When Quick Lubes Give Back
Gilmore Avenue Car Wash and Quick Lube has been a part of its small town for decades. Tiffany Schindeldecker and her husband bought the business in 1994 from her family.
The business has also been giving back to the Winona, Minn., community and surrounding area over those years. Schindeldecker remembers fundraising drives on the quick lube and car wash sides.
“We have ramped it up quite a bit recently, but we’ve always donated washes,” she says. “Years ago, probably 20 years ago, we did a couple of lube-a-thons.”
The latest program that gives back to their customers is a Community Wash Saturday on the car wash side of the business. It just started in 2021 and can have a different beneficiary each week. The premise is straightforward.
“We give 100 percent of sales every first Saturday of the month to a local organization,” she says.
To Schindeldecker, using the business as a way to promote and fundraise for the community was a no-brainer. When customers spend their money to keep a small business going, why not turn around and pay it forward to somebody else in that same community?
The business is so intertwined with its Winona neighbors that when the Schindeldeckers’ daughter wanted to hold a fundraiser, the quick lube and car wash was the obvious platform. You’ll read more on that fundraiser later on.
Schindeldecker and her husband, Scott, have honed their method to promote and carry out successful community outreach events and fundraisers. They’ve shown that it doesn’t need to take a massive effort to make a big impact. It’s also not just for small community businesses. Larger organizations, like a multi-state franchise operation, can organize assets and help out thanks to creative thinking and planning.
How do quick lubes organize fundraisers? How do they choose beneficiaries and carry out events? Those are the strategies that you’ll read about in this story so that you can spread some good cheer of your own.
The results of your business giving can be impressive. And while return-on-investment isn’t the priority, there’s no doubt that community outreach improves your business’ image to customers. Think of it as a big “thank you” to customers.
“The community has supported us for 28 years,” Schindeldecker says. “It is just being part of a community, I think, in a position where we can give back. I know not every single business has come through the pandemic better than pre-pandemic.”
Good Planning, Excellent Execution
For Metrolube companies, a franchisee of 95 Valvoline Instant Oil Change centers, the 2021 annual manager meeting was a welcomed return to form after an isolating 2020.
“We needed to get together. We needed to celebrate,” says Jusin Maples, Metrolube vice president. “Typically the meetings are very educational. There’s some fun involved.”
After a few days of meetings as scheduled, Metrolube leadership had an additional event planned for the 115 managers in attendance. They were to split into teams to build and prep bicycles for children who need them as part of a donation to the Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs.
Marketing Manager Michele Caissie says that the company has undertaken many philanthropic activities in the past, and she knew they wanted to do something special for this return manager meeting. To put it together, Caissie sought out an organization that had a big footprint in the area (Orlando, Fla.).
“It’s really just a cold-calling thing to be honest,” Caissie says about the initial outreach. “You look them up online, and we were truly looking for something that touches all of Florida.”
The Catalyst: Metrolube wanted to do something big to celebrate a return to annual manager meetings. The company put in the work (and funds) to plan a successful charity event that leveraged manager talents and created a festive atmosphere. The result was a fun event that helped out area children.
Once that contact was made, Metrolube worked to ensure a successful project. It’s important to note that, with many fundraising activities, there are costs involved for the business. For Metrolube, that meant paying for the bicycles, working with a partner to organize the event, and having a local radio DJ attend to emcee the event and set the show.
One benefit, in addition to pulling off a successful event, is that it shows employees that their company is willing to put real funds into philanthropy. That is a great way to get buy-in.
“It just boils down to are you willing to do it and are you willing to demonstrate to your folks that you're going to assign time to this and spend money on it,” Maples says.
The hard work paid off. The managers broke out into teams, and each team needed to build five bikes. One aspect that Maples noticed was that the managers really used their professional skills, organizing themselves and laying out a plan. And while they weren’t bicycle mechanics, they had the hands-on acumen to do the job.
In the end, they put together 60 bicycles, which were checked again later for safety. The Boys and Girls Club chapter distributed them afterward. Not only was the output successful—bikes in the hands of kids—but the planning, preparation, and execution from Metrolube made it a great model for other quick lubes to follow. It’s more than just raising funds or donating items. Operators need to put in the work.
But the rewards, Maples says, are excellent for a job well done.
