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How to Run a Successful Car Wash Fundraiser




Whether you chose to have a car-wash-a-thon or presale ticket car wash you should read this chapter. There is more to preparation than just preparing. We will discuss some nuts and bolts for insuring that your car wash fundraiser goes off as well as planned. We will talk about:

  • Motivation/PepTalks
  • Incentives
  • Parent’s Help
  • Teams
  • Divide and Conquer
  • Over Lap Problems
  • Other Locations
  • Spreadsheets/Goals

It’s important to keep your team motivated when selling tickets. Some people will handle rejection better than others. For some, if five people refuse to buy tickets in a row they will want to quit. Keep them motivated. Tell them it’s just numbers and three out of ten people will buy a ticket so if you want to sell nine tickets during week one of selling you will have to ask thirty people. All thirty people won’t say no. If the first five people say no, hand them a flyer and ask them to come to the event if they have time during that weekend. They may get a car wash anyway. Let your demoralized sales person know that if the first twenty-one people say no, thank everyone of them because they are helping you get close to the thirty percent who will say yes and gladly buy a ticket. It’s a numbers game.

When giving a pep talk to your group of sales people, you should use words like:

  • Awesome
  • Winner
  • Strike
  • Conquer
  • Dominate

These are all intensely positive words. You will need to meet with your sales team once per week for the first two weeks of sales then two times per week for the last week. Ask them how they are doing. Ask and listen. Listen for stories of success as well as failure. Listen to complaints and compliments. Tell them if they are having problems to go in pairs and hit twice as many people. Suggest other possible locations.

You should practice your sample pep talks. They may help you get further ideas. If you are a coach, you may not even need to practice. You are already a master motivator.

There are many incentives you can give. Start a contest for whoever gets the most pledges or sells the most tickets. How about $50.00 first prize, $20.00 second through fourth prize. Or let sales people lower the price from $5.00 to $4.00 after they sell twenty tickets, then to $3.00 after they sell thirty tickets. They’ll get easier to sell and easier to win the $50.00.

Another incentive idea is to make every fifth ticket a different color. You’ll have to make sure to tell your printer in advance. When a member of your group sells that off color ticket they simply keep the money. That’s the same as paying them twenty percent. That’s a good and fair commission. You may want to consider this if you lack a sales force. You can recruit a paid sales force from the local youth employment service. If you are a senior citizen group and your members are a little slower than they used to be, they may not be able to physically go and knock on two hundred doors.

During your pep talks you should single out and congratulate your top three sales people in front of their peers.

If your group is a youth group you should enlist the help of the parents at a general meeting. Tell them of the importance of this fundraiser to your budget. Tell them you need the money and anything the group doesn’t earn the parents will have to come up with. Make sure they supervise their child and allow them to sell tickets, drive them to a location to sell tickets or suggest people or places to sell tickets. For example: "Go down the street to the Jones’ house and ask them. They have five cars. Or maybe after school you can go down to the grocery store and sell at least five tickets. Take a few tickets to your sister’s soccer game or maybe someone at church may buy a few tickets.'’ Parents need to be prepared to provide motivation, support and transportation to help their children with a fundraiser. Even buy a couple of tickets to get the ball rolling or buy the last two if their kid comes up a few short of his or her goal. They shouldn’t buy all the tickets because kids must learn money doesn’t grow on trees. They shouldn’t be spoiled. It may be hard work to tote kids around to do ticket sales but the lesson learned is worth its weight in gold.

Lastly, parents should be given a couple of ticket booklets to take to work. If they are a CEO, middle manager or head receptionist, they can easily sell a lot of tickets. If they work at city hall or at a government agency this can be a great opportunity for your group. Parents can be very creative. You’ll be surprised. I remember one situation where a Vice President dad put in a request for the company to buy five hundred tickets. The CEO agreed because the Vice President had completed a big project on time and under budget just before a big stockholder meeting. At the next general meeting of the fundraiser group the dad delivered a check for $2,500. We proceeded to call the local newspaper and the company received front page publicity. The company distributed the tickets to all 450 employees on a Friday afternoon. What a win-win situation.

One mom convinced her boss to pledge $5.00 per car for her daughter’s fundraiser and then ran off two hundred free car wash flyers with the company’s logo on them indicating it was a sponsor of the event and distributed the flyers to the employees. Fifty extra cars showed up from her efforts making all the other per car pledges worth more to the group. They washed 375 cars that day. So this $5.00 pledge was very significant. And, the boss received increased productivity for the next month because he gave everyone a free car wash. That was one smart mom. She gave credit to her boss and raised money for her daughter’s group and everybody won.

Not every person is a cracker jack sales person. Some people are introverts rather than extroverts. What may seem to come naturally for some will seem like an insurmountable task to others.

