What to Auction in 2016
December 30, 2015
We at Mitch-Stuart are many things, including purveyors of great non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. What we are not are soothsayers. Just like we didn’t predict the poor-dancing “Left Shark” from the Super Bowl or that NASA would discover water on Mars, we can’t tell you what will dominate the pop culture landscape in 2016.
However, when it comes to auctioning off travel packages, we can see the future.
Looking at some of the trends that professional travel agents, journalists and others have predicted for the new year, along with information from 2015, we can figure out some of the trips that will bring in big cash for non-profits in 2016. Some ideas for your upcoming galas:
Hawaii: Of course, trips to Hawaii make for great auction items any year, but 2016 is already looking to be a busy one. Advance bookings are up over those leading into 2015, and with plenty of attraction openings (including an outpost of the world-famous Blue Note Jazz Club on Waikiki Beach), our trips like “Captivating Island Culture” and “Hawaii is a Lovers’ Paradise” are likely to garner big bids. In addition, 2016 will mark a somber, special anniversary for any of your supporters who happen to be veterans of the Armed Forces: December 7 will be the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Europe and Canada: There’s plenty of reasons to head overseas, from the culture to the food, but one current one is the conversion rates. We’ve written about this in this space before, but the Euro is currently at a ten-year low against the American dollar. But when looking to make that (American) dollar last longer, do not ignore our northern neighbors, either. One American dollar currently fetches almost $1.40 in Canadian cash, meaning that exploring Vancouver (“Vancouver’s Gateway to the Pacific”) or Victoria (“Escape to Victoria’s Elegance and Grandeur”) is even easier.
National Parks: There will be celebrations at national parks throughout the country in honor of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, starting with the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day. There are parks near many of our destinations, but one of our favorites is the Grand Teton National Park, where your donors can float along the Snake River, hike on more than 200 miles of trails and, with our “Premier Retreat in the Great American West” package, go on a safari-style adventure.
Cruises: 24 million people are expected to hit the seas in 2016, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. It’s another year-to-year increase for one of travel’s growth industries; Just 15 million travelers opted for a cruise in 2006, and 2015’s final tally is estimated to be 23 million passengers. This could mean even more interest in one of our cruise packages, ranging from the chilly (“Alaska’s Majestic Frontier”) to the sun-soaked (“Sail the Southern Caribbean Seas”).
Multi-Generational Travel: It’s less about a single destination and more about how people want to travel, but the experts at Frommer’s saw a 20 percent jump in multi-generational travel (families, from grandparents to grandkids, traveling together) in 2015, and that number is likely to continue to grow. Bigger parties traveling, though, means bigger rooms needed for accommodations – and that’s where we can come in, with our expanded “Villas and Residencies” catalog. Whether it’s in a ten-person villa in Bali (“Pampering Balinese Sanctuary”) or a six-person setup in Tuscany, Italy (Villas, Views and the Valdichiana), the entire family can relax and enjoy some of the most beautiful destinations in the world.
Holiday Trips For Your Entire List
December 23, 2015
One reveler’s winter wonderland is another’s wasted vacation.
There are as many ways to celebrate the holiday season as there are people to celebrate it. That makes our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages a perfect fit for those days off around the end of the year; we’ve got as many destinations in our catalog as there are tastes, as well. If you’re looking to send donors on trips that they’ll love (and for which they’ll love to place big bids), it might be good to think about the types of celebrants they are.
North Face apparel, REI gift certificates
From British Columbia to Park City and Lake Tahoe, we’ve got trips for every winter sports participant. If you’ve got a donor base that lives for the adrenaline rush of skiing or snowboarding, our “Perfect Winter Wonderland” package sends supporters to one of the top-ranked ski areas in the world, Whistler, which hosted the 2010 Olympics on its mountains. It is one of several packages that either include lift tickets or are set at destinations within walking distance of a downhill paradise.
Gourmet hot cocoa mix, chunky sweaters.
Is there a more seasonally-appropriate way of celebrating the holidays than cuddling up with a loved one next to a roaring fire? For travelers who are more in the apres-ski scene than skiing itself, heading out into the wild can be a wonderful break from the day-to-day. Our “Premier Retreat in the American West” trip involves four days and three nights in gorgeous Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in a 400-square foot cabin with all the amenities one could want. The resort also features a spa, outdoor heated pool, Jacuzzi and sauna, so there’s no shortage of areas in which to get warm and cozy.
The presence of family members spread out around the country.
Getting the entire family together at home for the holidays can be tough. But for the times that all the schedules align, why not gather the crew in a new, destination-worthy location – and one that takes care of the cleaning and prepping of the bedrooms for you? We added a plethora of options to our Villas and Residences catalog this year, meaning there are now trips to everywhere from Bali to Aspen that feature accommodations for up to 10 people. The best part: No one is consigned to sleeping on the couch for the holidays in a full home.
