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Organizing a Dog Wash

Dog washes are fun and easy fundraisers, but they don’t just happen without a little planning. To get your dog wash off on the right paw, here’s an outline of how to organize and host this fundraiser:

Recruit Volunteers 

Your dog wash will need plenty of volunteers who are comfortable around animals and ready to donate a few hours of their time to washing pets, collecting fees from pet owners, and keeping your event running smoothly. 

Reach out to your volunteers to let them know about your dog wash. Add details about your event, including when and where it is and what volunteers would be doing at it. Then, anyone who is happy to work with dogs can self-select to join, while those who would prefer to wait for your next fundraiser can stay informed and quietly pass on an opportunity that doesn’t fit with their skills. 

If you’re in need of more volunteers, try partnering with dog-oriented organizations in your community, such as pet supplies stores, pet groomers, dog trainers, animal shelters, and more. Chances are that at least one of these businesses will have employees and staff who are happy to help or can put your nonprofit in touch with potential volunteers who will be.

Gather Supplies

Dog washes need dogs and supplies to wash them! Choose a location for your event and make sure it’s stocked with everything you’ll need for your fundraiser, including shampoos, dog treats, gloves, hoses, and a cashbox or card reader (or both) to facilitate payments. 

Ahead of your event, determine how you will transport your supplies to your event site. If you’re just hosting your dog wash at your organization’s headquarters, this will be no problem. However, if you’re going to a remote site, you’ll need to coordinate who is bringing what to make sure nothing gets lets behind. 

Market Your Event

Spread the word about your event! To let local pet owners know to save their dogs’ bathes for your fundraiser, start marketing your event far in advance. Put up physical posters in key locations, consider taking out an ad in your town’s local newspaper, reach out to your supporters about your event, and make posts about it on your organization’s social media profiles. 

If you’re partnering with another organization to run your event, they can also help with your marketing. For example, a local pet supplies store might put up a flier for your dog wash in their window or near their cash register so everyone who comes in will get a glance at it. 

Bring in the Dogs!

After planning and marketing your event, it’ll finally be time to host your fundraiser. On the day of, get multiple dog washing stations set up beforehand based on your projected customer headcount. Remember, the less people you have waiting to get their dogs washed, the better. Plus, it’s much easier to assign a volunteer waiting at an empty station to another task than to set up a new one in the middle of dog rush hour, so it’s better to over rather than underestimate. 

Establish a process for how you’ll handle each dog and owner when they arrive, as well. For most dog washes, this will consist of directing them where to park if they arrived in a car, showing them to your payment location so they can choose what type of wash they want if you’re offering more than just a regular shampoo, then escorting them to a washing station. Finally, be sure to give space for volunteers to dry dogs off (and for dogs to shake the extra water themselves) before going home with their owners. 

Dog Wash Fundraiser Tips

Dog washes might be straightforward, but there are a variety of strategies your team can leverage to take your fundraisers to the next level. Here are a few ways you can make sure your dog wash is a success:

  • Provide plenty of drinking water. While there might be a lot of water splashing around at your event, if it’s filled with soaps and suds, neither your volunteers nor the dogs they’re watching can drink it. Washing dogs is hard work for both your volunteers and the dogs, so be sure to provide everyone with plenty of drinking water, whether that means having a supply of water bottles, dog bowls, or both!
  • Host it outside on a sunny day. Getting sprayed with water can be miserable on a cold day but absolutely refreshing on a bright and sunny one. This goes for volunteers and dogs! Host your dog wash on a warm and sunny day to make sure the event is enjoyable, and the dog owners can enjoy seeing their pets’ clean coats gleam in the sun.
  • Research your products. To get all the participating dogs truly clean, you’ll need to invest in some shampoos, soaps, and other products for them. Before making any purchases, research each product to make sure it’s okay to use on all breeds and also won’t harm any of your volunteers who come into direct contact with it during the washing. 
  • Vet your volunteers. Volunteers at a dog wash will need to be comfortable with dogs. This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to just allocate a few of your regular volunteers to your fundraiser without thoroughly vetting their comfort.  Additionally, take the time to train your volunteers on how to properly wash and handle a dog during the process in advance. And remember, if there are services you can’t provide like nail trimming or full groomings, don’t offer them! Of course, you can always go the extra mile and bring in a professional to handle those services if you want to and have the budget for it. 
  • Keep dogs LEASHED. With so many new people and dogs to greet, a few pets might get a bit excited and subsequently, a bit out of hand. Limit the potential for chaos by keeping all dogs leashed throughout your fundraiser and have owners nearby their pets at all times. 
  • Collect donations for materials. Dog washes are relatively inexpensive fundraisers, but you’ll still need to purchase some basic equipment including towels, shampoo, and hoses. Make sure you have room in your budget to buy everything you’ll need. 
  • Have change on hand. Chances are that most of your supporters will end up paying in cash to make the exchange easy. To help pet owners pay what they owe without issue, have change on hand to break big bills. Also, make a note of nearby ATMs so anyone without the necessary cash on hand can quickly run over to make a withdrawal. 
  • Have treats on hand. Dog washes are a lot of work for both your volunteers and the dogs. To keep the dogs happy during their bathes, have plenty of dog treats they can snack on while being washed and as rewards for when they’re done. Plus, supply volunteers with snacks to keep them full of energy and ready to wash each dog. 

The more experience you and your volunteers have with dogs, the better! Above all, make sure to prioritize your volunteers and the dogs’ comfort during your event to ensure that everyone involved has a positive and clean experience.

Dog Wash Fundraiser Ideas

Dog washes can raise funds through fees pet owners pay to have their dogs groomed, but there are a few other strategies your nonprofit can employ at these events to earn a little extra. For example, at your dog wash you can:

  • Create branded merchandise. Both pets and their owners can wear merchandise that’s branded to your organization. Ahead of your event, create t-shirts, dog sweaters, dog bowels, frisbees, and other pet-themed items that pet lovers can enjoy. Then at your dog wash, set up a merchandise booth to promote and sell your products. 
  • Offer homemade treats. Homemade dog treats can seem luxurious while being shockingly easy to make. Before your dog wash, look up a few recipes online, make some treats, and print out recipe cards so buyers will know exactly what’s in your treats before making a purchase. 
  • Bring in adoptable dogs. Is your animal shelter running a dog wash? If so, this fundraiser can be an opportunity to not only earn revenue but to introduce your community to a variety of dogs at your shelter who are looking for homes. At your event, bring in a few well-behaved dogs from your shelter that supporters can visit with and even introduce their own dogs to during the event. 
  • Collect financial and in-kind donations. At your dog wash, set up a place for supporters to donate a little extra in addition to paying for your services. Animal-oriented organizations running a dog wash can even use this fundraiser as an opportunity to accept in-kind donations of various pet items like dog beds, leashes, crates, and more. 
  • Partner with local businesses. While formal events like auctions and galas are usually thought of when nonprofits consider bringing in a sponsor, there’s nothing stopping you from partnering with local businesses for your dog wash. As mentioned, research pet-oriented organizations in your community to see if any of them have worked with nonprofits in the past. If so, you might be able to earn more from your event by having your sponsor cover supply costs and help out with marketing. 

Above all, your goal should be to try and make your dog wash as positive and memorable an experience as possible. While many of your customers will already be supporters of your organization, this public event is a great way to get connected with new pet lovers in your community.