Car Wash Fundraiser

Dear Kim:

My organization is thinking about having a car wash at the end of this month. Do you think that is a good way to raise money? And how can we receive more while we are washing cars?

–Don’t Want it to be a Wash

Dear Wash:

Car washes by themselves don’t usually raise large sums of money, but can be a good option for your group under the following circumstances:

1.You’ve already asked people you know for a contribution to your group and need to find a way to raise money from a new source of supporters,

2.You have a group of volunteers willing to spend a few hours washing cars,

3.You have a good location for the car wash, with enough traffic to bring in the spontaneous consumer, and a place to safely dispose of the runoff from the car wash that can otherwise pollute,

4.As you mentioned, you can add on other income-generating activities to make the car wash more profitable. Here’s an example of an extremely successful car wash that takes place every year and raises a lot of money:

A music teacher at a public middle school in San Francisco organizes an annual (one-day only) car wash as a fundraiser for the music department. What makes this car wash unusual, and financially very successful, is that it is organized as a pledge-raising event. The students are recruited to wash the cars, and to ask people they know to sponsor them for each car that is washed that day. They set a goal of washing 200 cars, so, for example, if someone pledges $.05 per car, their donation is $10. A total of 250 students participate, at various levels. Each student is asked to get a minimum of $25 in pledges. The cars are washed for free, and they set up a donation box for people getting their cars washed to make a voluntary contribution. In more recent years, they’ve added a bake sale at the car wash, which brings in additional funds. Now in its 10th year, they raise about $12,000 from the pledges, another $1,000 from donations, and $300 – $500 from the bake sale.

Good luck!

–Stephanie Roth

For more information on car washes and other fundraising strategies, check out “The Accidental Fundraiser: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Money for Your Cause” by Stephanie Roth and Mimi Ho at the Jossey-Bass web site:
You can use “JBNPD” as the promotional code to get 20% off the cover price