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Travel to the New Year

December 30, 2014
Resolutions, champagne toasts at midnight and Kathy Griffin harassing Anderson Cooper on CNN: There are plenty of New Year’s Eve traditions, some better than others. But one of the most heartwarming is that of the party, the gathering where we all look forward to the new year with hope (and, in some cases, plenty of alcohol). Some of your donors may prefer to ring in the next revolution around the sun at home, with family and maybe a couple of friends. But others may be looking for that reason to celebrate with thousands, that excuse to head out into the world and welcome a new year in a new locale surrounded by new people.

You can make that happen.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., most of our flexible charity auction travel packages can be used at any time of the year. That can mean summer trips to the Caribbean, Spring Break sojourns to Southern California, or even once-in-a-lifetime tours of Europe. It also means the chance to be one of the thousands celebrating New Year’s Eve on television, rather than watching the revelers from home. Here are some of our favorite NYE destinations, and how we can help send your donors there.

Everyone knows about the celebration in New York’s Times Square, of course. But if hanging out in a quasi-confined space with hundreds of thousands of fellow partygoers and a ton of confetti sounds overwhelming, there are plenty of other places to watch the clock count down. Whether it’s the Harbor Lights cruise and its views of the Manhattan skyline or the open bars at clubs around the city, New York has a party for every partier.

In Las Vegas, the Strip shuts down for New Year’s Eve, becoming a packed pedestrian plaza, with fireworks being shot off from the roofs of the casinos lining Las Vegas Boulevard. But the real shows are inside the city’s nightclubs and on its stages, with star DJs, rock bands and even comedians playing in Sin City for the evening. For the best view, the LINQ High Roller will take riders 550 feet above the Strip for great views, champagne toasts and, in VIP pods, premium bar service.

Those looking for a warmer clime can also head to the Big Easy for the holiday and enjoy the Fleur-de-Lis Drop from Jackson Square. The city also has its own firework show over the Mississippi River as well, but the biggest draw to the Crescent City – as usual – is the French Quarter, where clubs and concert halls give visitors the chance to dance the night away. The day after, make sure to stop in to Emeril’s Restaurant for the traditional good luck dish, black eyed peas.

No matter where you or your donors ring in the New Year, we hope it’s filled with good works, great trips and the discovery of new cultures around the world. May all of your galas run smoothly, all of your auction items sell and your charitable deeds help make the world a better place.

Happy New Year!





Statue of Liberty
New York Times Square
House of Blues New Orleans
Las Vegas


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Ho-Ho-Holiday Travel

December 24, 2014
Christmastime is here, and if you’re not already at or on your way to your preferred vacation spot for the holiday, it might be too late for 2014. Thankfully, you’ll get a chance to do it all again next year, and we’ve got you – and your donors – covered. No matter where your supporters would like to spend the holiday season, one of Mitch-Stuart’s charity auction travel packages can put them on a plane to a relaxing, wonderful time, from the white Christmas of a ski slope to the white sand beaches of the Caribbean. Need some ideas – especially for a “Christmas in July”-style gala auction? Why not think about…

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Disneyland California
Philadelphia: Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, the Christmas tree lighting, the store window displays, reenacting scenes from “Miracle on 34th Street” on 34th Street itself … the reasons to seek out New York City for Christmas are mostly well-known. That’s why tens of thousands of people go there every year. For a more relaxing experience, think about staying a short train ride away in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia has its share of seasonal fun to explore, like the Christmas Light Show at Macy’s and the RiverRink at Penn’s Landing, with its views Delaware River and the Ben Franklin Bridge. Plus, day trips to Manhattan are a snap; travelers can head into the city by train during the day, then escape it when the hordes of tourists become too much.

British Columbia: The Western Canadian getaway is not only a wintery wonderland, but our package to Whistler is also great for a family, with a one-bedroom condo suitable for two adults and two children. The area’s skiing is on par with the best of Europe, and Whistler averages almost 40 feet of snow per year, meaning that a December trip will very likely yield great conditions for downhill, cross-country or snowboarding. Back at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, meanwhile, even the pickiest eaters in the family will find something to love among the resort’s culinary offerings, like The Grill Room and The Mallard Lounge. Of special distinction: the Portobello Market and Fresh Bakery is a great quick-stop for families, while the Spirit Room inside the Mallard Lounge is where the liquor connoisseurs congregate.

Southern California: The lower half of the Golden State has a combination of traditional-style celebrations and warm weather seen in very few other places. Those looking to escape the biting cold can stretch out on the beach (and take pictures that will make friends at home jealous!), of course. But there is also seasonal fun to be had; Disneyland in Anaheim offers a snowy Christmas parade every day, and fireworks light up the night sky on a regular basis as well. In Los Angeles, the shopping centers combine the outdoors, the spirit of the season and the consumerism of the season to bring patrons events like “A Hollywood Christmas” at the Grove and the Rodeo Drive Holiday Lighting in Beverly Hills. And the traditional house-lighting shows in Altadena along Christmas Tree Lane will remind anyone of Christmases past – just ignore the illuminated palm trees in the other parts of the city.


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Cruising Cuisine

December 17, 2014
For some, going on a cruise represents the chance to smell the ocean air and lounge in the beautiful weather of the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. For others, it’s the chance to visit either multiple islands at once or see wilderness only described in adventure novels (like the wilds of Alaska). Many enjoy the family bonding available on a cruise; the ships are great places for the entire family, with plenty of diversions for kids.

Still others, though, are there for the food.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for every type of traveler. We’ve got several great trips to explore the cuisine of big cities like New York City and smaller towns like Asheville, North Carolina. But some of the best food available to a traveler can be found aboard cruise ships, which combine a number of influences to provide a wide range of tastes and dishes to their clientele.

On each ship, the main room dining options are vast and the elegance is astounding – especially for an experience whose price is already “baked in” the price. The main dining rooms on the ships of Royal Caribbean deliver tremendous menus and great wine selection, all in an atmosphere that is upscale without feeling intimidating (as in, bring the kids!). As for the ships of Celebrity Cruises, the dining rooms of the Solstice and the Equinox were recognized by Travel + Leisure in 2009 as the “Best Cruise Ship Dining Rooms,” thanks to beautiful two-story wine towers and dishes like roasted California quail.

Main dining areas are only a few of the places where a cruise ship traveler can sate his or her hunger. Specialty restaurants serve fun takes on Italian, Mexican and seafood-based cuisine aboard most ships. And despite having to cater to a wide variety of tastes, ship cuisine can have some idiosyncratic fun, as well. At the Lawn Club Grill on Celebrity Cruises’ Silhouette and Reflection ships, diners get in on the action by grilling their own steaks. Each party gets to pick a “Grill Master,” who gets a lesson in open-flame cooking by helping one of the boat’s chef in preparing the main course. The Lawn Club Grill also offers classes on both grilling and pizza-making for those who would rather separate learning from dining.

But the newest highlight of the open water may be upping the bar for dining options. Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas features offerings from superstar chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz amid an 18-restaurant “menu.” Whether it’s top-notch bar food, Japanese small plates or even what RCI has taken to billing as “the first-ever food truck at sea,” the SeaPlex Dog House, every culinary itch can be scratched on board.

Celebrity Cruises
Sushi on a Celebrity Cruise Ship
Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises


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Destination Spotlight: Chicago

December 10, 2014
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love working with non-profits to provide charity auction travel packages as fundraising tools. One of our favorite destinations is the Windy City, the one that gave the world the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Bill Murray and numerous politicians, athletes and influential figures. More than 30 million people visit Chicago as tourists each year, and with our travel packages, some of your donors can stay and play there, too.

Why send a supporter to Chicago?

Spacca Napoli Pizza Parlor in Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Wrigley Field
Chicago has a lively culinary scene, with fascinating new restaurants opening on a weekly basis. But even with the diversity of options available, the city will likely always be known as the home of deep-dish pizza, the pie-like creation of Pizzeria Uno. Stuffed with cheese and overflowing with toppings, the pizza is popular enough with Midwesterners that it’s comparing it to New York-style pizza is a nationwide debate on the level of “Pepsi versus Coke.” Tours of area pizzerias (like the one offered with our “Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago” – read it aloud – package) take on the feel of a Napa winery expedition, with different varieties of not only the famous deep-dish, but also “tavern-style” and the more familiar Neapolitan styles.

For those seeking a vibrant downtown center, Chicago provides urban travelers a cityscape filled with cultural monuments. Take an architectural tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, for instance, or explore the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. After taking in works of art all day, indulge in purchasing a work of art for your home (or your body!) on Magnificent Mile, the city’s premiere shopping destination with more than 3 million square feet of retail, restaurants and hotels.

But if one asks 100 people on the street to name a Chicago landmark, it’s quite possible that Wrigley Field may be the top answer. The home of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, Wrigley was built in 1914 and has hosted All-Star Games, World Series (though never a championship for the Cubbies) and other major events. While the Cubs aren’t much of a threat to bring home a title any time soon, checking out a game either from inside the park or, as one Mitch-Stuart travel package offers, VIP rooftop seats across the street is a wonderful way to pass a summer afternoon.


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‘Tis the (Shopping) Season

December 02, 2014
Nothing says the holidays quite like packed shopping mall parking lots, fights over the last toy-of-the-season and long, impossibly-slow checkout lines.

Ugh.

Somehow, the stockings have to get stuffed, the boxes have to get filled and wrapped, and that gift list has to dwindle. Wouldn’t it be nice to combine one of the most stress-inducing tasks of the holiday season with a relaxing trip out of your town? Better yet, wouldn’t it be nice to give that opportunity to your non-profit’s biggest supporters, all while raising money for your cause and programs?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together destination travel packages for charity auctions that take donors all around the world for all sorts of purposes, whether it’s an awards show in New York City or a museum tour of Paris. We offer plenty of shopping of trips to the Big Apple of course; the allure of walking past the artistic window displays of Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and Barneys New York sells itself. But for those who aren’t up for the hustle and bustle of a New York excursion to take care of that present list, there are plenty of other great cities to which to travel.

Combine shopping with sunshine in southern California with trips to either Los Angeles or Palm Springs. Angelinos love to combine purchase power with solar power, and whether it’s strolling down Rodeo Drive, breathing the ocean air on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade or taking the trolley at the Grove, the options are plentiful. A couple of hours east, Palm Springs is home to outlet shopping, independent stores filled with the works of small artisans, and year-round sunshine.

Those willing to chance a bit more inclement weather would do well to head to Chicago and the world-renowned Magnificent Mile. A 13-block stretch of Michigan Avenue, the Mile is home to homes, museums, nightlife and, most importantly, a massive collection of retailers, spanning from national chains to small boutiques. Browsing and buying are such integral parts of the strip’s experience that it hosts a yearly Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival, with pop-up stores, a food fair and even a half-marathon.

Holiday shopping sprees don’t have to be confined to this country, though. If there are particularly fashionable people on your gift list, think about a trip to Italy. The fashion industry in Milan is almost unparalleled, but cities like Venice (with its signature masks and glassworks) and regions like Umbria (known for textiles and chocolates, among other artisan goodies) also provide access to plenty of potential presents. Even better: Travelers can finish a day of shopping with some of the best cuisine in the world.

Ready to send a donor on the shopping adventure of a lifetime? Reach out to Mitch-Stuart to talk about adding a trip to Chicago, Los Angeles or even Italy to your non-profit auction!

Nordstrom
Macy's
Galeries Lafayette


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Turkey Day Travel

November 25, 2014
AAA projected that more than 43 million Americans took to the roads, flooded airport terminals and even stood in long, snaking lines at train stations to get out of town for Thanksgiving in 2013. For many of those who traveled over the holiday, the trips were to see relatives, all gathering around a table somewhere for turkey and pumpkin pie.

Tiffany & Co
Rockefeller Center
The Fairmont Royal Pavilion
Skiers at Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Next year, help your donors make that “somewhere” a little more exciting.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., pairs with non-profit organizations to offer alluring charity auction travel packages to destinations around the world. Those can be used at any time, which means that when everyone else in the airport is schlepping to the same small towns they go to every year, your supporters can be heading to holiday fun in…

New York! Don’t make your donors watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television next year. Send them to the Big Apple instead to celebrate the holiday in style, staying at the Plaza (in a Rose Suite, no less!) and shopping at Tiffany’s with a $1,000 gift card. For supporters who’ve already taken care of Christmas presents, there are NYC packages that include brewery tours, Broadway show tickets, and even trips through the city’s delis.

The Caribbean! If the first blasts of winter have left donors depressed, tell them to leave the galoshes behind and find sand between their toes rather than snow. Mitch-Stuart offers trips to locales throughout the region, but all-inclusive resorts like Bolongo Bay in St. Thomas will take care of everything from dinner to entertainment, while those looking for luxury can find it in Barbados at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion or the old-world charm of The Buccaneer in St. Croix.

The Rockies! For those who seek out the cold of winter to experience the thrill of careening down a mountain, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to hit the slopes of ski resorts in Colorado and other regions. Send donors to any resort in Vail or Keystone, Colorado, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, or Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A day of negotiating “double black diamond” ski runs will burn off any caloric surpluses from a massive Thanksgiving dinner.

Getting ready for spring galas? Want to add that “wow factor” to your non-profit benefit auction? Reach out today to a Mitch-Stuart rep!


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Museum Oddities

November 19, 2014
The Louvre? Nice enough, sure. The Guggenheim? Alright. MOMA? Of course. When one travels, it’s easy to head to one of the celebrated homes of high-minded exhibits and historically-important collections.

But sometimes, it’s more fun to be surrounded by plush bunnies. Or massive neon lights.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can send the winners of gala auctions to destinations far and wide with its nonprofit charity auction travel packages. Some of those places, like New York, Washington D.C. or Paris, are known in part for their vast collections of art, scientific touchstones or even sporting memorabilia. But not every museum is a depository of important cultural or scientific artifacts. Some are homes to strange blocks of curios, while others are repositories for the unloved or unappreciated pieces of lives past. When in one of these top tourist destinations, look out for these off-beat museums.

It should surprise no one that the Los Angeles area, home of the human oddities on Hollywood Boulevard and that repository of quirks and quacks, the movie industry, features two of the strangest museums around. On Venice Boulevard in Culver City, the Museum of Jurassic Technology features exhibits like “The Stink Ant of the Cameroon” and “The Horn of Mary Davis of Saughall,” though there’s still a debate as to whether the museum itself is a serious endeavor (and of what theme?) or a parody of private-collection museums. On the other side of the L.A. basin, the Bunny Museum in Pasadena contains a collection of more than 30,000 rabbit-related items, including stuffed animals, collectible figures and even a small crew of “house bunnies,” pets of the owners.

