Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Charity at the carwash

October 11, 2010
For sports teams, church groups and youth organizations, parking lot carwashes are a perfect way to raise funds, connect with the community, and get some local recognition for their mission.

Unfortunately, these charity events are also a great way to pollute local streams and rivers. For that reason, professional carwash operators are reaching out to local charity groups to help them host stress-free, environmentally-safe fundraisers — at no additional cost to their organization.

Your carwash may already have a charity carwash program in place, or may participate in a regional association’s program. For operators who aren’t yet participating, or who may be looking for another option, this article offers an analysis of five different methods to merge carwashing and charity.
  1. Sell tickets/tokens redeemable at the carwash;
  2. Work hands on with the organization to give them a percentage of the profits;
  3. Donate time, money or fundraising items to the organization;
  4. Let the organization use your self-serve carwash as their place for fundraising; or
  5. Allow the organization to wash pets at your carwash, or donate your pet wash proceeds for the day.
First things first
Before hosting a charity carwash, your business will need to let organizations know you are available. Contact your local chamber of commerce, government offices, churches, schools and youth groups to start building a relationship with your community. You can create flyers, posters or brochures to distribute to the group, or you can direct them to your website.

Let them know a professional carwash helps protect the environment by removing soap and toxins from waste water. Explain that professional carwash businesses send wastewater to treatment facilities or treat it at their own facility. Remind them that parking lot and driveway carwashes cause runoff water to be contaminated with such things as oil, dirt, grime, detergent and petroleum. These contaminants flow directly down storm drains and into the nearest body of water.

If all works well, your educational efforts will not only help educate the charity — but also their friends and family who may soon become customers of your carwash.

1. Sell tickets/tokens redeemable at the carwash
Selling tickets or tokens is an easy way for a charity to make money without investing too much time. Offer the charity the coupons or tokens for a fixed cost, and allow them to keep the profits they make.

This is how Autobell Carwash, the second largest conveyor carwash chain in the nation with 47 full-serve washes, helps charities. Autobell, based in Charlotte, NC, gives the fundraising group the opportunity to sell carwash passes and in return, the organization keeps 50 percent of the proceeds.

Members of the Puget Sound Car Wash Association (PSCWA) offer charity groups a similar opportunity to raise funds, but with a few more options. PSCWA tickets are redeemable at any environmentally-safe carwash in the Puget Sound area, and charities can sell both conveyor and self-serve carwash tickets, priced accordingly.

2. Donate a percentage of the profits
Cravens Doggett, owner of Quick Wash in Duluth, GA, prefers a more hands-on approach when it comes to charities. He allows youth groups to dry and vacuum customer cars for tips. At the end of the fundraising day, Doggett also donates a percentage of the carwash’s proceeds.

According to Cravens, “the benefit is increased exposure, goodwill, and the opportunity to up-sell and make new customers,” which is something every carwash owner should be trying to do.

But there are problems that may occur when using this method. For example, Galen Haddock, owner of Pro Carwash in Smith, MO, used to allow organizations to use his carwash for fundraisers, but an incident that led to injury during one fundraising event convinced Haddock otherwise.

Haddock suggests carwash owners be aware of their liability and risk in this type of fundraising. If you can work out a legal document that removes yourself from vulnerability, this can still be an effective and enjoyable way to help charities while increasing exposure and publicity for your carwash.

3. Donate to the organization
Haddock lives in the small community of Smithville, MO, where his carwash is located. He stated that the best way for his name to get around is by being involved in the community. He and his wife, Leinda, enjoy donating money to different sports teams in their area.

Haddock said there are many ways to donate money to a favorite charitable cause that also benefits your carwash. For example, he uses money out of his advertising budget to donate to a local soccer team. Each year, Haddock’s monetary gift supplies the team with jerseys. The name of Haddock’s carwash and the business’s telephone number adorn the front of the jerseys, and the player’s name and number are printed on the back. At the end of the year, Haddock collects the jerseys and stores them away to have them redone for the following season.

Carwash owners can also buy souvenirs for the team to sell at events with your carwash logo and phone number on it. The team can sell the pins, packaged food, calculators, etc., so that your advertisement goes out to the public, but the organization you are helping gets to keep the proceeds.

Haddock is from a small town, but whether you are from a small town or a big city, you want your name to be out there so that people remember you and your business. As he says and does, “Put your money where your mouth is.” If you are part of a bigger chain and can do more — then do it. When working with people close to you, make sure to put in the effort and have your name out there. Don’t settle for simply writing a check, he said.

4. Donate the use of your self-serve carwash
Jimmy Branch, now the owner of three express exterior carwashes in Panama City, FL, owned a self service carwash for 17 years. Every month, he set aside one Saturday to help with fundraisers. Organizations would sign up in advance to use his carwash, and he would supply them with two self-serve bays, one vacuum isle, and one of his attendants.

Branch was cautious, though. For every event, there was a release and warning about supervision that needed to be signed by an adult supervisor before the fundraiser went into action. Branch, a former president of the International Carwash Association (ICA), said these fundraisers were popular — the carwash was booked with fundraisers months in advance.

5. Bring the pet wash to your carwash
This is an option even for carwashes without pet washes. Recently, the Cayman Islands Humane Society showed carwash owners everywhere that washing pets at the carwash was a great idea, even if you don’t have commercial equipment.

Suzanne Gatta, a representative of the humane society, contacted the owner of Rohelio’s Carwash, located in Grand Cayman, Bahamas, and asked if they would donate water and premises for the society’s fundraiser. They then opened a pet wash where dogs were washed by volunteers and veterinarian professionals gave a head-to-toe inspection.

Washing pets instead of cars allows the carwash to stay open and operate as usual, with only a bit less space than it usually has. Teaming up with a local humane society can also take the pressure off of your staff and business.

As for operators who already have a pet wash at their locations, this is an even safer way to allow organizations to raise money at your carwash. You get to keep the carwash open and the organization can use your pet wash to raise money.

Good will, good business
No matter how you choose to help your community, it is important for you to have a plan and to make sure your employees are aware of it. Not only will giving to charities help decrease the amount of charity carwash competition you see on the weekend, it will also increase the community’s perception of your business and help to build new relationships.