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How to Run a Successful Car Wash
As with almost anything, the amount of preparation you do will be in direct proportion to the success of your fundraiser. Pre-planning preparation is the key between just another car wash and an unforgettable experience. In this chapter I will discuss the necessary steps you must go through to insure a successful car wash.
You should pick a date six weeks or more in advance if at all possible. Obviously, if everything could be coordinated correctly, this would be easy. Unfortunately we all know that if its the end of the year or season and your budget is in the hole and youre short a couple of thousand dollars, you really have no choice. You may even have less than a week or two to prepare. Dont worry. Simply sped up the time line. Try cutting everything by a third.
Check the Calendar Section of your local newspaper. Are there any major community events occurring on the same day as your planned car wash fundraiser? A conflict of interest may cause a decrease in the same day attendance. A decrease in cars could cause as much as twenty to thirty percent in lost revenue. If, on the other hand, you coordinate a time, date and location that corresponds to the other event, lets say down the street a half a mile or less, you could add fifty percent more cars. You might try to put your car wash fundraiser across the street in a parking lot, gas station, etc. Better yet, ask the other group if you can have your fundraiser in their parking lot. Offer them ten percent of the proceeds if their event is also a fundraiser. How can they say no? This could almost double the number of cars washed.
What about rain? Thats a great point. You should have a rain date. Perhaps the following week or two to three weeks later. Three weeks later is good because you may want to do another fundraiser even if it doesnt rain. Your group may need more money. If they had fun or you didnt reach one hundred percent of projected earnings another fundraiser car wash might be the way to go. Make sure that your rain date doesnt conflict with any big events either.
How do you get people to volunteer? This is tough. Its usually the same ten percent of the people who do ninety percent of the work. Since obviously you are one of these, and you dont want to be burdensome to the same people who always do all the work, try to get some one new involved. Its a fun assignment and you will be pleasantly surprised to find that people seem to enjoy working at these types of fundraisers more than they do candy sales, bake sales, casino nights, garage sales, etc. People tend to associate car wash fundraisers with fun. To help get volunteers, announce that youre thinking of coordinating a fundraiser. Name three or four truly mundane ideas. Then say "or maybe a car wash"? The first to agree that this is a worthy idea should be co-chairman of this years car wash committee. If they are really excited and extroverted put them in charge of public relations/publicity and recruitment. You will need about four to six people on your committee to do a large fundraiser.
You should seriously consider selling presale tickets for your car wash. There are a lot of advantages in preselling your tickets such as:
You will also have use of the money in advance even in the event of rain. Your rain date might be three weeks later yet you have most of the money in your coffers now.
Lets take one of our 1990 car washes. It was for the local high school band. There were one hundred plus students in the band. The average student sold twenty tickets at $5.00 each. The presale ended up about $10,000. That in itself would be great, but it gets better. The day of the event we raised $985.00 in drive-ups. Some of the girls on the drill team waved tall flags and others held poster board signs that brought the cars in all right. We washed 408 cars. Wow, were we tired! We had two solid lines of cars at least fifteen deep all day long. 201 cars were drive-ups with no presale tickets. With tips included that made up the $985.00. That left 207 cars worth of presale with tickets. But you say, "How can that be?" 207 times $5.00 = only $1,035.00. Thats right. Since our lines were so long a lot of people didnt claim their tickets or never intended on coming in the first place or forgot or had some thing else to do that day. I believe it was a combination of all these reasons. Whatever the reason, the money went to a good cause. Weve had many many fundraisers that have been equally successful over the years.
Now someone will have to typeset these tickets and have them printed. There is probably someone in your group who is a graphic artist or really good with a PC or MAC computer. Theyll do fine. The tickets should be eight to ten on a page. You should print them on colored paper so they are not easily duplicated. You should pick a color that matches with your church, club or schools colors. Have the tickets cut. Put the individual tickets into piles of twenty. Put a piece of cardboard or poster board the exact size underneath each stack. Buy some rubber cement. Put about ten stacks of twenty tickets on top of each other and put them in a vice. Paint the rubber cement on the left side of the ticket book and let dry for one hour. Repeat until you have enough booklets for each member. You might want to print another dozen booklets just in case. If the tickets are selling fast, you dont want to run out. That will break your momentum.
You should have frequent ticket sales progress meetings with the people selling the car wash tickets. That way, if sales arent meeting goals you can help motivate members or reorganize the group.
Tickets can be expensive to print. Ask a local print shop to advertise on the back and become a sponsor in exchange for half price or free printing of the tickets. Most print shops do binding so you may be able to trade for that and save you the time and aggravation of binding the ticket books yourself. Print shops will do a more professional job at binding than you can do on your first time trying. Professional tickets are more presentable and look more official when selling to customers. This will help your group in their selling efforts.