In Boston, the Museum of Bad Art features anywhere from 50 to 70 pieces at any one time, each showcasing what happens when the best of intentions meets the worst of talent. “Works” like “Lucy in the Sky with Flowers” and “Mama and Babe” quite obviously come from a good place, but also can be tough to look at. The museum ends up being a tribute to good intentions as much as a place to critique the less-talented, though there’s plenty of opportunities for the latter, as well. Now with two locations in the Boston area to visit, MOBA (as it’s abbreviated) draws fans of the off-beat and outright awful year-round.

Las Vegas is underrated in terms of its high art scene (any city with as much money as Vegas will have a collection or two worth seeing, like the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art), but its two best museums have more to do with the city’s history than any imported idea of art. Downtown Las Vegas is home to the Mob Museum, a collection of exhibits that trace the rise and fall of organized crime in America. It is home to, among other artifacts, the actual wall where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place (the “massacre” involved Al Capone-hired killers in Chicago) and is housed in the former Las Vegas Post Office and Courthouse. Up the road is another Vegas-centric collection, the Neon Museum, which hosts almost 150 of the city’s signature neon signs from casinos and other businesses. Guided tours take visitors past signs as old as the Moulin Rouge, which was billed as the country’s first interracial hotel in 1955, and as recent as the O’Shea’s Casino signage removed during the LINQ renovations on the Strip.

Want to give a donor the chance to visit a unique collection for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative today!


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Destination Spotlight: Colorado

November 11, 2014
The northeast is known for its foliage during the fall. Southern California and the Florida coast is known for sunny summer days and boardwalks. Washington D.C. is known for its springtime cherry blossoms (and government bustle). But when the snow starts to come down in earnest, Colorado gets its chance to shine.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s charity auction travel packages can take donors all around the world, but there are few destinations that group luxury, natural beauty and outdoor activities quite like the Rocky Mountain State. Take a look at the options that are available to the traveler:

Skiing: Almost 20 percent of U.S. ski resort visits happen in the state of Colorado (more than the second- and third-place states combined), at one of the more than 20 resorts that belong to Colorado Ski Country USA, the non-profit organization that represents the state’s skiing community. It is big business for the state – it’s estimated that skiers and snowboarders contribute nearly $3 billion annually to the local economy – so it’s not a surprise that so many mountain towns are based in large part around resorts. And when it comes to skiing in Colorado, downhill may be king but cross-country skiers have almost as many options, both at resorts and at specialized Nordic centers in places like Aspen and Crested Butte.

Hiking and Mountain Biking: One doesn’t have to strap wood to one’s feet in order to enjoy those peaks, however. Many of the state’s 30,000 acres of skiable land, when not covered in snow, are open to hikers and mountain bikers. Beyond that, though, there are a staggering 58 mountain peaks in the state that break the 14,000-foot elevation barrier. There are hikes for the novice and the expert, whether it’s the short ascent to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs or longer, more challenging climbs, like the 500-mile Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango. There are even mountain biking trails that ride along the Continental Divide (Monarch Crest) and to the top of mountain passes (Kenosha Pass).

Food and Drink Adventures: While the mountain communities have a long way to go before matching, say, Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, the microdistillery scene is alive and well in Colorado, stretching from Stranahan’s in Denver over to Woody Creek Distillers in the mountains outside of Aspen (the only distillery in America with control over every step of the vodka creation process). Microbreweries also dot the landscape, starting with the famed New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins (with an outlet in Snowmass, outside of Aspen).

Thinking of sending donors to the Mile High State? Reach out to your Mitch-Stuart rep to find out how to offer a consignment, charity auction package sure to add the “WOW factor” to your gala!
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Christmas at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Hiking at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Crested Butte, Colorado


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Footloose and Fancy Car-Free

November 05, 2014
See a city by car, and you’ll get introduced to its traffic patterns, its street signs and its preferred obscene gestures. See that same city by foot, and you’ll get introduced to its people, its places, its sounds and smells.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors all around the world via our charity auction travel packages, each one tailored to fit a specific destination. In cities like Los Angeles or in more rural locales, that might mean setting up a rental car or shuttle services for a traveler. But for those looking to leave the automobile behind, these trips can also take people to cities and attractions best seen on foot.

New York
London
Napa Valley
When one thinks of exploring a city on two legs rather than four wheels, it’s hard not to start in New York. The Big Apple may have the most thorough public transit system in America, with local subway lines snaking through the boroughs and dropping tourists off at landmarks everywhere. In fact, some of its best vistas – like Central Park, the parks that line the East River with magnificent views of Manhattan, and even the High Line – are either off-limits or severely restricted to automobiles. Ferry rides are also popular ways to get unique angles on landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. Let the cabbies do the (insane!) driving on the isle of Manhattan and take the train.

International travel can often become more complicated when factoring in car rental, which is just one reason why a trip to London can be so appealing. The city’s Underground system has more than 250 stations and stretches throughout the city and out into neighboring counties. Well over a billion people take the Underground each year. The system also connects to Eurostar rail, which can take passengers to Paris or Brussels and, from there, to the rest of Europe, all by train.

But traveling by foot isn’t just the best option in sprawling metropolises. In Napa Valley, the combination of alcohol-based tourism and relatively open roads has led to people avoiding their cars and the development of a thriving bicycle culture. Tourists can rent bikes by the day or week, and some enterprising tour companies offer Napa-by-bicycle tours, as well. Shuttles are also often available to and from wineries, as the proprietors of the establishments want everyone to get home safely as much as the patrons do. In addition, the train trip to Grgich Hills Winery must be experienced to be believed; a gourmet three-course meal is served on board en route to the winery, with desert served on the homeward leg of the trip.


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Terrified Travel!: The Best of Halloween

October 28, 2014
It’s okay to be scared when flying. It’s okay to be scared when spotting twin girls in the hallway of your hotel, asking you if you want to go and play with them forever. But would you travel solely for the purpose of frights?

It’s Halloween time, and that means ghouls and goblins. But whether the holiday means haunted houses or costumes and libations, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has a charity auction travel package that can send your donors to a great Halloween destination. Celebrate – in whichever way you like – in one of these cities:

If New York can claim New Year’s Eve as its own and Boston gets St. Patrick’s Day, it may be fair to give Halloween to Los Angeles. It should be no surprise that a city filled with young people who want to play dress up and tell stories in front of cameras would celebrate the holiday with such enthusiasm. The walk down West Hollywood’s Santa Monica Boulevard on Halloween night is almost a rite of passage for newcomers, but for tourists (and those traveling with families), Universal Horror Nights at Universal Studios and Knott’s Scary Farm are favorites. And just down the road in Long Beach, the docked, 12-deck Queen Mary hosts “Dark Harbor,” with mazes, rides and ghost hunters.

Travelers looking for more of a party atmosphere won’t be surprised to find out that Las Vegas throws its share of Halloween celebrations. Nightclubs like Hyde at the Bellagio and Drai’s at the Cromwell will fill dance floors with zombies and superheroes, respectively, while Tao will go with a “Great Gatsby” theme (along with a guest appearance by Snoop Dogg). Circus Circus, meanwhile, will again turn its amusement park into the Fright Dome, with haunted houses and live entertainment. Even just walking up and down the Strip, however, can be an eye-opening experience on All Hallows’ Eve; the entire casino district turns into an open-air masquerade.

Of course, for sheer numbers of revelers it is hard to beat New York and its Village Halloween Parade. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2014, the parade weaves through Greenwich Village and attracts a reported 60,000 or more participants each year. And with the holiday falling on a Friday this year, visitors can expect celebrations to last long into the night (and the next morning!) at bars and restaurants throughout the five boroughs. For those looking for a spookier experience, the Wall Street Walks Ghost Tour takes participants through the haunted alleys and graveyards of lower Manhattan. It combines frights with history to both inform and scare.


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Relationship Building is Year Round

October 22, 2014
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we excel in providing organizations with consignment charity auction travel packages. But while having the right mix of items (including trips that can bring the “wow factor”) at an auction is important, those packages are only worth as much as donors are willing to bid. And in order to get more bids, it helps to get more people in the door and have more friends and supporters ready to buy.

How does a non-profit do that? To paraphrase Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross”: Always be talking.

Disappearing for months at a time, only to pop up with an invitation to a party can make an organization look like it only wants to involve its supporters when there are bank accounts to fill. But whether it’s before the gala, during it or the aftermath, there’s always reason for a charity to reach out and chat with its biggest backers.

Approaching donors to try and sell gala tickets can feel intimidating, especially if it’s the only time you communicate with them throughout the year. In the months leading up to a big benefit event, reach out to your contributors and allies with news about your organization. Win an award? Send out an email, thanking everyone for their support which allowed you to achieve this honor. Through social media, engage your friends with both cause-related content and behind-the-scenes information on how their money is helping others. And when it is time to send out invitations to the gala event itself, reach out individually to the donors whom you really want to see on the event night.

Once the doors are (finally!) open, it might be tempting to sit back, relax and enjoy the show, but this is the time when you have your biggest supporters all in one room at the same time. Get out and meet them! Mingling with your biggest supporters is a way of making them feel welcome at your event, while getting to personalize your mission and fundraising messaging. If you’re shy or reserved, just remember: These are your friends. These are the people willing to buy tickets, to donate their time and their money, to support you and your cause. You’re among compatriots here.

After the decorations are put away, the silent auction items are distributed and the last of the leftover food has been packed up, the job is not over. It’s time to reach out to donors and thank them. But while your parents may have taught you that proper etiquette involves sending a note, the thank you phone call gives you a chance to not just relay your appreciation, but also interact with the donor. Find out how the event went from the point of view of an attendee. Learn what drew someone to your cause in the first place. Many times, such conversations can even lead to an extra donation or two – and it certainly allows a supporter to feel heard and cared for.


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Destination Spotlight: Bali

October 14, 2014
Many of the trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog take donors on “dream vacations,” to the types of destinations that occupy the covers of travel magazines and the forefront of our travel thoughts. Sending contributors to New York City, Las Vegas or even Europe can fulfill wishes while also bringing in sizeable donations.

For some travelers, though, the “expected” may not be enough. Maybe they are seasoned travelers who have been all over the country. Perhaps they’re looking for a trip that can set them apart, one that’ll get the attention of everyone to whom the bidder tells the story. Or maybe the donor is shopping for a younger family member, one who may be more interested in a trip that doubles as an adventure.

If that’s the case, it may be time to talk about Bali.

An island in Indonesia, Bali has become a hot destination for travelers over the last few years. Prestigious travel magazine Travel and Leisure gave Bali its “Best Island” award in 2010, and it is regularly singled out for its stunning beaches in different guides. Being used as a setting in 2010’s “Eat Pray Love” film adaptation certainly hasn’t hurt its reputation, either.

Of course, as someone taking advantage of one of Mitch-Stuart’s charity auction travel packages, though, it’s about the “wow” factor. So what is it about Bali that can get an audience to gasp?

The culture: Art galleries like the Agung Rai Museum of Art in Ubud and the more abstract art-minded Randelli Gallery in Seminyak feature tremendous collections of both local and international works, and Balinese music has an interesting diversity, from traditional gong compositions to jegog, played on large bamboo instruments. But a cultural tour of Bali has to include checking out a barong dance performance. A traditional, sacred ritual, the dance centers on the mythical Barong, a lion-like beast and represents all that is good, in battle against the evil Rangda.

The outdoors: Snorkeling and diving? Check out Pulau Menjangan, a neighboring island accessible from Bali that features a nearly-unparalleled (in the region) coral reef. Hiking? Get to the village of Munduk, where waterfalls and lakes are only a short walk (or long walk, if you’d like) away. Want to run away from lava in slow motion like in an action movie? Don’t do that! But you can climb to the top of one of the island’s volcanos and pretend. There are plenty of ways for visitors to interact with nature in fun, active manners.

It’s beauty: It’s easy to describe almost anywhere in the world as “beautiful”; if one searches a country long enough, the land is sure to yield a stunning vista or two. But just look at the photos to the side, here. Between the lush green grasslands and the aqua blue Pacific Ocean drifting up on shore, postcard-worthy views are everywhere.

Want to hear more? Reach out to your Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative today!
Bali
Bali
Bali
Bali


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Go Euro

October 07, 2014
There are plenty of reasons to head to Europe: The culture, the beaches, the history. For the first time in years, though, we can add an economic one, as the dollar is currently stronger against the Euro now than it has been in the last twenty three months. For American travelers, that means their money goes further now than almost ever before.

Paris
Paris
Paris
As of October 1, the American dollar is worth .79 Euros, while one Euro fetches $1.26 American. Those figures haven’t been this promising for American currency holders since November of 2012. The trend in 2014 has been promising, as well; the dollar has gained almost .05 Euros since the beginning of the year, with the growth being fairly steady since May.

How do these small numbers practically affect travelers? Even a .05 difference in Euro rates, when multiplied by a trip’s expenses, can pay off big. Take, for example, a trip to Paris. For a couple, let’s assume a 5,000 Euro budget. On October 1, that converts to around $6,300. Just one month earlier, those same 5,000 Euros would cost $6,560, and in March it could have been as much as $6,960. Over the course of the last six months, the cost of an identical vacation has dropped by $660 – that’s nearly 10 percent!

Do those numbers seem out of line? Light lunch at that gorgeous café you walked past on the way to the Eiffel Tower likely runs around 20 Euros. Dinner with a view? Le Jules Verne will seat you inside the Tower itself for a five-course dinner – at 185 Euros per diner. A trip through the Louvre: another 16 Euros per person. That’s more than 200 Euros spent in one day by one person. Double that for a couple, multiply it by five days, then consider that hotels don’t tend to be free (the Hotel Plaza Athenee, which just reopened in August, can run up to 1,000 Euro per night!). It’s easy to see how two people can hit 5,000 Euros in costs for five days in the City of Light.

What could saving an extra $660 get you while on vacation? In Paris, that could be two tickets in fantastic seats to see Paris Saint-Germain, one of Europe’s great soccer teams, live (with money left over for concessions). It could be two Eurail passes to head to Spain for a vacation-within-a-vacation. It could even be a shopping trip through the Faubourg Saint-Honore district, with its streets lined with designer shops.

Currency conversion rates aren’t always the most entertaining of reasons to head out of the country, but in addition to all of the fun and relaxation of vacationing in Europe, getting a good deal is a solid rationale to head over the Atlantic Ocean in the near future.


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Lobby Libations

October 01, 2014
Delayed flights. Lost luggage. Fellow passengers reclining practically into your lap. Long security lines. While in transit, it can be hard to remember why we travel in the first place.

At Mitch-Stuart, we specialize in setting up trips of a lifetime, the types of charity auction travel packages that will “wow” gala attendees, draw in big bids and leave your donors with a satisfied feeling whenever they think of your cause and organization. Unfortunately, we don’t have the magic power to make the actual airport experience any easier.

