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Our thanks to Lance Winslow III, "The Car Wash Guy", who wrote the book "How to Run a Successful Car Wash Fundraiser".

Lance contacted Project HappyChild and gave us permission to serialise this book (free) on our site - we'd like to thank him for this very generous gesture.



Good locations for fundraiser car washes are hard to come by. If you don’t clean up the area and leave it free from trash and debris you not only hurt your group’s future car washes at that location but also other groups in your city who may also need money as much or more than you do. You should also wash down the area with a hose or pressure washer if possible to clean off any mud. Make sure when rinsing the parking lot that you follow the BMP’s in Chapter Two.

Make sure that if anyone wants any of their towels back that they go and get them. Collect all the other towels and save them for your next car wash. Make sure to untie the clothesline you used to dry the towels. Don’t cut it down. There should be no evidence that it was ever there.

Tally up the number of cars washed, ticket sales and donations. Let everyone know how much they earned. This is a form of instant gratification. Remember this is a country built on capitalistic value. By announcing the money made and an ‘ata-boy’, members will feel good about what they have done. The money represents success. Everyone wants to be a winner. Tell them they are winners. You did it! No excuses. You just did it. You accomplished something great through team work. If your group can do this, they can do anything. If you are a sports team you’ve united your team. If you have an upcoming game, you have a much better chance to win. If you’re another kind of group you’ve built unity and confidence in the group and a ‘We’re in it to win it’ attitude.

You should send thank you letters to the following people that have helped you with your group’s car wash:

  • The owner of the property where you did the car wash
  • The printer who printed the tickets
  • The insurance broker that provided the liability insurance if you bought it
  • Any corporate sponsors
  • Water Quality Control government workers
  • Your committee members (if you are a national group have the regional director sign the letter)

You may want to give certificates to some people that made your fundraiser possible. If you give one to the insurance agent or gas station owner, buy a couple of inexpensive frames and frame them. They will proudly display them in their offices. They will think of you each time they see them. Have the person that designed your tickets make the certificates. You can buy special paper from Office Depot, Staples or OfficeMax quite inexpensively. If you have a local stationery store, ask for a twenty percent discount and mention them in your next newsletter. Maybe you can give them a free business card ad in one of your programs for a free package of blank certificates. You should also give certificates to your committee members. Present them at the annual banquet.

Be creative and think of something extra special for thanking the property owner. Maybe a plaque for their wall. Nominate them at the local Chamber of Commerce for an award. Call county officials and tell them of the property owner’s unselfish act. Remember big property owners such as shopping center owners have a lot of political clout. Getting a county supervisor or city council member to recommend them for an award, proclamation or certificate of appreciation is a piece of cake. It also makes the property management company look good. You’re making friends and it can only help you and your group next time.

Try to find a reason to thank a city employee or a city council member. Did they help your fundraiser in any remote way? Present a certificate to them at a city council meeting.

Send the local fixed site car wash owners an apology letter for taking all their business away that weekend. Explain that it’s an annual event. Thank them for their understanding in this matter. Tell them your group’s members promise to continue to patronize their business throughout the rest of the year. You may find that next year they donate $100 to your group’s car wash fundraiser and give you their car wash coupons to give away to every car that comes through your event.

  • Write a letter to each local newspaper. The first paragraph should state:

    "We were overwhelmed by the support we received from local businesses, our city and the community."

    Say things like:

    • What a great town we live in
    • This was the most successful fundraiser ever
    • The weather cooperated and boy did we have fun
    • We were exhausted because we washed so many cars
    • Everyone came together to support a great cause

    Make sure in the letter that you thank the following people:

    • School District Personnel
    • School Principal
    • Gas Station Owner
    • Corporate Sponsors
    • City Employees or City Officials
    • Your Team
    • All the Great Sponsors or Contributors
    • The Public
    • The Car Wash Customers
    • The Weather
    • Environmental People
    • The Printer
    • The Graphics Person
    • Etc.

    Thank the whole world if appropriate, from the biggest contributor to the smallest, in that order.

    Try to make sure the same people that received the pledges knock on the same doors to collect them. With corporate pledges, the leader of your group or the treasurer should go to the company to personally collect the funds and thank them for supporting your group. If your members are reluctant to go back to collect pledges, send them in teams of two or three and cover all of their corresponding areas. If someone refuses to pay, act very sad and tell them how hard you worked. In the Appendix Section of this book you will find a sample receipt for pledge donations form that you can give to each sponsor.

    Try to be objective. If you can’t, just tell everyone they did a perfect job and pat yourself on the back. If you think you can be a little objective, ask yourself:

    • What went wrong?
    • Did you meet your ticket goals?
    • How were pledges?
    • Did anyone complain and if so about what?
    • Was the property owner happy?
    • Did you use due diligence with wash water run off?
    • Did you cause a traffic problem?
    • How long was the line of cars?
    • Was your team exhausted?
    • Did anyone’s temper get out of hand?
    • Did everyone enjoy themselves?
    • How much money did you make?
    • Could you have made more?

    Then ask yourself these questions:

    • What could you change for next year?
    • What problems would that solve?
    • Would this create other problems?

    Write down four to five pages. Be honest. This information will truly be invaluable for next year’s car wash fundraiser group. Send your evaluations to our author. Fax them to 1-888-WASH-GAL. Is there anything left out of this book that you believe was significant? If you belong to a national organization send your basic plan and evaluation to them also. Other chapters of your organization may be planning a car wash fundraiser. No sense in making the same mistakes twice. These other chapters will have similar makeups of people types, ages and values that are different than other organizations. I have visited hundreds of organizations. I have watched them make mistakes at car washes that I myself hadn’t thought of. Most of these mistakes are mentioned in this book. But there will always be new pitfalls. If you do everything in this book you can be successful and beat your projections even if you make a few mistakes along the way. Share your information and your wealth.

    New additions to this book can be found on the Car Wash Guys International, Inc. corporate web site. The address is:

    Put this book and your evaluation pages in a folder with a piece of paper recommending a tentative date for next year’s car wash fundraiser. Put a big rubber band on the folder so nothing falls out. Write across the folder "Top Secret - Car Wash Fundraising Information" at a 45 angle. On the tab on the folder write the month of your tentative date. Give this folder to the treasurer of your group. This way it won’t get lost and it will be automatically transferred to next year’s treasurer. Even if you are not involved in the group next year, your car wash fundraiser event’s legacy will live on. The treasurer in any group will generally be very responsible and will also know the reality surrounding your group’s financial picture. They will surely bring this folder to the group’s attention if they get low on funds.

    When picking a date for next year, stay away from three-day weekends, religious holidays, county fairs and predominately rainy months.

    Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6

    "How to Run a Successful Car Wash Fundraiser" - Chapter 6
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