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My Turn: Three secrets to a great charity auction

A new holiday tradition has developed for me in recent years, one that I thoroughly enjoy.

I am a member of the Rotary Club in Exeter, and my lady Joyce is a member of the Zonta Club in Concord. For those who are unfamiliar, Zonta is service club similar to Rotary but with a specific focus on women’s issues and needs. Look it up at

Both the Rotary and the Zonta clubs raise money each year, which is then redirected to provide much needed financial support to individuals in need and to other organizations that serve those individuals. Both organizations use a charity auction during the holiday season as a vehicle for raising that money.

You know the general concept of a charity auction. The members of these organizations hit up every merchant and business they know to donate merchandise that is then sold at the auctions.

Then they invite everybody they know to come to the auction and bid on the items they have collected.

There are three secrets to a successful charity auction:

1. Everybody has to have fun.

2. There are no friends at an auction. In other words, you don’t let your friends have the item you’re considering – you out-bid them.

3. Overbid! Merchants have donated these things. Don’t insult them by sending the message that you really think their products are only worth half what they ask for them. If you want those same merchants to donate again in the future, then the message to send is that you value both them and their products. You do that by bidding over the retail price. It’s a charity auction!

Part of my personal tradition with the Zonta auction is donating glazed pecans. I buy the pecans from the Smith Club Alumni Association’s Annual Scholarship Fund Drive and then glaze them with cinnamon and sugar and, yes, just a hint of rum – and then repackage and sell them at the auction. The auctioneer has a good deal of fun “selling Bob’s nuts.”

I look forward to these auctions every year and hope you will join me. It’s where I get many (if not all) of my family holiday gifts – and I have a ball doing it. The money I would have spent on gifts anyway goes to a worthy cause.

It is a tradition I hope to keep for many years to come.

(Bob Mitchell lives in Epsom.)

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