The good news: At many hotels, including our partners, there’s always the hotel bar. The perfect destination for the traveler stressed from a day of lines and flights (and maybe a touch disoriented from time zone-spanning travel), a quick drink after checking in can help someone transition from “travel mode” to “vacation mode.” Whether it’s a fancy cocktail, a drink and a show or a stunning view, there are as many different types of hotel bars as there are hotels themselves.

Some of the fanciest hotel bars in the country can be found in New York, a city which elevated the lobby watering hole to an art form.  At The Plaza are two favorites: The Rose Club overlooks the hotel’s restored lobby and features live jazz, while the Champagne Bar boasts a bubbly-infused cocktail list alongside excellent appetizers. For the teetotalers in the party, both venues also offer non-alcoholic mixed drinks like the Ginger Peach and the Shirley Temple, meaning that everyone can get in on the fun. Best of all: Both make excellent perches from which to indulge in that great New York tradition of people watching.

It almost seems like cheating to include a Las Vegas hotel bar in this list; the city long ago realized that giving patrons a drink or two may help them be a touch more “generous” at the roulette or blackjack table. But Parasol Down at the Wynn is nowhere near the Sin City norm. The drink list features modern takes on classic drinks, like the Sinatra Smash, alongside a varied list of wines and spirits. But the star of the show is on the patio: The view of the Lake of Dreams, Wynn’s manmade waterfall. During the day, it’s a tranquil respite from the energy of the Las Vegas Strip, and at night the thrice-an-hour shows include everything from projections to a massive inflatable frog that lip-syncs to “Friends in Low Places,” among other songs. It works as a destination for a welcome-to-town drink, a meeting place before heading out into the city or an end-of-the evening stop for a relaxing nightcap.

Of course, while the Wynn and The Plaza both have bars with great views, neither of them may be able to match that of a beachside hotel. In the Caribbean, places like the Cabana Bar at the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda or Iggies Beach Bar and Grill at Bolongo Bay in St. Thomas boasts views seemingly ripped from postcards and tropical-themed drink menus. There may be no better way to shake off a long travel day and get acclimated to island air than standing on the beach, sand between your toes, while sipping a Mai Tai or a Dark and Stormy. You’ve got plenty of time to see the sights later.
The Plaza
The Wynn
Fairmont Southampton
Bolongo bay


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Choosing a Theme for Your Gala

September 24, 2014
It’s possible that your non-profit or charity is so connected to its donors and to the public that all you have to do is swing open the doors, plate some appetizers, and ask for cash. It’s possible – but unlikely (not to mention way less fun).

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has a variety of charity auction travel packages available for non-profits to offer (always risk-free, of course), but it’s even easier to work with groups that have picked a strong theme for their event. Here are some tips on how to come up with that perfect atmosphere and setting for your soiree, in order to give your donors the fondest memories possible:

Dress to Impress (Or to Not Impress): The day-to-day grind is often about finding comfort: People seek comfortable modes of transportation, comfortable temperatures and, certainly, comfortable clothing. But pushing donors out of their comfort zone can be all it takes to transport them from the daily routine and into a new world. The easiest way to accomplish that? Dress codes. Making a party a black tie affair works, but experiment with other ideas, too: Costume or masquerade balls are popular, as are “white” parties (everyone dressed in the palest of pales) and even beach attire soirees (sunscreen is optional).

How to Play: Once everyone is dressed to the nines (or roaming around in flip-flops, depending on the theme), it’s time to get them mingling. Introducing donors to each other (and to your non-profit’s enthusiastic volunteers) helps them forge new connections, share experiences related to your charity’s mission and generally makes for a livelier, lighter atmosphere (the type of feeling that can help boost auction returns). Try putting people together through games; talking with fellow faux-gamblers around a roulette wheel or bean bag tossers can be easier for the shy, and theme-dependent games contribute mightily to the mood of the room.

From the Floor to the Block: Finally, a theme can help focus your auction item procurement efforts. Of all of the different no-cost, no-risk consignment travel package options available, wouldn’t it be easier if there was a linking idea, a mood to set or a locale to match? For instance, a theme like “Casino Night” is begging for a trip to Monte Carlo or Las Vegas. Taking your donors to a faux-beach? How about a trip to the Caribbean or a seaside picnic package? So much of the process of putting together a charity auction becomes easier when the planner can focus on one idea.

Combine a dress code, games and selected auction items, and you’ve got a theme. Black tie, roulette and craps tables and trips to Monte Carlo add up to “Casino Night.” All-white dress, horseshoes or croquet and a trip to New York gives you “A Hamptons Summertime.” Beach gear, beanbag or Frisbee tossing and trips to Florida or Southern California? Welcome to “Beach Night.” In each situation, you’re giving your donors a curated, thought-out party experience that will give them a chance to interact with you and your cause in a fun, light-hearted manner, all while supporting your good works.

Got your own gala theme ideas? Share them with us on Twitter @MitchStuartInc and at our Facebook page.


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Get Away…and Get Active!

September 17, 2014
There may be few places as depressing as a mediocre hotel gym. Often a lobby-adjacent afterthought, the collection of treadmills and one Nautilus machine that passes for a “workout room” may not feel sufficient for those vacationers seeking a sweat while on the road.

Colorado
Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe
Alisal Guest Ranch
While Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s charity auction travel packages don’t include gym memberships (yet!), we can help those in search of a great active vacation, one that stimulates the imagination and the circulatory system. For some of our trip packages, exercise options are built in to the itinerary.

Colorado is one of the American states best known for staying active; all that exercise has helped the city of Boulder lead the country with the lowest obesity rate, and three of the country’s ten thinnest cities are in the state. A big reason why is the number of options available to locals for exercise. The Rocky Mountains hold ski resorts in the winter and mountain biking opportunities in the spring and summer. Take advantage of those opportunities like a local with a trip to Beaver Creek, Crested Butte or Telluride for downhill fun.

Nevada, of course, may be better known for neon and cheap shrimp cocktail than mountain biking and skiing. But if one can look away from the spectacle of Sin City, the northern part of the state has plenty of opportunities to get outside. One of the best of those chances is at Lake Tahoe, with the day-long “Adventure Experience.” Available through our “Splendid Alpine Setting” package, donors can choose between horseback riding, hiking tours and mountain biking around and through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Those who’d prefer a little less legwork can also choose ATV, snowmobile or Jeep rides, as well.

For those who like their activities a little slower-paced, there’s the beauty of Solvang, California, and the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. Visitors have the entirety of the outdoors at their disposal, and that can mean guided mountain or road biking tours of the Santa Ynez Valley, a day of fishing at Alisal Lake (or archery with the lake in the background) or even horse-riding lessons. Off the resort, meanwhile, lies some of California’s most scenic hikes; the Santa Ynez River Trail, for instance, offers a good workout and watering holes for swimming.

Whether it’s urban hiking and exploring, cliff-side yoga classes or some other form of exercise, your vacation can get your heart pumping for reasons beyond stunning scenery. Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative for more information.


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Destination Spotlight: The Caribbean

September 10, 2014
The average high temperature in Aruba peaks at 91 degrees in September, and falls all the way to … 80 degrees in January. In Bermuda, the highs run from 70 in the winter to 86 in the summer. Consistency is the norm for Caribbean weather, where any time of year is beach time.


No matter what style of vacation your donors seek, though, they can find it in the Caribbean. A consistent favorite for both travelers and auction organizers, travel packages for non-profit auctions that involve islands like the Bahamas, St. Croix and St. Thomas can fetch big money and really impress gala attendees. When a potential auction bidder sees the words “Caribbean vacation” on display, he or she may be thinking about several different types of trips.

Postcards sent home from Caribbean sojourns, of course, tend to emphasize beautiful beaches – and with good reason. The sands of Aruba, the Bahamas, St. Thomas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others, are all welcoming to beachgoers of all ages and stripes. For those who want to interact with the environment rather than pull up a chair and relax, there’s plenty of opportunities for everything from swimming with the dolphins to sailing or paddleboarding across the tops of the waves.

There’s more to island life than beaches, though. Head to Bermuda, for instance, for an adventure that includes art galleries and horseback rides. Tour the Cruzan Rum factory on St. Croix, or hike through the island’s rain forest. Pull out the credit card on St. Thomas for what many describe as the “duty-free shopping capital of the world.” Hit the hot spots of Aruba, with restaurants and bars in the resorts that line the beach. Not every Caribbean expedition requires sunscreen and bathing suits.

For the island-goers interested in sampling the entire region, the Caribbean Sea has, at any individual moment, one of the highest concentrations of cruise ships in the world. Make stops at all of the above islands and more, with excursions for beach lounging, shopping and exploring. Along the way, enjoy the luxuries of cruise travel, from expansive staterooms to all-you-can-eat meals and on-board entertainment. It’s like a Whitman’s Sampler of some of the most gorgeous travel destinations on the globe.
The Buccaneer
The Buccaneer
Isla Mujeres Palace Resort
Celebrity Solstice, Virgin Islands


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Choose Your Own (Travel) Adventure

September 03, 2014
All of the choices available in the Mitch-Stuart, Inc. charity auction package catalog can make it hard to pick just one to offer. Do you send your donors to New York? How about Las Vegas? Or maybe to Paris, or London, or any of practically countless other options?

Pedicure
Fairmont Empress Hotel
Hyatt San Diego
But for those hearty few who want even more choices, even more destinations, there is a cornucopia of options available with a “Choose Your Destination” package. Whether it’s the perfect match for your non-profit auction’s theme, a sentimental choice for a subset of your donors or any other reason, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can set you up with options around the world.

How can you best take advantage of the opportunity to build your own travel package?

Think Thematically: If your gala or charity auction event has a theme, there’s a destination somewhere that would make a perfect match. Popular themes like “casino night” may conjure obvious trip partners, but a more subtle through-line for an evening could require a more tailored adventure.

Don’t Forget the Hotel: While many planners focus on the city (or country) of the destination, the hotel itself can be a major draw for donors, too. Hotel chains like the Fairmont and Swissotel have worldwide reputations for luxury, meaning that a trip to Peru or Ecuador can be both about exploring a country and reveling in five-star service and amenities. Machu Picchu and mani-pedis in the same package? Why not? Or how about a visit to the world famous Pikes Place Fish Market in Seattle, followed by a tremendous dinner at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel’s in-house restaurant, the AAA Four Diamond-earning The Georgian?

Travel for the Cause: Are there major events involving your charity on a yearly basis? A conference open to the public to discuss the issue for which you advocate? With the larger number of options available via the “Choose Your Destination” category – our “The Journey of a Lifetime!” trip can send a donor to a Hyatt anywhere from Seattle to Boston and San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale – it’s easy to send a supporter to a destination or conference that deepens his or her connection to your cause.

For more ideas, or to get the lowdown on the (literally) hundreds of choose-your-destination options available, contact your Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative today!


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Winter is Coming

August 26, 2014
There’s a reason that the end of August is often referred to as the “dog days of summer,” and it’s not that people have overwhelming love for them like we do our pets. It’s hot across most of the country, kids are getting restless as school is approaching, and everything from the sports world to summer television seems to be saying, “talk to us again next month.”

In the non-profit world, however, many organizations spend August gearing up for fall fundraising, and in particular, yearly gala or auction events. That means reaching out to us to talk about partnering for including consignment travel packages to destinations around the world, but it also means thinking about what will be on the minds of donors come the fall.

Let us help: Snow.

Offering the right trips that will garner the most interest is an important part of putting together a charity auction, and we can help. For your donors who love winter wonderlands, here’s a small sampling of the type of vacations you can offer (risk-free to your organization, of course!) by partnering with Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

When thoughts turn to winter, the mind almost immediately conjures images of snow, be it on city streets or mountaintops. While the former condition may be as annoying as beautiful, a peak covered in snow is an opportunity for high speeds and downhill thrills. Whether in the Canadian Rockies, the American west or even the mountains of Vermont, skiers can bid on perfect winter vacations when your non-profit pairs with Mitch-Stuart on a nonprofit travel package or experience. Resorts like the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in British Columbia and the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Nevada are known for their luxury services for the indoorsy types, as well, with spa packages and great dining.

The winter also has its share of gift-giving holidays, including Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Shopping malls get extremely crowded and browsing on the Internet can be more difficult than browsing a store’s selection in person. Why not make a vacation out of the experience of finding that perfect present for a significant other, family member or even for the entire office? One of our most popular packages, the to-the-point-named “Shop ‘Til You Drop!”, combines four nights at The Plaza in New York City with a $2,000 shopping spree at either Bergdorf-Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue or Bloomingdale’s. Take the trip in December and revel in the splendor of a city preparing to celebrate the holidays, while crossing off errands from your to-do-when-I-get-home list.

When it’s time for those holidays, the stress levels increase. As families return to a home base, there’s cleaning and cooking to be done groceries to be bought and sets of “the nice dishes” to be broken out. Donors can skip every one of those steps by bringing the family aboard either a Celebrity Cruises or Royal Caribbean International cruise ship for a trip through the tranquil waters of the Caribbean or Bahamas. Guests aboard each are treated to gourmet meals and 24-hour room service (no more standing in front of the refrigerator, picking at leftover turkey) along with state-of-the-art fitness facilities to work off all that food. With the entire family aboard, your donor can even take his or her photo for next year’s holiday cards..
Skiing the Rockies
Bloomingdales
The Plaza New York
Celebrity Solstice, Virgin Islands


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Learning on the Road

August 19, 2014
In the next couple of weeks, kids will go back to school, picking up a bag full of textbooks on the first day to learn about everything from the founding of the United States to the creation of the world’s great works of art. They’ll be presented by teachers as words on the page, artifacts of history that have long since been left to the passage of time.

The National Mall
Lincoln Memorial
Gettysburg Battlefield
Louvre, Paris, France
But those seminal events, those works of art, that meaningful history, doesn’t have to be left behind. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for any number of different reasons: Relaxation, excitement, a change-of-pace or even an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But some of our favorite vacations involve opportunities for donors to bring their families along and make history come alive. Give your donors the gift of education with one of these great travel packages.

Washington, DC is a living, breathing civics classroom, and a trip there can give life to an otherwise dry subject. The National Mall is filled with museums (almost all Smithsonian institutions feature free admission) and monuments, but with a little advance planning, travelers can also see the halls of power as they operate today. Reaching out to the local representative’s office can produce anything from a Capitol Hill tour led by a staff member to gallery passes to watch the House or Senate in action. Especially worthy of attention: The tour of the monuments at night is breathtaking.

To go a little further back in American history, a trip to Gettysburg immerses the entire family in the Civil War. The turning point of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest of the war, and because of that the city was also the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. Send a donor and his/her family here for bus tours, museums and reenactments. For when the history gets to be too much, visitors can retreat to the 30-acre nature reserve and relax.

