WINDSOR, N.S. — About a year ago, the Windsor Rotary Club decided to 'retire' its biggest, long-time fundraiser, an annual radio/TV auction held in the early spring, usually in April.
According to Rotarian Kevin White, there were “a number of factors” behind the decision. The auction had been held since the late 1940s, and was “an institution in Windsor, West Hants and Hantsport.”
It began as a radio auction, then in the 1990s, it began being broadcast on the Eastlink cable community channel. In recent years, it had become a TV auction alone.
“In later years,” he said, “we were starting to lose our audience. We had dropped the radio signal, and a lot of people don't have cable TV.”
There are “a lot more entertainment options available for people today, but only the cable had the community channel we could broadcast on.” Both listeners and participation were decreasing.
By 2016, the auction was “a 70-year-old fundraiser. We still had wonderful loyal followers, but it was a lot of work, and taxing on the local businesses we were soliciting for support, year after year.”
The club made the decision to choose another fundraising option.
“There were other options out there, and we decided on a Toonie game,” christened the Rotary Community Toonie. It was a leap of faith, but “it seemed like a better way to go, and also a way to give our local businesses a break.”
The way the Rotary Community Toonie works, he explained, is that there are 11 sites throughout the West Hants area. At each site, there is a white granite box, donated by Heritage Memorials.
Beside the box, there is a supply of tickets. Participants fill out a ticket, and the number on the ticket “becomes your number” for the weekly draws, “for life,” or for as long as you choose to play.
In order to become eligible for that week's draw, “you need to play your Toonie each week.” When that is done, there is a sticker on which the participant can place their number.
“You can buy as many as you want,” White said, “but most people play one Toonie each week. We encourage people to pre-pay” — in other words, a one-time payment of $104 to cover the whole year.
The draw is a 50/50 — “half of what's played goes to the prize, and the other half goes back into the pot to fund club activities.”
White described the Toonie draw as “a fairer way for people to support the club,” and by extension, the local community. “The best part is, there are no losers, because the other half of the take ends up going back into the community. Whoever plays the game, win or not, is helping the community.”
There also can be an element of suspense.
“Take last week, for example. The jackpot was $1,118, but the winning number we drew, that person hadn't played that week, so the jackpot rolled over.”
In other words, the next week's jackpot would be $1,118 plus half the total for that week.
“The rollover game gets to be pretty exciting,” White said. “We find more people chip in and play when the jackpot is higher.”
So far, “we've had up to three rollovers two different times.”
Through the Rotary Community Toonie, the club is “raising just as much if not more money” as it did through the auction, “and it's taxing the local businesses a lot less.”
And even though it runs every week, it's also less work for club members.
“Each Tuesday morning, the boxes are opened by a team of two. The counting of the cash is done by a team of two, and the draw is done Wednesday mornings at 9 a.m.,” said White. The draw is usually done by White and one other person.
The club is now on draw 56, he said, since the Community Toonie started in late September 2016.
“Our winner last week had won once before, back in July.”
There are “potentially 1,800 people out there with ticket numbers, of whom about 1,100 are playing regularly. The size of the prize tells you what the number of tickets played was for that week.”
There are “good odds to win,” usually in the vicinity of 1,100 to one.
White recalled the first jackpot was $528.00.
“It's steadily increased since then, which tells you how it's being accepted. The news spreads best by word of mouth. Our biggest jackpot was $1,150 on a single draw. On a rollover week, we've been up to $3,400.”
The club is terming the Community Toonie 'a rousing success.'
“About a third of the time so far, it's been a rollover week. I make the call to the winner,” White said, “and the joy on the other end of the line is genuine. People have told me, 'you've really made my day' and 'this came at exactly the right time'.
“We've been pleased with both the participation and the acceptance, and we're very appreciative of the 11 businesses that host boxes.” He added, “we're helping the community, one Toonie at a time.”