Sunscreen, a new beach tote.
Of course, the idea for a “white Christmas” is anathema to some, who would rather shun cold temperatures and chase the sun. For them, a Caribbean cruise may be the perfect balm. Our trips like “Sail the Southern Caribbean Seas” and “The Western Caribbean’s Rhythms At Sea” combine veranda stateroom luxury with the restorative power of the sun’s rays to keep even the most cold-adverse traveler happy.
Guest Post: How to Ask Big Donors for Leadership Gifts in Six Steps
December 16, 2015
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what they’re thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, Keith McLane of KLM Auctions tells us about reaching out to those major gift donors. Enjoy!)
Charity fundraising events pose a tough challenge: You have to mobilize financial resources from donors to meet your aggressive monetary goals. To launch your campaign, you turn to your high-power donors, the heavy hitters who make or break your efforts. Your outreach to them takes first priority.
So how do you address these big donors in a pre-auction fundraising letter and hit all the right notes? Let’s take it step-by-step.
Start off with a big thank you for past generosity:
Dear Stan and Jan,
Thank you again for the donation of your Tahoe home for the auction; it was incredibly generous and I hope it goes for some really big money this year!
Make your supporters understand how important their contributions are, and how their leadership role will be critical in the new project:
I'm reaching out to very select families regarding this year's Fund-a-Need. I don't know if you saw my earlier email to the auction RSVP list, but we have an idea we're very excited about: To add artificial turf and a retaining wall to the dirt hill near Annex (beside the ramp between the upper and lower playgrounds). We think it will make a huge difference to the children's experience and really liven up the play space.
Emphasize the immediate challenge ahead, and how the big donor will be a visible trailblazer who sets the tone for the entire community.
But it doesn't come cheap.
We've been working with landscape architects and the bids are on the order of $60,000, of which I'd like to raise $50K or more from Fund-a-Need. It's a high goal, but in the past when the (Name of School) community has mobilized we've come in at or above that level and I'm hopeful we can do it again. If we hit the $50K target, we should be able to make up the remainder from the general auction proceeds.
Let your donor know that if they are first in the game, they can be a game-changer in realizing fundraising goals:
Hence my request. I have no idea if you are planning to contribute to Fund-a-Need or not this year, but our professional auctioneer tells us the most successful technique is to have one or two pre-committed top-tier bids in his pocket. It gets the energy in the room flowing and gets the paddles going up at nice high levels.
In other words, we don't want to guess what the high bid is going to be, and we don't want to start too low.
Show understanding and flexibility – you’re not forcing anything on your big donor. At the same time, express your gratitude again and drive it home that they can play a prominent, instrumental role in realizing a community dream.
I'm asking about a dozen families to try to find someone to start our bidding at $5,000. Yes, I realize that's a large amount and that you've already done a ton for the school and for the auction, for which we are all extremely grateful. And I realize we're coming at families with asks left and right and if this is too much I absolutely, totally get it; no problem whatsoever.
But looking at past years' bidding patterns, if we can get someone to start at this level I do think we can hit it out of the ballpark.
Establish a basis for quick personal follow-up – a call or a meeting. Give another hearty thank you and a reminder to “save the date.”
I will give you a call this evening to touch base in person. Thanks in advance for your consideration, and thanks once again for the generous donation of your Tahoe home!
Take care, and looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.
In these six steps and with personal engagement, you can make your fundraising goals a reality.
Let your biggest donors know how grateful you are, and have them imagine what they could achieve next by dreaming big.
of KLM Auctions
is one of California and the Nation’s top charity auctioneers
and fundraising strategists. KLM Auctions’ auctioneers have all earned the distinguished Benefit Auction Specialist (BAS) designation from the National Auctioneers Association—a designation held by fewer than 20 auctioneers in California.
Guest Post: Fundraising Lessons From Apple Picking
December 02, 2015
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what they’re thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, we’re re-posting this wonderful essay by Connie Johnson of the Benefit Auction Institute about the parallels between fundraising and the outside world. Enjoy!)
Eight years ago my husband planted a Honeycrisp apple tree in our front yard. And being Minnesotans we are very biased that all Honeycrisp apples — if not the ones from our very own front tree — are the best on the planet. Of course, we place a premium on the fruit that the tree produces because there is some amount of work in getting to the point of harvest. Between the watering, the tiny amount of spraying, and the occasional pruning of the branches, there is something very satisfying about getting to the place where we can pick our prized apples.
Here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned from our apple tree and some parallels I've found in charity event fundraising:
Some apples are a lost cause. Get rid of them!
Despite our intention to have as near to organic fruits and vegetables in our yard as possible, my husband learned through trial and error that some degree of fruit would be lost without preventive measures like spraying. And even then, some apples still end up taken over by worms, bees or various bugs. We don’t try to save those apples. We get them off the tree and into the compost bin so they can feed the soil and serve us in some capacity later.
