The final number is in: $88,000. That’s the amount that last month’s 32nd Metro Toronto Rotary Auction was able to raise for charity at the East York Civic Centre. Although it’s a striking achievement in itself, the result fell about $12,000 short of the $100,000 goal, and about $8,000 short of last year’s total.
This year, the auction had to contend with two blows. For one, it was in direct competition with the Black Friday craze that swept the country from south of the border. But East Yorkers like Kathleen Chalmers and Christine Curran maintained their loyalty to the auction.
“What’s the biggest difference to Black Friday? No crowds and the chance to support a good charity. Since you don’t have to pay tax, it also has some good deals,” said Chalmers. “We have been coming here for 20 years. It’s impulse shopping made easy.”
The auction looked to turn the Black Friday competition into an advantage by appealing to shoppers’ deal-hunter mentality with an average item price hovering around half of the actual value.
However, the auction struggled to find an answer to a major second challenge this year: the NHL lockout.
“We used to make lots of money with hockey tickets, which is really going to affect our revenue this year since there are obviously no hockey tickets,” said Rotarian Kim Brown. “We are really hoping that the Grey Cup tickets we have bring in a lot of money.”
The Grey Cup tickets certainly helped, but couldn’t make up for the loss of the traditionally most popular items. The loss of the NHL tickets was estimated to have shaved off $5,000-$10,000 of the auction’s bottom line. But the Grey Cup tickets still performed very well, achieving an over-value return. Items like that, auctioned for more than their actual value, receive the nickname “bellringers”.
“This year we started to give away a Zeddy bear for every bellringer. Zellers is going out of business and donated 2,000 Zeddy bears,” said Patterson. “I really don’t know if this is why we are getting higher values this year.”
Another positive trend this year was the increased support from local celebrities dropping by during the live Rogers TV broadcast of the auction — via its community channel — to actively promote the products on the auction block. The prominent figures included Toronto police chief Bill Blair, Don Valley West MPP and Liberal party leadership hopeful Kathleen Wynne, several Olympic medalists, mixed martial arts fighter Josh Hill and CFL player Greg Hetherington.
“It’s a great way to raise funds. At a regular fundraiser, you donate money, but may not necessarily get anything back,” said Hetherington, “but here they are getting a product for what their giving at a great value.”
Hill and Hetherington are already considering returning to the auction next year… with a twist.
“A couple of friends were asking me if I was auctioning myself off. I didn’t give it that much thought, but if it’s a charitable event looking to help somebody else out, this is definitely something I would consider,” said Hetherington. The CFL pro then added with a laugh: “But I would want to see the fine print on that one.”