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Sure, it’s endearing: The kids standing on the side of the road with handmade “get your car washed here” signs; innocently asking for a few dollars for their cause. It’s hard to turn down the kids who’ve been standing out there in the sun, trying to make a buck for their church or their school. But what’s not cute is how charity washes, often held in parking lots or in driveways, are hurting the environment and sending dangerous dirty water and chemicals down the sewers and into rivers and streams.
That is why it might be advantageous for carwash owners, mobile, included, to consider offering up a bay or their equipment to charities. And, according to the three Bs of commercial charity washing events, here’s why:
• They breed loyalty: Fundraiser/charity volunteers, donators and patrons, appreciating your good deed, could visit the carwash thereafter;
• They can bring in new foot traffic: People tied to the charity, and not necessarily the carwash, will visit and perhaps like what they see; and
• They benefit Mother Earth.
A statement from Chuck Howard, president and CEO of Autobell, the nation’s third largest conveyor carwash chain, said that their charity carwash program has “significantly reduced the number of parking lot fundraiser carwashes by giving non-profit organizations an option by which they can raise needed funds while conserving water and helping protect our environment,” according to the Autobell website.
Chuck Tonn, owner of Miracle Car Wash in Dubuque, IA, has been running an Operation We Care fundraiser for the past three years in honor of veterans and the families of soldiers. Tonn said he is very aware of the negative impact of parking lot charity washes.
“The public in general,” he noted, “is still far behind on what kind of damage the usual fundraiser has on the environment. Times are changing but it will take time for people to grasp the advantage and ease in using professional car washes for a fundraising event.”
Washington sets the bar
Washington State is working hard to denounce driveway and parking lot carwashes. The Puget Sound Car Wash Association runs a program offering charities a chance to sell commercial carwash tickets and cities such as Gig Harbor, WA, are posting signs on storm drains that say: Dump no Pollutants; Drains to Puget Sound.
About a year ago, Kitsap County started targeting charity carwashes which are now asked to have special equipment that catches runoff water and then place that water in a sink or toilet that goes into a sewer. Officials are also encouraging the use of carwashes that recycle water and a revised stormwater ordinance was adopted by county commissioners targeting illicit discharges, including runoff from carwashes.
CA carwash gives it a go
ProntoWash Eco Autospa, a mobile carwash and detail business based in Newport, CA, recently held a fundraiser to benefit the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines (1/1) USMC, Camp Pendleton.
It’s one of many charity washes held by ProntoWash and co-owner Jim Fitzpatrick said they can wash up to 500 cars per event. He also said it’s great seeing marines on-hand to help wash, too, knowing the environment was being protecting.
Fitzpatrick added that he recently met with a local school district who said they just held a charity event on school property. The district was fined $600 for excessive water usage, and the event raised only $138.
How to market a wash to charities
A carwash looking to host a fundraiser or partner with a charity has several options. Community groups can either sell tickets, which can be redeemed at the carwash at any date, or can work with the carwash to focus on a specific day and timeframe. In this latter option, carwashes should give the fundraisers some marketing ideas and offer to host their group on-site to collect donations and perhaps even help prep or dry cars, depending on management’s comfort level.
In the case of allowing volunteers to be on-site, the operator should ensure there is at least one person representing the group present at all times and if minors are involved adult volunteers will have to be present as well. You may even have to have them sign a waiver in case of an injury and let them know that any signage or posters have to be removed at the end of the charity event. Also, it is advisable to have a list of rules for all volunteers to read, outlining the proper ways to wash cars and how to stay out of the way of incoming traffic if donations are being collected.
If they want to sell food or items onsite, they will need to make sure to keep everything neat and tidy and to not harass patrons.