Relating to fundraising, you should be surveying your practices regularly, analyzing what works best and offloading the practices that have bugs in them. What produces the most donor fruit? Focus there and lose what is ineffective or even harmful.
Some apples are only partially compromised. Save what can be saved.
OK, so here’s the thing: At our house we try really hard not to waste what can be saved. And honestly, when you take a good look at “bad apples”, many apples can be saved—at least in part. We pull them off the tree and cut off the bruised or compromised area and eat the part that’s OK.
In planning your event, maybe you don’t have to dispose of an entire procedure, but merely tweak it for better results. Cut out what’s undesirable. Find a way to make what’s left work.
Some apples are beautiful on the outside, rosy and colorful, but don’t taste good because they’re not ripe enough or they’re overripe. Strike when the fruit is at its peak!
So much of effective harvesting boils down to timing, doesn’t it? Strike too soon or too late and the fruit may not taste right. It might be too tart or have little taste at all.
When harvesting donor gifts, you have to consider if the donor is ready for your ask. Have you done the proper work to select the optimum date for your event’s demographic? Have you informed them of what your nonprofit’s mission makes possible and what you’ll be able to do with more resources? Have you reminded them that your event is a key part of your nonprofit’s giving calendar and how critical each gift is to your cause? Have you let key person-to-person encounters pass by — and with them a great opportunity to ask for their support?
When picking apples, your reach matters.
Several weeks ago we got a frost warning. In essence, get those apples off the tree, or lose them! My husband worked so hard to care for the tree and its fruit and I wasn’t about to lose those apples to a cold night! I grabbed the step stool from the garage and very carefully pulled down what I was capable of getting to. But here’s the thing: I am a petite woman and could not reach all of those apples by myself. I plucked off what I could, but I also knew my limitations and called in reinforcements. My husband is a tall guy and was able to “reach higher” (the Benefit Auction Institute’s tag line) to get those last apples down.
In the world of fundraising galas, you know as well as I, that it takes a solid and strategic team effort to get your best results. Look carefully at your limitations, opportunities and resources, and make sure that the right person is working on the right task to optimize the event that you work so tirelessly on for months.
Enjoy the fruit and share it.
At a family party before the final harvest we let everyone pick an apple off the tree. We had plenty and some gifts are meant to be shared. My soon-to-be three-year old niece heard she got to choose her own apple so I brought her out to the tree and hoisted her up. She looked at her options and then yanked her favorite apple off. Before I could even get her inside to wash the apple, she took a gleeful bite out of it—her “apple moment”, and that sight made my week.
Isn’t the point of fundraising to share the bounty? To make sure that the resources that your nonprofit needs are within reach because of the generosity of people who care about your mission and programs? Then share. Share donor resources. Share stories — donor, program recipient, volunteer, staff member. And give everyone on your team a chance to have their “apple moment.” It is the very best part of fundraising.
(Big big thanks to Connie Johnson and the team over at Benefit Auction Institute for sharing their apples with us this week! For more information about the Institute, go to benefitauctioninstitute.com or call 651-318-0115.)
Gather the Family
November 25, 2015
Today is one of the busiest travel days of the year for a reason: Thanksgiving is a holiday that is best spent surrounded by loved ones, carving up a turkey/ham/tofurkey and slipping into tryptophan-induced comas. Almost 47 million Americans are estimated to be hitting the road for the celebration. But what if your donors could take the festival of thanks with them – and bring their families along?
Mitch-Stuart’s non-profit auction travel packages can send couples on getaways around the world, but it can also take the entire family to a destination worthy of a feast. With in-accommodation kitchens, your donors can cook a fantastic holiday dinner or, in some cases, even have a private chef do it for them!
Some examples of great holiday season destinations for the family, from our Destinations of Excellence® catalog:
Crested Butte: If sitting around a roaring fireplace is a go-to Thanksgiving tradition for a donor’s family, a trip to the Colorado mountains might be in order. Our “Crested Butte Promises a Superb Alpine Adventure” package includes a stay in a two-bedroom condominium steps from a ski lift at the base of Mt. Crested Butte, with an in-unit fireplace and fully-equipped kitchen. Guests can either prepare their own Turkey Day feast with groceries gathered by the resort’s personal shopper or head to the Alpine Club and make reservations for dinner at one of the resort town’s fantastic restaurants.
Cancun: Of course, it’s often easier to let someone else handle the cooking while on the road. Our “Family Paradise in Mexico” package can send a family of four (two adults, two children) to a oasis-like Palace Resort in Cancun for an all-inclusive retreat. That includes a “kids club” for children’s diversions, four swim-up bars for the parents, $1,500 worth of golfing or spa treatments and gourmet dining. And if the menu at one of the resorts doesn’t meet your supporter’s wishes, that donor can head to any of the other Cancun Palace Resorts to see what they’re whipping up in the kitchen.
