Finding a location is always a hurdle for the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction. The annual event’s needs typically include space that can host a broadcast studio, a place to store and manage the thousands of items that get donated each year, and can accommodate the steady stream of auction supporters who come to volunteer or to collect the items they’ve won.
This year’s event is just about perfect for this year, though it wouldn’t have worked in any other year, said Jaimie Sousa, chair of the Children’s Auction.
“It’s kind of an interesting location, but it’s an interesting year,” said Sousa. “It’s not something where we’d really be able to have an audience, but we wouldn’t be able to have an audience anyway.”
This year’s auction will be held Dec. 8-11 at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion, with its facility for hosting 6,000 fans – outside. Not so great for big crowds in early December, then again, the Children’s Auction isn’t planning to invite crowds for its 39th fundraiser.
Instead, the auction will use the several buildings on the concert venue’s campus to house teams of volunteers in different cohorts, the better for preventing transmission of the coronavirus. The broadcast studio will be set up in one building, while items will be stored and organized in another. The box office will be where supporters will collect their items, mostly through the service window.
“It’s going to be a whole new process this year,” Sousa said. While in years past organizers have waited until November to put out a call for the donations of items, the nonprofit organization has already started collecting items to auction off. Another donation drive is scheduled for Nov. 27 and 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, at the Bank of NH Pavilion.
Earlier collection times are necessary so that each item can be photographed and catalogued. Instead of bringing each item into the broadcast studio, as in years past, presenters will only display images of them. This change will reduce the need for in-person interaction between volunteers.
In another change, supporters will be prompted to schedule their pick-up time after they win their auction, a measure that will make it less likely for crowds to form outside of the box office window.
The auction will take place over fewer hours this year. Instead of holding both daytime and evening hours, the auction will only take place Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sousa said that the fundraising event usually needs about 2,300 items to auction off. They haven’t yet catalogued all of the items they’ve received so far, she said, but, “We definitely don’t have 2,300 items… We’re hoping to get more and more items and have everything entered the week before we start.”
Typically, the auction items that draw the biggest bids are gift cards, electronic toys, power tools, and whatever the “special toy of the season” is, Sousa said. She added that the best strategy is also the simplest: just buy double of something already on your gift list, and give the extra item to the auction.
“If you’re out there shopping and buying something for someone in your family, just buy two,” Sousa said. “If somebody would like it on your list, somebody would probably like it at the auction.”
In addition to the collection drive on Nov. 27 and 28, there are several local businesses that are collecting donations.
It takes a lot of work, by many hands, to make for a successful auction each year, and this year is certainly no different. There’s a lot at stake, too, because the auction, helped considerably by outside events such as Patrick’s Pub Mania, has managed to outdo itself year after year in fundraising totals. Last year was another record total, with $600,032 raised to benefit organizations that improve the lives of Lakes Region children.
Pub Mania has transitioned this year to the "It’s For the Kids Community Challenge," and with the change in the Children’s Auction format, it’s an open question as to whether the auction can again set a new record. Sousa said she wouldn’t bet against the generosity of the Lakes Region.
“We’re doing everything that we can to make it as safe as possible, and yet as successful as possible,” she said. “I’m forever optimistic that people can take a look at their circumstances and see what they can give. I know that not every has had an easy time through this period, but I hope that the people that have will reach deeper into their pockets.
“We’re doing the best that we can, and that’s the best that we can do.”