Not all forms of history are about war, though. For those of a more artistic sensibility, Paris is one of the world’s leaders in galleries and art history, with museums like the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. One of our trips to the French capital includes half-day tours of each of those, plus the Centre George Pompidou, home of the Musee National d’Art Moderne, the largest modern art museum in Europe. Works of great historical significance to the world are located in each, including those by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Vincent van Gogh and, of course, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” It’s practically a full AP Art course masquerading as a city.


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Summer’s Last Hurrah

August 13, 2014
Shopping carts filled with pencils and folders, registration days and “What I Did During My Summer Vacation” reports: While parents everywhere get ready to send their children back to school, those kids are desperately trying to hold on to their last days of freedom and escape the onset of the school year.

Help them.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together great charity auction travel packages for any occasion and with any combination of family members. Sometimes, that means romantic getaways for parents, and other times it means event-based itineraries to awards shows or sporting events. But in August, many families are looking for one last, great adventure before the school year begins, the type of experience that will make the other kids on the bus jealous when junior recounts his/her summer exploits. Give your donors those opportunities with one of these trips.

Of course, when one thinks of trips for families, the first idea often involves Mickey Mouse. Whether it’s Disneyland in Southern California or Disney World in Orlando, adventures to either coast’s Magic Kingdom are fun for the whole family. For either, though, Mitch-Stuart can round out the trip with some great options. Our package to Anaheim also includes a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm and a dinner at Medieval Times, along with a suite for four as accommodations. If Florida is the choice, trips can include excursions to everything from SeaWorld to Universal Studios.

If neither California nor Florida are in the cards, though, Mitch-Stuart can still help send a donor and his or her family to any of 50 different waterparks in the country. Whether it’s one of the Great Wolf Lodge waterparks in destinations like Kansas City or the Pocono Mountains, or perhaps CoCo Key Water Resort in the Boston area, there is family-friendly fun in 22 different states and even Ontario, Canada to be had. Each park has its own signature slides and amusements, and each package also includes quad-room accommodations and breakfast buffets.

Of course, the simplest way of bidding adieu to the summer is to find a beach and spend those last days of freedom running through the sand. We’ve mentioned our beach trips on this blog before, but one in particular is worth highlighting: The family-friendly confines of an all-inclusive Palace Resort in Cancun. With clubs and lounges for kids, separate pools for youth and even nighttime movie screenings, there’s plenty to distract children from the upcoming school year – and with swim-up bars and pampering spas, there’s plenty to distract parents, too.
Disneyland
Seaworld
Great Wolf Parks
Palace Resort


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Getting Ready for the Fall

August 08, 2014
August is upon us, and the weather across much of the country is helping the month live up to the phrase “the dog days of summer.” But as heat drives people to the beach (or, at a minimum, to air conditioning), charity auction planners have to start thinking about the fall, to galas and fundraising events. What will be the trips and travel opportunities that will bring in the most revenue for a non-profit?

This time of year is a favorite of ours at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., because we get to help pair non-profits with great charity auction travel packages for the fall season. One of the questions we’re asked consistently is, “what’s popular right now?” At this time of year, here are some categories to think about when deciding what to offer to donors.

When it comes to fundraising packages, it is hard to go wrong during any season with offering trips to places like New York City, Napa Valley and Las Vegas. The Big Apple is popular at all times of year, to people from around the world (ask anyone who has ever been in Times Square!). Trip packages there include foodie adventures, shopping sprees and even tickets to attend the Tony Awards. For the oenophile, Napa Valley involves wine tours, along with culinary delights. And Las Vegas, the City of Sin, is exactly what one would expect: Bright, flashy, with big-name chefs, live entertainment and even year-round chances for golfers to get in a few swings.

When the fall comes around, families start thinking about places to go for the holidays, as well. Give your donors a chance to include their families with trips to a place like Disneyland, which includes a stay in a hotel suite big enough to give everyone a chance to spread out. For those who might be looking to get the family outside, a trip to Buena Vista, CO could be popular, as well; our package includes a full week for two adults and two kids on a dude ranch, for an all-inclusive adventure involving hot springs pools, hayrides and horseback riding.

Not everyone is a fan of the fall, of course – and certainly those in snowy climes may do some dreaming about being beachside as fall gives way to winter. Those planning for a gala later in the fall could do well by offering a sunny giveaway to the Caribbean. Whether it’s the thrill of a waterside casino in Aruba, a cruise with an ocean-view stateroom or the ease of an all-inclusive resort in St. Thomas, your donors will thank you for giving them the snowbird trip of a lifetime – and you’ll thank them for their generous contribution to your fundraising efforts!
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Keeping Memories in Focus

July 30, 2014
It can seem like modern digital cameras make it hard to take a bad photo, especially when compared to the removable-lens film cameras of the past, or even the point-and-click consumer models popular just a few years back. But that doesn’t mean that travelers should settle for “okay” or “acceptable” images. Transcend merely “not bad” efforts and take photos that accurately reflect their once-in-a-lifetime settings and preserve lifelong memories by utilizing these travel photography tips on your next trip.
Icescating at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Icescating at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Landscape Mode: There are two orientations, or ways to position the camera. One is to hold it vertically, in what’s called “portrait” mode, and another is to hold it horizontally, in what is called “landscape” mode. Obviously, choosing one over the other will depend on the subject of the photo, but in most cases, landscape will capture more of the surroundings. Especially when taking photos of family members or travel companions, choosing landscape will allow the photographer to get the subjects and the background more effectively.

Apps: The top-end smartphones have on-board cameras that can take great images. But to turn them into great photographs, think about downloading and utilizing a photo app. While some, like the ever-popular Instagram, are built more for sharing pictures, others like Camera+ and Hipstamatic give the shooter a great deal of control over the final product. Pre-programmed filters can remove glare, fix minor (and sometimes major) lighting concerns and even make the images more “film-like” by playing with focus and adding film grain. Being able to effectively use one of these apps can turn a smartphone into a high-end consumer camera.

Practice: Travelers shouldn’t wait until standing on the shores of Bali or staring at the Eiffel Tower in person to figure out how to use a camera. If one is heading to the beach, try taking photos in the brightest conditions available – midday, perhaps. If the City of Lights is the destination, experiment with some evening photography involving man-made lights, even if it is just the marquee of the local supermarket. The best photographers are experienced photographers.
Shoot to Scale: A fun tip for those travelers exploring huge landmarks or wide open spaces: Try to get a human being in the frame somewhere, while still capturing the entire object or space in question. The presence of a person in the shot will allow viewers to have an idea of the scale of the photo’s object, whether it’s a huge waterfall or a downtown art sculpture.

Turn Off the Flash: In most circumstances, the light generated from the flash on your camera won’t illuminate the object of your photos. The maximum range for many on-camera flashes is 15 feet, and the tiny light on a smartphone usually travels an even shorter distance. If you’re taking photos of a still object at a relatively close distance in low light (like family members posing in front of a monument at night), flash works. Otherwise, it may be better to take a slightly darker shot and then “lighten” it later using an app or a computer program.

For more of these tips, check out Fodor’s excellent guide to travel photography.


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The Spirits of Travel

July 22, 2014
When you (or a donor) dines out, do you check the label on the bottle of wine? Can you tell the difference between a single-malt scotch and a blended whiskey? Do you know about the latest and greatest Indian Pale Ales?

We pride ourselves at Mitch Stuart, Inc. in putting together charity auction travel packages that take donors around the world in pursuit of their passions. For some, that might be great sporting events, for others it could be beautiful beaches, and for still others, it’s the lure of trying a new beer, wine or spirit – or just seeing where a favorite label is made.

An area does not get the moniker “Wine Country” without earning it. There are more than 400 wineries in the state of California north of San Francisco, according to the travel experts at Fodor’s, and while seeing each of them may be a bit ambitious for a week-long sojourn, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can help a winning donor make it to plenty of them. Napa and Sonoma Valleys are favorites of wine connoisseurs around the world, and wineries like Grgich Hills Estate, Frog’s Leap and Long Meadow Ranch give aficionados and amateurs alike a deeper understanding and love for vino. In addition, travelers can discover smaller wineries by taking our private winery tour, which allows guides to introduce oenophiles to the hidden gems of Northern California wine country.

For those who like their adult beverages a touch … stronger … a trip across the pond can yield a great adventure. Heading to Edinburgh means heading to a land known (maybe best known) for its scotch whiskey, and whether it’s via visits to distillers or a private master class, an appreciation for the spirit is easily obtained here. The Irish whiskey drinkers can have their fun as well; a trip to Dublin also involves a premium tasting experience at the Jameson Reserve Bar. (Those trips to Europe can also be wine-centric, as well, thanks to adventures through Barcelona, Tuscany or the French countryside.)

One can combine high-end beverages with sun-soaked beaches, too. San Diego has been called the Craft Beer Capital of America, and a trip to any one of the more than 80 licensed breweries and brew pubs will show why. Hop aboard the San Diego Beer Train and see the coastline while tasting local brews, or stop in at famed microbreweries like Stone Brewing Co. and AleSmith Brewing Company separately. Either way, there’ll be a variety of beer for every taste.
Napa Valley
Wine Tasting
Guiness Storehouse
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Liberty Station


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Life is Always a Beach

July 15, 2014
Sandcastles and plastic shovels. Tropical drinks with little umbrellas. The company of a breezy novel. From childhood through the retirement years, people may change how they enjoy summer days on a beach, but the desire to set up shop on a sandy shore during June, July and August never abates.

Mondrian South Beach
Moon Palace Resort
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Whether it’s a family-friendly trip to warmer climes or a wild weekend away, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can help send your donors on any type of beach adventure with its charity auction travel packages. Which of the numerous beach travel packages should your organization put up for auction? It depends on who are your target bidders.

Some of the most beautiful beaches in America are found on the coasts of Florida, and for those looking for a combination of sand and nightlife, Miami Beach tops the list. Resorts like the Blue Moon Hotel and Mondrian South Beach cater to hip clientele and beachgoers simultaneously; the Mondrian, for instance, is right on the ocean, while also being just blocks away from the best of the city’s nightlife. For youthful donors – or donors shopping for gifts for twenty-somethings – there may not be a better combination.

If your donors are traveling with kids, they’re likely to appreciate the ease of a trip to an all-inclusive resort. The family-friendly properties of Palace Resorts in Cancun, Mexico, give both children and adults the chance to play. Both Beach Palace and Moon Palace provide great beach access, and kids at Moon Palace will love “The Playroom,” with toys, video games, a mini-theater and two playgrounds. At Beach Palace, Kids Club features its own pool for children, one that includes a water slide that might make the parents a bit jealous.

After the kids have grown up and moved on, vacations can be a chance to mellow out, to relax while sitting oceanside. If it’s an escape that a donor desires, the island of Kauai may be the perfect trip. Attracting fewer tourists that Oahu or Maui, Kauai features beaches just as beautiful, but in a more laid-back atmosphere. And at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, guests can have dinner beachside with the hotel’s “Share the Stars with Someone You Love” sand-side service or attend a luau while spending time an ocean away from the stress of day-to-day life.


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Play Ball!

July 08, 2014
High definition television. Multiple 24-hour sports networks. No fee for parking. In our modern times, there are a lot of advantages to watching baseball games from the comfort of a living room. But no cable channel or fancy TV can replicate the smell of freshly-cut outfield grass or the camaraderie of the seventh-inning stretch. Even the hot dogs at the stadium somehow taste better.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love to help non-profits send their donors on once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities through our charity auction travel packages. Every summer, some of those travel packages involve getting great seats to any baseball game in the country – everything from a Wednesday afternoon “get-away game” with an early afternoon first pitch to the MLB All-Star Game (this year taking place at Target Field in Minneapolis).

Those experiences can differ wildly depending on the location, though. Where should a non-profit look to send a winning bidder? Major league baseball stadium experiences can be broken down into three categories, making them easy to pair with a gala theme or non-profit mission:

  • The Latest: Whether it’s the free wi-fi of the aforementioned Target Field or the more than 1,000 high-definition monitors at the new Yankee Stadium, some of the latest Major League Baseball stadiums feature technology previously unimaginable to fans. Some of them also act as curators of the sport’s history: Yankee Stadium has its own museum along with Monument Park, which features plaques dedicated to and uniform numbers of retired players, while Nationals Park has a “Ring of Honor” that bears the names of the franchise’s top players.
  • The Throwbacks: Maybe the best combination of retro ballpark design and modern conveniences can be found in the stadiums built in the 1990s, starting with Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. That ballpark, along with Coors Field in Denver (opened 1995) and Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas (opened 1996 as the home of the Texas Rangers) kicked off a trend in stadium design that takes the aesthetics of older stadiums – lots of brick and exposed steel – and updated the technology. Many of these parks also acted as catalysts for development in surrounding areas; Oriole Park helped revitalize the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore by drawing more people to the neighborhood, while Lower Downtown (LoDo, to the locals) in Denver is now one of the city’s hottest destinations.
  • The Classics: For those who want a connection to the history and heritage of America’s pastime, though, there are still two parks in operation that can transport a fan back in time. In Boston, Fenway Park is uncomfortable, cramped and still a must-see for the baseball aficionado. Everything from the walk to the Park from the T to the first glimpse of the Green Monster in left field feels like moments taken out of a movie. So well known and regarded is Fenway that it was granted a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, 100 years after its opening. In Chicago, meanwhile, Wrigley Field is two years younger but just as big a part of baseball’s fabric. Its ivy-covered walls and outside marquee may be the icons most closely associated with the entire city, while some of the best seats aren’t even in the stadium; rooftop viewing parties on neighboring buildings are as much a part of the stadium experience at Wrigley as hot dogs. Throw in the Chicago Cubs’ tradition of day games, and on summer afternoons in Chicago it can feel like the entire city is playing hooky.
Yankee Stadium
Fenway Park
Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field


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July 4th Celebrations

July 02, 2014
Fireworks at Statue of Liberty
Fireworks at Lincoln Memorial
Washington Monument Fireworks
A favorite reason for many travelers to hit the road is to take in a celebration. It could be a music festival in New Orleans, a wine festival in Napa Valley or even an awards show in Los Angeles, but heading somewhere to take part in a major event has become a big reason for people to get out their luggage. When that event is July 4th, the possibilities for travel become endless.

One of the benefits for using Mitch-Stuart, Inc., as your charity auction travel package provider is that our trips can be used at almost any time of year, including during many holidays. That gives donors the opportunity to pair the bright explosions of some of America’s greatest July 4th celebrations with the warm afterglow of helping their favorite charities at the same time.