Cortona, Italy: Those looking to really leave the beaten path behind, meanwhile, can head to Tuscany for a stay in a Cortona villa. Packages like “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Villas, Views and the Valdichiana” include accommodations for up to six people, and each of them also involve an in-villa cooking class and meal. See what a proper Italian chef would do to a Thanksgiving feast, and you may never go back to turkey and mashed potatoes again!
A Travel-Worthy Thanksgiving
November 18, 2015
Thanksgiving is one of America’s favorite travel holidays: AAA projected that more than 46 million Americans would travel more than 50 miles from their residence in 2014, and with gas prices still low, that number may increase this year. Many of those hitting the road at this time of year are heading to visit parents or grandparents in hometowns around the country. But at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we believe that home is wherever the family is … and that means that home can be anywhere.
Many of our non-profit auction travel packages do not have holiday blackout periods, meaning that your supporters can win a trip at your gala fundraiser and use it to take the family somewhere new for the holiday. And with travel-worthy Thanksgiving events sprinkled throughout the country, that winning donor can create a new holiday tradition for his or her family out on the road.
Any conversation of Turkey Day traditions has to start with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Starting in 1924, the procession makes its way through Manhattan with balloons, floats, and performers from pop music acts like Nick Jonas and Idina Menzel. From living rooms across the country (which watch the parade live on NBC) to the sidewalks of New York City, the parade may be the single most-witnessed Turkey Day event. It’s a great place to send donors, as well, either for them to take in the nostalgic charms of the Snoopy balloon in person or to allow them to introduce a younger generation to the wonder of these skyscraper-sized blimps.
Of course, after the floats are put away in NYC, Thanksgiving can sometimes become about the three Fs: Food, Family and Football. Luckily, Mitch-Stuart can help with one of those as well. We can send supporters to any regular season football game in the country, and that includes the traditional Thanksgiving Day games in either Detroit or Dallas. In Motown, the Detroit Lions have played a home game on every Thanksgiving since 1945, while the Cowboys have suited up for all but two Turkey Day games since 1966. For either, we can get your donors in lower level seats for all the action.
Not every tradition is sedentary, though. For many people, getting outside is a popular part of the holiday, too, whether it’s a family touch football game in the backyard or a leisurely hike. Almost 1,000,000 Americans participated in a Thaknsgiving Day “trot” or “fun run” in 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal, and it seems like small towns and big cities alike are hosting everything from 5Ks to marathons. One of the oldest of these also takes place in one of our favorite Destinations of Excellence, New Orleans, where the Athletic Club Turkey Day Race has been held for an astounding 107 consecutive years, making it one of the oldest non-marathon races in the country. It features a five-mile run for adults and even a half-mile race for kids, with all of the proceeds going towards Spina Bifida of Greater New Orlean.
Sparking Nostalgia with Travel
November 11, 2015
Nostalgia was once considered to be a disease. Once thought an illness of the immigrant class, the feeling of longing for a previous time was originally labeled by a Swiss physician as a condition that caused both mental and physical maladies, according to the New York Times. Today, however, we understand that it’s a natural part of life, and one that can give us comfort; studies have shown it to counteract loneliness, anxiety and even boredom.
There are as many triggers for nostalgia as there are memories themselves, but one of the most common is a destination. To see a news report about a faraway island, for instance, can trigger a longing to go back there, or a film set in the Caribbean could be a strong reminder of a honeymoon.
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we know that people travel for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, it’s to explore brave new worlds, to head to locations not before seen. But often, we leave the comfort of our home to remember, to feel closer to a time past, and to share in a memory with loved ones. For those nostalgic travelers, we have several places in our Destinations of Excellence that can trigger those sepia-tones feelings.
There’s a sense of wonder that comes from the first time standing on the streets of Manhattan, looking up at the skyscrapers and feeling the energy that comes from New York City. That initial experience of the metropolis is hard to replicate, but one of our several non-profit auction travel packages to the Big Apple can give a donor a chance to, at least, catch up with the City that Never Sleeps. Whether it’s a horse-and-carriage tour through Central Park or a Broadway show, we can send supporters on the type of big city adventure that will bring back memories.
The “locks of love” that were once attached to the Pont des Arts Bridge have been removed, so if any of your donors had once left a memento of their affection there, that’s one less memory to revisit. But there are plenty of landmarks in the City of Lights that can spark nostalgia for visitors. The sight of the Eiffel Tower, a walking tour of the Louvre, or even a champagne cruise down the River Seine are each such indelible moments for a tourist that returning to them at a later date can be powerful.
Sights can, of course, bring back memories, but they seem to become even more powerful when paired with distinctive smells. For those who live in landlocked regions, standing on a beach and smelling the ocean air can bring back memories of sandcastles, family vacations and even bonfires. Sending supporters back in time via a trip to the coast is as easy as picking the destination, with sandside vistas available on either American coast, on several Caribbean islands and even facing the Mediterranean Sea.
