2014 Crystal Ball: Travel Trends for Fundraisers
December 31, 2013
As you begin planning for your most successful 2014 auctions, raffles and other fundraising events
using travel packages and experiences
, take a look into Mitch-Stuart Inc.’s crystal ball for some travel trends of note.
Whether you’re 20-something or 60-something. Travel preferences are changing and decision-makers need to cater to the differences. Millennials are showing a preference for urban destinations and are more likely to travel in groups. They also demonstrate great interest in seeking out destinations which dovetail with their daily pursuits and preferred activities.
Seniors, who comprise 1.3 billion to 1.6 billion people worldwide, are unstoppable when it comes to travel. Their often vast travel experience coupled with tremendous disposable income also tends to make them the most demanding travelers. Those who cater to this cohort will be wise to choose amenity-rich packages with incredible customer service.
Have you tried “creative tourism?” Creative tourism can be defined as tourism that offers visitors a creative pursuit (including arts, crafts and cookery workshops), with the opportunity to stay in high quality accommodation, and to connect with local people in a distinctive destination. Research indicates that people want more time, space and energy, and a greater sense of wellbeing. They are demonstrating a growing desire to connect with each other and feel more in touch with local communities. You will see this trend reflected in several Mitch-Stuart packages involving cooking lessons and other pursuits within local communities.
Trends in Multi-Generational Travel. The popularity of resorts and destinations catering to the every whim of kids, tweens, parents and grandparents shows no sign of slowing down. The older the boomers get the more family travel we will see, from more African safaris to unusual cruises for the adventurous family.
What is new though is the rise of the PANK! “Professional Aunts, No Kids” – who collectively spend billions lavishing nieces and nephews with meaningful travel experiences and other goodies. Savvy Auntie, a U.S.–based website community for aunts and godmothers, estimates there are 23 million PANKs in the U.S. who spend a whopping $9 billion annually on children.
As far as the economic outlook for travel spending, the U.S. Travel Association is predicting 5.1% growth in travel expenditures. What do you predict?
Destination Spotlight: New Orleans
December 23, 2013
The city of New Orleans with its storied past and colorful character is one of the most-requested destinations that deluxe travel experts, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has in its no-risk catalogue. And if you organize charity auctions and fundraising events, a trip to the bayou makes a spectacular offering for your donors.
Mitch-Stuart has travel packages and experiences to the destination for those who’ve never experienced New Orleans; from the city’s Creole and Cajun cuisine, riverboat cruises up and down the Mississippi River, to simply enjoying the jazz that is inherent to the region.
The selection of trips works equally as well for those who’ve visited this legendary city before but haven’t experienced it all. This trip can include a lazy ride down the Mississippi in an authentic paddlewheel riverboat for a Creole buffet, and a meal at the renowned Commander's Palace! Your New Orleans adventure culminates with a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking, where you'll learn the basics of food, folklore and Louisiana cooking.
As with all Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel packages, the company has done all the work. Two New Orleans offerings provides donors with a trip for two for four days and three nights at either the historic landmark, Monteleone hotel or the comfort and classic of the Sheraton New Orleans including Economy Class Air. The packages also feature a Dinner Jazz Cruise, a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking and a $200 Commander's Palace Gift Card.
Visitors are encouraged to discover historically celebrated Canal Street in the center of the central business district, legendary entertainment and renowned attractions, such as the famed French Quarter, Convention Center and Aquarium of the Americas.
For the culinarily-inclined (and who isn’t in Louisiana!) Savor two Southern dinners! Since 1880, Commander's Palace has been a New Orleans landmark known for the award winning quality of its food and many commodious dining rooms. Modern New Orleans cooking meets haute Creole in the kitchen, which prepares succulent cuisine with the flavor of distinctive Louisiana. You'll also step aboard the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen and cruise into the night as you enjoy a lavish Creole buffet.
We encourage you to login or register on our site to view the Mitch-Stuart, Inc. catalogue, Destinations of Excellence® for more great examples.
Saratoga Hospital: A Fundraising Success Story
December 18, 2013
With more than 450 physicians and other medical professionals on staff, Saratoga Hospital offers care in a broad range of medical specialties. For more than a century, it has been Saratoga’s community hospital.
Ann M. Carroll of the Development department of the Saratoga Hospital Foundation
is responsible for fundraising and has worked successfully with Mitch-Stuart, Inc. for the past four years on their annual summer gala benefit auction
“Luxury vacation packages
provided by Mitch-Stuart are among the most popular items at our auction,” says Carroll. “The company provides a ‘no-risk’ way to enhance our auction with unique packages you can offer your donors without putting yourself at risk if they do not sell. But that isn’t a problem since 95% of all trips sell!”
She goes on to say that the she works through the comprehensive company catalog and offers a combination of tried and true audience favorites and newer trips and experiences. Often she matches trips with the gala theme for that year. “Last year, our theme was “Party Animals” and we offered the African Safari as one of our top five items and it sold extremely well.”
Carroll sums up by saying, “Working with Mitch-Stuart, Inc. enriches our auction overall because of the access to well packaged and well organized vacations that are easy to execute for the traveler. We are always pleased to refer them to other non-profits.”
Ann Carroll offers up these tips to add to your auction’s success:
Package power If your organization has secured a gift that can be packaged with a trip from Mitch-Stuart or any provider, bundle the offerings to strengthen its appeal to donors
Relationships count Establish a relationship with a specific salesperson at any of the entities you work with, the personal touch enhances the working relationship for you and the donor taking the trip - like having your own concierge
Always make donors a priority Much like the way Carroll described Mitch-Stuart’s customer service as rapid response and solution-oriented, non-profits need to provide the same
Solicit and listen to feedback Query your donors about the trips they have taken to see which trips to offer again and again and which to tweak. Use this feedback to help plan
Volunteers know best Meet with your volunteers to gain ideas for travel packages. Carroll says, “After all, our volunteers mirror our attendees.”
May this advice help you with your next fundraiser!
Harness the Power of the Creative Brainstorm
December 10, 2013
For philanthropic organizations looking for fresh ideas for fundraising events and auctions or overall business improvements, brainstorming is a natural way to gather thoughts for consideration. But does your organization brainstorm strategically, with a real end goal in mind? All the creative ideas in the world don't add up to results unless they link to an overall strategic direction, set by the brainstorm leader, whose job is also to fire up the group! Some teams dread brainstorming, seeing it as a waste of time or as a cause for “performance anxiety.” It needn’t be! Here are some pointers that work for Mitch-Stuart, Inc.
The judgment-free zone.
The atmosphere should be welcoming, positive and all-inclusive, with the promise that every idea will be considered. This way, the participants won’t be hesitant to share their ideas for fear of ridicule.
Don’t go in cold.
Brainstorms work best when the participants are prepared. This can mean anything from preparing a detailed creative brief describing the situation and the goals as well as providing suggested websites to visit for more background.
Start by setting the objectives.
Do you want a slew of creative ideas to break an existing event out of the doldrums? Are you seeking to create a draw for a new audience segment? A helpful way to start is to discuss some trends in the category s well as what the competition is up to. Non-profits must also keep in mind the serious nature of the cause they represent/raise money for. This doesn't mean you can't be creative, just keep ideas within certain bounds.
Let the fun begin.
Once people start shouting out suggestions or solutions, write them down… all of them. Even though some ideas won’t make sense at the time, they may lead to other things. The best ideas often come from a simple phrase. “My donors love exotic travel” for instance, can open the doors for bringing in expert partners such as Mitch-Stuart, Inc. to do the “heavy lifting.”
Avoid diminishing returns.
During any given brainstorm, there is typically a time where the initial excitement dulls and everybody falls into an awkward silence. Sometimes rewording the initial objective or goal is all you need to do to get the juices flowing again. People just need to see it in a different light. Or else bring out the candy!
Never stop brainstorming.
Even when the meeting is over and everyone has returned to their desks, create an email chain, or a running word document with the top ideas, fleshed out to give the team something more to build on. A creative team leader can help further the concepts by adding greater detail and graphics to ensure the best result.
If traditional creative brainstorming isn’t working for you, check out “speedstorming
” a combination of brainstorming and “speed-dating” or brainstorming on steroids.
Avoid these Six Fundraising Faux Pas
December 03, 2013
Even the best event organizers
can use a refresher course on ways to perfect their next fundraiser
! Take a look at these potential planning “hiccups” and make sure to take steps to overcome or correct them.
1. Not knowing your audience
– As you plan your fundraising auction and, ask yourself who your attendees are. This will help establish everything from the décor to the dining as well as the all-important (most important) auction items you are presenting. Work with your board and consult a travel expert like Mitch-Stuart Inc. to select packages that are a win for your audience based on age, average income, level of sophistication, geography and other factors.
2. Bad timing
– A business associate recently scheduled a big event without consulting an important organization calendar and we’re sure you know the rest – his event now collides with something else of interest to his audience. First rule of event planning, check all possible conflicts before securing a date. This goes for potential event conflicts as well as holidays, potential bad weather dates, even TV moments like season finales of mega-popular shows! It also pays to see what similar events come right before and after yours. Check them out for theme and location, etc. to make sure to avoid the dreaded “event redundancy. Meticulous, thorough planning at the very beginning ensures a most successful event.
3. Poor communication with donors and prospects
– When encouraging attendance to your fundraiser, how many reminders are mandatory? How many are too much? There is no perfect number, but you do want to plan according to some variation of this formula.
4. Not taking advantage of current technology
Save the date (pre-sell)
Printed, mailed invitation
Email reminder (or 2)
Day of email (particularly for those who cannot attend but might like to bid virtually!)
Post-event email (if your event is able to sell items afterwards; if not then as a Thank You)
– If you are having a silent auction, consider using mobile bidding with companies like GiveSmart
, a national customer service company engaged in using technology to create an approach to fundraising that raises more money, streamlines the process and delivers an enhanced donor experience. With today's mobile bidding technology, you can bring efficiency and excitement to your silent auctions.
5. Not growing your donor base or allowing attrition
– Avoid this by scheduling ways to keep your current donors engaged and increasingly invested. Do so via direct mail, email blasts, newsletters, interesting events to attend and other ways to generate ongoing enthusiasm and anticipation. Work with your auction provider to get all the news on exciting new experiences and destination to whet donor appetites.
6. AVOID "auction sale" attitudes
– Always treat your events as opportunities for donors to give of themselves for the causes they believe in, not as a way to get “bargain deals.” Make each auction item description deluxe and exclusive and remind attendees where their donations are going!
The Mitch-Stuart Inc. Gratitude Blog
November 27, 2013
At this time of year, we would like to take a moment to thank everyone who continues to make Mitch-Stuart Inc. the leader in providing auction and fundraising planners with unique travel packages
This has been a successful year for the many nonprofit agencies we've served, as we have helped raise close to 5 million dollars for thousands of charities with more to come.
We are grateful to our hotel and airline partners who make it easy to continuously create exceptional experiences that donors want to enjoy.
We are grateful to the wonderful world of charity and philanthropic leadership whose tireless aim to raise funding for their organizations is an inspiration to all.
We are also grateful to the countless volunteers who sometimes toil in the shadows, but whose efforts produce flawless events that keep donor support high.
We are grateful to the auctioneer community. It is so often their talent and skill that produce truly successful fundraisers.
We are grateful to journalists who pay attention to philanthropy – giving causes the attention they deserve so those looking to align with just the right charity can do so.
Finally we are grateful to our staff which sets a fine example for other organizations. Dedicated, perseverant, aspirational and smart, they are the engine that drives Mitch-Stuart Inc. to continue to provide top-level service and products to its clients.
We hope you will experience gratitude over the Thanksgiving holiday and throughout the season.
More Ways to Delight your Donors
November 19, 2013
Last month we shared with you some of the different and delightful travel experiences offered by the latest Mitch-Stuart Inc. Destinations of Excellence® Catalogue. The catalogue is so well-stocked with excellent adventures, it required a second look.
As you begin planning for your most successful 2014 auction, raffles and other fundraising event using travel packages and experiences, look no further than the catalogue but start right here to get some great ideas.
For the Family The experts at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. have combed the globe for family-friendly experiences which include fun-packed trips to the original Disneyland as well as Disney World; or if your tastes wander to the sunniest climes – consider Hawaii and the Fairmont Kea Lani, Cancun’s Palace Resorts or a water park package from one of 50 participating parks in North America! Still haven’t found your perfect trip? Your family can enjoy a historical and cultural vacation in a unique American city such as Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Boston or New Orleans. Make your kids’ (and your own) dreams come true with any one of the above or more listed in the catalogue.
For the Cold-Weather Athlete If skiing is the way to a donor’s heart, consider all the superb ski packages Mitch-Stuart has to offer - winter wonderlands Whistler, Aspen, Vail or Telluride await with luxury accommodations, often ski-in, ski-out and the most luxurious locations. There is virtually no ski resort unexplored by our experts with other fabulous packages including visits to Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Vermont or Wyoming and international destinations like Mont Tremblant in Quebec. Each trip is tailored to skiers at any level. Mitch-Stuart ensures incomparable experiences on and off the slopes.
For the Warm-Weather Athlete Golf or tennis? Scuba or swimming? YES, please. When you work with Mitch-Stuart you can have it all. Resort packages to the best golf in the world include the links your donors are longing for: Pinehurst on your choice of 8 championship courses, Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Club & Lodge, AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess with two 18-hole championship courses, finally a stay at the Fairmont, and play at Old St. Andrews the most sought-after golf experience of them all!
For the World Traveler Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors to far-flung corners of the world with every detail catered to perfectly. International experiences include an exotic Indonesian escape in Bali, the exquisite beaches and cruises to the Caribbean, or fabulous jaunts to the exciting cities of Europe including a gourmet adventure in the heart of Italy and sophisticated artsy Amsterdam. In addition to these charming cities, Mitch-Stuart offers packages to London, Monte Carlo, Paris, Montreux and a safari to Africa. Your donors will want to bid on them all – and isn’t that the goal?
For the Gastronome According to social media experts, the most shared content today is FOOD! Photos of food and discussions of deliciousness fill Facebook feeds and occupy Instagram in huge volume. Your donors want to go gourmet and Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has the offerings! Gastronomic delights include South Beach Wine & Food Festival Southwestern and Mexican fare on trips to the gorgeous Sonoran desert, the epitome of nouvelle cuisine with your wine in Napa as well as epicurean excursions to restaurant towns like Chicago and New York. Get your passports ready for international culinary experiences such as cooking classes and wine tastings in Tuscany or Sorrento and days of dining in Paris.
With the ability to customize trips as well, the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence® trips and experiences may be the only source of auction and fundraising ideas you need to plan.