“I think about the kids who really need these bikes,” he says. “I think about the kids for whom this might be the only gift they get. It just makes your heart swell up, because you’re doing so much good.”
Lean into Personal Interests
Brett Morrison and his wife, Sheri, built their Castrol Premium Lube Express five years ago in Burleson, Texas, on the outskirts of Fort Worth.
In a previous career and now as a shop operator, Morrison has been close to and supportive of first responders. He got to know the local police chief well. Early on, the shop created perks for first responders, including a valet service for a nearby fire station. The shop would pick up firefighters’ vehicles, service them, and return them to the station. Then the Morrisons found an organization that supports those groups.
“We came across this 100 club. It’s a national organization,” Morrison says. “What they do specifically is this region is called the Chisholm Trail 100 Club. They support local law enforcement in the three-county area.”
The Catalyst: Brett Morrison was personally invested in helping out first responders. That led him to become involved in an organization that helps first responders and, eventually, to the fundraising event.
Operators should look inward at their passions and interests when looking for a philanthropic activity. It helps to drive success, generate interest, and puts a passion in place that makes the rewards even greater.
The organization acts as a source of funding and scholarships for families of first responders who are killed or injured on the job. One big event that supports it is an annual car show and auction. First, Morrison attended as a business with a booth. The shop got into sponsoring car builds. Soon, he was looking for ways to give more to give the auction a boost.
“As the business grows and profits grow, we’re able to do more and more,” he says. “We started out by just donating a couple items and some time. And this year, the majority of value raffle items came from us in dollar volume.”
There were costs, of course, in purchasing big-ticket items for auction. But it went toward a cause for which Morrison has been hugely supportive. It’s not the only fundraising activity his shop does, but it’s the most personal. There’s an investment for him, and that can be a great way to get into a fundraising activity on behalf of your business.
And because it’s a car show event, his Castrol shop presence was a perfect fit.
“It is a sense of pride to know that we are able to go out and support the folks that support us,” he says. “I tell everybody that we work with, as my business grows, our outreach will grow. As long as I'm there, we will share in the rewards with the charities in our area.”
The Business Boost
While the Community Wash Saturday fundraiser is a new event at Gilmore Avenue Car Wash and Quick Lube, it’s set up to be a mainstay.
Schindeldecker, the co-owner, leverages the business’ strong community ties to help get the word out. Promotion can be important for small businesses looking to raise money for charity.
“We have close relationships through the local newspaper and local radio station,” she says. “We’ll get PSAs in both of them for the week leading up to the events. I will go in every month and record the PSAs.”
Sometimes they will even hand out flyers for customers. In addition, Gilmore Avenue Car Wash and Quick Lube has a contractor who works on social media promotions for regular business. That person also promotes the charity activities, and Schindeldecker says that the social media outreach really has an impact.
The Catalyst: Scott and Tiffany Schindeldecker, the owners of Gilmore Avenue Car Wash and Quick Lube, established themselves as strong community citizens through various fundraising activities and effective outreach. When their daughter wanted to organize a fundraiser of her own, the business had the know-how and strategies in place to make it a success.
Whether big or small, fundraising activities can make your business part of the community “family.”
Those factors—the business’ close community ties, the outreach strategies, and the tendency toward giving—all coalesced in 2020, when the Schindeldeckers’ daughter, Emelia, graduated from college in the middle of pandemic lockdowns. There really weren’t opportunities for gatherings and in-person graduation celebrations, but Emelia still wanted to do something to mark the occasion. She turned to fundraising, and that led her to the car wash and quick lube.
“That was something that she came up with,” Schindeldecker says. “She basically grew up in the business, so there were a lot of people who knew her and watched her grow.”
Emelia’s goal was to raise money for Feed the Kids, a fund that helps guarantee all students at Winona Area Public Schools continue to receive access to nutritious school meals. She asked for donations in lieu of graduation gifts.
Through the business, Emelia raised an impressive sum for a single day of fundraising: $1,000. It was a success primarily due to Emelia’s generosity, but the community participation that Gilmore Avenue Car Wash and Quick Lube had developed over the years helped to get the project off the ground.
Schindeldecker says that’s why the business was the perfect venue.
“I think it’s just community, and being a part of that, and recognizing that without our community, we wouldn’t be in this position,” she says.