Two such big parties are thrown each year at relatively rural, historic American destinations. Mount Rushmore features impersonators of the four memorialized presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, in case anyone has forgotten) and the nightly lighting of the monument itself, though the 2014 drought has canceled any fireworks plans that the National Parks Service may have had. Across the country, Colonial Williamsburg will hold a come-and-go-as-you-please buffet at the Williamsburg Lodge, children’s games on the Virginia Lawn and a Virginia Symphony Orchestra concert, accompanied by a fireworks show.

But for the biggest Fourth of July celebrations, look no further than the “megalopolis.” Every city along the East Coast’s i-95 corridor has a major celebration worth experiencing:
  • In Washington, D.C., more than 750,000 people are expected to hit the National Mall for music, fireworks and fun. PBS broadcasts it worldwide as “A Capitol Fourth,” but being there is the only way to experience the true scope of the festivities.
  • In Philadelphia, the 4th of July Jam is billed as “the largest free concert in America.” The 2014 edition features acts like The Roots, Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Hudson, and the show is followed by a massive fireworks show over the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • The Cradle of Liberty hosts a two-day July 4th spectacular; Boston will feature the Boston Pops and the Beach Boys in addition to a huge fireworks show on the Charles River. The 2014th event will mark the 40th anniversary of the celebration in its current form, with cannonfire and the “1812 Overture” included.
  • The biggest fireworks show in the country could, of course, only take place in the Big Apple. The Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show returns to the East River of New York in 2014, meaning that the explosions will occur with the Brooklyn Bridge as a stunning backdrop.
No matter where you celebrate July 4th this year, we hope you enjoy it – and be safe






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Destination Spotlight: Monaco and the French Riviera

June 24, 2014
There are countless reasons to head to Europe for a summer vacation. Comedian Eddie Izzard once described the continent as “where the history comes from.” Some of the biggest events in the world, both cultural and sporting, take place in Europe. Of course, there are those who visit for its spectacular outdoors settings, be it skiing in the winter or gorgeous beaches in the summer.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., loves to send non-profit donors across the Atlantic Ocean via one of our charity auction travel packages, and one of our favorite destinations on the continent is Monaco. The tine principality is the second smallest country in the world (on The Vatican takes up less space), but it fits more fun into its .78 square-mile area than one could possibly imagine. Best of all, it can act as a home base to visit the entire French Riviera, stretching from Toulon to the Italian border.

Within Monaco itself, visitors can find plenty of activities and diversions, but the gambling of Monte Carlo may be the best known. However, anywhere that gambling takes hold, other high-end services follow closely behind, and the dining, shopping and spas of Monaco are world-class. Gamblers have to have something to do when they step away from the tables, after all. It can seem like every restaurant, from the dinner-and-a-view of Le Grill de L’Hotel de Paris to the open kitchen at superstar chef Joel Robuchon’s eponymous eatery, is featured in travel magazines and on cooking television shows.

In addition to the everyday opulence of Monaco, two major events draw thousands to the south of France every year, for very different reasons. The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the world’s most famous car races, having been run 72 times since 1929 and being one of the three races to make up motorsport’s “triple crown” (alongside the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans). It is often preceded on the social calendar by the Cannes Film Festival, one of the world’s biggest – and most important – film festivals. Winners of the top prize at Cannes, the Palme d’Or, include “Pulp Fiction,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “Apocalypse Now,” among other cineaste favorites.

Of course, even stripped of all of those attractions, the French Riviera would still be a major travel destination, thanks to its location. The Spanish coast (including Barcelona and dance-music island haven Ibiza) and Italian cities like Genoa and Livorno are all within close proximity to the Riviera, making the French locale a perfect home base for a southern European adventure. Beaches like Paloma attract jetsetters from around the world, and Saint Tropez is synonymous with luxurious resort living; it turns out being located on the some of the world’s most naturally-beautiful coastline has its advantages.
The Fairmont Monte Carlo
The Fairmont Monte Carlo
The Fairmont Monte Carlo


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Destination Spotlight: Hawaii

June 18, 2014
Spring officially turns to summer on Saturday morning, and travelers around America will head to warm-weather destinations like Miami (June average high temperature in Miami: 87 degrees) New Orleans (average high: 90) or even Las Vegas (average high: 100). But sun worshippers don’t have to spend their vacations sweating.

The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii
Hyatt Regency Maui
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
With average highs in the low 80s, even at the peak of summer, Hawaii is a beautiful, temperate place to send donors and their families. It’s also a place of surprising diversity, with activities for everyone to be had somewhere throughout the island chain. At Mitch-Stuart, we offer a variety of charity auction travel packages that can give your donors once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, represented by four different Hawaiian islands.

From 36 holes of championship golf to snow-capped mountains, the “big island” of Hawaii hosts nearly all climates, and therefore nearly all sorts of adventures. But there are more esoteric activities on the island as well; Kona coffee can only be produced on the big island, and many of the farms that grow the beans have tours and tasting rooms to visit. Also worth seeing: Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Maui has a mixture of urban and rural areas, offering a little bit of everything for the traveler. Those looking to commune with nature can head to Haleakala National Park and watch a spectacular sunrise or sunset from the summit of the dormant Haleakala volcano or hike through the Haleakala Crater, which sinks more than 2,500 feet into the island floor. City slickers, meanwhile, can walk through Lahaina, the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and check out the restaurants and nightlife of Front Street.

Travelers looking for a more city-like vacation experience would do well to head to Oahu. The island, informally known as “The Gathering Place,” is home to Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, and about 75 percent of the state’s population. It’s also home to one of Hawaii’s best-known tourist destinations, Waikiki Beach, where white sand is reserved for both sunbathers and surfers and where nightlife reigns just steps from the ocean.

Nicknamed “The Garden Isle” for its verdant fields and forests, Kauai may be one of the lesser-known outposts, but its beauty makes it worth a visit. The island is the home of the Princeville at Hanalei, one of the world’s great golf clubs; its Prince course is one of the best on any of the Hawaiian islands. For those who like their outdoors time sans crooked sticks and golf carts, boating adventures along the Na Pali Coast are very popular.


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Fore Father’s Day…

June 10, 2014
When a charity auction trip aligns with a desire from a bidder, it means a satisfied donor and a big check to a worthy cause. This time of year, a top priority for plenty of shoppers is finding a gift for Father’s Day, and hopefully one that does not involve another necktie or barbecue grill gadget. One of the most common types of Father’s Day gifts is golf paraphernalia, be it a new oversized driver or a set of golf ball cufflinks. There’s an entire industry dedicated to creating golf-nut knick-knacks, and Father’s Day is that sector’s equivalent of Christmas.

It may be too late for Father’s Day 2014, but Mitch-Stuart offers several charity auction travel packages that make perfect gifts for fathers, whether it’s a son or daughter buying for a dad or a father buying himself a vacation. Give your donors the chance to take care of a gift occasion by offering (on consignment, as always) a trip to one of these destinations at auction:

Hilton Head: In terms of sheer density of golf courses, it may be difficult to beat Hilton Head, SC. There are more than 20 courses on the island itself, with another dozen-plus more in neighboring cities. Add in the possibility of year-round play, and it’s little wonder that the area is one of the country’s premier golf destinations.  Each of Mitch-Stuart’s auction travel packages to the island include rounds at three different courses, and with our concierge service, extra outings can be arraigned with a single phone call.

Orlando: Every year, around the beginning of spring, the Arnold Palmer Invitational takes place at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge near Orlando, FL. Mitch-Stuart can’t get your donors on the course that weekend, but during the rest of the calendar year the winners of the “Bay Hill Brings You the Best of the Best” trip can play twice on the 18 holes used as a run-up to the Masters. Another package also comes with a one-hour private lesson with a golf academy instructor and a nine-hole “playing lesson” for those whose golf game is a little less Tiger and a little more Kitten.

St. Andrews: While golf is the world’s game, it can only have one true home. And that birthplace is in St. Andrews, a small town on the eastern coast of Scotland. It was here that the sport was first played, in the 1400s, and it also is the home town of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, one of two organizations in the world that sets the rules of the game. Bidders who win Mitch-Stuart’s “Home of Golf” package get a $900 gift card to be used at the Torrance or Kittocks courses at the five-star Fairmont of St. Andrews. In addition, while staying at the Fairmont, experienced travelers can enter the local lottery for a chance to play the Old Course, the world famous 18 that hosts The Open Championship every five years.

Hilton Head
Sea Pines Resort Hilton Head
Bay Hill Club
St. Andrews Golf Course


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Eat, Travel, Love

June 04, 2014
One of the great joys of travel is getting the chance to experience a new culture, whether it’s by taking in beautiful sights, seeing local music or visiting area museums. But to really get a taste of a destination, find a dinner table; there may be no more authentic way to immerse yourself in a new place than figuring out the local cuisine. According to the U.S. Travel Association, “fine dining” is the fourth-biggest reason for leisure travel among Americans, and with celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern shining light on hidden foodie adventures near and far, that ranking seems only likely to increase.

L'Atelier des Sens school of cooking in France
La Cuisine Paris
Sorrento Cooking School in Italy
New Orleans School of Cooking
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we’ve put together a wide range of culinary experiences, both domestic and international, for use by non-profits as charity auction travel packages. Whether it’s gumbo and crawfish in New Orleans or pasta and wine in Italy, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to sample some of the world’s great cuisines – and put some extra cash in your non-profit’s pocket.

From Julia Child to today, France has attracted a reverence from many travelers when it comes to its cuisine. The nation has one of the longest list of Michelin-starred restaurants, and graduates of French cooking schools are considered to be some of the most qualified chefs in the world. Bring home a little bit of that knowledge after taking a class at the famous L’Atelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris with our “Parisian Culture and Cuisine” package. Participants will get a hands-on experience in either school’s kitchen, learning from master instructors. Travelers won’t be stuck making the food for the entire trip, though; the auction packages also includes lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel, the restaurant on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.

Hop in the kitchen in Sorrento, Italy, with a seven-day/six-night trip to the Amalfi Coast stunner. Along with a stay at the Esperidi Resort and a trip to Pompeii, travelers get three classes at the resorts Sorrento Cooking School, where the chefs-to-be will put together a four-course meal, along with receiving in-house lunches after each day’s lesson. Recipes prepared during the seminars will also be included, meaning that the globe-trotting foodies can bring a taste of Italy home, as well. That, of course, is just the on-site offering; the village itself some of the best dining in the country, often supplemented with amazing views.

Class is also in session in the Big Easy. Take a trip to the bayou and enjoy a three-hour class at the New Orleans School of Cooking, right in the heart of the French Quarter. Visitors will get a chance to learn about the city’s cuisine in a hands-on seminar, creating dishes like Crawfish Etouffee, Shrimp Creole and even Bananas Foster Crepes. Travelers will also get a chance to leave the kitchen and head out on a boat for a jazz cruise and Creole buffet.


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Destination Spotlight: Italy

May 27, 2014
As summer approaches, the allure of European travel is hard for the wanderlust-infected to ignore. Kids are out of school, vacation time at companies tends to be easier to procure and long flights can be rewarded with longer stays, rather than flying halfway around the world for a weekend. For those looking to see the best of what the E.U. has to offer, Italy features one of the best combinations of modern and the “old world,” outdoorsy charms and comfortable surroundings, and city bustle and countryside relaxation.

It’s the type of destination that appeals to a wide range of people – meaning that non-profits organizing a fundraising auction or event can maximize interest and bidding with a trip to one of Europe’s great vacation spots. And once a donor has secured a trip via one of our consignment auction travel packages, you can also act as concierge by referring them to any of the following monuments and attractions throughout the country.

Of course, those interested in history will find a plethora of day trips and activities in the country. From the Sistine Chapel to the Colosseum and the ruins of Pompeii, Italy is a high school history textbook come to life. The country is especially loaded with religious artifacts, like the centuries-in-the-making Basilica di San Marco, St. Peter’s Basilica and, though it is technically its own country, the Vatican. Even the famed Roman Forum has a great deal of religious history attached; among the destroyed buildings are the foundations of basilicas and temples.

As one would imagine, considering how Italian food is a near-universal staple of restaurants worldwide, the foodie adventurer has plenty to do while in country as well. Italian cuisine is best known for exports like pasta and pizza, of course, coming from Michelin Guide-beloved eateries like Osteria Francescana and Pergola, but it does not receive proper credit for its seafood. Restaurants along the Amalfi Coast, restaurants like Marina Grande and Osteria da Luisella serve up fish so fresh, as the guidebook writers at Lonely Planet once wrote, that “it is almost still flapping.”

One of the easiest ways to work off all the extra calories from Italian cooking may be to head out on a shopping trip. Whether it’s the modern art pieces of Capri’s Pop Gallery or the high end fashions of Milan, there are enough outlets in nearly every major city to force a traveler to check extra baggage on the flight home. But it is Florence that may attract the most shoppers at all price points, from the luxury shops of Via Tornabuoni to the markets and antiques of Mercato Centrale. For a more “local” experience, head to Cascine Market on a Tuesday for steals and deals.





Sistine Chapel
Roman Colosseum
Piazza della Signoria, Italy
St Peters Basilica


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Memorial Day Getaways

May 20, 2014
The school year is almost over, the temperature is rising and the kids are ready to skip town. Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest travel holidays of the year, thanks to those reasons and so many more.

Bali
Bay Hill Florida
Ritz Laguna Niguel
Fairmont Empress, Vancouver Canada
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we have travel packages for charity auctions that can be used year-round, including during the weekend that is often considered the “gateway to the summer.” And while an extra day off may not be enough time to send your donors to some of the more far-flung, exotic locales – just flying from the United States to Bali would take up most of the time off – there are still plenty of fun weekend trips that will allow them to make the most of the bonus 24 hours of vacation.

The combination of its family-friendly resorts and great weather make Florida a favorite Memorial Day weekend destination. With more than a dozen different catalog options for a Sunshine State getaway, Mitch-Stuart can make Florida a reality for a donor’s dreams, no matter what they may be. Disney World? How about a trip with park-hopping passes, pools and arcades? Is golf higher on the agenda? Our package to Bay Hill gives donors two rounds of golf and an hour of private instruction to shake the winter rust off of the swing. Or maybe your donors would like something a little more low key and relaxing? Our Key West trip, complete with complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, can fill the bill.

If Florida is too far out of the way for donors, the other coast is just as inviting. Memorial Day weekend can be the perfect time for one of your donors to visit Southern California, whether it’s being wrapped in the luxury of the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, taking the tram above Palm Springs for breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley or star-gazing while in a poolside bungalow at a resort in Santa Monica. It seems like beach life is never more than a stone’s throw away when visiting the Golden State, and spending Memorial Day laying back and relaxing on the sand is a perfect way to welcome the summer months.