National Philanthropy Day, Every Day
November 12, 2013
At Mitch-Stuart Inc., specialists in exclusive travel packages
and experiences for charity auction and fundraising events
, every day is “philanthropy day” as we work to help our non-profit partners procure much-needed donations to advance their cause.
But, for everyone to acknowledge charitable good, there is National Philanthropy Day®, November 15. It is the special day set aside to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy—and those people active in the philanthropic community—have made to our lives, our communities and our world.
We’d like to take this opportunity to:
Call out a few top organizations large and small, as well as some individuals, who really “get it right” when it comes to volunteering and performing wondrous deeds for their own cause or the industry at large.
Open Avenues Foundation empowers adults with disabilities by providing employment education, life skills training and meaningful work.
Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with 2.7 million youth members and over 1 million adult volunteers. Since its founding in 1910 as part of the international Scout Movement, more than 110 million Americans have been members of the BSA.
Safe House Denver serves victims of domestic violence and their children through both an emergency shelter and a non-residential Counseling and Advocacy Center. All of the women, children and youth who come to SafeHouse Denver have access to a full range of bilingual programming, including individual counseling, group sessions, advocacy and safety planning.
Catholic Charities represents those living in poverty, calling for more effective and efficient poverty relief solutions and convening thought leaders from across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to identify pathways out of poverty.
Paul Clolery is the journalistic voice of the philanthropy industry, responsible for developing, assigning and editing all content at NPT Publishing Group including the NonProfit Times, Exempt, five E-newlsetter and nptimes.com. His staff has received more than two dozen reporting and writing awards—eight of which were awarded to Paul himself.
Provide you with some ideas to celebrate Philanthropy Day in your own way such as:
Use the day to reach out to donors to help them PLAN their giving. Donations take on maximum impact when the giver takes a little time to determine which organizations and when/how much to give.
Encourage those involved with your cause to ask for donations to this cause instead of birthday and other holiday gifts.
Help event organizers get new folks onboard by offering up great ideas for events and auction items.
Try to particularly appeal to young people – studies show the earlier kids get involved with philanthropy, the more likely they are to continue their involvement as they grow older.
Finally, recognize someone special in your or someone else’s organization with a note, flowers, invitation to lunch or other way to say “job well done.”
Veterans Day—Making It More Than Just Once A Year
November 05, 2013
As we approach the annual salute to our nation’s veterans—those individuals who have given so much and served so well to protect democracy, freedom and our way of life—we realize the holiday designed to remember and honor them is indeed a wonderful tribute. BUT—given what they do or have done on our collective behalf to keep America safe and free—we should try at other times of the year to think about and consider their tremendous contributions.
Here are a few easy, thoughtful and educational ways to do just that—whether as an individual or an entire family. We think the following trips can be memorable learning experiences—and at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. we are proud to be able to offer them as charity auction or other fundraiser options for packaged travel at your events.
So—think about all our Veterans have done for us this Veterans Day . . . and reflect on how we can remember and honor them at other times of year as well.
Washington DC: Nowhere in America will you find more beautifully done tributes and memorials to veterans and our greatest leaders than in our nation’s capital. Whether you’ve never been there—or have visited several times—a tour of Washington’s monuments is always a highly moving, emotional experience. The Vietnam, WWII and Korean War Memorials—just to name a few—are both soul-searching and beautiful. Have you ever walked the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, looked up at the huge sculpture of the great man himself, read the Gettysburg address printed on the walls—and not been electrified by the experience? Your trip can also include stops at Arlington Cemetery where those who gave their lives for our liberty are interred and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. DC is a GREAT way to honor and remember.
Gettysburg, PA: Site of the greatest battle ever fought on American soil is likely one of the most—if not THE most—well preserved battlefields in the world. More than 150,000 soldiers—from both North and South—met face-to-face on this relatively small plot of ground which ultimately decided the outcome of the Civil War. The scores of statues and memorials saluting and honoring those brave men from both sides along with a stay at an actual battlefield bed-and-breakfast makes a tour an incredible, unforgettable experience.
Hawaii: Of course Hawaii is all about fresh and floral air, the warm, tranquil waters, and the breathtaking natural beauty, but the islands have quite the place in American military history. After you have taken in the glorious scenery and explored some of the culture and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people, you must be a witness to the history of Pearl Harbor complete with a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, the National Cemetery of the Pacific and Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, extraordinary homages all.
Destination Spotlight: Seattle and Victoria, BC
October 30, 2013
The Beauty of the Pacific Northwest
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. invites you to take any of our four breathtaking trips along the Pacific Northwest and get to know one of the most spectacular coastlines in all the U.S. Think it’s only rainy and cloudy? Think again! You simply cannot deny the beauty and diversity of the rocky coastline, glacial peaks, rich farmland, charming towns, and cosmopolitan cities that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Check out these packages that will awe your donors!
Take in the majestic sights, tastes and sounds that Seattle and Victoria, BC has to offer. Your donors will find these trips simply irresistible—the make great fundraising opportunities!!
Begin your trip in Seattle with a spectacular stay at The Fairmont Olympic, the Pacific Northwest's only AAA Five Diamond hotel. It’s located just footsteps from Seattle’s most exciting attractions, including the famous Pike Place Market and Seattle Waterfront, plus a multitude of museums, theatres, shops and restaurants; allowing you to enjoy both sides of the Puget Sound. Boasting impeccable service, splendid Italian Renaissance architecture and two award-winning restaurants, The Fairmont Olympic is widely regarded as one of the city’s most celebrated treasures.
Coffee isn’t the only beverage brewing in Seattle. In addition to the city’s thriving coffee scene, your donors can enjoy our three-hour brewery tour and imbibe Seattle’s very own beer while visiting the best microbreweries, learning about beer varieties and the beer making process. Of course, for the coffee lovers at heart, there’s no shortage of shops to step into for a Cup o’ Joe before starting the day. Take in the major sights around Downtown, including the previously mentioned Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Aquarium. Of course you will have to visit the original Starbucks – and don’t forget the Space Needle. Well worth the minimal fee it costs to ride the elevator to the top, you’ll get to take in amazing 360-degree views of the city, Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, and the Cascade Mountains.
Take a ferry like no other to one of the busiest destinations in North America. The Clipper Ferry offers year-round daily departures from Seattle to Victoria, BC and whale watching tours through the Puget Sound.
There’s so much to do and see in Victoria! Our final package offers a stay at The Fairmont Empress overlooking Victoria's spectacular Inner Harbor. The hotel showcases the spirit and energy of Vancouver Island in grand style. It captures the grandeur and elegance of a bygone era, with the most modern facilities for today’s traveler. From exhilarating ocean-bound whale watching safaris, world-class cultural exhibits and mouth-watering local cuisine to scenic garden and winery tours, The Fairmont Empress immerses you in the best Victoria can offer!
400 Ways (and Counting!) to Delight your Auction Audience
October 22, 2013
When it comes to donating to a favorite cause at a charity fundraiser
, people spend with their hearts or palates or adrenalin in mind. Which is a good thing if you are in receipt of the latest Mitch-Stuart Inc. Destinations of Excellence Catalogue.
The newest catalogue is a round-the-world compendium of classically fabulous cities and properties combined with once-in-a-lifetime experiences that evoke responses like, “The trip of a lifetime!”
The savvy event planner can take a look at their crowd and know which exclusive packages to offer in order to achieve the highest “WOW” factor. To get your paddles up and at ‘em at your next event, here is just a sampling. Read on and get some good ideas.
For the Armchair Athlete and Fervent Fan Would you like to offer your crowd trips to any major sporting event in the U.S.? Mitch-Stuart Inc. offers that. As well, pick and choose some amazing one-time events such as the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Masters at Augusta, the Ryder Cup in Scotland, the Indy 500 in Indianapolis or the 2014 Super Bowl – the first one at MetLife stadium played outdoors as real football should be! If your sports fan tends toward a less visceral appreciation of athleticism, there’s a package to attend the ESPYS – ESPN’s annual celebration of all things sport.
For the Walter Mitty in us all On sea, on land and in the air, there is something for those in search of a pulse-racing experience. Whether its spending a hands-on day on the America’s Cup yacht as part of a trip to San Diego, a thrilling and beautiful driving experience in Europe in your very own Porsche, exotic car-racing in Las Vegas (including a heilicoptor tour of the city) or an exhilirating motorcycle tour throughout Arizona and Nevada aboard a Harley Davidson or Triumph Thunderbird, Mitch-Stuart has excellent experiences for the thrill-seeker. Not high energy enough? Try a “Top Gun Experience” as a fighter pilot for a day in a military aircraft.
For the Fan of the Four-legged a few exciting Destinations of Excellence! There is a breathtaking safari to Kenya that features endless wildlife viewing from the Serengeti to Kenya's Masai Mara. The Westminster Dog Show offers a backstage pass to this wonderful world of purebred dogs and all the grace, pomp and circumstance that goes with it – plus it’s in New York. If your taste runs more to the aquatic, visit San Diego with a package dedicated to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. For equine enthusiasts, two great options – come to the Kentucky Derby for a mint julep-filled visit to storied Louisville and the annual heart-pounding race or visit Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo Championship.
For the Celebrity-Struck Awards shows know no bounds in the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence catalogue. Your devotee can see the Emmys, the Grammys, The VMAs, the People’s Choice Awards and more – all in either Los Angeles or New York offered in addition to exclusive fun-filled packages with lots of extras. Country music enthusiasts can also visit Nashville for the Country Music Awards.
For the Fashionable Those with a PhD in the “Shopping Arts” will be over the moon with one of Mitch-Stuart Inc.’s famed shopping packages. The new catalogue features destinations such as Palm Springs for a few days of the
finest outlet shopping or the always popular New York “Shop til You Drop” excursion. There is a featured Nordstrom experience that one can obtain in San Francisco, Newport Beach or Chicago. Finally, the shopping is pretty good in Paris and several Italian cities Mitch-Stuart packages as well!
If you aren’t too overwhelmed by all the fantastic finds in the new catalogue, visit it yourself! This is just a taste.
Oktoberfest! Time To Celebrate The Best Brews Across America
October 15, 2013
Oktoberfest has been an important part of Bavarian culture since 1810 and an important part of world culture for almost as long with fairs and festivals of the hops-happy everywhere you turn. In fact, with the overwhelming popularity of craft beer in our country, (craft beer sales rose 15% in dollars and 13% in volume in the first six months of 2013) and more than 2,500 breweries currently operating in the U.S.—the most since the pre-Prohibition era—a golden age of beer is underway! No better time to celebrate suds than October, and here are some great destinations that the experts at Mitch-Stuart Inc. recommend. And if you are planning a charity auction or other fundraiser, keep them in mind when putting together some great packaged travel for your bidders! Cheers or Jubel as they say in German!
Already a food and wine mecca, Chicago knows how to appreciate the best beers too. This month visit the Public House featuring a month of beer-mania including beer and brat tastings! Additionally Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers "Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago," a getaway for two to Chicago which includes an Original Chicago Pizza Tour – goes great with beer, of course!
You may not think of our Canadian neighbors as a hotbed of Hornchen (German pastry) but the Victoria Edelweiss Club throws a mean schnitzel dinner with beer and accordion entertainment – totally authentic!
After enjoying a day of sand and surf in “America’s Finest City”, whether its “Oktober” or not, sample a variety of award-winning beers via a unique Mitch-Stuart Inc. experience—craft beer tour. With over 60 craft breweries in San Diego county alone, the beer enthusiast culture is on the rise. Sit back and relax on this fun and safe way to visit San Diego's breweries, and taste many of their award-winning beers.
Mitch-Stuart Inc. offers “History and Hops of New York” a trip for two including a New York beer and brewery tour. And, the whole month of October in New York features events and happenings from a group called Germany in NYC which you can check out here.
Many may remember that Tumwater, WA was the home of Olympia Brewery which shut down in 2003. But that doesn’t keep the region out of ale! There are many regional Oktoberfests including one in Leavenworth, WA boasting live music, arts and crafts and activities for the whole family and a keg tapping ceremony!
No matter where you are spending October, may it be worthy of a toast!
Fall For Sports—Literally!!
October 09, 2013
From Los Angeles to Long Island and everywhere in between, we are a country of sports fans. They are the lifeblood of professional and college sports, and today’s global sports industry is worth between $480-$620 billion. Smart auction industry professionals know the value of engaging the hearts, time, attention and wallets of this group.
Therefore, if you're appealing to this crowd, fall is truly the ONE time of year where every major sport is either underway or reaching the height of the season. Whether it's NFL or college football, Major League Baseball, the NBA or hockey, this is the time of year to plan an incredible, memorable trip via a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. with a complete sports travel package to incorporate into your fundraiser or charity auction. These are dream trips—where your sports fantasies actually come true. Take a quick, memorable read:
First–EVER Super Bowl in New York. Gotham's the place for the 2014 Super Bowl—and the first outdoor, cold weather championship game in February at the magnificent MetLife Stadium. The high energy, fun-filled, four day & three night package includes everything you need to cheer on your team in style—from game tickets, to economy air travel, hotel, transfers to hotel and the game, daily breakfast and the excitement of being in the Big Apple.
Be a Pro—At Any Pro Game! This unique dream package allows you to attend any game in the 50 professional sports markets. Whether NFL, NHL, NBA or MLB, this three day & two night trip for two is complete with everything you need for a complete experience including hotel, economy airfare and game tickets.
The Fall Classic. The World Series—it doesn't get any bigger or better than that if you're a true, die-hard baseball fan! This unique dream package for two includes TWO tickets to TWO successive World Series games in the same city; hotel, economy airfare, breakfast, transfers—everything you need to sit back and watch the top baseball event of the year.
We Have A Package For You To The 2014 BCS! The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, one of the most beautiful settings in all of sports, will be the site of the 2014 Bowl Champion Series (BCS) Championship Game. Your donors will enjoy being at the Super Bowl of college football, while basking in sunny Southern California in January. The Rose Parade, the pageantry of college football, the biggest college game of the year—and, on top of all that—it's the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl. The package for two covers four days & three nights, hotel, game tickets, breakfast, car rental and breakfasts—everything you need to experience the historic game!
With any of these unique sports packages from Mitch-Stuart, Inc…your attendees will be winners no matter what their favorite team does!
Event Best Practices: A Few Holiday Thoughts
October 02, 2013
Event Best Practices: A Few Holiday Thoughts
The holiday season is an important time for charitable giving and the end of the year is the most popular time for organizations to host fundraisers. Roughly a third of all annual donations are made in December. Fundraising
is all about generating income for a good cause and a successful event allows for fun and rewarding ways to generate donations. Best success is achieved with careful and strategic planning.