Giving Tuesday: How We Can Help
November 04, 2015
First, it was Black Friday, the traditional first day of the Christmas holiday season, taking place the day after (and, increasingly, the day of) Thanksgiving. Then, Cyber Monday became a way for people returning to work to procrastinate on the following Monday by looking at deep discounts from online retailers. Soon after, to counteract the marketing power of major chain stores, there was Small Business Saturday, to promote local concerns.
And now, to help Americans remember the thousands of worthy and important non-profits that rely on donations, there’s Giving Tuesday, which falls on December 1 in 2015. After the first days of holiday spending are finished, a day is reserved for lending a hand to those who help in local communities and across the nation. It’s both a celebration and, if used properly, a chance to kick-start the end-of-year fundraising drives. More than $50 million was raised on the day in 2014, according to several of the major non-profit sector donation processors.
At Mitch-Stuart, we’re best known for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, which charities can offer on a consignment basis during galas and other events. But there are ways to utilize these money-raising tools on Giving Tuesday, as well, that will both make a donor’s once-in-a-lifetime travel dreams come true and bring in a chunk of change to be used to fund good works.
One of our most recent programs can make Giving Tuesday fundraising a breeze. By setting up a Mitch-Stuart Travel Raffle, you can give your donors a chance to buy tickets, in many cases online (where permitted by local laws), for a chance to win a fantastic trip package. Organizations can make it a one-day frenzy, where tickets are only available on Giving Tuesday itself, or they can sell tickets for weeks in advance and do the drawing on December 1. Either way, using the extra publicity of Giving Tuesday to help promote the raffle can lead to more tickets sold and more funds raised, all without planning and executing a gala or event.
Of course, with Giving Tuesday in such close proximity to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many potential donors may still be in purchase mode. If you’ve got a list of big supporters that you think may be interested in buying individual trips, we can work with your organization to offer a Mitch-Stuart travel package at a “buy it now” price. It allows the donors to take the guesswork out of how much they’ll have to pay for that weekend trip to the beach or once-in-a-lifetime adventure, while also allowing you to piggyback on the season with a more “traditional” shopping experience.
A Giving Tuesday promotion doesn’t have to end on that specific day, either. If your organization has an upcoming gala or major fundraising event, you can make December 1 the official first day of ticket sales, too, getting an extra signal boost from the pseudo-holiday. And if you’re planning on offering Mitch-Stuart travel packages at that future event, you can also utilize some of our promotional collateral available for each individual trip.
Want to pump up your Giving Tuesday fundraising? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
Vacations for Ghost Hunters
October 28, 2015
The Halloween season is a time for frights, be they on the big screen, the “trick” part of trick-or-treating or the unholy abomination that is budget candy corn. For people who are big into the holiday, though, it is also a time to get on the road and check out some of the spookiest sites in the world. Some of those attractions are manmade, like the events we profiled last year
. But others stem from a combination of tragedy and a certain suspension of disbelief that can make people believe they are seeing ghosts.
Mitch-Stuart doesn’t feature any specific ghost-hunting trips in our catalog of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. However, several of our Destinations of Excellence can also act as home bases for those looking for restless spirits. For those looking for the scariest of Halloweens, one of these places might be hospitable.
It was an opera house in Paris that once housed a phantom in its basement, so it should be no surprise that the City of Lights has its share of haunted tales. The city’s catacombs are one destination for ghost hunters, with the remains of more than six millions Parisians there, often arraigned into macabre art. The Red Man of the Tuileries, a notorious hitman for the royalty in the 16th century, is said to still patrol the Louvre, and even the Paris Opera, the setting for fictional “Phantom of the Opera,” has a “real-life” ghostly visitor in the form of a love-struck woman, just outside its doors.
A little closer to home, the spirit of Hollywood pervades much of Los Angeles. But the spirits of Hollywood can be found at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, across from the TCL Chinese Theater (and the famous sidewalk handprints). A mirror there that used to hang in the suite of Marilyn Monroe supposedly shows the reflection of a blonde woman in the background, while Montgomery Clift (of “From Here to Eternity” and “Judgment at Nuremberg” fame) is said to walk the ninth floor. The stories are so woven into the fabric of the building that the hotel’s website used to have a section devoted to the tales.
Even places considered to be bright slices of paradise can find themselves possessed by spirits. Honolulu doesn’t seem like the type of place that would be ghost-friendly, but residents claim that it has its own history with the supernatural, in locations like the Old Waialae Drive-In Theater (located close to a cemetery, and said to have been visited by a faceless woman haunting the restroom), the 16th Avenue bridge (site of a hit-and-run, the victim of which still appears to some) and even the Green Lady, an apparition who has been “spotted” everywhere from Scotland to New England.