Not every vacationer is seeking out the sun come Memorial Day weekend, of course. In many southern parts of the country, it feels like summer has already arrived by the time it’s the end of May. For those donors or organizations in warmer climes, a trip to a city like Seattle could be a great break before the heat gets too extreme at home. Split that vacation time between the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, near tourist hot spots like Pike Place Market and the Seattle Waterfront, and the Conde Nast Gold List-recognized Fairmont Empress, in stunning Victoria, B.C. With average May highs in the mid-60s during the month of May, Seattle is a great place for one last fling with spring.


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Live the Life: Traveling for Experiences

May 13, 2014
Imagine, for a moment, being a driver. Not a freeway driver, or a backseat driver, but a racecar driver, careening around turns, trading paint with your rival and earning the checkered flag. Or how about being out on the range, riding horses through central California? Maybe the sea calls instead, with you aboard an America’s Cup-qualifying yacht?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can send your donors around the world via a charity auction travel package (and can help your non-profit earn big bucks at a fundraising event or gala), but it can also help set up once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the types of activities that separate an everlasting memory from a “trip.”

Those seeking to hear the roar of an engine can pick either the closed-track thrill of NASCAR or the open road of the American West with different packages. For the four-wheel enthusiasts, there’s our trip to Charlotte, North Carolina for the ultimate NASCAR experience: A trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and an eight-lap sprint at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. If the added rush of a motorcycle is more the speed of your donors, they can find themselves riding a Harley Davidson through Nevada and Arizona, checking out the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Route 66. Or, their motorcycle excursion can involve the beachside views from the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California, as they cruise between Los Angeles and San Diego.

If the ocean is more appealing, your donors can spend five days and four nights in San Diego’s stunning Mission Bay, culminating in an afternoon experience aboard a racing class yacht. Climb aboard the Stars & Stripes, which competed in the 1995 America’s Cup, and either get hands-on experience or sit back and take in the beautiful ocean views. Afterwards, head back to the Maritime Museum of San Diego and jump on a tall-sail adventure for a four-hour tour, or stay on dry land and check out the boats, sailing ships and submarines on display.

Not all adventures need speed or engines, though. Be a cowboy for four days and three nights in Solvang and take on the more than 50 miles of horse trails. At the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, visitors get to indulge in a throwback lifestyle, one more suited to a time when the American West was about exploring a frontier. After horseback riding, unwind with some fishing at Alisal Lake (which is reserved for guests of the resort), either in solitude or with a guided fishing trip. Hunting is, as one might expect, not on the menu, but one can combine an afternoon learning archery with the barbecued steak of the Ranch Room to get the benefits of the hunt without the hours crouching behind trees or the orange vests.
NASCAR
Motorcycles
America's Cup Sailing
Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort


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Mother's Day Spa

May 06, 2014
When you were a child, Mother’s Day was about craft projects brought home from elementary school art class. As an adult, though, construction paper flowers may not cut it.

Hyatt Key West Spa
Spa
Spa
If your donors are in the same position, we can help.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers a wide range of charity auction travel packages to countries near and far, and sometimes the destination is the star attraction. But what donors do when they get to the locale can be just as important, and for Mother’s Day trips, a relaxing spa visit can be every bit as important as a five-star meal. These are trips that make great presents from an appreciative husband to his wife or child to a mother. Here are just a few of our options:

If mom would like to combine pampering with the great outdoors, heading to Jackson Hole may be the right fit. Jackson’s Rustic Inn sits practically on the edge of civilization, with cross-country skiing, hiking and other outdoor adventures. But when mom wants to calm down after a day of snowshoeing or other activity, she can find her way to the Rustic’s spa for a Seaweed Algae Mud Wrap, or get a deep tissue massage to help minimize the next day soreness.

Or, send mom to the beach in Key West, with a three-night stay at the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa and a hotel gift card that can be used for spa services. A favorite of travel publications like Conde Nast Traveler, which ranked it in the Top 100 Spas in 2012, Jala Spa at the Hyatt offers a tremendous menu of services, including a special massage for mothers-to-be and a Cuban coffee body glow scrub. Some of the massage treatments can even take place in room.

International trips can involve the peak relaxation of a spa, as well. All of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s all-inclusive trips to a Palace Resort in Mexico come with gift cards for spa services. With Palace Resorts locations in Mexican hotspots like Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, most vacation trips south of the border can also involve a relaxing massage, a luxurious body wrap or a cleansing facial. Even better: Most of the resorts also feature golf courses, so dad can stay occupied, as well.










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Case Study – Robert F. Thomas Foundation

April 30, 2014
Robert F. Thomas, a doctor in Sevier County, Tennessee, is said to have made as many as 1,000 house calls in a single year. He was a doctor, a minister and, maybe most crucially, a member of his community, one concerned with making sure that everyone, rich and poor, had access to healthcare.

Since his passing in 1980, the Robert F. Thomas Foundation has continued to build on Thomas’ concern, raising money to help provide health services to everyone. The organization has had help from, among others, Thomas’ most famous patient; he was the doctor who helped deliver one Dolly Parton into the world, and she has repaid him for the service by helping to raise funds and keep his dream alive.

But not even Dolly can do it alone.

“Dolly Parton is a huge part of what we do, but she’s not the sole person who funds us,” said Amy Woods of the Thomas Foundation. “We have a lot to bring in, a lot to do. Our biggest fundraiser that we do is the ‘Evening of Elegance,’ and that’s where I started using [Mitch-Stuart].”

Mitch-Stuart has provided auction-ready travel experiences for the Thomas Foundation’s major and smaller fundraising events. Donors have gone to Canada and the Caribbean, New York and Napa Valley, and everywhere in between. While the experiences have varied wildly, Woods said that the experience working with Mitch-Stuart has remained the same.

“I love the fact that I call and can ask, ‘what should I be looking at this year?’” she said. “They’ve never let me down.”

After a few times working with Mitch-Stuart, providing trips to vacations spots nearby and far-flung, Woods has started to see donors even requesting the availability of certain destination packages for upcoming auctions; trips involving culinary tours are popular, as are excursions to New York City.

“I’ll have people call and say, ‘Do you have any trips this year? Because I would like to go to...and if I’m going to go there anyway, I’d rather buy it from you and help the foundation,’” she said.

Those trip packages, which have attracted a fan base that includes a local mayor, have combined with other auction items like cars and, at one special event, even an Egyptian Arabian stallion to make the “Evening of Elegance” the county’s must-attend social event, meaning big funds for an incredibly important cause.


“It’s really nice to know that every year, no matter what our other items are, we’re always able to go and pick out whatever I want from anywhere in the world out of Mitch-Stuart’s catalog,” Woods said.

Thanks to Amy Woods of the Robert F. Thomas Foundation for taking the time to speak with us! For more information on the organization and its important work, visit it on the web and on Facebook.


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Destination Spotlight: London Calling

April 23, 2014
Two years ago, London captured the attention of the world during the 2012 Summer Olympics. But the United Kingdom’s largest city is not a tourist destination only in Olympiad years. Mitch-Stuart, Inc., offers several nonprofit travel auction packages that take donors to England to enjoy all that the city has to offer, and they are some of the most popular in the catalog. Here are some of the reasons why.

England has an unparalleled history in sport, including rugby and tennis, and London has been the epicenter. It is the only city to host three different Olympiads of the modern Games era. But the country may be best known for the Barclays Premier League, one of the top football (or soccer) leagues in the world. Some of the country’s best-known teams play in London, like Chelsea and Arsenal, and six teams overall competed in the top flight’s 2013-14 season. London is also the home of Wembley Stadium, the second-largest in Europe (with a capacity of 90,000 spectators) and home to the 2011 and 2013 UEFA Champions League (the highest honor in European club soccer) championship matches.

Those more interested in culture can make their way to the West End, one of the world’s foremost theater districts. Almost 15 million tickets were sold to productions there in 2013, including shows like “The Mousetrap” (the world’s longest-running show), “Les Miserables,” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” In all, more than 40 theaters make up the city’s “Theatreland,” and many of those contain elements of classic Victorian architecture, making it a place to see works of art inside of works of art..

Of course, it’s hard to think about London without picturing the historical landmarks. The Tower of London, the famed castle along the River Thames, is more than a millennia old and today hosts tours, exhibits and historical reenactments. The Palace of Westminster, just up the river, is the home of the Elizabeth Tower, better known as Big Ben, along with being the meeting place of the Houses of Commons and Lords. Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the monarchy, is less than a mile west of the Palace of Westminster.
London England
Shakespeare’s Globe
Changing of the Guard Buckingham Palace


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Getting Away: Vacationing In Nature

April 16, 2014
There’s nothing like the energy of city life: The hustle, the bustle, the stop-and-go traffic, the constant feeling of the crush of humanity closing in all around you, the … smog. Sometimes, as the commercial says, you “wanna get away.” With Earth Day approaching, it’s time to celebrate those outdoor destination vacations, those locations where we can go to get out of the office and commune with nature, whether it’s an untouched beach, a snowy mountainside or anywhere else in the great wide open.

Thankfully, we at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can send your donors to stunning vacations in nature just as easily as we can send them to a luxury hotel in a major city. Take a look at some of the consignment travel auction packages that we can put together to help non-profits raise money and give donors a once-in-a-lifetime experience:

Big Sur, California Coast
Jackson Hole
Hubbard Glacier, Celebrity Cruise
For spectacular coastal views, the Northern California ocean-and-mountain favorite Big Sur may be the best combination of nature and civilization. Staying at the Highlands Inn in Carmel means basing one’s vacation in a city of less than 4,000 people, according to the 2010 Census, and being close enough to one of the California coast’s most gorgeous views to see it from the hotel. From there, take a car ride down the Pacific Coast Highway down through other coastal villages like Lucia and Gorda, or explore the Los Padres National Forest to the inland east.

If your donors prefer big mountains without the ocean view, Jackson Hole may be the trip to offer. Whether it’s on skis or by snowmobile, the Wyoming resort town makes for an excellent home base while exploring the mountain west. With Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks just miles away, visitors get glimpses of a frontier life long ago left behind, while also taking in a serenity and calm that city life rarely affords. At the end of the day, they can also soak in an outdoor heated pool or grab a drink at the Rustic Inn’s lobby bar before heading back to their cabin.

When it comes to wilderness in America, though, there is no land less explored than that of Alaska. While Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can’t take donors by helicopter into the middle of the vast, unconquered territory of our 49th state (…yet…), we can send them as close as possible, without having to scrimp on luxury. A seven-day cruise aboard a Celebrity Cruises ship can take explorers past the Inside Passage, to the Misty Fjords National Monument (and its 2.2 million acres of wilderness) and the Hubbard Glacier. And if all of that unspoiled beauty becomes too much, your donors can retire to their veranda stateroom, or perhaps the on-ship spa.


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And the Winner Is…

April 08, 2014
The biggest awards show of the year, it would seem, is always the Oscars. It is the one that inspires day-long media coverage from the red carpet to the post-show parties, the one that inspires living room parties and betting pools and the one that inspires much of America to say, “Honey, we should really go see that movie” just before settling in to a viewing of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” on a Netflix-rented DVD.

But it’s far from the only occasion for the talented and famous to rub shoulders – and many of the others can be more fun than the sometimes-stuffy Academy ceremony. Mitch-Stuart can help send one of your donors via our charity auction travel packages to one (or all!) of these, which could make your charity the winner of Best Non-Profit in a contributor’s eyes.

MTV Music Video Awards (November) and Movie Awards (April): If your donors have kids who would be much more interested in awards like “Best Kiss” and “Best Villain” than “Best Adapted Screenplay,” send them to Los Angeles for either of the MTV awards shows. Loaded with young Hollywood stars and live music performances, there’s rarely a dull moment.

The ESPYs (July): One would think that winning championships and, for the professionals, very large contracts would be enough, but once a year ESPN brings the top stars of the sports world together to celebrate the preceding 12 months. There are lots of opportunities throughout the awards week to rub shoulders with the athletes (for those who can reach LeBron James’ shoulders, at least), and seeing so many heroes of the gridiron/diamond/court together in one place can be a nostalgic trip for the right donor.

American Music Awards and Country Music Awards (November): Are your donors a little bit country, or a little bit rock and roll? November brings awards shows for each, with the AMAs handed out in Los Angeles and the CMAs awarded in Nashville. In both cases, the performances on the stages are only matched by the “secret shows” and other concerts held in the vicinity leading up to and following the awards presentations.

Twilight Saga MTV Movie Awards
Drew Brees
Carrie Underwood and Katie Cook, Country Awards


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New Season, New Trips

April 01, 2014
Spring is upon us (we promise!), and with it comes a variety of new trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog. Non-profits looking to raise more money by utilizing consignment travel auction packages now have more options, including some once-in-a-lifetime experiences! Let’s look at a few of the highlights:

Wrigley Field
Tea at the London Savoy
Highclere Castle
Seeing a Chicago Cubs game from inside Wrigley Field is a sports experience. But seeing the game from one of the Wrigley Field “rooftop clubs,” just outside the stadium, is a unique view of both the game and the city of Chicago. From the complementary food and beverages (no stale nachos or boiled hot dogs here) and the HDTV monitors to stay close to the action to the extra-wide stadium-style seating, the best visit to the ballpark in Chicago does not involve stepping foot inside the park at all. It’s the type of trip for which sports fan donors will go wild – and with a stay at one of Chicago’s best hotels included in the package, even the baseball-phobic will enjoy.

After a 100 million pound renovation, The Savoy has continued to define luxury travel for visitors from around the world. Central to many of London’s great museums and theaters and with a sparkling view of the River Thames, The Savoy is the place to stay in London in order to really feel at one with the city. Mitch-Stuart can send your donors there, too, for a five-night stay that includes $500 either in dining credit at Gordon Ramsey’s Savoy Grill or for afternoon tea at the Thames Foyer.

But for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, send your donors to Downton Abbey. Technically the PBS hit television show is fictional, sure, but Mitch-Stuart has a package custom-made for the show’s fans. It includes four nights at The Royal Park in central London (with a fifth night at The Vineyard Hotel), afternoon tea at the Lanesborough Hotel, and, most notably, a trip to Highclere Castle, the primary shooting location for “Abbey.” Walk the castle’s grounds, through the gardens and woods, and see the same vistas that Lord Grantham and family view on a regular basis. Afterwards, every episode of the television show will be your donor’s own personal vacation video, and a reminder of one of the best travel moments of their life.


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Case Study – Scottsdale Cultural Society

March 26, 2014
One donor is heading to Bali. Another is off to Maui, staying at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. And yet another fulfilled a self-described “bucket list” item by attending the Grammys in Los Angeles in January of 2014.