The holidays are simply the best time to fundraise! So start early with a few event must-do’s:
Thoughts on Themes
Don’t be afraid to be creative—as long as it’s in keeping with the interests and status of your target audience and—in some way—relevant to the equity and “ethos” of your organization. Keep your auction event fun with a theme that will excite your donors. Black tie galas and winter wonderland themes are always nice but a fun, pop culture pleaser like a holiday movie theme can rev up your guest list (a visit to Middle Earth courtesy of December’s Hobbit
release perhaps?) Come up with a few creative ideas—and test out the best with a few key board members or regular contributors to get their input and tacit approval. Once they sign on, RUN WITH IT!
The Art of the Holiday Basket
Baskets are a solid way of enticing higher levels of giving—plus they can make excellent raffle prizes. Again, don’t be afraid of getting creative with the contents. Go green with sustainable foods and even cooking lessons
or other hot trends such as pet gift baskets, premium cigar baskets and art gift baskets. Everyone loves a basket full of goodies. They’re great for re-gifting too!
Consider travel packages. People love to travel, according to Travel & Leisure magazine, “Of course, one thing in travel remains constant year after year: the quest for new horizons.” You can offer a range of these from warm, exotic destinations to one-of-a-kind “experiential” trips! Look for places and packages that capture the imagination. What could be more fun at the holidays than knowing you’ve just won or purchased an exciting trip for yourself or your family! And doing it for a worthy cause is a win-win for everyone involved. A complete, all-inclusive package to the 2014 Super Bowl or a deluxe holiday shopping spree in NY? Surfing and scuba lessons in Maui? See these and more in our sample trips
Keep your donors merry and be creative for your next holiday event.
Event Best Practices: Hire a Professional Auctioneer
September 24, 2013
Many non-profit organizations watching their expenses think that anyone with an exciting and engaging personality can master the art of auctioneering at their next fundraiser
or charity auction
. Not the case.
Often times we see organizations hiring celebrities or local talent to steer the live auction but the truth is that hiring an experienced auctioneer is the most effective way to raise maximum funds for your benefit.
Hiring a licensed professional such as a Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) over a “fun” personality can be the difference between big profits and not so much. A polished professional who sweats the details can interest, inspire and influence a restless crowd! As an added plus, they will assist with making sure your organization procures hot auction items including both donated and on consignment, that keep driving excitement and bids – items that fulfill fantasies such as dream vacations and experiences. Professional auctioneers will help you take your auction to the next level!
Here are some tips for selecting the right auctioneer:
Ask for a written proposal: Make sure the auctioneer wants the job and really understands the parameters of the event. Have proposers include fee, out-of-pocket expenses and an outline of how they see the event going. Look for creative flourishes that may set them apart.
Credentials: Ask your potential auctioneers about their credentials and their experience. Be sure to look for auctioneers who have professional certification from the National Auctioneers’ Association. You’ll want to know how long they have been certified along with any other accolades they may hold.
Key Questions: Like any interview process, be sure to ask for a list of previous clients that they have worked for. Referrals are often the best way to get a sense of the type of auctioneer you’re dealing with and if they will be a good fit for your organization’s event. Ask for the video! Seeing them in action will also tell you how good they are at the job.
Your bottom line is at stake. Make the wise decision and choose a ‘real’ auctioneer for your next event.
I’ll Have What She’s Having
September 17, 2013
The true cuisine connoisseur goes to Paris for pate and pot au feu; North Carolina for BBQ and New York city for “deli.” Deli is short for delicatessen, which comes from German words meaning yummy food and the term has come to refer to Eastern European Jewish food in general. “Deli” is defined by meat sandwiches on rye bread and hard rolls, sour pickled cucumbers, tomatoes and sauerkraut, and potato salad and cole slaw. The best definition of deli may be this one: Jewish deli food is salty and fatty, sour and juicy, chewy and crusty. The “delic” in delicatessen is for delicious, not delicate!
Of course the title of this blog refers to the immortal utterance in “When Harry Met Sally” which was filmed at Katz’s, 2nd stop on our tour of NYC delis, a tour which we encourage you to proffer up to please the palates at your next fundraiser or charity auction. Do so and be sure to see mouths water and donations rise!
Planning a trip to New York’s delis includes visits to at least four of the five boroughs of Manhattan where there will be much to do to whet an appetite before stopping for a corned beef or pastrami on rye. We have compiled a “baker’s dozen” of must munch eateries and you can fight among yourselves about whose corned beef is king!
2nd Ave Deli
Barney Greengrass (Upper West Side)
Russ and Daughters (Lower East Side)
Mile End Delicatessen (Brooklyn)
Jay & Lloyds (Brooklyn)
Liebman’s Deli (Bronx)
Loeser’s Kosher Deli (Riverdale, Bronx)
Lido Kosher Deli (Long Beach, near the beach)
Ben's Best Kosher Deli (Rego Park, Queens)
Round of Applause: Mitch-Stuart, Inc. Wins the 2013 SCORE Award!
September 10, 2013
Recognition for a job well done isn’t something we take lightly. So, while we are overjoyed to have been named the winner of the 2013 SCORE Award
for The "Outstanding Small Business Launched by Individuals Aged 50+" at the SCORE Foundation's award ceremony last month in Dallas, we also want to use the opportunity to share some “success strategies” that others can employ when contemplating awards and other recognition.
First, a bit about the SCORE Award.
The SCORE Foundation is the globally-recognized organization of retired business executives who "mentor" small businesses and Mitch-Stuart was selected out of hundreds of entries from across the country for this prestigious award. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. was founded by Stuart Paskow and Michelle Cohen at an age when many might be looking at lessening their workload, but their extensive experience in the corporate and non-profit sectors and long-standing entrepreneurial spirit allowed them to innovate and become trailblazers for a new industry. Over the past twenty years Michelle and Stuart created and shaped the concept of travel in non-profit fundraising
, specializing in unique travel programs
that assist nonprofit organizations and provide incentives for businesses
Mitch-Stuart has proudly raised more than $1 billion for more than 10,000 charities throughout the nation and serves thousands of clients annually. Telling the company story in a meaningful way helped lead to the SCORE Award recognition. Here are some ways your organization can help tell its story and gain valuable industry recognition.
Research, research, research Identify award categories into which your organization or founders might fit and really do the homework to make sure you qualify. Factors such as geography, number of volunteers and employees, target market, successful fundraising efforts, diversity, etc., may all make up key criteria.
Hire a professional If you or someone in your organization doesn’t have the time to research and prepare the often in-depth award entries and applications, retain a writer or public relations professional to do the heavy lifting, with the organization’s leadership weighing in and editing content of course.
Make a plan Work backwards from the competition deadline to ensure that you make critical due dates and have ample time to retrieve important data, visuals or other components necessary to present a complete entry.
Finally, our mantra of “client service is king” really resonated with the SCORE Awards judges. More about the importance of service in our upcoming Mitch-Stuart Inc. fall newsletter.
Don’t Sacrifice Fitness When You’re Traveling!
September 04, 2013
These hotels make it easy
A recent poll shows that 53% of Americans like to stay in shape while on vacation, with about the same percentage opting for the hotel gym as their workout choice. Smart hotels have gotten savvy about what they offer their guests – a couple of weights and a treadmill just will not do! This is important for those who organize charity auctions
and fundraising events
as well, since crafting the perfect travel package
is key to success.
There is a trend now to offer health and wellness professional consulting and training including: body composition assessment, personal training, private yoga, nutritional counseling, group exercise and more. Here are some examples of hotels and properties that really do it right for their clientele.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts provides gym clothes and shoes gratis for all members of their President's Club (free to join). Fitness at the Fairmont means Reebok® workout apparel and footwear, an MP3 player and a yoga mat with stretch band, all of which can be delivered directly to your room upon request. The service is complimentary for Premier and Platinum members with a small service charge for Club members.
Ritz Carlton Washington DC for $15.00 a day guests can visit the Sports Club/LA and full access to 100,000 square feet of fitness machines, basketball courts, squash, a lap pool, boxing area and more than 100 weekly classes. The Ritz-Carlton - Bachelor Gulch - has amazing outdoor activities including a private, guided outdoor adventure in the surrounding White River National Forest, ideal for the mountain enthusiast and other adventures like the Winter Private Snowshoe Adventure, water therapy in the Gulch Signature Copper Tub Soak (for individuals or couples) and the Roaring Rapids (Inspired by white water rafting, this hydrotherapy massage experience includes a choice of detoxifying mustard or relaxing herbal mountain blend and is a wonderful alternative to a hands-on massage.) The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel ultimate beach vacation offers three miles of sandy beach with captivating views of the pacific while exercising in the Fitness Center or taking yoga outside on the bluffs. The Spa emphasizes the Art of Well including balance, energy and vitality. Fitness center - Cardiovascular & Strength Training, Resistance & Weight Training, Personal Training, Wellness Classes - Yoga and Pilates - all situated atop a 150 foot bluff.
Hyatt at the Bellevue guests gain complimentary access to the Sporting Club at Bellevue, accessible by an enclosed sky bridge and home to 93,000 square feet of strength and cardio equipment and an indoor running track.
Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco Sports Club/LA runs this hotel's on-site, 127,000-square-foot fitness center, which has out-of-the ordinary amenities such as a boxing studio and basketball court. Guests can attend workout classes for free and get advice from personal trainers.
Marriott Renaissance Club Sport in Aliso Viejo, California with full access to Renaissance Club Sport, a world-class sports club boasting 75,000 square foot facility offering a 12,000 square foot fitness floor, six group exercise studios, court sports, aquatic center and childcare services. The hotel near Laguna Beach, CA creates a superb suburban spa-style hotel and fitness center while offering many resort-like amenities for their guests. They can also enjoy jogging and fitness trails.
So many choices, so little time! Do your homework and see which offering appeals to you and your organization.
A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Travel
August 27, 2013
Google chocolate and travel and you get about 300 million results! There’s a good reason for that, with chocolate topping many favorite “things to eat” and travel topping many favorite “things to do.” Savvy organizers of fundraisers
and charity auctions
will want to combine these two audience pleasers.
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers plenty of these (guilty) pleasure trips to some serious chocolate capitals. Feast your eyes (and then your palates!) below:
San Francisco Get a true taste of the city on one of three delicious tours! You’ll enjoy a spectrum of chocolate flavors on the Ultra Chocolate Tour, including French, Belgian and American chocolates, and a blind chocolate bar tasting. Top if off with a Chocolate Lover Card entitling you to discounts and VIP treatment at nearby boutiques!
Boston Boston’s not just about seafood… The Original Chocolate Walking Tour will take you to the best chocolate shops, bakeries and cafes near vibrant Newbury Street.
Asheville Prepare your palate for a delicious epicurean combination! You’ll get to enjoy a red wine and chocolate truffle tasting! A friendly host will guide you through your tasting, and you will learn about the red wine-making process and why chocolate and red wine are considered a natural pairing.
New York The Big Apple is actually a chocoholic paradise, which hosts two of National Geographic’s Top 10 Best Chocolate purveyors. Read on for a sampling of some of New York’s most amazing shrines to the cocoa bean.
Let us know you travel for your chocolate fix!
The City Bakery specializes in hot chocolate, all year long, but particularly in February’s month-long hot chocolate festival featuring a different special flavor daily as well as original. Considered the best by many, its rich and thick with a homemade marshmallow.
Vosges offers a bacon chocolate bar and a mushroom chocolate bar and chocolate covered spicy fire tortilla chips. Sounds weird yes? But very cool and different.
Jacques Torres is renowned for rich and delicious and hot chocolate bar. They also sell some chocolate with sex appeal – such as caramel body spread etc. Something for everyone.
Max Brenner is on the Nat Geo list, and has a complete restaurant menu in addition to fine hand-made chocolate. They have vats of chocolate and unusual offerings such as praline waffle balls!
Serendipity is a must-do as they are open late and serve food and are famous for the frozen hot chocolate! The landmark offers other amazing desserts and the atmosphere is classic and cozy.
Magnolia Bakery is also on the Nat Geo list and is best known for its daily cupcakes with flavors such as Truffle: devil’s food cake and chocolate or white chocolate truffle filling covered with chocolate ganache or German chocolate cupcakes.
Autumn in Nevada
August 20, 2013
Ok, it’s not April in Paris, but there are some lovely advantages to offering vacation packages to the delightful desert oasis of Las Vegas – especially when the temperature dips below 100 degrees – as part of your charity auctions
or fundraising events
Mitch-Stuart Inc. offers a decidedly different take on the Las Vegas experience combining luxury hotel ambience with extreme thrills of exotic auto racing and aerobatic flight simulation, helicopter rides, to unique entertainment options such as attending a rodeo.
If a different customer take on Vegas is what your organization is looking for, here are some examples of what’s new under the (Las Vegas) sun!
And if you want still more adventuresome Vegas, there is no shortage of interesting day trips. The world famous Hoover Dam lies about an hour from Las Vegas. Right outside of the city is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon that offers plenty of either easy or more strenuous hiking and mountain biking trails and for a more extensive day trip, you can even visit the Grand Canyon. Closer to the strip but still a world away, visit the Mob Museum which showcases both sides of the notorious battle between organized crime and law enforcement, or the Neon Museum which is loaded with the huge signs that once beckoned you into casinos like the Silver Slipper, Stardust, and El Cortez. A trek to Lake Mead is beautiful as well.
A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas with Economy Class Air, Including an Exotic Car Racing Experience
A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at the Wynn Las Vegas with Economy Class Air, Including an Aerobatic Flight Simulator Experience
A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at The All-Suite Venetian Resort Hotel Casino with Economy Class Air, Including Round Trip Airport Transfers, Tickets to Your Choice of Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles or Mystère, and an Evening Helicopter Ride over the Strip
A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Three Days & Two Nights at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Hotel, Marriott Autograph Collection with Economy Class Air, Including Show Tickets
A Trip for Two to The National Finals Rodeo Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada for Three Days & Two Nights at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Including Two Tickets to Your Choice of Any Session with Plaza Level Seating (December 2013) (Land Only)
But if all you really want to do is gamble, shop and then eat well – dine like the locals at these palate-pleasers:
Anything we missed? Let us know your favorite Vegas visitor spots.
Concierge Services to Die For
August 13, 2013
In the uber competitive world of luxury hotels, a key secret weapon in the arsenal is often the concierge. Defined as a staff member of a hotel or apartment complex who assists guests or residents, as by handling the storage of luggage, taking and delivering messages, and making reservations for tours – this doesn’t even begin to cover the breadth of services today’s top-notch concierges provide for high-end clients such as those who seek deluxe custom travel packages for charity auctions
and fundraising events
To be truly at the top of the concierge game ala a Four Seasons, Fairmont or Ritz, a hotel had better be able to provide complimentary access to myriad products and services including:
Private car services
Personal shopping services
Sports gear (helmets/bicycles/etc.)