If you dont want to subject your group to selling tickets because they have been selling tickets to other events and selling candy all year, there is another way to make a lot of money at your car wash fundraiser. Wash all the cars for free. You say, "Hey, wait a minute, we want to make money." Thats right. Have your group go around and ask people to get pledges for each car washed. While getting pledges give out free car wash coupons to your pledgers. You may also want to give coupons to those people who refuse to pledge. This will make them feel cheap or guilty. If they come to your car wash they will more than likely donate to your organization anyway.
In wash-a-thon car washes you will ask people for one cent to five cents per car washed. Have family members of pledge drivers sign up first. Normally they will pledge a higher amount per car. If your other customers see high pledges they will be more apt to also pledge a higher amount per car. You should put fifteen to twenty people on a page. Ask pledge drivers to fill out 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pages each.
We did a car wash like this with the Boy Scouts in Northern California. Four different troops, same car wash. They used the money to travel to the annual National Scout Jamboree. Each young man got an average of fifty-one pledges. The average pledge was four cents each. We washed 262 cars and had a total of 63 boys in the four groups. They went door to door in their neighborhoods in uniforms in teams of two. Do you have a calculator?
Wow! They all had a lot of fun at their jamboree. Remember, when asking for pledges, cute little boys and girls will get pledges more easily. The older they are the more difficult it becomes.
We have also had success with older kids such as cheerleaders, drill teams and Say no to drugs groups. You should also note that if youre not diligent in collecting pledges right away your collection percentages will drop to ten to thirty percent uncollectable. Some of your members will be reluctant to go back and collect. Remember, going back twice is twice the work. You may want to give pledgers an option of paying a flat rate, but be careful. If you collect a flat rate in advance such as $3.00 to $4.00 you may be cutting your earnings in half. In the case of the Boy Scouts versus dirty cars, their average was $8.48 per car. At four dollars average flat rate, they would have lost $4.48 per car washed. Over one-half. Pledges are better but do require an extra trip.
Now does this mean you refuse money? No, dont refuse money. Try for pledges first. If that doesnt work, pull out a different sign up sheet and have them fill that out. Keep those flat rates off your pledge sign up sheets. They will cause others to break ranks and cause you lost revenue. People tend to pledge or donate what other people pledge or donate. Its kind of like follow the leader. If on one page you get a couple of people giving you a flat rate, ten more people will also go for the flat rate when they see that page.
There is a sample pledge form, number of cars washed form and a flat rate sign up sheet form in the Appendix Section of this book.
Bringing the troops together isnt easy. First they need to be motivated. Chances are you already have synergy in your group. You need to harvest this synergy to make an effective team. There are a number of assignments to do to have a successful fundraiser. If this is a sports team or other well-organized group, you will already have a support structure which will help tremendously. You will first need to set up a car wash fundraiser committee. Here are the assignments:
Since you are probably in charge, seeing as you are reading this book, your job description is as follows:
Make sure you feel confident that you can do all this. If not, either get the confidence or explain briefly the car wash fundraiser idea and give this book to a person who you know can do anything. The other job descriptions are as follows:
You will be meeting throughout a seven week period. Six weeks prior and one week post car wash fundraiser on a periodic basis. Dont lose control of your meetings. The easiest way to stay in control is to have a list of items to discuss. Try not to stray from the subject matter. If one of your members of a committee is not needed at that particular meeting, do not ask them to be there. You dont want to waste their time. At general meetings such as progress report meetings you will definitely need everyone in attendance.
This is one of the first things that must be done. Its important when selecting a location to remember traffic count and visibility. You need to start selling tickets three weeks in advance and the location must be printed on the tickets. It might take one week to print the tickets. That leaves two weeks or less to find a location provided that you start your preparation six weeks in advance. If you start late, you personally should go out today (now) and secure a good location before organizing your group. Dont necessarily take the first location that comes along. Generally the best locations are harder to get.
Fixed car wash owners have always known that its best to find a location in the busiest part of town near the busiest intersection. One half of a fixed site car washs business will come from within a three mile radius. If a mountain intersects that three mile circle and there are no homes on that mountain, then it becomes dead zone where no customers will come from. Same for lakes, rivers, freeways, etc. If that mountain were shaped like a pie within the three mile radius, the percent of potential population that the pie area represents would need to be subtracted from that one half of the car washs volume. Fixed site car wash owners use very scientific methods in determining the highest profit locations for their businesses. Remember, your group will be car wash owners for one day.
Usually a gas station has an umbrella insurance policy to cover just about anything even a special event, but not always. Sometimes they may have such a policy but be unsure of the exact coverage and therefore require you to get insurance for your event anyway. This gives them piece of mind knowing they are covered.
School districts have this type of insurance for all student activities already. You will usually see these types of events at the local high school through out the sunny seasons.
