How to Hold a Successful Fundraising Car Wash and Maximize Donations

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Holding a successful fundraising car wash requires more than just a location with running water. The ideal location is highly visible, convenient to pull in and out of, and has plenty of parking for waiting and finished cars. If possible, it should be near a variety of restaurants and stores to keep the customers happy if the wait gets long, as you hope it does. A good example of a perfect location is at a business in the outer parking lot area of a mall or shopping strip anchored by a large store like Wal-Mart or Target. There will be adequate parking and car wash customers can shop, eat or grab a soda within easy walking distance. When considering how to have a successful fundraising car wash, location should be a primary concern.


In the weeks before the event, advertise. Enlist the help of local radio announcers and put up flyers (with permission) in stores around the car wash location. If the car wash is a fundraiser for a school team or group, make announcements at school games and events, put an ad in the school paper, and hang up posters inside and outside the school for students and the community to see.

Sell Advance Tickets

Selling advance tickets is a way to ensure the success of a fundraising car wash even before it begins. Give participants a number of tickets to sell to family, friends, and neighbors beginning 2 weeks in advance. Each ticket should be signed by each participant before sale, using a ball point pen and pressing hard to make an impression to avoid copy attempts. Require that the money and/or unsold tickets be returned before the car wash begins. Some people will buy a ticket and not show up, considering the money a donation, so selling advance tickets not only means additional business, it means money in excess of per-car revenue.

Extra Services

Offering a valet service to drop and pick up customers at a nearby store cuts down on time objections. Enlist adults not actively involved in washing to chauffeur. Give the customers a cell phone number to call when they are ready for pick up.

Vacuuming is a nice extra to offer. Solicit Shop Vacs from parents and set up a heavy-duty extension cord and a couple of vacuum areas well away from the wash area. To be thorough, vacuum, wipe down the dash, and clean the windows and mirrors using a bucket of water with a squirt of dish washing liquid added and a squeegee for that professional touch. Charge extra for this service.

Set up a tent or a few beach umbrellas over some folding chairs to give both customers and workers a place to cool off. Gallons of lemonade, iced tea, and water on hand are an inexpensive way to keep workers refreshed and customers appreciative.

Customer Satisfaction

The most common complaint heard at car washes is the quality of the work. Before you return the car to the owner, have a quality team check to make sure it’s all clean, and run it through the car wash a second time if it fails. Good public relations can net even more business. People love to talk about good service, and they love to complain about bad service. The key on how to have a successful fundraising car wash is ultimately about customer satisfaction.