their Donorbox donor portal to give again with just one click.

Here’s an example of a donation form created by OnRamp to raise money for their mission to support familiar in need of transportatin. As you can see, they have included a wide range of ask amounts targeting each level of donor along with impact information. This shows donors that you care about every donor’s giving ability.

car wash fundraising donation form

Create Customized Donation Forms!

5. Promote the event

Once you’ve set up your fundraising, it’s time for you to spread the word.

You’ll want to promote and market your event to the public a week or two beforehand. Start by posting on social media and asking your volunteers to spread the word to their friends and family.

You should also create flyers and posters to post around local businesses and at your location.

Ask your team member in charge of communication to send out email messages to all donors. Your existing donor base is your biggest supporter. Make sure they’re aware of this event.

Pro tip: If you’re including concessions and add-on games, set up an event page online and sell tickets to the event. Next, share the event page link with donors via emails and social media posts. Encourage them to buy tickets by promoting the attractions of the event on various online platforms. Donorbox Events lets you create an event page that is customizable to add event descriptions, images, unlimited ticket tiers, a purchase deadline, ticket quantity limits, tax-deductibility, and more. You can also accept additional donations right from your event page!

Try Donorbox Events!

6. Make a volunteer schedule

Before the event day, you’ll need to break up your volunteer’s schedules.

Most car washes run around four hours, so it’s best to break your volunteer schedule into one-to-two-hour shifts. This way, you have enough work for everyone, and no one feels overwhelmed and frustrated.

When creating your schedule, give volunteers an exact time and details about each job. Let volunteers sign up for what interests them. You can type and print out your schedule or use online volunteer management websites like POINT or ScheduleOnce.

7. Gather volunteers for a test run

The day before your car wash fundraiser, you’ll want to have a test run for your volunteers. You must ensure all supplies are available and stored at the location.

You’ll also want to have volunteers try washing a car and use a timer to see how long it takes. This will make it easier to move the cars quickly.

4 Car Wash Fundraising Ideas to Raise More Money

Car washes can be money-makers if you know the best ways to raise more money. The following five tips are simple to add to your event.

1. Find a Sponsor

Nonprofits looking for ways to lower event expenses can search for sponsors.

If you already have connections with local companies, create and send them a sponsorship package with different levels. Be sure to include different perks like adding their logo to your event flyer and allowing them to have a table at your event.

You can also search for and find in-kind donors to cover the cost of cleaning and marketing supplies.

2. Use two lines to wash more cars at once

If you have enough volunteers, it’s best to create two lines and wash more than one car at a time.

Organize your team members to make smaller groups and ensure everyone knows their job.

During your test run, make sure to have volunteers work on two cars simultaneously and have the cars enter and leave to ensure you don’t have problems the next day.

3. Offer a free car wash and ask for donations

Offering a free car wash may seem counterintuitive when hoping to raise more money. If you have a solid donor base, your supporters may be more generous than you expect.

This is especially true for school groups where parents and friends are bound to stop by. The best way you can ensure more donations is to add a donation kiosk to your event strategy.

Don’t worry – it doesn’t take much! Just a tablet, a card reader, and an app will make it possible for you to accept contactless donations via quick swipes, dips, and taps of cards and smartphones.

Donorbox Live ™ Kiosk helps you turn an iPad or Android tablet – and a paired card reader device – into a donation kiosk. Just activate the add-on, create a campaign on Donorbox, add your ask amounts, and then add this app to your tablet. That’s all – you’ll be ready to get donations through simple steps and speedy transactions!

Image of Live Kiosk in action on a tablet, including three types of payment options - credit card, smartwatch, and smartphone.

Donorbox Live™ Kiosk - Learn More!

4. Add more fun-raising activities for drivers as they wait

Some drivers will get out of their cars while you wash. It’s important to give them a place to rest, away from the chaos, and provide some concessions and games.

As long as you set up chairs and a shady spot, your supporters will be happy. If you want to try and earn more money, you can also include a raffle for visitors.

Pro tip: Add a sign with your nonprofit’s mission and a QR code linked to your donation page so people can donate online. With Donorbox, you get a free QR code with every campaign you create. You’ll also be able to customize this QR code to add any other link and change the download format. Next, download the code and share it with visitors on the day of the car wash!

Get QR Code to Fundraise - Sign Up!

Bonus – Tips to Create Car Wash Fundraiser Flyers and Signs that Work

The primary advertisement for your car wash will be flyers and signs. Your organization can use these three tips to make sure you get noticed.

1. Bright colors and text that’s large enough to see

Cars drive by quickly, so your signs need to be big and bright. If the location has property stakes or trees, you should also see if you can use them to tie and hang up your signs.

2. Use a theme or gimmick

Another way to draw attention to your car wash is with a gimmick.

What makes your organization or car wash different? Are you eco-friendly, or is it a holiday?

Either of these may help you stand out. You can also rent a costume or two and have your sign-holders dress up and dance around. If you do choose a gimmick or theme, you’ll want to make sure it relates to your organization’s mission to avoid confusion.

3. Share prices

Your signs must also include as much information as possible to bring people in. Sharing your car wash prices may be enough to draw in a crowd.

Or if it’s free and you accept donations, highlight that to get more people to join.

When people enter your location, you’ll also want to have a sign listing all potential upsells, including –

  • Polish
  • Scrub tires and hubcaps
  • Vacuum and dust the inside

Need more insights into creating a fundraising flyer? We have written a blog with tips, ideas, and examples to help you get started!

Final Thoughts

After learning ways to raise more funds with this article’s steps, tips, and additional ideas, you’re ready to hold your car wash fundraiser.

Donorbox is there to help you raise money with your car wash fundraiser with customizable fundraising forms and pages, event ticketing, and more! Check out our complete range of products and features on the website here.

For more fundraising ideas, check out our Nonprofit Blog. You’ll find hundreds of nonprofit-related articles and free resources.

Donorbox Library is a hub of free templates and checklists, meant to ease your fundraising, donor management, and event organizing efforts – check out the collection here!

Subscribe to our newsletter for a curated list of Donorbox’s best resources including blogs, podcasts, webinars, and more in your inbox every month!

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

1. When is the best time for a car wash fundraiser?

It’s best to find a day and time when most people are available and driving around. Saturday and Sunday, from 9 am to 3 pm are the most common times for car wash fundraisers.

2. How to find the ideal locations for a car wash event?

When choosing a location for your next car wash fundraiser, you’ll want to find a busy road where people can see you so you’ll get more traffic!

3. Would nonprofits require approval from the local government?

It’s always important to check with your local government to make sure car washes are legal in your area. Water runoff can sometimes infect drains and water sources and make local animals and people sick.

4. Which nonprofits and charities can hold a car wash fundraiser?

Anyone can hold a car wash fundraiser, although you must let supporters know if you’re not a registered nonprofit. Since donors also receive something in exchange for their gift, you must also share with supporters the value of their car wash and if it’s of equal or greater value than their donation. Only donations above this are tax-deductible.

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Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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