If you are at a commercial shopping center, you will most likely need general liability insurance for your event. Event Insurance will probably run $50.00 to $75.00 but could be as high as $150.00 if additional insurance certificates are requested. Most shopping center property managers will want to re-assign the risk of liability. They will need a letter from the group, a diagram of the layout and washing area and insurance. If you can provide these items, they will probably let you have your car wash fundraiser on their property. Its good public relations for the center and their tenants. They may also be concerned with the soaps you are using on their lot because resurfacing is expensive.
What kind of insurance should you ask for? Ask for event insurance for a car wash fundraiser. The insurance agent/broker will ask you basic questions such as:
Some of these questions will be easy to answer such as who, what, when, where and how. You may not have thought about moving vehicles. Your answer should be yes even if you dont move any cars. If a person gets out of there car and leaves the key in the ignition and walks over to buy a soda or hot dog from your fundraiser, then theoretically you are in control of that vehicle. Legally speaking that vehicle is in your care, custody and control and this may require what is called a garage keepers liability endorsement. How much money do you expect to earn the day of the event? This may seem like your groups business only, but some policies, even event policies, could be based upon gross sales. How many certificates do you need? You may not know this either. Obviously you need one for the property owner. After all, the only reason that you are talking to the insurance agent/broker is because they asked for one. You may want to think about this for a second.
As long as you are buying insurance, what about insurance for your group? You may as well get a certificate for them too. Do you belong to a national group? Maybe they are self-insured or already have insurance for such an event. This might save you some money provided that their limits of liability are in line with the requirements that the property owner has requested. Remember that the limits of liability required of your event are usually negotiable. Gas station owners may settle for $100,000 single limit liability and $300,000 aggregate. If not, have your agent/broker do the work. They can reassure the property owners that the insurance carrier they will be going through is an A+ rated carrier and that they will be fully covered in the rare event of an accident. After doing one hundred plus car wash fundraisers without an accident, Im confident recommending the $100,000/$30,000 limits. If the property owner will accept this, its a good coverage number. However, if they want a million dollars of liability insurance you may have to get that instead. Of course it will cost more.
What are the additionally insured certificates? This is a certificate of insurance, a proof of insurance indicating that the property owner is insured by the insurance carrier also. This might be important because if someone is passing by and slips on the water and wishes to collect on a slip and fall injury claim, their attorney would rather go after the rich property owners rather than your non-profit group that has very little money. If your group had hundreds of thousands of dollars you probably wouldnt be doing a car wash fundraiser in the first place. Since attorneys normally get thirty percent of the cash settlement in personal injury litigation cases, they try to go after the big money. If you are part of a national organization such as the Boy Scouts of America or the American Cancer Society then that part of your organization will also be a target, The attorney may not have a problem going after a non-profit. Because property owners and national organizations are frequent targets of slip and fall suits, it stands to reason that they might be a little paranoid. If they are a little hesitant you must realize that its not your fault. There are just too many lawyers. Property managers are hired by property owners to manage the affairs of their real estate investments. They handle such jobs as fielding tenant complaints, collecting rent and lease monies, maintaining the property and the landscaping and shielding property owners from unnecessary liability. So when talking to property owners assure them that you wont block traffic, wont take any more than the necessary amount of parking spaces or cause them to have any complaints from the tenants. As a matter of fact, you will probably increase traffic and your fundraiser will help business for the centers merchants. Let them know that you wont trample the landscaping. They may want a one page letter stating all of this.
You should print a location, date, time and price on each ticket that you print. You should also have your groups logo in the top left hand corner of each ticket. The tickets should be classy and uncluttered. Keep it simple. Youll be glad you did. Dont forget to put a rain date on the ticket.
We recommend that you keep the hours of the fundraiser to a minimum. Pick a Saturday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. If you have twenty or more volunteers who will be washing cars, split them into a morning shift and an afternoon shift, ten in each shift. It might be better to have twelve people in the morning and eight in the afternoon. Usually mornings have higher traffic count because people are on their way to somewhere. They will usually be on their way back after 3:00 pm. Dont start your car wash fundraiser before 8:00 am unless you expect your temperature that day to be over 105 °F in the middle of the day because no one will be out at that time.
If you are doing a wash-a-thon type of fundraiser and you want to wash as many cars as possible, break your twenty people into four groups. Four people from 8:00 am to 10:00 am, six people from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, five people from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm and five people from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Make sure to wash every last car even if it comes through at 5:15 pm. As long as there are cars, keep washing. Dont stop. Youve already got the pledge.
If its not a wash-a-thon keep the 10:00 am to 2:00 pm operation hours. Even if you have only ten people and you need them for the whole event, four hours isnt all that bad. The average person can handle it. If you are really busy and someone looks like they are struggling, reassign them to a less strenuous job such as:
You dont want to burn out your volunteers. Make it easy and fun. People from the group will leave with a positive experience. This makes it easy for recruiting volunteers next year. If done correctly your annual car wash fundraiser will get easier and easier. Each year it will generate more and more money for your worthy organization. Keep it up. Be fair to your team.