Rose petal turndown service, drawn baths and butler packing and unpacking
VIP tables at top restaurants
Exclusive private outings such as private wine tours
Sought after tickets to cultural shows and events
Finding canine companions
And these are just the standard concierge fare! Some hotels have really raised the service bar, hiring specialty concierges (is that redundant? NO!) We have discovered specialists who go by titles such as:
Pillow concierge (choices of pillows)
Soap concierge (from cinnamon to vanilla)
Tanning concierge (no need to apply your own sunscreen)
Wedding proposal/honeymoon concierge (rose petals to loud speakers)
Pet concierge (treats/toys/clean-ups/walkers)
Even “romance” concierge (less said the better)
We are certain there are even more concierge listings waiting to be created. Got any services you’d like to see offered at your favorite hotel? Let us know!
Fetch! Pet-Friendly Hotels you should know about
August 06, 2013
Many of Mitch-Stuart, Inc's hotel partners have gone above and beyond when it comes to embracing pets. Certain hotels even have their own pet mascot. In fact, some of them are superstars!
Take Matilda, a cat who lives at the Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan. She even has her own hotel package which includes a continental breakfast for two, a welcome cocktail in the lobby, a Matilda coloring book, a feline-focused book called "Fabulous Felines" by Sandy Robins, a plush stuff Matilda cat and chocolates for the kids, and a "CATabulous" eye mask!!!
Pet mascots have become so famous that they even have their own merchandise. Sparky Kia Smith is a Labrador-Jack Russell who is stationed at the Hotel Palomar in Arlington, Virginia. Sparky has trading cards with pet advice and travel tips available for purchase.
It’s no secret that pets make great companions. While many hotels consider pets a nuisance, there are a few hotels that are pet-friendly and understand that your furry friends can add a special element to your next vacation package. Mitch-Stuart has found FOUR hotel chains that not only welcome pets with open arms, but have special benefits for them.
Marriott Hotels & Resorts. Each of their pet-friendly hotels offers various facilities specifically designed to accommodate pets and their owners. For guests who enjoy fitness, the Marriott has on-site health and recreational facilities that offer ample opportunities for exercise when you can’t hit the trails with your pet.
The Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton treats your pet like a star. Pet services range from a Burberry raincoat (on loan) to a canine massage therapist. The hotels that do accept pets offer treats, toys, beds and bowls. Canine room service and spa treatments for dogs are also available.
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. The Hyatt has 90 locations that welcome canine and feline companions. The amenities offered include a special dog bed, bowl, ID tag, and welcome card. At check-in pick up a dog welcome letter and door hanger. There’s also a designated dog walk area complete with fully stocked cleanup stations.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. All Fairmont Hotels are dog friendly and—as a matter of fact—18 of their properties have "Dog Ambassadors"—obviously something to give the guest "paws"!!!
Does it make you feel better to take pets with you when you travel? Share your pet travel experiences below!
Discerning Diner: 5 Favorite Foodie Destinations
July 30, 2013
Food is an important part of travel. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. knows delicious dining can add the sizzle to any vacation package
. We took a look at five popular Mitch-Stuart, Inc. destinations and the unique food options available.
Napa, San Francisco
Mitch-Stuart offers several trips to Napa. A wine component is part of the trips offered, but while you’re in Napa take time to indulge in the great food available, in addition to the wine. Whether it’s fine dining or more casual fare, Napa is food heaven.
New York, NY
Redd. With a modern spin on wine country cuisine, Redd features dishes with influences from Asia, Europe, and Mexico in a relaxed yet stylish environment.
Gott’s Roadside. This burger-and-shake shack features unique options like the ahi tuna burger on a toasted egg bun or the Let's Be Frank hot dog topped with cheese and house-made chili.
With a variety of trips to choose from, you will never want to leave the Big Apple. Several of the New York trips offered by Mitch-Stuart feature the option to visit the New York Food and Wine Festival. Whether or not you choose the Food and Wine Festival packages, make sure to check out these other great dining options while you’re in the city.
New Orleans, LA
Lexington Brass. Serving lunch and brunch, this spot puts a twist on American bistro classics. You might just see Bill and Hilary Clinton there!
Food trucks. New Yorkers are always on the go. To save time and money they get lunch from food trucks. Check out the top 10 food trucks in NYC (as voted by Gothamist). Everything from Mexican to slushes can be found on a food truck.
New Orleans is a great option for food lovers. Mitch-Stuart offers a slate of trips to The Big Easy. One of the trips features a $200 gift card to Commander's Palace
or Mr. B’s Bistro
. Here are other food options to explore while you’re in New Orleans.
Nola. One of New Orleans’ most popular restaurants, Nola has American, Cajun/Creole, and Southern/Soul food to choose from.
Tommy’s Cuisine. This "Creole-meets-Italian" restaurant has “updated classics” and is adjacent to owner Tommy Andrade’s wine bar.
Known for its Deep Dish pizza, Chicago is a popular Mitch-Stuart destination. The company offers several trips there. One trip includes an original Chicago pizza tour. Be sure to check out these other places while in the Windy City.
Paris Culinary School, France
Alinea. Chef/Owner Grant Achatz tests the bounds of the culinary world with his dishes. There’s also his famous 24-course tasting menu, which takes five hours to complete.
More Cupcakes. This Chicago bakery makes cupcakes acceptable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. With flavors such as BLT (frosted with ranch dressing), brie champagne, and strawberry feta, you’ll be wanting more cupcakes.
Mitch-Stuart brings you to The City of Light through various trips. One of the Paris trips includes a hands-on cooking course at L'Atelier des Sens
or La Cuisine Paris
. If you prefer to be more “hands- off,” check out these other restaurants.
Apicius. Located near the Champs Elysees, Apicius is an establishment in which the food and décor are both grand. Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato’s creative dishes give a new feel to Paris dining.
La Petite Chaise. This is the oldest restaurant in Paris, dating back to 1680. Today, this historical landmark features traditional dishes that match its history. Be sure to try the lamb and rabbit entrees.
What foodie destinations have you visited, and what was your favorite item?
Common Things People Forget When Traveling in the Summer
July 23, 2013
With August fast approaching, everyone is trying to fit in a vacation before the Labor Day holiday and “back-to-school.” While you’re sure to remember to book the essentials, like a flight and hotel, you may forget to pack some key items. According to Michelle Cohen, President of Mitch-Stuart, Inc., “Choosing the right travel package is the most important part of one’s travel plans.” While your destination
is of great importance, use this checklist to make sure you’re never without these travel items!
Chargers and batteries. Whether they’re for your smartphone, tablet, e-reader, or camera, you need your chargers and batteries. Batteries may come cheap, but chargers for smartphones and tablets don’t. Make this one of the first items you pack.
Adapters for different electrical currents. If you’re traveling internationally, you need to check out the different voltages in different countries. Pick up an adapter for your devices before you board the plane, this way you can plug in your camera or camcorder while you unpack for an extra charge.
Copies of your passport and documents. While the original is always the best form of any document, having a copy is a good backup. Accidents happen, so making copies of your passport, ticket and other important documents can come in handy. In the unfortunate scenario where you are robbed, having copies of these documents stored in your hotel safe doesn’t hurt either. If applicable, download your boarding pass to your phone. Many airlines have apps that store your ticket on your phone.
Maps & Directions. It’s always best to write down the information for the hotel you are staying at just in case you get lost and aren’t near your destination. You can store this information on a piece of paper or in your phone. If you have a smartphone, download a GPS app; however, a physical map is still the way to go just in case your cell phone dies or you’re in an area without cell reception.
Photos of your belongings. Take pictures of your suitcase, expensive possessions, and anything else that you value should it become lost or stolen. Pictures provide proof and make negotiating with foreign police or airport staff easier.
A memory of your passwords. You may have to use a public computer when you travel, so the luxury of auto-memorized passwords doesn’t apply here. Before leaving, make sure you know all your passwords. This will save you a lot of time, hassle and money.
An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. If your sunglasses break, you buy another pair. If your glasses break or you lose a contact lens, you’re in serious trouble. You may not be able to replace the broken or lost pair until you get home, so a spare will be essential for your holiday.
Duct Tape. This particular tape can fix and repair almost anything. You never know when a zipper on your suitcase might break.
Bonus: Call your credit card company and tell them you’re traveling.
What items have you forgotten to pack when traveling? Leave a comment below!
Support Your Smaller Charities!
July 16, 2013
When it comes to charities, the “big names” usually get most of the attention, while the smaller charities have to hustle to get their fair share. Small charities are often amongst the neediest and also often performing some of the most important work on the smallest budgets. Contributing to their success helps a great number of people. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. happily supports smaller charities and the results have been amazing!
Mary Dekle is the Resource Developer at Legal Services of North Florida, Inc
., a private non-profit corporation dedicated to providing free legal representation to low income people with civil legal problems. She has worked with Mitch-Stuart for several years. Dekle’s cause is an example of how smaller charities benefit from Mitch-Stuart travel packages. “We realized auctioning off enticing vacation packages was a great way to excite donors,” said Dekle. “Trips such as auction items have been so successful; we now have expanded to include a special auction of trips at other times of the year, not just our annual fundraiser.” According to Dekle, the vacation auction items have been so successful that they have often been “purchased by individuals who were not regular contributors and, after taking the trips, they've become regular donors!”
Mitch-Stuart offers fantastic vacation options as auction items
which help support smaller charities. Here are other ways companies and individuals can help support small charities:
Via Sales. You can choose to have a percentage of profits from sales of a particular product or services, or sales on a particular day, go to that organization.
Via Volunteers. If your employees are looking to support a charity, the opportunity to volunteer will be greatly appreciated and much needed by a smaller organization.
Via donors to similar causes. Let customers and donors know about the charity with whom you are working and how their activities may align or support those of a more familiar “brand name cause.
Via social media. Promote these needy yet deserving entities on your website, social media and in other marketing materials to “turn up the volume”.
The impact of the trips Mitch-Stuart provided to Mary Dekle’s organization warranted great results. “The trips are an equalizer for small and midsize non-profits,” said Dekle. “It gives our auction, and our organization a higher profile -like something you'd expect from a huge non-profit.”
In what ways have you supported smaller or lesser-known charities?
Destination Spotlight: San Diego
July 09, 2013
SAN DIEGO: SO MUCH TO “SEA”. . .SO MUCH TO DO. . .SO MUCH TO ENJOY. . .AND ALL “FOUR” YOU!!!!!
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. invites you to take a trip to beautiful San Diego… four trips actually! Get to know California’s second largest city via our itineraries below. We know that whichever one you pick, this coastal water wonderland beckons with blue skies keeping watch on 70 miles of beaches and a gentle Mediterranean climate that begs for a day of everything and nothing. Heads up to donors! These four trips are fantastic auction travel packages waiting to be scooped up.
The first trip is for those who love to sail, since this is an America’s Cup yacht experience you don’t want to miss. Stay at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina, which puts you close to the sheltered waters of San Diego Bay. You'll have the unique opportunity to experience almost two hours of boat racing, including a race on a current generation America's Cup yacht. The Hyatt Regency and Mission Bay Spa and Marina offer panoramic views of the marina and the Pacific Ocean along with a pampering spa and water playground with multiple slides.
If you’re an animal lover, this second trip is perfect for you. Your stay at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina includes a one-day admission ticket to SeaWorld®, or a second option, where a one-day admission to either the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park is also included. Venture beneath the waves for an up-close look at Shamu, moray eels, California bay rays sea lions, harbor seals and other exotic creatures closer than ever before! Enjoy the adorable black and white pandas, the meerkat and camels at the San Diego Zoo; or witness the rare and exotic animals up close at the exciting shows at Safari Park.
There’s so much to do and see in San Diego. With our third option, choose to stay at the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina or the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa and experience endless activities. Jet-ski, sail, or simply sit and breathe in the ocean air on the resort’s 16 waterfront acres across the bay from downtown San Diego. You can also take the Old Town Trolley Tour, which will guide you around San Diego hotspots, including the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and Seaport Village. You can also visit the island of Coronado, the Crown City, Balboa Park-a city park that combines open space and greenery with cultural attractions- and El Prado- a long promenade running through the park, lined with Spanish architecture.
Finally, our fourth itinerary offers exploration beyond the city limits. Separated by the San Diego Bay, Coronado is a playground outside of San Diego. Watch as yachts and sailboats glide past the majestic Coronado Bridge. Check out the Ferry Landing Marketplace, the Silver Strand Bike Path and 18-hole Coronado Golf Course, all in walking distance. At the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa enjoy luxurious spa treatments and outdoor heated pools, lighted tennis courts and bicycle rentals.
Take in the sights and sounds of San Diego and experience all this amazing city has to offer! Donors will love these trips, and these four packages also make for great fundraising opportunities. You don’t want to miss out!
True Blue American Causes
July 02, 2013
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is regarded and celebrated as the birth of American independence. Typical festivities range from fireworks, parades and concerts to barbecues. However, we must remember that America’s independence didn’t come easy. Americans had to fight battles and wars, as well as endure hardships in order to obtain the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we all have today.
One way Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has showed its appreciation for our nation’s independence has been to partner up with charities such as The Sentinels of Freedom, USO Cares and Wounded Warriors.
Sentinels of Freedom provides life-changing opportunities for men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have suffered severe injuries and need the support of grateful communities to realize their dreams.
The organization offers up to four year "life scholarships" to help vets become self- sufficient. Mitch-Stuart, which is known for offering unique, auction-worthy items, provided the auction travel packages for this organization. The Sentinels of Freedom were able to choose luxurious trips and fundraising packages and sell some of them multiple times.
Mitch-Stuart created the USO Cares with American Airlines program. They have created a program in which care packages are sent to service members all over the world. For $25, a package was sent to a person in the military anywhere in the world. In return for the donation, the person who sent the package received 150 AAdvantage miles.
Check out these patriotic getaways from Mitch Stuart, Inc. this Independence Day:
Ellis Island. Stay at The Ritz-Carlton New York, located in Battery Park. This package offers an exceptional cosmopolitan experience. Hop on a three-hour Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, which gets you up close to Lady Liberty! Marvel at the famous Statue of Liberty and remember the millions of immigrants that found their own independence once reaching Ellis Island.
Washington, D.C. Experience our nation’s capital like never before. View some of our nation’s most famous monuments on the Gray Line sightseeing tour or the Old Town Trolley Tour. The Gray Line tour will take you past famous landmarks including the new World War II Memorial, the FBI Building, Federal Triangle, Ellipse, Tidal Basin, National Archives, Washington Monument, House and Senate Office Buildings, U.S. Botanical Gardens, National Gallery of Art, U.S. Navy Memorial and the Grant Memorial. The Old Town Trolley Tour will guide you to landmarks such as the Capitol Building, Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and the Museum of Natural History.
