October 20, 2020
The Spruce Grove Rotary Club plans to reconnect local businesses with customers while raising some urgently needed capital to support ongoing social programs and continue to build community amenities.  From November 3 to November 17, the club will host a virtual silent auction featuring a hundred items and experiences sourced mostly from local businesses.  On the evening the auction closes, bidders can experience a bit of that auction sale frenzy feeling by joining in on their virtual gala.
Virtual auctions have become more common for groups looking to raise funds while everyone is behaving cautiously due to COVID-19.  Gerry Lawrence, the event’s chairperson, says that this virtual auction has a special focus that makes it unique.  “We are encouraging businesses in Spruce Grove to donate an item or experience that will gain them a repeat customer.  If you’re a pizza shop, maybe you donate a free pizza a month for six months.  If you’re a hair salon, maybe it’s five free hair cuts.  As the winning bidder from our auction comes back to the business several times over the next few months, we hope they develop a positive relationship that lasts for years,” says Lawrence.  “Plus, both the bidder and the donating business know they’re helping build our community.  It’s a win-win-win.”
The global pandemic hasn’t just hit businesses hard.  The Spruce Grove Rotary Club, which supports local social programs and enhances public amenities in our city, has seen revenues decline sharply since the cancellation of its major fundraising events in 2020.  The club had been relying on a couple of in-person events to raise funds, and their plans had to change quickly since spring.
“Over the last year, our club put roughly $60,000 into projects in the Spruce Grove area, including almost $20,000 and lots of volunteer hours to address social and economic issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak,” according to Lawrence.  The club has focused on food security, shelter, supporting new and expecting parents, and assisting children, senior citizens and the disabled to obtain the necessities of life as the local economy reels from the effects of the pandemic and other factors.
“Those funds for our programs and projects come largely from the generosity of businesses and individuals who see the good work our Rotary Club does.  We know those donors are hurting financially right now, but the needs have not gone away.  Our club is still working hard to meet them.  We knew that we had to come up with a way to fundraise that also boosted those businesses again.  Think of a donation to our virtual auction as really targeted local advertising, not just a donation.”
The club is using an online auction platform that lets people bid from their phones, tablets, and computers during the time the auction is open in November.  Right now, Lawrence says that club members are looking for more donor businesses to help finish putting the list of items and experiences together.  “On November 3 at 9 AM, you’ll be able to go to our website and start bidding.  We plan to have the full catalog of items available when the auction opens, but our followers on social media will get sneak peeks of auction items before then.”  Lawrence says that businesses around Spruce Grove will also be displaying posters featuring the items they have donated, and interested bidders can simply scan a QR code on the poster with their phone to bid.
On November 17, the night the virtual auction ends, the club is hosting a virtual gala with an in-person component.  A couple of local restaurants and a local caterer have partnered with the club to offer supporters a fine-dining experience that they feel comfortable having.  Attendees can buy tickets to dine, physically distanced, at Porta Romana or Thai'rific or they can order take-out meals from Elizabethan Catering.  All the bidders at the restaurants or at home will be joined together via Zoom during the closing hours of the auction.
According to Lawrence, safety and comfort come first.  “If you’re comfortable going out, our restaurants are ready to host you safely.  If you’re more comfortable dining in as just yourselves or hosting your cohort in your home, we have that option, too.”  If increasing restrictions happen to close dining rooms before November 17, the in-restaurant experience will convert to take-out as well, Lawrence says.  “We’re committed to following the public health rules, and we know that people want to gather safely.  Rotary is about bringing community together and doing the right thing.”
The Rotary Club of Spruce Grove has been serving our community since 1993.  Its members are dedicated people who share a passion for community service and friendship.  To learn more about the auction or the gala, click here.  Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @SGRotaryClub.