“Making lemonade from lemons” is the best way to describe the success of this year’s Rotary Online Auction.  COVID-19’s impact on people’s shopping habits clearly had a positive impact on this year’s event.
As planning began in August, organizers of the Rotary Online Auction had concerns about their ability to secure donations for the fundraiser.  Tickets for sporting events and entertainment, as well as fine-dining certificates had always been a mainstay of the auction.  COVID-19 had decimated these categories of auction items.
Undeterred, the auction’s planning committee moved forward. New opportunities for 2020 included the addition of Georgetown Rotary to the event, as well as participation by the Rotary Club of Oakville and Oakville West which had many items to sell due to the cancellation of their Golf Tournament & Silent Auction.  The search for gift baskets and gift cards became a focus for clubs in order to help bolster the item catalogue. 
All in, organizers were able to secure nearly 1300 items for this year’s auction, a similar number to 2019! Even though the average retail value of all items was down versus 2019, this year’s auction saw a strong increase in the average bid per item. It grew from $64 in 2019 to $79 in 2020.  Total bids grew by 19% and the number of bidders grew by 14% versus 2019. People were happy to shop online and saw the great value that the auction offered.
This year’s auction also saw the centralization of marketing efforts to lighten the load on individual clubs and create a unified voice. A 'Tiered" event sponsorship program raised over $13,000 in cash donations from local businesses. The auction website was given a fresh new look and categories were added to the auction catalogue to make it easier to shop.  Facebook was used extensively to attract new bidders to the event; over 30,000 people were reached through a range of promotional posts. Paid Facebook ads encouraged over 1200 people to click through to the auction’s website. Many of the ads spoke to how Rotary Clubs used the proceeds from the auction to build stronger communities.
COVID-19 added a few new steps to this year's distribution of auction items. The new process was designed to be smooth and safe for both Rotarians and bidders. (see below)
This year’s auction united 7 clubs for one great effort (Burlington North, Georgetown, Kitchener, Milton, Mississauga Meadowvale, Mississauga West, Oakville Trafalgar). 
Organizers are open to adding even more clubs to the event next year given its strong record of success.