When the Scottsdale Cultural Council needed to add an extra element of “WOW!” to its ARTrageous fundraising gala, it turned to Mitch-Stuart for help. And one unforgettable night later, the organization has raised a tremendous amount of money and offered its biggest backers once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The Council, which can be found on the web at sccarts.org, offers the citizens of Scottsdale and visitors chances to be a part of world-class art while also fostering younger or newer artistic voices. That can mean anything from concerts and performances at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art and even public works seen throughout the city.

All of that, of course, takes funding, a portion of which is brought in every year at the ARTrageous gala. This year, Natalie Cole was the special guest, and the evening’s theme was “An Unforgettable Evening.” As a part of that, the SCC worked with Mitch-Stuart (and our technology partner, GiveSmart) to offer “Unforgettable Travel Packages,” including our show-stopping trip to the 2014 Grammy Awards.

“We wanted to try something new and the trips were fun and exciting,” according to the organization’s Director of Donor Relations Eileen Wilson. “Our event committee members thought that by offering the trips it elevated the level of our silent auction and caused a buzz at the event.”

Utilizing GiveSmart’s silent auction technology and Mitch-Stuart’s expertise in travel arraignment, SCC was able to cause that buzz and add to an already “unforgettable” evening.

“The experience was very easy,” Wilson added via email. “And [the] customer service was excellent.  I was actually surprised that we sold multiple trips.”


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Big Tickets, Big Cash

March 18, 2014
It can be intimidating for any non-profit organization, no matter the size, to ask for larger donations. Smaller and mid-sized organizations in particular can feel intimidated to try and add zeroes to the end of donation checks. But there is only one way to get bigger donations: Ask for bigger donations.

Since we pair with organizations all the time to offer vacation auction packages sold on consignment, we hear the objections all the time, the thinking from some groups that their donors don’t have the money to be able to bid on a trip. Our response is fairly straight-forward: Give your donors a chance. Just ask!

In order to do so confidently, it can help to remember these three factors that any organization has in its favor:
  • These people like you. A charity auction at a gala or other fundraising event is a celebration of like minds, brought together by a single passion or outlook on life. It is your organization, your passion, which is driving that room. These are not strangers, they are not people on the other ends of cold calls, but your non-profit’s friends. If you can’t ask your friends for help, who can you ask?
  • Shopping lists can line up with auction lists. Unlike a straight donation, a charity auction comes with its own tangible reward. Beyond the satisfaction of helping a group do good, donors can also win memorabilia, dinners and even the trip of a lifetime. Maybe it’s a proud parent who was looking for a graduation gift for a daughter or son. Maybe it’s an anniversary surprise. No matter what the reason, your donors may be in the market for a vacation – and surely they’d like to help your non-profit at the same time.
  • All it takes is an excuse. It’s impossible to force someone to donate money. Strong-arming someone into opening his or her wallet is not charity. But, it can be easier for a person to donate more money if there’s a secondary reason behind it, or an incentive as big as a ticket to the Grammys, a ski weekend in the Canadian Rockies or just a much-needed vacation. Giving people another impetus to donate can loosen up pockets.
The biggest plus about consignment selling is that there is no risk to the organization. If a trip doesn’t sell, it doesn’t sell. But like the oddly-philosophical Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take.”


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Las Vegas Spring Break for Families

March 12, 2014
There was a time when the lobby of the MGM Grand featured a massive statue commemorating “The Wizard of Oz” and the back of the property held an amusement park. There was a time when one of the most popular businesses along the south end of the Las Vegas Strip was a major arcade. Before the promise that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the largest city in Nevada tried desperately to market itself as a family-friendly destination.

That pretense has been gone for years, but as Las Vegas has grown, it has added opportunities for families to enjoy time together. If your donors have children, big or small, a chance to support your charity and win an auction for a trip to Las Vegas doesn’t have to mean finding babysitters and leaving the offspring at home.
Las Vegas
 

Taking a dip in the hotel pool is always a good place to start when traveling with kids of all ages. But not all pools in Las Vegas are created equal for children. At the MGM Grand, the “lazy river” circles the pool deck and there are also shallow pools for the very little ones. There’s also a waterslide for kids at the pool at Excalibur. But the most interesting aquatic experience for kids (and adults alike!) may be the Trainer for a Day program at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. For one afternoon, anyone 13 years old and up can swim with, feed and interact with a bottlenose dolphin in a secluded habitat seemingly far away from the commotion of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Going to a show in Las Vegas does not have to mean staring at half-naked showgirls, either. Sin City is America’s capital of magic, for instance, so seeing a performer like Mac King at Harrah’s is a great way to enjoy the Las Vegas experience. His stage show combines magic and humor in a family-friendly setting, complete with an afternoon start time. Over at the Venetian, meanwhile, comedian Rita Rudner plies her trade. Known as one of the cleanest comics of her generation, Rudner has been one of the reigning comedy stars of the city, selling more than one million tickets in Las Vegas since beginning her run there more than a decade ago.

 
Grand Canyon
A trip to Las Vegas with the family doesn’t have to stay within the city borders, either. The southwest is filled with beautiful vistas and opportunities for hiking, mountain climbing and other activities. Just outside of the city, Red Rock Canyon attracts more than one million visitors each year, people drawn to its red cliffs, its wildlife and abundance of hiking trails. There may be no more popular Vegas escape, though, than one of the myriad of helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon. Though the Arizona landmark is 300 miles or so away from Las Vegas, it still attracts visitors looking for a chance to see one of the country’s most spectacular views. Many of those same helicopter tours also take patrons for a ride over the Strip, giving the tourist chances to take in two breathtaking, if entirely different, vistas.



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Springtime in New York

March 04, 2014
As of the end of February, the winter of 2013-14 has been the seventh-snowiest in the history of New York City. Nearly 60 inches of snow have fallen in the Big Apple, and with another storm making its way through the metropolis on the first days of March, there’s a chance that this winter could move into the top five of all time. But even during the coldest, dampest, darkest days of the season, there is hope. Even though it may not feel like it, the sun will return, the birds will chirp, and the Mets will lose a lot of baseball games. Spring will come.

Experienced travelers know that spring is one of the most magical times of the year in New York City. The energy is indescribable; millions of people who have spent the last few months cooped up in small apartments and layers in coats and sweaters go back outside, all at once. It’s the perfect time to drop in for a visit, or to send your donors via a charity auction, raffle or other fundraising event.

Of course, Central Park is one of the first landmarks that comes to mind when one thinks of a New York spring. The most visited urban park in America is more than just a place to sit in the sun and relax, though; the Central Park Conservatory leads walking tours of the park’s gardens, art and iconic views, among other topics. There’s even a seminar on bird-watching, designed specifically for families and led by members of the city’s Audubon Society. Meeting places and reservation information is all available on the Conservatory’s website, which cuts back on aimless wandering around the park, asking random strangers if they are “with the tour.”

While Central Park may have more than 150 years of history going for it, one of New York’s newest urban parks is stealing its older brother’s spotlight. The High Line has gone from rail to trail, with the mile-long stretch of elevated track that runs through the lower west side of Manhattan reopened to the public as a park in 2009 (with an extension opening in 2011). From the walkway, the tourist has a view of the Hudson River to the west and the shops of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea to the east. In addition, it may be the most lodging-convenient park in existence; it literally runs through the Standard High Line hotel.

Not every spring event revolves around a single park, though. At times, the entire city gets wrapped up in one going-on, such as when the sailors come to town. Yes, Fleet Week is more than just a plot line from that one “Sex in the City” episode. For one week out of the year, New York City honors the Navy and Marine Corps. 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the event, and the city will be filled with ship tours, military demonstrations and tributes to fallen heroes. Thank a hero, check out a warship and get caught up in the spirit of a city finally released from the grasp of winter weather.

New York Mets
The Plaza, New York
Central Park, Duke Ellington Statue
New York

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Los Angeles on the Silver Screen

February 25, 2014
This Sunday, Ellen DeGeneres and a cast of thousands will take over the Kodak Theater in Hollywood for the Academy Awards, and viewers at home will be treated to the view of a room full of movie stars. But, of course, Tom Hanks and George Clooney aren’t the only film-famous sights to see in Los Angeles. Tinseltown has long been immortalized on the big screen, and a tour of the city will visit any number of well-known vistas.

Holywood bench
 
500 Days of Summer Plaque
One of the best L.A.-spotting movies of recent vintage was “(500) Days of Summer,” which took place in the city’s newly revitalized downtown district. A daylong walk of the area can take tourists to the park where Zooey Deschanel’s Summer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom bonded (Angel’s Knoll, where the bench at which they sat even bears a plaque commemorating the film), the bars they frequent (the karaoke scenes were filmed at the Redwood Bar, while Tom punches out a romantic rival at Broadway Bar) and even the building where (spoiler alert!) Tom gets his big interview (the Bradbury Building, also a major location in “Blade Runner”).

Of course, a film with a title like “L.A. Story” is going to be a treasure trove of on-the-street locations. The classic Steve Martin comedy takes place all over the city, with the Museum of Contemporary Art and Venice Beach each providing key settings for Martin and company (including a very young Sarah Jessica Parker). But the most noteworthy place seen might be during the film’s “graveyard” scene, featuring a cameo from Rick Moranis, at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The gravesite has been seen in “The Player,” “Bonfire of the Vanities” and countless television shows, from “Six Feet Under” to “Columbo.” Along with its burial plots, Hollywood Forever is known as one of L.A.’s most morbid venues for movies (the Cinespa screening series in the summer) and concerts (at the cemetery’s Masonic Lodge).

While most of those locations are still in operation today, one famous L.A. film landmark sits empty, now existing almost solely to be used in television and movies. Johnie’s Coffee Shop sits at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, non-operational since 2000, and stands out from the surrounding buildings thanks to its bright blue-and-white striping and neon signage. But even if it’s not still slinging cups of joe and diner food, Johnie’s is still a favorite of location directors; “The Big Lebowski,” “Reservoir Dogs” and an episode of “Mad Men” were all filmed here. But its most pivotal scenes might have been in the late ‘80s cult classic “Miracle Mile,” where it stood in as the café called “Fat Boy” and where Anthony Edwards first tells the assembled masses about an impending nuclear strike.


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Keeping the Torch Lit

February 18, 2014
The 2014 Winter Olympics is days away from finishing, with the elaborate Closing Ceremony planned for February 23. Once the big show leaves town, though, Sochi will still have all of the infrastructure improvements, added attractions and other bells and whistles that come along with hosting an event the size of the Olympiad.

(It will also still have an uncomfortable number of
stray dogs and some mangled bathroom doors.)

While going to the actual Olympics can certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, there are still remnants of the Olympic experience left behind in host cities and countries. Give your donors the chance to take advantage of all the perks of the Games without all of the hassles of an overstuffed host city by offering a trip to one of these former homes of the Winter or Summer Olympics.

Vancouver may have been the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, but nearby Whistler was the home of many of the skiing events, thanks to the presence of Whistler Blackcomb. The resort, the largest in North America, already had its own Olympic history: It was conceived for Vancouver’s bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics, then constructed anyway when the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Grenoble, France. Almost 50 years after those games, Blackcomb finally got to host its own Olympic races, including the alpine skiing series. But even if your donors are not the adrenaline junkie types, they can drive the Sea-to-Sky Highway, considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful road trips, or take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola that links the Blackcomb and Whistler mountains.

When the IOC brought the Games to London in 2012, it knew that the Olympics would be held in a modern city well-equipped to host the world. But the competition still needed a central home, a place that would live, breathe and pulse the spirit throughout those 16 summer days. With that in mind, what is now known as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was created. Visitors to the park will be able to get a bird’s-eye view starting in April, when the ArcelorMittal Orbit, an observation tower with two platforms that, combined, overlook the enormity of the space.

It’s all well and good to see the Olympic sights, but experience is the key word when visiting Albertville, France, the host of the 1992 Winter Olympiad. At the La Plagne Bob Experience, visitors can take off down the same bobsled run used during the Games more than 20 years ago. Whether it’s with friends sitting behind a professional “driver” in a bobsled going 120 kilometers per hour or riding solo in a luge/sled hybrid, your donors can experience a taste of the Olympic spirit. Cheering crowds, gold medals and sponsorships not included.

Olympic Torche in Vancouver
Winter Olympics Whistler
Gondola at Whistler
London at Night
London Eye


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Why Travel?

February 13, 2014
There are any number of items that can attract donations at charity auctions. Local restaurants can contribute meals or gift certificates, gyms can offer personal training sessions, and spas can put together day-long getaways. Each of those entries have their places at a well-run fundraiser. But when it comes to a centerpiece item, something that makes the eyes of donors light up and their imaginations race, there may be nothing better than a well-curated, once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity.

Why add a travel package to your auction? Here are a few simple reasons:

Joy by Association: Vacations have been proven to reduce stress, improve the quality and quantity of sleep and prevent burnout. But maybe as important is a vacation’s effect on family relationships. Some of the best memories, those that last a lifetime, come from taking off to an exotic locale with the spouse and kids. Waking up in a Parisian hotel room overlooking the Eiffel Tower, walking through ancient Rome, scuba diving in Bali … those are some of the once-in-a-lifetime moments that kids will remember and cherish forever.

Many of your donors are overworked, and push themselves to be successful and take care of their families. A luxury travel experience can be just the stress reliever that a busy executive needs, and that donor will always associate the good feelings of that trip, those life-long memories, with the non-profit that helped make it possible.

Big Ticket Items Mean Big Money:
In order to get higher bids, one must ask for more money. It’s not a difficult assertion to follow logically, but it can be easy to fall into the trap of playing “small ball” when setting up a charity auction. An organization may be worried about asking for too much, especially at a gala auction where attendees have already paid a significant amount to attend the event.

It’s important to remember, though: These people are at the event to support the non-profit. They want to help. They are an organization’s biggest backers, and offering them a chance to contribute in a larger manner—especially when it comes with the trip-of-a-lifetime as a “bonus”—is enticing.

Hassle-Free, Risk-Free Consignment Selling: Like an exotic trip or a fantasy experience, there’s no risk when selling a package put together by a trusted charity consignment auction travel company. You don’t pay for the trip until you collect payment from the donor. If it doesn’t sell, there’s no harm. It’s a way to quickly add an item to the auction menu and adding that “WOW” factor without risk or having to ask for a donation.

In addition, with careful procurement, consignment travel options can complement other items. Have a French dinner gift certificate to auction? Pair with a trip to Paris! Autographed sports memorabilia? How about a trip to see any regular season sporting event in the country? Also, consignment travel can help support other auction items, allowing a non-profit to accept a wider range of gifts to sell. If a friend of the organization has a timeshare week to donate, for instance, a consignment package can “complete” the donation with airfare to and activities at the destination. There’s no limit to the creativity when there’s no risk to the selection.

What’s your reason for enticing donors with travel?

