The traditional “we wash your car and you pay us” tends to be a lot of work for little money. Here are some variations that actually raise money.
Set up a giant car wash line with multiple stations for soap, tires, rinsing, power washing and drying.  Put a sign-up sheet in the church narthex, and hand out sheets to the youth, asking folks to sponsor the group for every car they can wash on the day of the car wash. People may choose to sponsor for a nickel or dime or more per car. Set a goal, for instance: to wash 500 cars in a seven hour period. So, if a youth gets a nickle a car pledge, he or she could make $25 on that pledge. Allow people to make flat pledges, too ($20, $50, etc.). Record all pledges before the car wash day and COLLECT NO MONEY THE DAY OF THE CAR WASH. Do it as a “free” car wash. For people who come in off the street and did not give a pledge, it will be free! What a great way to serve your community when you tell them it’s already been paid for. (There is a grace lesson in there, too!)
Hand out a flyer or brochure to those getting their car washed, telling them about your church and its worship times. You may also want to combine the car wash with a refreshment stand or bake sale.
To further help the success of your efforts, think about asking a car dealership, restaurant, etc. to allow you to use their parking lot and water. Many of them will be happy to do it because it brings customers closer to their stores.
Wash and Worship
Wash cars for people while they go to church. Youth attend the service opposite the shift they sign up to work, or attend a special service prior to or following the car washing. People who want their cars washed park in a specific area or the lot so no car moving is necessary. Either have a set cost or a free will donation.
Car Wash Coupon Books
Schedule car washes and sell coupon books ahead of time for a summer of car washes (dates are published on the coupons). Include an uplifting Gospel message on the coupons.
Thanks to DCE Jason Glaskey and DCE Lisa Day for these ideas. These fundraisers were originally published in Fundraising for Teens, 2010 National Youth Gathering resources, and on thESource. Updated in March 2012.