Want to send your donors on a wild ghost chase? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
What’s New for the Winter
October 21, 2015
Throughout the year, the staff of travel experts at Mitch-Stuart is busy setting up organizations with opportunities to raise funds using auction travel packages for non-profits. But during down moments, those same people are scouring the world, looking for bigger deals, interesting destinations and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
(Yeah – they’re busy folks.)
For the October update of the Destinations of Excellence catalog, we’ve put together a plethora of new travel packages. Some go to our favorite spots, with new options. Others expand our footprint to new areas. But each one can help your charity bring even more money through a gala auction or a fundraising auction.
One of the biggest updates to our catalog for the winter comes in lodging capacity. We’ve expanded our villas and residencies offerings to offer more trips with larger living spaces. Send up to six people to Aspen, for instance, and stay in a three-bedroom residence at the North of Nell, right at the base of Aspen Mountain. Send a supporter and three family members or friends to a Tuscan villa, a luxury residence in Los Cabos, or even a two-bedroom residence in London. There are now more opportunities than ever to give your donors a chance to bring the entire family on vacation, organize a guys-or-girls getaway, or partake in any other group travel outing.
Of course, the winter catalog is always a great place to look to find trips that give donors a chance to sample the season’s charms. Whether it’s ski-in/ski-out mountain access in Park City and Deer Valley, Utah or snowmobiling and winter wildlife in Jackson Hole, even the most committed summer lovers will find reasons to head into the beauty of the winter snow.
We’ve spoken at length before about why now is the best time to travel to Europe, and we’ve added three more opportunities to do just that. An arts tour of the French Rivera, a ride on the London Eye and a trip to the Van Gogh Museum are great reasons to head to Monaco, London and Amsterdam, respectively, and each package can bring in big bids to your fundraising auction.
Some of your donors may want to escape the winter’s chill a little closer to home, as well, which is why we’ve added golf adventures in San Diego, California and Scottsdale, Arizona, along with trips to the charming Asheville, North Carolina and the always-temperate St. Helena, California, near Napa Valley.
Want to check out all we have to offer? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert to talk about our new options, or register for online access to our catalog today!
October 14, 2015
In this space we have talked about pairing trips with auction themes
, with the season of the year
and even with food menus
. There are plenty of ways to tie a Mitch-Stuart non-profit charity auction package into a gala event, but the most meaningful for your biggest supporters may be to offer a trip that dovetails with your organization’s goals, one that deepens their commitment to your cause or helps celebrate it.
This, of course, isn’t easy, and it might not work for every organization. Few want to spend a tremendous amount of money on a trip that doubles as a lecture, and some charities don’t lend themselves easily to travel-related celebrations. But for others, offering a cause-related once-in-a-lifetime experience will keep your efforts and work in the front of a donor’s mind, even as they enjoy the fruits of their generous bid.
Conservancy groups, for instance, have a great wealth of opportunities to send supporters on trips that pair well with their cause. This could take the form of a visit to an underexplored corner of this country, a place where outdoor activities are front and center; Jackson Hole comes to mind. But sending a donor to the Masai Mara Nature Reserve in Kenya, one of the world’s great animal sanctuaries, will bring into stark relief the important work that conservancy organizations do. Our “Explore Kenya’s Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife” package will send your supporters to Masai Mara in style, with seven nights at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, a favorite of international travelers.
Educational charities have plenty of options when it comes to trips; almost every destination has a great museum, university or even historic library to see. But only Washington, D.C. has all of those in the kind of numbers that could fill an entire itinerary. The “Exciting Downtown Washington, D.C. Experience” trip pairs a three-day, two-night stay with an “Old Town Trolley” tour, which stops at places like the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and the myriad of museum options along the National Mall. It’s the kind of trip that can ignite a love of learning in anyone, young or old.
Childhood obesity has been a cause in the spotlight over the last seven years, as Michelle Obama has spearheaded reform efforts. One of those programs that the First Lady has pushed is “Let’s Move,” an initiative that helps convince kids to get outside and run around. That’s not bad advice for adults, either, and it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place to do so than Colorado, on one of our trips (such as “Breathtaking Allure of a Rugged Winter Wonderland” or “Mountain Village Enclave”). The state has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country, and its system of trails, mountain bike paths and ski runs is one of the reasons why. Nothing reinforces the importance of physical activity quite like getting into the outdoors and trying it for oneself, and when your donors look at vacation photos taken from the top of Colorado’s breathtaking trails, they’ll remember your cause, too.
October 07, 2015
The transition between the summer and the fall comes with all sorts of lifestyle changes: The grill may get packed up for the season, windows that have been open since mid-May might finally get closed, and equipment from summer activities may get put into the far back reaches of the garage for their winter hibernation. Your organization, however, can help your supporters take those bikes out for one last spin, those clubs out for one last round or even those surfboards out for one last wave.