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Travel with a Ticket

February 04, 2014
Masters
Indianapolis 500
Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby
 
 
On February 6, the pitchers and catchers of the Arizona Diamondbacks will report to training camp in Scottsdale, AZ. They’ll be the first players to open pre-season workouts, and the first athletes to send the thoughts of sports fans racing to the spring months. But the return of baseball is far from the only sporting event to think about when the snow starts to melt and the days get longer; the calendar is loaded in the months of March, April and May with major events and championships in several sports that your donors might care about. Why not couple a charity auction travel opportunity with a ticket to a major spring sporting event? Mitch-Stuart has you covered, with trips revolving around everything from one of America’s oldest sporting events to one of the country’s most prestigious golf tournaments.

Since 1934, the Masters Tournament has held a special place in the hearts of golf fans. Traditionally the first of the PGA Tour’s four “major” tournaments each year, it takes place in Augusta, GA. every April, a time of year when the temperature averages in the 70s and there is little precipitation. It’s a perfect setting for a vacation, too, with Hickory Knob Resort State Park and the cities of Savannah and Atlanta all within reasonable driving distance.

Not every sports fan craves the tranquility of the links, though. For those who like their competition to be a bit louder, consider heading to the capital of Indiana for the Indianapolis 500. More than 250,000 fans cram into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over Memorial Day weekend to see their favorite drivers race while enjoying experiences ranging from infield tailgating to, as Mitch-Stuart has arraigned for charity auction winners, seats in the Penthouse Tower. It’s a holiday weekend away at one of the most prestigious race events in the world.

Cars at the Indy 500 can boast of more than 600 horsepower, but in Kentucky, the most important race is between combatants that don’t need engines at all. The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, and is not just a sporting event, but a way of life for residents and expatriates of the Bluegrass State. The Mitch-Stuart travel package takes winners to both the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks race on the day prior, while even taking care of souvenirs. Bring your own big hats, though.


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WOW your Valentine!

January 28, 2014
This Valentine’s Day, get some romantic planning advice from the experts at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. They know the world’s top destinations and have provided some options for sweeping your loved one off to parts unknown. As part of their planning for 2014 auctions, raffles and other fundraising events using travel packages and experiences, they’ve got the goods on what’s great this Valentine’s Day.

Consider a trip to Sonoma’s wine country. Set in the idyllic, world famous wine growing region abundant with local products, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa features a signature Michelin award-winning restaurant, a treasured golf course set on 177 acres of rolling terrain, and one of the top spas in the country. For hundreds of years, ancient thermal mineral waters have graced the site of The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. Today, the resort is proud to be one of the only luxury spa resorts in the country with its own source of thermal mineral water.

Guests will savor the fruits of the wine country on a personalized five-hour tour of the Sonoma Valley in a chauffeured luxury Sedan. Whether you are first-time visitors or veteran wine tasters, you'll enjoy an enlightening, fun-filled day in this picturesque region. The informative winery tour will be customized based on your individual wine preferences.

Find Love in the City of Light. Whisk your Valentine off to the Hotel Littre in quintessentially romantic Paris which is sure to bring a spark to your life, from the fashion, the culture, the architectural heritage, gourmet cuisine, and of course, the romance! Come explore the capital of France and discover the magic that has beckoned visitors for millennia. You’ll visit one of the world’s most iconic landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, on your half-day tour, and you’ll be blown away by the beauty of Paris at night on your Paris by Night tour - bonjour!

There is so much to see in Paris, from Place de la Bastille, a historical and modernly political square, to the trendy Right Bank district of La Marais, the artists’ studios of Montparnasse, to the high fashion districts of Faubourg Saint-Honore.

Treat her (or him!) like royalty.
What could be more luxurious that a trip to Monte Carlo – The Fairmont Monte Carlo is a unique four-star luxury resort located in the very heart of Monaco. A principality known to everyone, Monaco is nestled between Italy and France on the Côte d'Azur, and when you ascend to the top of The Fairmont, you can see the majestic view of all three countries! Immerse yourself in the beauty and sophistication of this world-class destination with a stay at the Fairmont Monte Carlo.

The Riviera offers over 300 days of sunshine throughout the year. Although the fabulous climate is a primary attraction, visitors are also drawn to Monaco’s warm engaging colors, the variety of its surroundings, and the friendliness of the locals. From the deep blue of the Mediterranean to the dazzling white canyons of the inland countryside, this region never stops revealing surprises.

Pamper the People you Love. Embrace the warmth of Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel or Isla Mujeres, Mexico for some well-deserved pampering, discover the freedom of an all-inclusive stay at Palace Resorts, where one price covers your hotel, mouthwatering dining options and snacks, top shelf drinks, non-motorized water sports, exuberant nightly entertainment, and so much more. Palace Resorts deliver a better class of all-inclusive in tantalizing destinations throughout Mexico. There is no comprising on your experience!

You’ll find luxurious touches and elegant appointments at every Palace Resort, ensuring that regardless of the destination, your vacation will be exceptional. Bask in the beauty of Cancun, which sits at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, where you are invited to explore the area’s natural reserves, archeological sights and attractions. A few miles south along the ancient Riviera Maya, are three more Palaces, including two offering some of the finest golf courses and spas in Mexico, dot the white sands of the coast. The islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are home to more Caribbean Palaces and on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. With six all-inclusive Palace Resorts dotting the sands along gorgeous beaches, to choose from, one of them is certain to provide the perfect setting for your next vacation.

Be sure to check out the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence® Catalogue for more treasured trips





Couple drinking wine
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Paris Eiffel Tower
Paris
Monte Carlo
Fairmont Monte Carlo
Palace Resort Isla Mujeres


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Destination Spotlight: Some Like it Cold!

January 21, 2014
The ski season is heating up and as you plan winter auctions, raffles and other fundraising events using travel packages and experiences, look to Mitch-Stuart, Inc. for the top cold weather “wonders of the world.”

Grab a mug of cocoa and read about some terrific trips – and relax, knowing that Mitch-Stuart will handle every detail of the vacation experience from the minute the trip is sold to the time your donor returns home.

Skiers
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Killington Grand Resort
Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole
Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Skiers at Four Seasons Jackson Hole
 
Perfect Winter Wonderland
British Columbia, Canada
Explore your passions for adventure and relaxation in Whistler. A scenic 90-minute drive from Vancouver along the Sea To Sky Highway brings you into the heart of this alpine valley. Renowned as the top-ranked ski area in North America and home of the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, Whistler easily rivals the major ski regions of Europe, and offers true ski-in and ski-out convenience. Beyond the slopes, Whistler offers an extensive list of other indoor and outdoor pursuits.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler presents a unique collection of dining options that capture the essence of Whistler's lifestyle. Tastefully designed rooms with spectacular mountain or village views were created to blend with the natural alpine setting.

Centerpiece in a Mountain Crown
Quebec, Canada
Experience an unforgettable adventure as you escape from the everyday into a snow-covered winter wonderland. Fairmont Tremblant offers skiers 94 first rate runs and 600 acres that add up to a ski holiday that will soothe your soul and challenge your skills. The architectural masterpiece of this Mont Tremblant ski resort rooted in the legends of Quebec is the state-of-the-art facilities - climb aboard a high-speed chair lift at the doorstep to ski the slopes of Mont Tremblant Ski Hill and explore the mountains.

Fairmont Tremblant sits at the foot of the majestic Laurentian peaks, tucked into the heart of the region's most picturesque village. After a day of skiing out on the slopes, indulge in grandeur and relax in accommodating luxury at The Fairmont. Enjoy culinary delights from magnificent taste providers, treat yourself to a massage, or simply rest in the elegant Nansen Lounge. Proposing a refined choice of wines in the glass, vintage ports, a variety of martinis, or delicious specialty coffees, you will doubtless find what pleases you.

Ski the Best of the West
Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada or Wyoming
World-renowned for a variety of challenging and breathtaking slopes, the West boasts incredible mountains that offer some of the best skiing in the country! Utah has the best white, fluffy powder covering its peaks, Nevada offers an abundance of annual snow-fall, and Idaho has over 20,000 skiable acres for you! From the fantastic snow and four terrain parks of Vail, to the untamed wilderness of the Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming, get ready for world-class skiing in your favorite destination!

Get your winter sports fix some of Western America’s best slopes! Whether you’re looking for the perfect trail, amazing views, or the charm of a memorable destination, you’ll have access to it all! Choose from amazing mountain ridge resort destinations, including Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Vail and Keystone in Colorado; breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe; and the steep terrain and endless backcountry of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Sun Valley, Idaho was the nation’s first snow ski resort, and continues to draw ski-enthusiasts and snow bunnies with its long seasons. Nine powder-filled bowls, eight stunning peaks, 50 immaculately groomed runs, and three award-winning terrain parks make Park City’s mountains the perfect place for you to discover adventure in Utah!

Colorful Landscape of Vermont
Killington, Vermont
Located in Killington, amid the scenic splendor of Vermont's Green Mountains, the acclaimed Killington Grand Resort offers the ultimate mountain vacation experience. Stay in the heart of an alpine paradise, where skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and sleighing are just steps away on six mountains with 140 trails, and over 70 miles of terrain.

Killington is the perfect mountain escape in other seasons too. Hike and mountain bike on 45 miles of lift-serviced trails, enjoy 270 holes of spectacular Green Mountain golf on 15 challenging courses in the area, including Killington's championship 18-hole course, and discover breathtaking panoramic views! Antique shops and craft fairs abound, where you’re sure to find the perfect treasure to commemorate your vacation for years to come. Gourmet dining, musical events and local theatres are close by, including the restored Paramount Theatre, so that you can relax in town at a leisurely pace.

Discover Lake Tahoe's Pristine Beauty
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Discover an alpine paradise at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe. Nestled within the Sierra Mountain Range, the stunning locale of this Four Diamond Lake Tahoe hotel is the ideal setting for your next ski vacation! Tempt Lady Luck in the Casino, and after a day on the slopes ease tired muscles with a deep-tissue massage in the world-class spa. From delicious cuisine and inviting guestrooms to luxurious amenities and services, you'll experience an incomparable mountain escape at this Hyatt hotel in Lake Tahoe.

Take your pick of ski slopes, from Heavenly and Northstar-at-Tahoe, to Alpine Meadows, and Squaw Valley. And Tahoe even has amazing options for cross-country skiing buffs. For the travelers who are not alpine-inclined, enjoy a sleigh ride through the woods, or a snowmobile adventure in the Tahoe National Forest! Of course, you could always simply take in the natural wonders and remarkable sights!










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Fundraisers and Non-Profits – Step Up Your Tech in 2014

January 15, 2014
Mitch-Stuart Inc. (MSI), has entered into strategic partnership with breakthrough bidding technology services leader GiveSmart US, Inc. (GiveSmart). The initiative between the two firms will introduce Mitch-Stuart’s clients to user-friendly technology and services that will make auction fundraising easier and potentially raise more revenue for nonprofits. Similarly, GiveSmart will introduce its clients to Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

GiveSmart provides the following:
  • Easy-to-use bidding technology which allows auction attendees and guests to bid on items via their own mobile devices and/or through GiveSmart’s onsite “concierge” bidders.
  • Technology that allows for expanded participation, more competitive bidding, streamlined tracking and collection—and greater non-profit fundraising.
  • Exemplary personal service, assisting you from beginning to end in using their technology.

GiveSmart considers its company an adherent of the “adaptive philanthropy” movement which espouses and embraces change at all levels to continue helping non-profits reach their goals. Part of that philosophy can be described as taking thoughtful risk.

According to GiveSmart, this means leaders who are investing in an area where much is unknown, should have a clear learning agenda and plan to experiment so that they can come down the learning curve as quickly as possible. Such a plan will define assumptions to test and important external factors that will require strategy adjustment.

To that end, Mitch-Stuart Inc. advises that non-profits research new ideas and products that can take your fundraising and kick it up a notch or two.

“We’re excited to partner with GiveSmart and introduce our clients to their breakthrough technology” related Stuart Paskow, CEO of Mitch-Stuart, Inc. “We’ve helped more than 10,000 nonprofits raise a collective $1 billion+ through the years…and with this potential added resource, our clients will benefit even more.”


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Engaging More Auction Donors: 3 Keys to Your Most Successful Benefit Auction Ever

January 07, 2014
This week’s guest blogger and fundraising auctioneer extraordinaire, Kathy Kingston, updates us about ways to tap into key giving trends at charity auctions.

According to Kathy’s extensive benefit auction industry know-how, benefit auctions are booming across the United States. In fact, many of her clients broke all-time fundraising records this year.

Americans are incredibly philanthropic. 75% of Americans give to Charity, according to Sharon Danosky, fundraising consultant and president of Danosky & Associates. Over 16.3 billion dollars are raised annually at fundraising auctions in the United States according to the National Auctioneers Association.

Kathy encourages nonprofits, schools, and event planners to tap into some of the reasons why people give, often the secret to increasing donor participation at benefit auctions. This advice can help you best select travel packages and other live and silent auction items as well as better planning of all elements to ensure your most successful auction ever.

Kathy created this acronym, MSL to illustrate how she sees auction guests giving at fundraising auctions: meaningfully, locally, and strategically. Here is how it applies to the ways donors are giving.

Meaningfully. Today’s donors give to causes that are near and dear to their hearts, either via personal experience or when someone close to them asks them to become involved. How can you translate this “meaning” to your event? Kathy strongly suggests making sure the event’s mission is central in the conversation. “Not just as the beginning and end of the night, but threaded throughout, visually, conversationally and any other creative way you can think of.” Make sure that your auction guests understand the impact of their gift.

Locally. Think globally, act locally is more than just a lovely thought. It is the mantra of many of today’s charitable givers. It is up to fundraising auction and event organizers to demonstrate how donor dollars benefit local causes and strengthen communities. Whether the cause is kids, animals, neighborhood beautification or something else very directly applicable to your audience, Kathy says “Demonstrate the cause and effect for your attendees, make it live and palpable through special guests, video, live demonstrations etc.” Clearly show how an auction donor’s participation will impact your local community.

Strategically.
Given the changing demographics and buying preferences of auction audiences, Kathy sees a trend towards generous giving during the fund-a-need special appeal. Kathy sees the fund-a-need special appeals as a powerful strategic vehicle for giving at charity auctions. In fact Kathy’s experience over the last several years shows that revenue from fund-a-need is actually outpacing silent and live auction revenue. All donors want their dollars to work especially hard. In many cases guests prefer to give to the cause and not necessarily purchase an auction item.

Think about MLS as you begin planning your 2014 events!

What trends are you seeing for donor engagement at your auction? What are your ideas? Contact Kathy at Kathy@kingstonauction.com or visit her website at http://www.kingstonauction.com.


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