Philadelphia. Nothing says red, white and blue like Philadelphia. Home to the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia is filled with so much historical significance that it will leave you wanting to explore even more. Your trolley tour will take you past some of the most popular and historic attractions. The National Constitution Center is America’s most interactive museum, and is solely devoted to the U.S. Constitution.
Gettysburg. Mitch-Stuart is currently creating a once in a lifetime experience for Civil War buffs to visit Gettysburg beginning this fall. Stay tuned!
How will you show your patriotism this Fourth of July?
Home Is Where the Hotel Is
June 25, 2013
Not a phrase many would say upon entering their hotel room, but major hotel chains are trying to change that. Slowly but surely, more hotels are leaning towards “home-like” and family-friendly atmospheres. These brands are out to attract with the addition of kids clubs, teen programs and kids’ nights out. They also assist with planning family outings.
Many hotel brands have transformed standard hotel rooms into over-the-top bedroom sanctuaries. Gone are uncomfortable sheets. Now there are better linens, duvets, and pillows to make a hotel room feel more like your bedroom at home. Also, harsh lighting has been replaced by soft, natural light. To top things off, plug-ins and docking stations for all your electronic gadgets have been conveniently added to help you use your phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops and portable gaming devices from the comfort of your bed.
According to Michelle Cohen, President of Mitch-Stuart, Inc., “Our clients are even reporting that room service has experienced an ‘extreme makeover’.” Hotels know room service can be expensive and that many of their patrons seek food outside the establishment. Here are some solutions savvy establishments are implementing. Everything from Starbucks to all types of food options are now featured in the lobbies of many hotels.
Guests who felt like the mini bar offered the best meal, are now free to explore other options within the hotel. This has been great for guests who are on business trips, or for those who still need to work while on vacation. These guests no longer feel they have to work from their hotel desk, but rather they can take their laptops and iPads into the hotel lounge and coffee spots and work comfortably there.
So, what hotels are offering these “home-like” experiences? Here’s a couple:
The Residence Inn by Marriott®
describes their hotels as places to “enjoy, unwind and work.” These rooms come fully equipped with in-suite kitchens, which feature a full-sized refrigerator, stove, microwave and coffee maker. Other amenities include:
Free daily hot breakfast with a variety of options
Free Wi-Fi in all suites and lobbies
Free grocery delivery
Dry cleaning & on-site laundry
Private meeting spaces for events & family gatherings
Outdoor spaces with fire pits & barbeques
Complimentary evening socials
Business center services: free access to computers, printers and fax machines
recently underwent a reinvention. Part of the reinvention includes the HYATT Has It program. There’s always one, two, or sometimes three things that you forgot. Well the HYATT Has It program has a list of complimentary items as well as items to borrow or buy. They are stocked up on everything from curling irons to yoga mats.
What hotel made you feel like the most at home during your stay? LET US KNOW!
Destination Spotlight: Paris
June 18, 2013
OOO-LA-LA!!!! From the exquisite culture and cuisine, to its rich art history and beautiful monuments, there’s plenty to do while in Paris—considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers several different experiences in the City of Light that caters to your heart’s desire.
Enjoy cooking—and dining? Your first option involves Paris’ culture and cuisine. The trip for two is a six day, five night stay at the Hotel Le Littre. Included in this package is a hands-on cooking class at L'Atelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris, a two-hour sightseeing tour of Paris, lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel at the Eiffel Tower, and a one-hour River Seine cruise.
Located on the Paris Left Bank, the Hotel Le Littre is peacefully located between Saint Germain des Pres and Montparnasse, the new areas for fashion designers and luxury shops. Food lovers won’t be disappointed as the L’Atelier Des Sens and La Cuisine Paris offer cooking classes led by skilled chefs who will impart their lessons on everything from macaroons and croissants to the quintessential French baguette.
Are you an art and history buff? The second option is the coup de grace!! This trip includes a six day, five night stay for two at the Hotel Le Littre. Half-day shared tours of the Louvre Museum, Musee d'Orsay, and the Centre George Pompidou are included in this package.
Visit the renowned Louvre, one of the world’s largest and most visited museums; then make your way to the Musee d’Orsay for the impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. End your trip at the Pompidou Center and explore the modern art “it” houses.
Looking for romance? Look no further. The third option is for the romanticist in all of us. This trip for two at the Hotel Le Littre includes a romantic Paris by night tour, a one hour Seine Cruise, which includes a full course dinner, and a private illuminations tour. The City of Light is sure to bring a spark to your life, from the fashion, culture, architectural heritage, gourmet cuisine, and romance! Come explore the capital of France and discover the magic that has beckoned visitors for millennia.
Get pampered with the proverbial “royal treatment”? Another Paris option is just that!! This trip for two is for seven days and six nights at the Le Royal Monceau and Raffles Paris. Included in this package is your choice of either a half-day private tour of the Louvre Museum or a half-day private tour of the Musee d'Orsay, both skip-the-line entrance tickets.
Le Royal Monceau offers the elegance, prestige, luxury, and hospitality that have been signs of high European culture. Only in Paris, France, steeped in history, passion, beauty, and "l’art de vivre", could this legendary hotel begin yet another life in a refined new design that recalls its origins as it appeals to the contemporary traveler, who desires not merely a place to stay but a place to feel truly welcome.
Whatever your age or interest, each month in Paris has its unique attractions and pleasures: cutting-edge fashion, food, and fun offered against a backdrop of 3,000 years worth of history! Take some time and come see Paris now.
Paris is THE place!!!!
June 11, 2013
By Tom Harrison
It’s been said that good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. There’s a lot we can learn from some of the really bad decisions that have been made—so that we can make better ones. Or at least we can make our own mistakes rather than simply repeating these whoppers.
Here are 13 mistakes we all wish we had known about without having to actually make them!
Cutting acquisition quantity to improve fundraising ratios, but destroying your future revenue stream in the process. If you cut back on acquisition, you’ll have fewer current donors to cultivate next year and will start a downward revenue spiral that’s difficult to reverse.
Hiring the wrong major gift leader. You don’t want a major gift leader who meddles with your successful direct response program instead of visiting with donors. Or one who tries to restrict direct response (DR) communication with donors based on how much they’ve given rather than based on who can actually
be personally cultivated. Major gift officers should generate major gifts.
Letting brand dictate fundraising messages instead of mandating that brand reinforce
Getting seduced by a consultant who claims to be able to acquire “higher value donors” and ending up getting too few donors to sustain your organization. The lesson is that you need a program that acquires those higher value donors plus
all the other donors.
Setting a target for your capital campaign but forgetting to include two years of operating budget in the total. The new building or new programs always cost more to operate than your current budget. By raising two years of operating costs up front, it gives you time to increase your revenue stream to meet the new operating budget.
Cutting revenue-producing programs to address a budget shortfall. A wise accountant serving as a new board member addressed a nonprofit’s $100,000 budget shortfall. He suggested actually spending more
money on revenue-producing activities. He correctly noted that the DR program raised $3 for every $1 spent. Increasing the DR budget by $50,000 raises $150,000—with a net of $100,000 to solve the revenue shortfall.
Accepting Watchdog standards. Don’t brag about your stars. Instead, teach donors to judge you by the impact of your programs, not by arbitrary – and often misleading – cost ratios.
Chasing blindly after the next big thing. The fear of being left behind can cause us to leap before we look. Protect your core revenue streams, and budget separately for R&D with dollars you can afford to lose.
Making it look too easy. If people take your fundraising programs for granted, they’ll be tempted to water them down by mistakenly cutting frequency or insisting on more stories of success and less emphasis on need and urgency. Worse still, when the resulting fundraising efforts fail – they will – it will be blamed on the channel or the donors or your department, rather than on the dilution of the strategy.
Forgetting to test. Why would anyone abandon a control for something new without testing? Maybe they’re afraid to be proven wrong, or because testing is difficult, or testing costs more, or maybe they just can’t imagine that their idea could fail. Always test.
Believing that you are the target audience. Meet the donors where they
are, rather than where you wish they were. Make it easy for donors to financially support programs that they are passionate about, not programs that you (or your program people) wish donors were passionate about.
Being so afraid of being called a micro-manager that you don’t manage enough. It’s irresponsible to stand by and watch your people make mistakes that you know, from experience, will damage your organization. Sure, you sometimes need to allow them to learn from their own mistakes—on the small stuff. But on important matters, you owe it to your organization, your people and yourself to teach
your staff the right things to do and the right way to do them. If there’s one thing experience teaches us the hard way, it’s that not all ideas are of equal value.
Being afraid to fire someone. If someone is not succeeding in his position, he is hurting the cause you represent and likely demoralizing other employees. Your organization deserves top-performing employees. If someone isn’t cutting it, even after you’ve worked to help her improve, let her go. It will allow you to hire someone better, and will allow the exiting employee to find a position where she’ll contribute more and be more highly valued.
There may only be seven deadly sins, but there are myriad marketing missteps. If you have others to add, we’d love to hear from you!
Tom Harrison, CEO
Get Creative! Fundraiser Locations You Haven’t Thought Of
June 04, 2013
“Been there, done that”.
The last thing you want your guests to say when you are hosting a non profit auction
! And it all starts with the location. Here are some outside-of-the-hotel-ballroom options you might want to consider when hosting your next charity event
That trendy place you’ve been meaning to go
Why not raise money in a fun and low-key, “natural” atmosphere? If your donors and attendees are comfortable they may be inclined to spend a little more money than they planned, which isn’t a bad thing! Consider a hot club, restaurant or bar. Be sure to factor in the following:
Serve any “signature dishes” the restaurant might be famous for
If a bar has been around for a significant amount of time jump on its rich history, or if it’s known for serving a particular drink, it could be fun to let your attendees know about it
For a club, see if there’s a famous DJ or if this venue hosts a special jazz night or other genre of music-themed night
This can be a win-win situation for your fundraiser and the owner of any of these establishments. Explain to the owner that this could be a great PR opportunity for their business and the possibility of returning patrons is too good to pass up.
Lights! Camera! Action!
Similar to hosting your fundraiser at a restaurant/bar/club, a local movie or legitimate theater will also benefit from a great PR opportunity. However, the additional benefit of holding something at a theater is the venue’s ability to advertise the event and sell tickets. Let your guests explore a stage where great plays have unfolded -- it never hurts to be in a place of grandeur.
Go “Old School”
No, you’re not having your donors relive their senior year of college. Contact a local campus group that supports your organization’s cause. Coordinate with them to seek out an interesting on-campus location and give them a chance to also support the cause. This also encourages the next generation of philanthropists.
Where’s the most creative place you’ve ever been for a charity auction
Destination Spotlight: Rocky Mountain Magnificence
May 28, 2013
Destination Spotlight is back! This month’s destination spotlight is Alberta, Canada. Alberta’s grandeur and beauty are obvious from the moment of arrival – rolling foothills, intimidating mountains and the breathtaking pristine wilderness are among it’s more distinct natural landmarks.
The trip for two includes a three night stay at the Fairmont Banff and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Both the Fairmont Banff Springs and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise offer the perfect backdrop for a luxurious vacation in this stunning region.
The itinerary includes an event-filled day of adventure with choices including snowmobiling, ATV, Jeep rides, hiking tours, mountain biking or horseback riding. You have the flexibility to choose the activity you want!
Your stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs will provide hospitality, majesty, and scenery that few hotels in the world can rival. Its unique blend of opulence and seclusion has been a treasured trademark in Alberta for more than a century. Styled after a Scottish baronial castle, the Fairmont Banff Springs offers championship golf courses, unparalleled skiing, classic cuisine and Willow Stream, a world class European-style spa.
Not to be overlooked, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is recognized globally for progressive environmental stewardship and responsible tourism. Located in the heart of pristine Banff National Park, you can relive the experiences of early adventurers year-round in the surrounding wilderness. During the summer months, you can join in activities such as canoeing, fishing and rafting. Winter presents a dramatic wonderland of unique recreation including world-class downhill skiing, heli-skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, cross country skiing, ice skating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Here’s your opportunity to really treat yourself to a true taste of the outdoors. Absorb yourself in the serene sights and get ready for an unrivaled outdoor experience! At Mitch-Stuart, Inc. we provide trips that not only provide awe-inspiring moments, but memorable experiences that last a lifetime.
What is Consignment?
May 21, 2013
Google consignment and you will find the definition is a trading arrangement in which a seller sends goods to a buyer or reseller who pays the seller only as and when the goods are sold."
And today, consignment is hot!
The market for consignment has blossomed thanks to value-conscious consumers and recent research that states that the overall category sees revenues of over $13 billion. While anything can be sold on consignment, people generally think of designer goods such as clothes, bags and shoes. Another faction covets art, sporting goods and musical instruments.
The truly savvy though, know that incredible experiences can be purchased on consignment to benefit charitable organizations and incent employees. We are talking about the exciting, no-risk travel packages we create and offer to clients who use them in a variety of ways. Who are the winners here? Everyone involved!
who work with our company know that they are taking no risks when offering exciting, eclectic travel packages for sale at their auctions. Now they can offer greater, more exotic packages, appealing to a larger audience than they might be able to otherwise obtain. No purchases are made until the packages are sold. And in the unlikely event that an offering doesn’t sell, there is no obligation to pay for the package. It is actually far more common that more than one package will sell, raising even more money for the cause.
benefit from the array of vacation packages and once-in-a-lifetime experiences (“Fighter Pilot for a Day,” “Shop 'Til You Drop!”) that we supply and can modify for the purchaser. Our unlimited supply of inventory means we can add packages to an event on the spot.
Employers and their employees
benefit from consignment travel packages as well. For the employer, they can offer a unique, sometimes "one-of-a-kind" travel incentive travel package to a worthy employee, often providing more value than the actual cost. Additionally, the employer doesn't have to pay for the package until the employee earns or selects it. For the employee, it's a winning proposition as well. He or she knows they are receiving something special of great value. It's the proverbial "win-win" for everyone!!
3 simple marketing tips to boost the sale of trips at your charity auction
May 15, 2013
By Sherry Truhlar
Your committee is thrilled. You've got a FAB-U-LOUS trip for your charity auction – the kind everyone wants. It's a great destination for your crowd.
This could be the highest selling item in your charity auction ... if you don't screw up the marketing.
Auctions are complex ecosystems, with one auction element linking to countless others. Case in point, item acquisition is one (big) process. Operations – which includes marketing – is a different (big) process. To complicate matters, different volunteers on your committee probably oversee each one. Ugh!
Just because you've got a desirable trip from your acquisitions chair sell doesn't necessarily mean your marketing volunteer will do it justice. And on the flip side, sometimes you'll see rather unattractive trips sell for big money.
Knowing HOW to present that trip – i.e. marketing
– makes the difference.