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we help non-profit organizations raise money with consignment fundraising auction travel packages to all corner of the world and for all times of the year. One of the ways that charities and other groups can sell big-ticket travel at galas is by helping donors defeat the calendar and find parts of the country where their favorite summertime activities are year-round affairs.
For much of the country, golf is not possible for months out of the year; hitting a white golf ball into a snowbank certainly makes it difficult to find for the second shot. But the weather in Hilton Head is amenable to hacking through 18 holes at any time of year. The average high temperature there per month never gets below 60 degrees, and though it may get a little wet in the winter that certainly doesn’t stop many golf diehards. If you’ve got donors who will play a round in rain, sleet, snow or any other weather, one of our trips to Hilton Head could be the excuse they need to donate big to your cause.
Of course, when the winter comes, mountain biking becomes much more difficult. But two-wheel enthusiasts can still find thrills, even if they don’t come in the snow-covered Rockies or Cascades. Arizona may not be the first place that comes to mind when it comes to big peaks, but Sedona is one of the top destinations for downhill biking in the country. The West Sedona Tour is a local favorite, a 13-mile loop that joins together eight different trails and has tremendous views of places like Bear Mountain. And when Colorado and Wyoming are still snowed in during the late winter, the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival in March features bike demonstrations, live music and great riding.
One of these summer activities can actually improve in the wintertime. Surf towns are often overrun in June, July and August, but during the off-season, there’s more room to maneuver. Spots like Southern California (especially in the San Diego area) and Hawaii (where the winter is more about rain than cold temperatures) go from being tourist magnets to having manageable crowds, which is better time for spent in the ocean and on the land. In fact, when Coastal Living named its top five winter surfing spots, places like Oceanside (in between San Diego and Los Angeles) and Kauai took up the top three spots.
Got some active donors who long to chase the sun in the winter months? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert about offering a trip to one of these destinations at your next auction or gala!
September 30, 2015
There a lot of pressure placed upon fundraisers, especially event planners, to keep costs down when planning a gala or special evening. After all, the theory goes, the less money spent on the event, the more the organization will get to keep. But what if, by skimping in some areas, you were actually costing your organization money, rather than saving it?
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. loves setting up its non-profit partners with consignment auction travel packages to raise money for worthy causes, and we particularly love it when they sell for the biggest amounts possible. In order to do that, though, it’s important to spend money in the right places and for the right reasons. Here are three places where a little extra investment at the gala can pay off in bigger bids and more donations.
If a live auction is a part of the program, make sure that a professional benefit auctioneer is in charge. While the job may look like just speaking fast and taking bids from the outside, an experienced auctioneer can bring in bigger bids and keep audiences engaged in ways that amateurs may not even be able to identify, much less duplicate. Everything from between-item banter to voice inflections when recording bids can help loosen up a room and encourage everyone to get involved, and the people who spend their lives doing this are naturally going to be better than a volunteer.
Yes, you could set up a playlist on a streaming website or through your phone. Or sure, you could get a particularly talented family member to play some piano. But good live entertainment at an event is a critical component to keeping attendees engaged, whether it’s a comedian doing a short set, a live musical performance or a DJ playing in the background during the dinner. Getting the audience laughing or dancing can be a big step towards getting them bidding, too, and the pros in these areas know how to read a crowd and tell the right joke or play the right song for the moment.
After a gala, there’s still opportunities for fundraising, based on follow-up solicitations. Make those next-day and next-week emails look even better by having a professional photographer document your event. Hiring an experienced shutterbug will allow you and your staff to focus on connecting with donors individually, while the pro runs around (usually with camera equipment well beyond the price range of the average picture-taker) and makes sure that the memories created over the course of the evening are captured forever. Having these professional photos will help sell tickets to future events, as well, making it an investment that pays for itself.
September 24, 2015
The seasonal signposts are everywhere: Leaves are changing, days are getting shorter, and evenings are getting cooler. Fall is here, and with it comes a new color palette, a new climate and a new feeling.
Our specialty, of course, is setting non-profits up with once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for fundraising auctions, and we told you about some of the best ones for fall galas
a few weeks back. But we’re also always here to help incorporate new ideas into your fundraising auctions and galas, whether it’s cuisine pairings
” themes and branding. If your organization has an upcoming event, here are a couple of ways to stand out by using the beauty and spirit of the season.
Fall galas have a full color palette with which to play, one that feels out of place at other points in the year. Soft oranges and browns, yellows and even forest greens are all in play, and can give an event a feeling of timeliness. From there, the type of gala will dictate the decorations, of course; a black-tie affair probably doesn’t need cutout leaves (or real ones!) throughout the room. But even lining the entryway to a ballroom with lights and colors matching the season can put attendees in the right frame of mind for the evening.