If you find that a few sales people are falling behind, put them in a team with an extrovert. If you can’t do that, put them with an introvert. Two introverts together will find success because they will draw upon each other. They will lose fear of rejection and will not be afraid. In the case of kids, they may not tell you that they are totally terrified of knocking on a stranger’s door and asking them for money. Since you don’t have time to fix this problem now, simply put them with an extrovert or perhaps their best friend in the group. This usually works. Whatever you do, don’t criticize or ridicule them in front of their peers. Even simple teasing will only worsen problems. I’ve seen kids go home and cry, stop selling altogether and even quit the group. Remember kids join groups to feel like they belong. If they no longer feel like they belong why should they stay. You may or may not realize it but you can cause psychological damage to a young person by submitting them to something that terrifies them and then ridiculing them in front of their peers for not performing.

It may be wise to start a full-blown assault in ticket sales or pledges. You’ll have to have a game plan. We suggest you ask each salesperson or pledge driver to put a dot on a map of where they live. Try to assign streets near their house for them to target. Be careful not to duplicate streets otherwise you will be competing against yourself. The larger your group the more neighborhoods you’ll be hitting. It’s similar to precinct walking during elections. Each person must commit to knocking on every door in their assigned area. Again, remember that teams might be a good idea. Try to pick between 75-150 home areas per person. If it’s a high income area or a medium income area but is mostly families, 75-150 homes will be ok. Low income areas will need 125-150 home areas. This should net you approximately twenty to thirty tickets or pledges. If you are desperate for cash go on the high side with 150 homes. Don’t bother counting houses. Use your best guess. If you don’t know which areas are high income ask the kids where all the rich people live. They know. It would be better if you drove through various neighborhoods before assigning streets to be targeted by each kid. We suggest getting a big map, put it on a poster board and let the kids put a mark where they live. If you have a roster of homes addresses do this yourself. Then go and assign areas after you do some marketing by driving around (MBDA).

If you don’t assign areas for a small group you may be ok. With a large group you will have some overlap problems. One or more of your pledge drivers or ticket salespeople will knock on doors and the people answering will say they already came here. Even if they didn’t buy a ticket, they will lie and say they did. Even more discouraging, they may say four people already asked me. Don’t come back. Whoops. The question to your salesperson/pledge driver is now where did they start and where did they stop in that neighborhood? This is a dilemma since it will probably be in a high income area. Kids are not stupid. They go sell in the rich areas first. When all their tickets are sold they quit. Since every kid will go to the easy sell areas then get depressed when they don’t sell any tickets there because ‘Billy’ hit all the good areas first, this will be their excuse for not selling any tickets. You will be facing this excuse. Also, if four kids live in the same area, the first kid who is not scared to sell will go out and sell leaving nothing for the other three in that area. The most likely to procrastinate until the last minute will be the introvert who is terrified of selling and when he or she goes to sell in this area, the neighbors will reaffirm the child’s belief that they can’t sell and they will refuse to knock on any more doors. All because your best salesperson already sold there. You should also realize that if they fail at the last minute, it’s too late to send them out in teams, too late to motivate them and it’s too late to help them overcome their fears. Even if you’re a hard liner, "They’ll just have to deal with it. I did when I was a kid," if they fail your group loses money and you may have to do a whole other fundraiser if this happens to too many kids in your group. Be very cautious. This is serious.

Where else can your group sell tickets? There are a number of prime locations and I mean prime locations. Ask the owner of the bowling alley if you can ask bowlers to buy tickets. Same with the manager of driving range at the golf course. Outside of major grocery stores are good. Medical centers where there are individual doctor’s offices are good stops. Casinos are good if you have parental escort. Regional shopping centers can also be great. Pizza places after softball games are good. Ask large corporations to put up a small shoe box for donations or a pledge sheet with a stack of free car wash coupons. Small business clusters, office complexes or high rise office buildings can be good. Soccer fields, baseball, basketball, hockey and softball games work well. Try a local farmer’s market. Service clubs such as:

  • Rotary
  • Kiwanis
  • Optimists
  • Soroptimists
  • Elks
  • Lions
  • Mesonic Masons
  • Toastmasters
  • Promise Keepers
  • Networking Groups

are excellent because lots of people who really care about your community are at these meetings. Some members may even volunteer to take a booklet of twenty tickets and sell them for you at other clubs or at work.

Senior citizen groups and citizen/city sponsored committee meetings are good. How about bingo nights? You should also try car clubs that meet monthly.

If you are a sports team, associated student body or school club, anything associated with schools, then go to:

  • Back to school night
  • PTA meetings
  • High school football games
  • Baseball games
  • Track meets
  • Basketball games
  • Wrestling matches
  • School District Office (Make sure you have permission from the school district for your car wash first for this)

Craft shows, bazaars, trade shows, chamber of commerce are good places to go. Chambers of commerce have regular:

  • Board of Director meetings
  • Seminars
  • Mixers
  • Luncheon meetings
  • Breakfast meetings

If you think of more be sure to write us. We will put your ideas and stories in our next book.

You should figure out how much money you need to earn from this fundraising event. How many people do you have in your group? Figure out how many tickets you will sell or how many pledges you will most likely receive. Also, how many cars you can wash. Extrapolate these figures out and decide if it is feasible to reach your budget goals. Make sure you know your goals before you start. Let everyone in the group know. Figure out a worse case scenario.