When I teach marketing to my clients, we look at it in terms of timing: before the auction, onsite at the event, and after the gala.
In this post, let's narrow the scope to three simple ways to market your trip onsite.
1. Visually attractive displays
Humans are stimulated by images. More than any other sense, we rely on sight. So if you've got a trip, you need photos to showcase it. Lots of photos.
Here are some ideas from recent auctions I've worked.
2. Accurate descriptions
A 3-ring binder stuffed with full-page color photos showed a Northern Australian home and surrounding activities. It pushed the sale of this one-week vacation to a record $6000.
Area guide books and state maps (the kind collected at a visitors bureau or AAA) helped support the sale of a remote cabin in Maine to $2100.
At a school auction, a Kiawah, SC home sold at $8000 – twice its value – with help from a 36" posterboard in the silent auction. On it was plastered 8.5" X 11"color photos of the home and water views.
A traditional coffee table book filled with fabulous photos of France helped sell a remote villa in Burgundy. There were only three pages in that entire book showing photos of the countryside near the villa, but that was enough to inspire dreams of a French vacation! It sold for $4500.
As part of your display, include a detailed description. Most committees remember to include basics like the number of bedrooms and baths, but ignore other important information, such as…
3. Urgent announcements
Getting there: Does the property owner recommend flying into a specific airport? Renting a car? Using a car transport service?
Extra fees: Any extra costs should be mentioned, whether it's for activities, food, or housekeeping.
Date restrictions: Properties available over holidays or spring breaks are especially desirable. Mention that.
Activities: Is a sought-after golf course nearby? What about kids attractions or "must experience" events?
Your auctioneer or emcee should promote the trip verbally onsite during the reception. Whether you plan on selling the excursion in the silent or live auction, announcements garner guests' attention, either getting them to bid on it right then or (in the case of a live auction) getting them to start thinking
In short, don't shortchange your charity auction by procuring great items, and then failing to market them. Acquisitions are merely the first step in the process. Great marketing supports the sale.
Sherry Truhlar, CMP, BAS, CAI
Red Apple Auctions
Mobile: 703-577-7807 | Sherry@RedAppleAuctions.com
Why Recognition Works
May 07, 2013
One of the many reasons that people donate to their cause of choice is frankly, the joy of seeing their generosity rewarded, on a plaque for a modest donation, or a hospital wing or university chair if you are playing in the big leagues. Recognition of any kind stimulates loyalty, repeat performance and people just love to read or hear their own NAME!
There are some acknowledged practices that Mitch-Stuart, Inc.
leaders in packaged auction travel recommend. Co-founders Stuart Paskow and Michelle Cohen say “Always thank a donor 3 times, even small recognition reinforces the power of the donation, stimulates loyalty to a brand and incents people.” However they caution, when thinking of ways to recognize your donors, be sure to consider their wishes, as some prefer to remain anonymous.
Here are some of the ways donor recognition works:
Provides positive public awareness Companies will often participate in corporate philanthropy and as a result of their donations; the company name is touted publicly. This burnished image can also attract top talent as many employees look for companies with a good social responsibility track record.
Offers opportunity to stand out among their peers Competition can be a good thing when it comes to donors making donations to your cause. If a potential donor sees a friend or co-worker being recognized on a plaque or press release, that potential donor could easily turn into an actual donor!
It lasts Giving the donor a personalized keepsake or at another level, a name on a door, provides everlasting association with your cause and a positive reminder of your organization.
Stimulates loyalty to your organization When donors are recognized by your organization, they are more likely to be loyal to you in the future. As a result of the recognition, they may donate more often or in larger amounts.
Whether the recognition is big or small, just make sure it happens! Make sure you say thank you in a meaningful way at least once, or else that person may think twice about donating to you in the future.
The Quest for Younger Donors: Holy Grail or Tilting at Windmills?
April 30, 2013
By Tom Harrison
Is your CEO concerned that your donor base is aging? Is your board pressing you to target younger donors? Are your younger staff bemoaning the fact that your marketing materials aren’t relevant anymore?
They’re all wrong.
When I entered the direct response fundraising world in 1985, everyone was terrified that donor files were aging and that the younger folks, dubbed “baby boomers,” were not giving. What would we do?
Russ Reid, the founder of the firm that still bears his name, smiled and said, “Stop worrying; they’ll give when they turn 45.”
Sure enough, as they crossed the magic threshold, baby boomers have, indeed, become a most generous cohort and have fueled (and will continue to fuel) philanthropy for years.
Now that senior baby boomers are turning 65, some nonprofits are again frantic that their baby-boomer rich donor files are aging and that young people aren’t giving. Some are even investing big bucks in trying to get 20-40 year olds to give. And when it fails, they claim, in their most sincere revisionist tones, that the objective was really to engage and begin to build a relationship with these donors of the future. Puh-lease!
Your staff are likely far younger than your donors. My friend, Bernard Ross, often begins his brilliant sessions with nonprofit organizations by having people write five words on a piece of paper and keep it in front of them. The words? “I Am Not The Audience.” Your staff’s choice of media, design, messages, spokespeople, music and donating behavior is NOT the same as that of your donors.
We’ve all heard the argument that we need to target 20-40 year olds because we’ll have them on the file that much longer. Or because they’ll be more likely to give to us when they’re more ready and able to give.
I don’t buy it. In the first place, it’s cost-prohibitive from an ROI perspective to acquire 20-40 year olds as donors, and while the second argument is tempting, there is no proof I’ve ever seen that engaging the youngsters makes them more likely to recall and support that same organization when they do become donors.
Donor files are always aging. As they do, new generations take their place.
Simply put, we need to stop targeting people whom we wish
would give, and target people who do
give. Would McDonalds spend money targeting vegetarians because it is an under-represented audience in their stores? Want to know who really gives? Read James Wilson’s book, Who Really Cares
. It’s an eye-opener.
Two questions to clarify the quest to find the elusive younger donors:
What is the most important indicator of whether someone will give to a direct response appeal?
Answer: whether they’ve given before. To any appeal. Or, better still, to you. People in their 20s and 30s likely haven’t.
What is the second most important indicator of whether someone will give to a direct response appeal?
Answer: Age. It’s a better predictor than household income, ethnicity, education levels or religion.
The accompanying chart from The Heart of the Donor Study confirms what we all should know from experience: Older donors give more, and are more generous and far more valuable to nonprofits than younger donors.
What does this mean to you?
Rejoice in your older donors.
Cultivate them well.
Invest in a strong planned giving program.
Don’t leave it to chance. Take half of the next bequest you get and fund a couple years of planned giving work. It’ll be the best long-term ROI you’ll see.
Choose your media channels wisely.
If your best donors are 55+ (they are), make sure you communicate with them via their
preferred channels, not your staff’s preferred channels.
Don’t swing before the pitch.
Don’t waste direct response fundraising budgets on 20-40 year olds until they enter the age group of donors. But do get them involved! They make a terrific volunteer base, they’re inexpensive to reach and engage through social media, and they can turbo-charge your advocacy programs.
OK, I take it back.
Finally, remember when I said folks were wrong to try to get younger people to give? I was just getting your attention. It really depends on how you define “younger.” The Seniors and Boomers will continue to be provide the lion’s share of nonprofit donations in the decade to come. That’s where you should focus the lion’s share of your fundraising budget. But if the average age of your donor file is 65 or even 70+, you should
be working to acquire “younger” donors: people in their late 40s and 50s.
by Tom Harrison, CEO of Russ Reid
Destination Spotlight: Alaska’s Majestic Frontier
April 23, 2013
We are introducing this new monthly blog feature dedicated to showcasing the best in Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel to get your wanderlust wondering about wonderful excursions! This month’s destination spotlight is our seven night cruise vacation aboard the Royal Caribbean International to Alaska’s Majestic Frontier.
Drink in the splendor of the seas as you make your way along the Alaskan coast, in and out of passages, past fjords, and miles and miles of wilderness. With ports such as Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia, Royal Caribbean showcases the quintessential character of the Pacific Northwest.
The trip for two includes a seven night stay on the Royal Caribbean International in a Veranda Stateroom, gourmet meals, spas at sea, daily entertainment, and a range of shipboard activities.
The itinerary includes Vancouver, British Columbia; Inside Passage (cruising); Juneau, Alaska; Skagway, Alaska; Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska; Ketchikan, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington.
Some exciting experiences available at the ports include Alaskan salmon fishing, helicopter rides to view the glaciers, whale watching, polar and grizzly bear sightings, mountain climbing, and zip lining.
One of the stops Skagway, Alaska offers a frontier atmosphere with saloons and dance hall. The Seattle stop offers lots of hiking, biking, and hitting the observation decks to see some of the amazing views.
You will view the most dramatic Alaskan glaciers while passing through the Tracy Arm Fjord, as well as the Hubbard Glacier, one of the fastest moving glaciers on the continent, while aboard this Alaskan cruise.
From the vastness of the glaciers, to the unique scenery and wildlife, this trip will really let you explore the wilderness. With such large territory to explore, the experts at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. provide the opportunity for visitors to make the trip their own and make it unforgettable.
Beware the Hungry Road Warrior
April 16, 2013
Road warriors know certain truths. First, if you are trying to stretch the travel budget never, ever stay at the conference hotel. There is always a better deal, often right across the street. Second, clear Homeland Security early. It’s better to wait on the other side of the wall.
If flying out of San Francisco, you might want to get in line the night before the flight. It is without a doubt the worst of the major airports when it comes to clearing security.
That brings us to food. No real road warrior would pay United Airlines $7.99 for a microwaved cheese burger or $7.49 for a snack box of stuff you wouldn’t buy if you were on the ground. Real road warriors know where and when to eat. The food at airports is overpriced in all cases but you can get a decent meal if you know where to look.
A favorite place is in Houston at the George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport. In Terminal C you’ll find an area called Real Food. It’s cafeteria style. There’s everything from barbecue to salads to meatloaf to chicken and deli. It is airport pricing, but the portions are respectable. If I’m going to or through Houston, I wait to eat there.
My home airport is Newark Liberty International. The food there is early American shopping mall food court. For the trendoids, there’s a Crumbs Bake Shop if you want to spend $3.95 on a cupcake or $4.25 on a cannoli. There is a Gallagher’s Steakhouse in Terminal C. It’s nothing like its namesake in New York City and the food has been uneven in multiple tries. But, it’s probably the best of what Newark has to offer.
You would think that the food at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans would be mighty tasty. You’d be wrong. It’s got to be in the top five worst airports for food. Likewise, you’d think there would be decent food at Ronald Reagan International Airport with all of the important folks going through there. You’d be wrong again, although a Five Guys hamburger joint just opened.
Whenever one of those celebrity chefs opens a chain of eateries in airports you can expect to be disappointed, like I was at Cat Cora’s Kitchen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That isn’t the case in Chicago at O’Hare International Airport where Rick Bayless has opened Tortas Frontera. There’s a guacamole bar, soups, salads and breakfast sandwiches. The main attraction is the tortas, griddle-baked Mexican sandwiches with a variety of fillings such as beer-braised beef short ribs, chipotle chicken, garlicky shrimp and goat cheese. Here’s the best part. It has a list of the local farms from where the food was sourced.
It’s a long way from San Francisco International to downtown. Grab a cup of soup at the San Francisco Soup Company near Gate 80. They have a great variety of nice soups and, of course, some sour dough to go with it.
You don’t have to be hungry or under-nourished while on the road. To steal a phrase from celebrity chef Alton Brown, you can find good eats at the airport.
Paul Clolery is vice president and editorial director of NPT Publishing Group in Morris Plains, N.J., which publishes The NonProfit Times and its sister publication the magazine Exempt. He also has oversight responsibilities for the editorial content The NonProfit Times Online, the e-letters NPT Weekly, NPT Instant Fundraising, NPT TechnoBuzz, Exempt and NPTJobs.
Often a speaker for industry meetings and conferences, he has spoken at conferences of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, The American Society of Association Executives, The American Institue of Certified Public Accountants, The DMA Nonprofit Federation, the Blackbaud user conference, the Kintera user conference, the Convio user and the Sage Software user conferences. He also has been master of ceremonies for events at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The Importance Of Being Different
April 10, 2013
In some countries, they call it “tall poppy syndrome” — you’re different, you’ve achieved a lot and sometimes it breeds some jealousy. But in the business world, standing out because you do something different (and successfully) just makes you a leader in your “field.”
At Mitch Stuart, what sets us apart is our customer service. Of course most companies see themselves as providing excellent customer service. But we feel our brand of customer “care” goes beyond and as we spend a few days at the industry AFP conference seeing many of our long-time clients, we thought we’d take a moment to talk about our customer service differences.
First, let’s identify what creates good customer service. MSN Money which awards top customer service providers every year has isolated three traits which comprise “winners”
Good service starts at the top. Companies with great service have chief executives who make it their mission. They're not afraid to spend money, hire experts and structure the corporation around the goal of sterling service.
Service is seen as a continual challenge. Companies with outstanding customer service are more eager to talk about their continuing efforts than to accept praise for a job well done.
These are companies where people want to work. Companies that excel at customer service are often also known for providing relatively good pay and benefits. They trust their employees to make decisions, then routinely stand behind those decisions.
At Mitch Stuart we are pleased to be able to say we meet the above criteria and we would like to share some of our examples.
We have never been afraid to spend money and structure our business around “sterling service.” While other packaged trip providers offer travel which include blackout dates and restrictions for the folks who have purchased them, at a cost-savings to the provider but often a hassle and extra work for the purchaser.
“That’s not a vacation!” says MSI co-founder Michelle Cohen. “We went into business with the idea of providing a perfect, well-planned and nothing left-to-chance experience for our customers, and have done so for 20 years.”
A client visiting our booth this morning said it best, "Wow, that is so major that your packages allow our donors to travel from any airport and during holidays — and not be limited to only one airline and its major hub airports. That's HUGE!!! We really like your flexibility!"
But, at Mitch Stuart, we don’t believe in “laurel-resting” we confer with our clients regularly to see where we can fine-tune service to meet their needs. Our clients have told us that many travelers, in their excitement to support an organization buy a trip to a destination even if it isn’t somewhere they really want to visit. We work with clients to accommodate them and allow them to trade their package for another destination.
Retaining top talent in any business is an ongoing challenge. At MSI we can report that most of our employees have been with us for an average of 8 years. We attribute some of the company loyalty to ways we have found to help keep employees working even when their lives have changed, by offering telecommuting and other flex scheduling.
But nothing speaks louder than client referrals and client repeat business. In those categories, MSI is humbled to be able to report that between 85 and 90% of our business is repeat.
What do your customers say about your customer service? Let us know in the comments.
