BY TOM GRESHAM
Car wash fundraising events can be spirited experiences for employees and for the nonprofit volunteers on hand to help. When the cause is a youth-oriented organization, such as a local school or a club sports or arts initiative, the scene can be especially lively with lots of grins and laughter — an enviable atmosphere for any car wash to host.
“It’s just so much fun,” said Shannon Sellers, Assistant Marketing Manager for Mike’s Carwash, which has 31 locations in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. “You can feel the energy and the love and the community rallying together. It’s great.”
Support for youth-based organizations is at the core of many car washes’ community engagement efforts and an important part of their business strategies. They are a fitting, meaningful way to demonstrate support for the families that make up a large component of their customer base.
“Any chance we have to support youth programs, we will,” said Bobby Marchenese, President of Auto Wash, which has six locations in the Finger Lakes region of New York. “It is critical to support programs that positively shape the next generation. We will depend on them one day.”
Auto Wash recently held a two-day fundraiser for St. Mary’s School, a local school, that was typical of its efforts. The wash donated 10% of its revenues to the school during the fundraiser, one of hundreds the company’s washes have hosted, Marchenese said. St. Mary’s is an example of the wide reach that a car wash can have with each youth organization it supports, Marchenese said.
“The exposure that we will get through this fundraiser will be tremendous,” Marchenese said. “I think any time a business supports an organization like this there will be a certain amount of goodwill that is difficult to quantify, but I prefer to look at it like, ‘How can we help this group?’ rather than ‘What am I going to gain from this?’ I can say for certain that the community is aware of many of the fundraisers we support, and it makes them feel better about washing their car at our wash. The more any business can do for its community, the better. It will go a long way with its customer base, but it’s also just the right thing to do.”
That was the motivation for Dribbles Car Wash in Manteca, Calif., when it implemented an ongoing fundraising project for local youth sports programs in 2018, according to Michele Brazil Ballard, General Manager of Dribbles. Programs that want to raise money can sell tickets for a hands-free car wash at Dribbles, receiving half of the proceeds. The tickets can be sold year-round.
Dribbles is owned by former NBA player and coach Scott Brooks, a Manteca native.
“Growing up in the area I was provided with amazing opportunities from athletics,” Brooks told the Manteca/Ripon Bulletin when the program launched. “My wife and I want to make sure we do our part to give back to the community that gave so much to us.”
Ballard said the program eventually expanded beyond youth sports programs to include school clubs of all sorts. Programs from the elementary school to high school level have taken advantage of the opportunity in the years since it began.
“Scott knows how important it is for kids to have those opportunities, and we saw a chance to help,” Ballard said. “It’s gotten a really great response.”
Youth-based organizations often are the focus of Mike’s Carwash’s three-day free wash weekends surrounding the grand openings of new locations. A recent weekend raised more than $25,000 for the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields, a local baseball facility that is accessible for those with disabilities and based on the idea that “every kid, with every challenge, should get every chance to play baseball.”
The support of the organization resulted from Mike’s Carwash’s existing partnership with the Cincinnati Reds community fund, which supports youth sports, mentoring and tutoring initiatives. Similarly, Mike’s has an ongoing relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters. The company earlier this year completed its 12th annual fundraiser for the organization.
Sellers said working with the Joe Nuxhall organization and seeing the children and their families that would benefit from the weekend was a particularly rewarding experience.
“The fields are absolutely amazing,” Sellers said. “Some of these parents I talked to during the event told me it was really hard to find organized sports of any kind for their child to get involved in when they do have some type of disability that may prevent them from being out on a traditional field. Having the Joe Nuxhall Miracle Fields has opened up some possibilities for them to be involved in a sport. For an organization like that — a great, great organization doing such good — we feel so lucky to be able to partner with them.”
Beth Martin, Marketing Director of Express Wash Concepts, the parent company of Ohio-based CLEan Express Auto Wash, among other brands, said Express Wash Concepts looks for hyperlocal organizations that will keep 100% of the funds they raise within the community during 10-day free wash weeks surrounding grand openings. “We have said many times around our home office that we’re this incredible fundraising machine disguised as a car wash,” Martin said.
For a grand opening in March of a new CLEan Express Auto Wash location, the car wash raised $3,572.58 for the Parma City Schools Foundation, helping during what has been “an extremely challenging school year,” Martin said.
“What drew us to this particular organization was that they literally impact every single Parma City School District student,” Martin said. “They coordinate scholarships, awards and unique experiences. They assist families who may need a little extra help with paying for school or athletic fees.”
Martin said Express Wash Concepts believes that its demonstrated commitment to community efforts will create lifelong customers. For the many car washes that help youth organizations, that will include the future customers who most benefit from that support.
“I’m confident that you could ask most of our customers if we are a community-minded partner, and they would emphatically say yes,” Martin said. “We have always placed the largest portion of our marketing budget on grassroots, community-minded initiatives, and while it takes more time to be immersed in this level of marketing as opposed to traditional, more hands-off tactics, we think it’s worth it.”