For the first time in its 60-year history, the Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island will be forced to hold its annual Auction & Rummage Sale virtually due to group-gathering limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of having mass gatherings of community members and volunteers congregating for a good cause, this year, that same enthusiasm and engagement will have to be displayed from a distance at their computer screens. The only personal interaction will be between donors and buyers arranging to pick up items at a time and place agreed upon between the two parties. Further, folks can eliminate contact by arranging for pickup at the donor’s porch or driveway as there is no central location to donate or shop for items. All items stay with the donor until purchased.
“There was no way to conduct an in-person event with 1,500 volunteers and thousands of donors and shoppers and keep everyone safe,” Auction & Rummage Sale Chair Susie Burdick said. “Pure and simple, we wanted to do our best to meet the need in the community while eliminating the large gathering we’ve held for decades.”
According to Burdick, the rotary has an obligation to keep the event going this year — even if it is online — in order to help the local community during these trying financial times.
“This is a legacy event that benefits our community,” she said. “We didn’t feel like we could sit on the sidelines while nonprofits and important projects need funding. We wanted to be sure it could be conducted in a safe, no-contact way during the pandemic. We still allow people to reuse items and do their part for sustainability.”
All proceeds from the event go back into funding community nonprofits and projects, Burdick said. According to the Rotary website, auction revenue investments from the last five years include $668,000 for community grants, $627,000 for large community projects, $500,000 for international humanitarian projects and $152,000 in scholarships for 59 students.
“Not a dime goes to the club,” Burdick said.
Burdick also touched on the obstacles and challenges the Rotary has faced in transitioning from the routine auction to a virtual shopping experience.
“The hardest part was the setup and learning curve about how to make this work for this unique sale,” she said. “We luckily have a lot of volunteers and experts helping out. Once the software was set up, tested for all kinds of scenarios, we had to train volunteers and department heads on how to navigate, edit and post items.”
From the community’s perspective, Burdick said many regulars will not be able to meet and converse with the people they’re accustomed to seeing every year at the event.
“Our in-person event was like an annual reunion for friends and neighbors,” she said. “The fun — and hard work — of conducting it together is the incredible camaraderie that exists. It is really fun. Also, it’s not the hands-on experience of the regular event but it still keeps the spirit and feel-good element.”
The online donation window will run from Saturday, Aug. 1 at 6 a.m. through Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 5 p.m., followed by the online shopping window starting Monday, August 30, at 6 a.m. through Sunday, August 30 at 5 p.m. Visit bainbridgerotaryauction.org to learn how to donate or shop for items.
We’re really excited,” Burdick said. “At first we were nervous about all the elements working but now that the system has been built we see the potential. And any money we raise for the community is a good thing.”
When on the Rotary website, find the department list for the donation categories. The organization accepts donations with a fair market value of $20 and above (or a bundle of items from the same household that combines to a value of at least $20). It is advised to donate items that are considered “good or better-than-good condition” as the rotary will not be inspecting or testing donations. When donating, online forms are provided to submit a thorough and accurate description of each item. The rotary also asks to provide at least one photo of each item, allowing for up to 10 through the online system.
Once donations are submitted, Rotarians and volunteers will edit each listing and may adjust suggested pricing. When an item sells, the donor will receive a tax receipt via email.
Starting Aug. 24, a link to the online platform GiveSmart will go live on the Rotary website for folks to begin bidding and purchases. Interested participants will need to register first before choosing two options to shop — “instant buy” (bargain prices on items available immediately for purchase) and “silent auction” (a bidding process with the item going to the highest bidder). Rotary advises noting the date and time the auction for the item closes as no items will be accepted after closing.
Participants will be notified if they have been outbid or if they have won an item during the bidding process. All payments will be made at the time of purchase through the online platform, which accepts VISA, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.
Vehicle and Boat Donation and Shopping
As in previous years, large items like vehicles and boats can be donated and bought at this year’s auction and rummage sale. Accepted vehicle donations include ATV’s, cars, golf carts, motorcycles/scooters, RV’s, SUV’s, trailers, and trucks. Vehicle donations will be accepted through August 18. Contact rotary member Tom McCloskey at 206-920-0552 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss donations or visit the Rotary website for more information on vehicle donations.
For boats, accepted donations include boats on trailers, canoes, hard-shell dinghies, inflatable dinghies, kayaks and sailboats. Contact Jim Laws at 206-819-4222 or email@example.com to donate a boat. For vehicle and boat shoppers, Rotary staff will be on hand to answer questions at the Bainbridge Island Masonic Center during these viewing windows:
• Monday, Aug. 24, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
• Tuesday, Aug. 25, 8 a.m. to noon
• Wednesday, Aug. 26, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Thursday, Aug. 27, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
• Friday, Aug. 28, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.