Why People Bid (Don’t Let Your Money Walk Out The Door)
April 02, 2013
You’re holding your next nonprofit auction, you have your announcer, your items for auction, the crowd of people, and you made sure to do plenty of publicity about your auction beforehand. Now, how do you ensure that your items actually get a bid? Two things to always consider before planning are the time of the auction (not so late that you risk losing some of your crowd) and use of a professional benefit auctioneer or a known personality with lots of pizazz.
Here are some other top tips from Mitch-Stuart, Inc.:
The opening bid is reasonable – If bidders find that the opening bid on a travel package is reasonably priced or lower than what they had expected, people are likely to bid on that item.
The item is popular – Seeing lots of other people bidding on a specific package will attract others to that package. If an item is popular among others at the auction, people will tend to feel that they too want the item.
The item is unique. . .The “WOW” Factor – Offering exceptional trips that an individual cannot purchase from going to a travel agent or website, is a great way to generate interest. If bidders cannot get this specific package or trip from anywhere else, then the package is worth more.
Added bonuses – Anyone can offer a trip to Paris or a trip to Disney World, having those extra bonuses in with your package, makes your trip different. These include trips to spas at the place of your vacation, dinners at high-end restaurants, tours of the city, etc.
The trip is personal – Maybe the bidder went there for their honeymoon, or studied abroad in that country, or used to go to the place as a child, whatever the reason, this person would love to win the bid and get to travel to this place once again!
The chance to hobnob with “boldface names”! – Everyone has that one celebrity that they would pay any amount of money to meet, and here is their chance! Mitch-Stuart offers opportunities to attend the Grammy's with the after party, The Prime Time Emmys, Country Music Awards and the ESPYS (Sports Awards) and many other events where value-added can mean a start-studded affair!
What have you found helps your item get a bid at an auction?
Tricks of Trade Show Attendees (Get the Most Bang from Each Booth Visit)
March 26, 2013
In early April, the Mitch-Stuart team will be attending the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference on Fundraising
, always a great opportunity to see old friends and associates in the industry and make new ones. Often times attendees just…attend. Here are some ways to maximize a trade show visit so you come away with great business-building information and contacts. Hope to see you there.
Be a Hunter/Gatherer!
Get a hold of the show directory and plot your path to make sure you visit booths that provide some combination of these three elements — education, entertainment and free stuff — but make sure it is meaningful to your company and not stuff for stuff’s sake. Only visit vendors whose products and services advance your own.
Successful trade show attendees come away with a slew of names and email addresses. Use every opportunity to make a connection — as an attendee, every booth sponsor will want your contact information — but there are several other categories of trade show visitor such as media, or potential business partners that are very valid relationships to foster.
Time is NOT on your side
Don’t let a booth rep squander your time. You can size up your needs (particularly if you did the advance work from the first tip) and politely extricate yourself from someone who cannot positively answer this question — “Does your product or service advance my own?”
Remember Trade Show 101
Dress comfortably! Hydrate! Don’t go to every soiree! And, importantly, document your visit — take cell phone photos of remarkable booths, take notes during meetings with useful contacts and attend smart talks and breakout sessions.
Bask in the Afterglow
For five minutes, then follow up with your new friends! A quick note, an invitation to phone or Skype, don’t let anyone go un-contacted after the show. This is often the time when “real deals” are sealed.
Got any trade (show) secrets you’d like to share?
A Different Take on Appealing to Alumni Associations
March 19, 2013
Has your annual donation drive failed to drive donations? Has your donor base “checked out” when it comes to writing checks? Soliciting hard earned dollars from anyone for anything takes a lot of hard work and finesse especially in this economy. Sometimes it’s timing, sometimes it’s the approach, or sometimes it’s a combination. If the end result is low end donations, you might want to consider offering something new to your base.
When you analyze it, even if people care deeply for a cause, if the pitch is “been there, done that,” it may not resonate. So your job as a development director/fundraiser then becomes figuring out a way to excite and energize alumni beyond “Hey we’re your school, please write us a check.”
The answer may be as simple as making more money for your association and less work for you. As we have reported in this blog before, people today crave experiences, particularly customized experiences that represent a check-mark on a list of “things I’ve always wanted to do.”
Why not offer your alumni risk-free custom-designed travel packages that are in fact a reward for being an alumni? This offer should be presented to your audience as an opportunity for a great vacation that will also result in some funding for your alma mater. It can be viewed as the ultimate win-win!
Specialized travel companies offer exciting creative packages at steep discounts, through a website created especially for the association. There is no cash layout or cold-calling every store in town. The association pockets a percentage from each sale of a trip. Some examples of these extraordinary experiences include sojourns to Sonoma’s wine country including a private tour, a magnificent trip to Paris which features a cooking class at L’Atelier Des Sens or a shopping excusion to New York. There are so many options.
An experienced company will work with you to:
Design trips your members would want
Come up with creative ways to make the trips available such as raffles; offers on your website etc.
Create a “wow” factor for your organization and better yet, the target audience
Help you to market the travel program to get the highest possible participation
Travel is such an exciting option for associations and their members and distinctly different. Have you had success working with custom-designed travel packages and your association? We would love to know about your experience!
Maximize your Memories (Creative Tools for Documenting your Trip)
March 12, 2013
Looking to “upgrade” the memories you make on your upcoming trip? Here are some creative tips to digitally and traditionally keep your vacations alive long after you’ve landed. Face it, “plain vanilla” photo albums are so 15 minutes ago!
If you like to take photos:
Use Flickr! Flickr
is one of the most popular photo sharing applications. It allows you to upload photos through your phone, the web, or your email. You can add tags, your location, as well as people to your photos, to help remember the specific moment. Once you upload your photos to Flickr you can then easily share them on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog. While on Flickr you can see others photos that have been uploaded of the place you’re visiting, which can give you ideas of where to see next.
If you like to write:
Keep a blog!
You can create a free online blog using sites like WordPress and Blogger. This way you can document your daily activities while on the trip as well as your personal feelings and insights. Your blog can then be shared with your friends through Facebook or Twitter. Get into a routine of doing this as often as possible, maybe each night when you are back at your hotel before going to bed.
If you like to take a piece of the place with you:
Keep everything you can from the place you are visiting. And not just the obvious things that you can get at the gift shop like post cards and mugs, but real stuff that represents your specific trip. These can be tickets from a show you went to, a brochure about the hotel, your bus or subway card, anything and everything that you want to remember. Take all of these things when you get home and put them in a scrapbook or make a collage!
If you want to do a combination of all of the above:
Use Trip Journal! Trip Journal
is the perfect travel application for when you want to document your upcoming trip all in one place! With Google Earth integration, Trip Journal allows friends and family to easily see your traveling routes, waypoints for visited destinations — including address and location, full screen photos, videos, comments and notes, as your journey unfolds. Once you return from your trip, you can always go back and access your memories in the archive.
What’s your favorite way to document your trips and vacations, so that you will always have the memories when you get home?
Millennials and Philanthropy: Major Stars or Bit Players?
March 04, 2013
With 20+something CEOs and business leaders like Mark Zuckerberg making meaningful donations to pet causes, it is time to take a closer look at this generation and view its potential as a force in future philanthropy.
According to the first ever research project of potential Gen X and Millennial major donors, conducted by the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University with input and assistance from 21/64, a non-profit consulting practice,
"The next generation of major donors has the potential to be the most transformative philanthropists in history". "The Gen Xers and Millennials who are inheriting the $40 trillion wealth transfer, along with those making their own wealth, will control unprecedented amounts of philanthropic resources."
The researchers note this phenomenon—large amount of wealth along with assets passed to decendants through pre-bequest transfers and the amount of new wealth created—has lead some observers to predict a new "golden age of philanthropy".
Key points to consider on how these major donors differ from previous generations of major givers:
Driven by VALUES NOT VALUABLES
Values will drive them--not the trappings that go along with having wealth. The data says these values have more often than not been learned from parents and grandparents.
These next gen major donors highlight the importance of strategy for the future of the field. "They see philanthropic strategy as the major distinguishing factor between themselves and previous generations and see previous generations as more motivated by desire for recognition or social requirements, while seeing themselves as focused on impact first and foremost!"
TIME, TALENT AND TIES
Once engaged, these next gen donors want to go "all in." Giving without significant hands-on engagement feels to them like a hollow investment with little assurance of impact. They want to develop close relationships with organizations or causes they support. This group also wants to listen and offer their own professional or personal talents, all in order to solve problems together.
CRAFTING THEIR OWN PHILANTHROPIC IDENTITIES
Most of these young people say they will do this through their own personal experience. They learn most from "seeing and doing" or even hearing from others about their own authentic experiences of seeing and doing. Rather than waiting until the sunset of their lives, these next gen donors want to actively craft their identities now and actively think about their own legacies.
Bottom line: They are different, more strategic, with a strong desire to be active much earlier in their lives and, as noted at the outset, have the potential to become the most significant philanthropists ever.
We would love to hear any ideas you have for creating/forging relationships with Gen-Xers and Millennials or any examples of personal success with this group.
The New Medium is Still the Message!
February 26, 2013
Don't be intimidated by internet jargon, embrace it.
Last week, we talked how those in non-profit marketing can make social/digital media work harder for them. We stressed that you should indeed "get in the game" — but have reasonable expectations. It's not the "be-all, end-all" — but a new element that should be included in your marketing mix.
We thought it would make sense to round out the discussion this week by covering a couple of BASIC principals you need to consider when thinking about the digital marketing and your organization. Many non-profits find themselves in one of two scenarios when establishing an online presence:
You don't have a website and will be launching one sometime in the near future (yes Virginia, there are still people out there who aren't represented on the internet!!)
You do have a website that has been up for a while but isn't attracting more "eyeballs.”
These two situations came to mind for us recently when a non-profit client was curious about how they could get more "hits" or "eyeballs" to their website. Should they be sending out more press releases about their site? (which obviously you can do). Should they link their site to other relevant sites? (which you also can do). But online marketers can do more.
Start with these two questions: What have you done to maximize site potential i.e. steps to ensure "SEO"? What are you doing in "Key Word Optimization?"
Our client looked at us like we were from Mars!
When we explained what SEO meant — "Search Engine Optimization" — they immediately "got it.” SEO is the method of ensuring that search engines — Google, Bing and the like — list your organization and/or website when someone types in a relevant non-profit category and/or locale and hits "search." SEO makes certain that your entity is on the "pop up" list. WHERE on the list will depend on whether you pay the search engine for a specific placement i.e. you want to be #1 or among the top three etc.
By working with a top search engine-utilizing SEO, our non-profit friend dramatically increased the number of visitors to his site.
It was a similar experience in our discussion regarding "Key Word Optimization." Our non-profit collegues didn't know that certain words or phrases, based on their relevance to a category or high volume use on search engines, can trigger visits to your website. You can contact the Googles and Bings of this world and work with them on finding the most pertinent words and phrases to help maximize these potential website hits. The cost varies from search engine to search engine.
Now that you are more educated about digital, social, blogs, internet, websites, SEO and Key Word Optimization, feel free to explore the web at will!
How Non-Profits Can Profit from all the Tools in the Marketing Tool Box
February 20, 2013
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the blogosphere — the list of social and digital platforms grows every day. And with this growth comes the belief among marketers that each will be the future savior of the brand, company, and product or in our case, the non-profit. Conventional wisdom — demonstrated by the tremendous numbers of eyeballs and viewers these vehicles attract — is that each entity can navigate the new landscape and leverage some or all of what is available.
We've taken the plunge at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. and believe we're laying the foundation for our future in this arena.
No doubt you should get involved in the social-digital media "space" — but there is a caveat. We were speaking with a friend recently who is the Director of New Media for a large, well-known multi-national ad agency. His specialty is social-digital experiences.
With everyone looking to him and his "bag of new tricks" as the proverbial silver bullet for a renewed and revitalized success for their brand or product, his honest response was:
"I'm just a ‘new tool in the tool box.’ We still need to be doing traditional marketing activities with traditional media IN CONCERT WITH a social-digital media effort. We are not a stand-alone function who will save the day. We can add new dimension, new ways of reaching our target audiences — but we work best when we all work together."
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc. — we're successfully doing traditional marketing — with the added power of social and digital efforts — and here are some of the benefits we are seeing.
— In mere months we've designed a page that serves as a sounding board for ideas such as contests and photo displays and we now have a presence in this "must-have" medium. We also use Facebook to link to our newly created blog and highlight news of the company.
— In 140 characters or less, every day we tweet out news of interest to potential customers and clients. We have seen our followers grow, re-tweet, favorite our comments and we reciprocate to other like-minded "tweeters" in the travel/non-profit space. We're not only generating buzz about our company, but of industry news and trends.
— Here is a situation where we are exploring to find the best way to use the platform. We recommend strategizing the best way to use each of the tools to reach your audience and tell your story.
— The Mitch-Stuart blog you are reading provides a place for us to demonstrate our expertise as well as give "shout-outs" to great clients with great stories to tell. We see our posts linked to other companies and do the same for theirs. Our blog also helps to provide us with ideas for direct mail, publicity and our upcoming newsletter. It also gives us the opportunity to comment on timely topics and start conversations with readers.
Stay tuned, there's a lot more to come!
Oscar Goes Traveling
February 12, 2013
And the Oscar goes to… YOU!
Have you ever fantasized about going to the location of your favorite movie, walking the streets the characters walked, and pretending to be a part of their experience? Well, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers packages that give you the chance to do just that! Below are examples of some of our packages that serve as themes and locations for Oscar-nominated movies.
Silver Linings Playbook — Silver Linings Playbook has been nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture. In the movie, the main character, Pat, attends a Philadelphia Eagles game that his father has bet a lot of money on, as his good luck charm. Mitch-Stuart offers a trip for two to any regular season NFL football game, such as a Philadelphia Eagles game. Hopefully you can be a better good luck charm for your team than Pat was!
Les Misérables — Also nominated for Best Picture is Les Misérables, a film that takes place in early 19th century France. Mitch-Stuart offers six different French packages that include hotels all over Paris, including the Marriot Champs-Elysees and the Hotel Le Littre. One of our trips to Paris includes a trip for six days and five nights, including a cooking class at L'Atelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris, a Tour of Paris, Lunch at Altitude 95 at the Eiffel Tower, and a cruise down the River Seine. From learning how to make macaroons, croissants, and the quintessential French baguette, you’ll take home the best souvenir of all: French culinary savoir-faire!
Snow White and The Huntsman — Colleen Atwood is nominated for Best Costume Design in Snow White and The Huntsman. Snow White and the Huntsman is a modern take on the classic story of Snow White. Although this film was not a children’s movie, a trip to Disney World is a great way to enjoy the Snow White we all know and love. Mitch-Stuart offers Disney fans a family trip for four to Orlando, Florida for five days & four nights at the Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, including three-day My Way Passes to Disney World. At Disney World you’ll be sure to enjoy rides and attractions, and of course Snow White and all the Disney characters!
Beasts of the Southern Wild — Beasts of the Southern Wild is nominated for Best Picture, among other awards. The movie takes place in a fictional Louisiana town, Bathtub. Mitch-Stuart offers a trip for two to New Orleans, Louisiana for five days and four nights at the JW Marriott New Orleans, including a Dinner Jazz Cruise, a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking and a $200 Commander's Palace Gift Card. To get more of the feel of the film, visit Isle de Jean Charles, not far from New Orleans, which is where the film was shot.
Life of Pi — Life of Pi, which is nominated for Best Picture, tells the story of young Pi who sets sail to Canada with his family. After a storm hits the ship he is found on a rescue boat alone, but with the company of a Bengal tiger. Unlike Pi, you CAN make it to Canada on a Mitch-Stuart trip; we offer trips throughout the country! You can enjoy resorts and hotels in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Vancouver. One of our trips to British Columbia includes a trip for two for five days & four nights at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler and a $600 Fairmont gift card for ski lift tickets. Chateau Whistler is a top-ranked ski area in North America, and was home of the 2010 Olympics.
Without a doubt, Oscar certainly logs his miles! These trips are a great way to reward a movie buff, or generate a standing ovation at your next auction; but we have more where they came from! Be sure to check out our catalog
for the rest of our trip selection.
Cruising for Unique Fundraiser Venues?
February 05, 2013
By guest bloggers Jay and Corinne Fiske Northwest Benefit Auctions
How many times have you ripped open an invitation to a fundraiser only to see that the venue is [yawn] another hotel? Hotels are great, but if you really want to woo and wow your crowd, think outside the ballroom and get creative with some of these location options.
It’s already a party atmosphere
The demographics of the attendees should be excellent
No one can leave early!
Lots of lovely onboard “real estate” for live and silent auction locations
Duration of a cruise means many previews of the silent auction items
Lots of ways to co-promote: Your mailing list, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets
Cruise lines love the ability to market directly to potential “cruisers” through the internal network of the organizations. It is a win/win for everyone, and an experience which will be long remembered.
Spaces often provide large, varied and unusual settings
Knowledgeable, experienced on-hand staff a helpful asset
“Behind-the-scenes,” insider tours are powerful lures
Museums and other cultural institutions often cash-strapped and make very willing partners
Ability to leverage museum member mailing list/social media platforms a plus
Informal, less-stuffy atmosphere perfect for the right fundraiser
Fun catering options on-site
Ability to procure team memorabilia/ticket packages to add to silent and live auctions
Offer of VIP tours to guests as part of event
Marketing via non-traditional “sports” platforms (social media too!)
What is important to remember when working with these and other out-of-the-ordinary locations is, although providing a non-typical venue is great for your cause, these spaces do bring along their own "unique logistics challenges" but the benefits will win out.
Savvy planners will sell the space on the inherent “win-win” of hosting a fundraising event there. Here is an approach we have found successful.
When proposing your fundraiser idea to the facility manager, agree to market the specific event to your mailing list, post on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, and become part of their viral marketing efforts. Some good examples of organizations that have the depth of contacts to make this “quid pro quo” relationship work are:
National trade associations
Major health and research organizations
Nationally associated church groups
Corporate organizations wanting to give back to good causes while combining a little work
Fraternal and service organizations
You get the idea. Smart, forward-thinking venues have the ability to market directly to their target audience through the internal network of the organizations. It is a win/win for everyone, and ideally provides an experience which will be long remembered.
It’s Good To Be Choosy: How We Select and Package Travel for Our Customers
January 29, 2013
A bit of an art, a bit of a science — that sums up our approach to selecting the most intriguing travel packages for non-profits to use as auction fundraisers.
The “art” part comes from our experienced insights into what donors want to buy. We ask ourselves, do the packages appeal to a wide enough audience, yet exude cool “gotta-go-there panache? Have we heard about them in travel circles or popular media? At the same time, we ask ourselves will it appeal to enough audiences and can we make it fit auction budgets.
For example, as cool as a trip to Iceland may be (brrr, very cool) it might be still too “off the beaten path” to get enough takers to make it worthwhile. We compare new ideas to “hot sellers” — trips to clamored-for top destinations such as our shopping spree trip to New York City and our Napa Valley Wine Tour.
Have we ever miscalculated? Chosen a package that just didn’t draw the way we thought it would? Yes, and we learned from the experiences. For example, our trip to Thailand, which not only included a tour around the country but also an elephant ride, river rafting, and cultural show, didn’t draw the appeal at auctions that we were hoping for.
When considering a new trip, we also ask ourselves — Is it special enough? For example, as long as tickets to coveted sports and entertainment events are still very hard to come by, we will use our connections to make them available.
Speaking of “our connections,” here is where the “science” part of the job comes in. At Mitch-Stuart, we have spent the better part of the last 20 years developing, honing and nurturing a wide and diverse breadth of relationships in the luxury travel world. These trusted relationships are part of what separates our business from some of the more formulaic companies offering packaged travel today.
When someone returns from a Mitch-Stuart trip, their feedback is important to us. We also try to glean good information from them on their experience to help determine whether to keep that trip — and then to build more like it. It is relationships with both our suppliers and our recipients that help us stay “choosy” when choosing travel packages.
Any travel packages you’d like to see us choose?
A Fundraising Success Story
January 22, 2013
empowers people with disabilities, age 16 and over, to reach their full potential. They offer job training and a life skills program to help these adults become self-sufficient.
This organization, with the help of Allison McElroy, Foundation Director, would like to share some of their secrets to fundraising success.
Open Avenues has worked with Mitch-Stuart Inc. for the past six years on their Spring Fling event. Prior to partnering with Mitch-Stuart, Open Avenues relied mainly on local merchants to donate auction items. Since working with Mitch-Stuart, this reliance on local merchants (and the inherent “donor burnout”) has disappeared producing more successful and lucrative auction events.
“Deluxe vacation packages provided by Mitch-Stuart are the most popular items at our auction,” says McElroy. “The Mitch Stuart model works so well for us since we don’t have to pay for anything that is not sold.”
She goes on to say that the company helps her plan each year by recommending “hot” and popular destinations. McElroy then reviews what her audience has selected in the past and what she knows about their likes and dislikes to create a potent and popular mix of experiences.
The best news? Open Avenues credits the addition of Mitch-Stuart trips
with a consistent increase in donations year over year.
Want to emulate Open Avenues’ auction success? McElroy offers some tips:
Tap fundraiser guests who have taken a particular trip to act as roaming ambassadors, or “PR people” to talk about their positive experiences and help influence others to bid on them.
Creatively package trips at live auction — McElroy offered a “Bros on the Go” trip using Mitch-Stuart’s attractive offer of tickets to any major pro sporting event. By combining two of these trips, the organization made a great way for four friends to go. She then followed that up with a “Girl’s Weekend” version as well, packaging two trips to New York City for an expansive girlfriend weekend.
Tantalize your guests in advance with sneak peeks at the Mitch-Stuart catalogue to whet appetites and get people pre-planning what they want to bid on.
Keep up with your audience’s changing taste, adjust which packages you offer accordingly.
Time your event previews and vacation package “sneak peeks” to when people receive tax refunds or bonuses to help them fantasize about how they might spend such funds.
May this advice help you with your next auction!
2013 Crystal Ball: Travel Trends and Fundraisers
January 16, 2013
Even though we only just barely escaped the fiscal cliff and the Mayan calendar and we still have the debt ceiling to worry about, top travel prognosticators are forecasting upturns all around the industry. This is good news if you are planning a charity fundraiser and worrying about donations.
Take a look at some of the trends we are tracking as you plan your winter/spring events.
“Modern Family” Vacation
You, your kids, your parents, the in-laws — everyone’s invited on these multi-generational, often money-saving family getaways. With people looking for economical ways to travel and keep their family close (“we never see the grandchildren”) group bookings are more popular than ever. Some cities we like for the “family that plays together” include Telluride, Colorado, Maui, Hawaii and of course Disney resorts. (Mitch-Stuart Hot Trips)
Friend, Share, Like, BOOK!
Just saw your FB friend’s fabulous photos from Down Under? Your college roommate tweeting his jaunt to Jakarta? Someone you don’t know at all pin some “food porn” from Paris on Pinterest? You may be suffering from a case of “vacation envy” that can only be cured by booking a similar trip. Social sharing may be the best advertising going right now. Smart planners will scan social sites and see who’s wandering where as a guide to planning some 2013 excursions.
Digital detox is predicted to be high on travelers’ to-do lists this year. Savvy planners will look for destinations without WIFI for this crowd. Locales offering deluxe loafing like Nevis, West Indies or St. Kitts, should be included in auction items you are considering (know your crowd of course before you offer)
Travel & the Big Game (er Games)
Once-in-a-lifetime events and sporting spectacles occupy a spot on many a bucket list, but if the 2012 Olympics in London are any indicator, people want to check that item off pronto! And there are so many opportunities all over the world from serious soccer matches to Formula 1 and the NFL to the Masters Tournament in Augusta, GA or the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.
Death of the Staycation
There’s a lot of pent-up demand to see the world! Many who lost jobs, were downsized or just felt the need to be thrifty are seeing some financial light at the end of their tunnels and are itching to explore! Experienced auction planners know that means, adding some “dream trips” such as private tours of Rome or Florence complete with top-notch cooking lessons, Napa Valley Wine Trips, New Orleans, New York or even the Primetime Emmy Awards and Governor’s Ball in Los Angeles.
All in all, we at Mitch-Stuart are looking forward to a spectacular travel year and we would love to hear your opinions on some “hot spots” for 2013. For more information on any of the trips listed above click here
10 Deadly Sins of Benefit Auctions
January 08, 2013
How To Wreck Your Charity Auction Fundraiser
By Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS
Welcome to the second half of Kathy Kingston’s expert advice for your next auction fundraiser.
6. End with Your Live Auction
This costly mistake will kill your bottom line. Do NOT wait until after dinner or after entertainment to raise money. Why? It’s too late and by that time many of your guests are tired, inattentive or worst yet — gone. You cannot raise money when your supporters are driving home in their car! It is imperative to strategically schedule your Live Auction and Fund a Need Appeal EARLY in the event when your guests are attentive, awake and ready to bid. You will maximize fundraising when you position your Live Auction and Fund a Need Appeal before or during dinner. Save awards and entertainment for your grand finale.
7. Ignore Inviting the Right Guests
This fundraising folly has two dire consequences: failure to optimize giving during the auction and loss of future philanthropic support. First, fill your venue with guests who have the capacity to bid and give generously at your auction beyond just buying a ticket to your gala. Second, position your charity auction as a cultivation and relationship building opportunity so that you can turn bidders into long term donors. With this ideal approach you can follow up with your generous bidders and invite them to become more deeply involved in your organization. Remember the first rule of fundraising: “People give to people — not causes.”
8. Stay in the Dark
This often overlooked blunder can easily be prevented. Dim dinner style lighting will lose thousands of dollars and put your beloved supporters to sleep. Illuminate your silent auction brightly. Turn up house lights up fully during the Live Auction and Fund a Need Appeal; light the stars of your event — your guests. Never spotlight your auctioneer — it’s impossible to see bidders. Brighten up your venue and your fundraising results will shine.
9. Keep It Noisy
Nothing spells fundraising auction disaster more than an audience that does not pay attention and where no one can hear the auctioneer or your success stories. Benefit Auctions require a unique sound system that is different from any other event. Never use the built-in house sound and avoid the band’s sound system because neither is adequate for your auctioneer to raise more money. Invest in a professional sound company and use powered speakers on stands that surround your audience. A professional sound system will pay for itself many times over and improve your guest’s experience so you can maximize your fundraising!
10. Don’t Have Any Fun
People spend more money when they are enjoying themselves. Did you know that the #1 reason people attend an auction is to have fun? (MORPACE 2008) Infuse your benefit auction with interactive income activities that rain money such as Heads and Tails, Premium Dessert Frenzy, Sign Up Party Boards, Super Silent Auctions, Centerpiece Auctions, Gift Card Sweep, Auction Chicken, Wild Card Auctions, Pot of Gold and much more! Propel your profit and add fun ideas to get those bid cards waving!
© Kathy Kingston 2013 All rights reserved.
10 Deadly Sins of Benefit Auctions
January 03, 2013
How To Wreck Your Charity Auction Fundraiser
By Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS
This week guest blogger and auctioneer extraordinaire Kathy Kingston brings us Part I of a two-part post featuring must–DON’Ts for successful auction fundraisers. Read on and stay tuned for Part II next week.
1. Leave Money in the Room
THE most expensive mistake you can make is using a volunteer amateur auctioneer. Why risk it? Retaining an experienced professional fundraising auctioneer can increase your net auction profits from 20% to over 300% immediately. Uniquely experienced and dedicated to maximizing fundraising, a professional benefit auctioneer does not cost — it pays!
2. Don’t Ask for Funds
It’s financial suicide is avoid a Fund a Need Special Appeal. Let’s face it, not everyone wants or needs a live or silent auction item. Create this opportunity for everyone to contribute to your great cause at a level that is meaningful to them. Ignite generosity with a well conducted, inspiring Fund A Need that that can literally double your live auction profits in just 10 minutes!
3. Offer Too Many Auction Items That No One Wants
This catastrophic calamity will insure that you lose thousands of dollars. First, be sure to match your auction items to the unique profile of what your auction guests really want. Second, less is more. Reduce the number of auction items and focus on fewer unique items that produce bigger results. Make sure your organization procures hot auction items that keep driving excitement and interest — items that fulfill fantasies and dream vacations and experiences that are unique to your supporters. And remember to consider adding consignment items to complement your donated items to add excitement and dollars.
4. Plan a Party and Forget Fundraising
An epic error is to plan your auction fundraiser like it’s your social soiree, business function or even worst a wedding. Focus first on fundraising — not your centerpieces, entertainment nor the color of tablecloths — all which raise zero dollars. Remember, your charity auction is often one of your biggest fundraisers of the year. You simply cannot afford to lose precious dollars or support in this new economy. Strategically design your benefit auction to emphasize your unique mission and how your donors can make a difference. Proudly promote your cause and emphasize that the reason “Why We Are Here” is to raise funds so that your guests can change lives and improve your community.
5. Bore Your Audience
The quickest way to lose money and momentum at your benefit auction is to sedate your guests with a string of talking-head long speeches. Just say No BS. (No Boring Speeches!) Insist on a few well placed brief inspiring remarks that emphasize first person testimonials and your success stories. Capture the hearts and wallets of your guests and showcase your cause and your transformational results.
© Kathy Kingston 2013 All rights reserved.