One of the newest fall traditions for many is trips to the local chain coffee shop for "pumpkin spice” infused drinks. And while that name is a misnomer – 2015 is the first time that Starbucks’ “Pumpkin Spice Latte” will include any actual pumpkin – there’s no question that spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are essential to fall cooking. There are plenty of places for those fall tastes at your gala, as well. A dessert course is an easy place to start, with a traditional pumpkin pie or pudding. One fun idea: If your event will involve alcohol, there are several cocktails that involve combinations of pumpkin, maple syrup and whiskey or bourbon.
Finally, never overlook location when it comes to fundraising events. While it can be tricky to plan around seasonal weather, getting your donors outside for a fun twist on a gala can create lifelong memories – ones that are most closely associated with your cause. How about an event in an actual pumpkin patch? Or maybe a traveling gala, one that rolls on hayrides? Even setting up in a local park, surrounded by the changing colors, even with a cold snap in the air, can brand a gathering in a way that will make supporters want to come back every year.
Getting Off the Boat
September 16, 2015
There are plenty of reasons that travelers enjoy cruises: The open waters, the beautiful views, the amazing amenities. There’s so much to do on a modern ship that it can be hard to remember that these cruises also visit spectacular ports of call, all around the world.
We love setting up donors with non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that take them out onto the open seas. But what often catches our eyes when it comes to selecting cruises is not just the boat itself, or its amazing cuisine, but what opportunities there are for travelers to leave. Excursions are often considered optional by cruise lines, but they’re required to make the most of an adventure. Some of our favorites:
Standing on observation decks stories above the ocean is a great way to travel, but sometimes people want to get down into the water itself. It’s icing on the cake if that water happens to be the Mediterranean Sea, and if the way to get to it is through a beach on Crete, or the red and black sand beaches of Santorini. Yes, the “Savor the Majestic Mediterranean” trip package involves plenty of amenities on its own, but adding some beach time on one of the jewels of Southern Europe can only result in happy donors.
Not every excursion needs to be water-based, of course. Swimming in the North Atlantic Ocean while cruising between Boston and Nova Scotia might be a bit cold for most, so your donors can stay dry and consider one of the trip’s walking tours. The best way to learn a new city is very often pounding the pavement, and trips through Bar Harbor, Maine and Saint John, New Brunswick will introduce travelers to the unique architecture and vibe of each destination. And if the walking gets to be too much, supporters can let horses do it, on a wagon city tour of Portland, Maine.
Of course, the most all-encompassing excursion might come with our cruise packages to the Bahamas, where Royal Caribbean has literally set up its own island. Meet Little Stirrup Cay – or as it is now known, CocoCay. With snorkeling, swimming, parasailing and waverunner rides available to passengers, this miniature (less than a mile wide and only about 200 yards long) isle combines the curated experiences of a planned vacation with the adventure of regular off-ship adventures. It even has activities for the kids, as well, including Caylana’s Aqua Park, a floating playground.
Falling For Travel
September 09, 2015
Kids are back in school, work is picking up and the holidays are not far off. It can be tough to clear a few days in the months of September or October to hit the road, especially for people who are either just coming off of a summer vacation or are planning to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But traveling in the fall has plenty of benefits, including less-crowded destinations, great weather, and the colors that only occurs with the change of seasons.
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we’ve got fundraising auction travel packages for every season. Caribbean beach vacations make great summer getaways (or snowbird escapes for the winter), and the Rocky Mountains are perfect for winter skiing excitement, but we never want to neglect the fall – especially for those non-profits with galas during that time. Want to offer a great of-the-moment travel opportunity? Read on.
One of the first thoughts that many have when it comes to fall travel is New England. The tradition of “leaf peeping,” or visiting the northeastern states to see the leaves on the trees changing colors, has been around for decades and is an economic boon to the region; the picturesque vistas created by the season bring more than 2.5 million visitors to New England every fall, according to Boston Magazine. Our Boston-area trips, like “The Best of Boston Revealed,” make for excellent home bases to discover the fall foliage.
If seeing the seasons change in just one location seems limiting, donors can take in the views from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, as well. With stops in Boston, cities in Maine and the east coast of Canada, supporters can sit back and allow the captain to show the way to the most serene sights of fall. The “Voyage Through the Vast Waters of the Atlantic” trip package may be the way to cover the most ground from the epicenter of the season – and when the day is over and the leaves have been peeped, donors can retreat to a veranda stateroom, 24-hour room service and daily entertainment.
The eastern seaboard doesn’t have a monopoly on gorgeous fall weather and scenery, though. The Pacific Northwest can be a stunning region to visit in September and October, especially for donors who don’t mind a little (or a lot of) rain. Whether it’s a trip to Washington’s Snoqualmie Falls with our “Raise a Toast to the Pacific Northwest” package or walking around Vancouver’s Stanley Park (which, at more than 1,000 acres, is larger than New York’s Central Park) while on our “Sensational Seattle and Vivacious Vancouver” journey, there’ll be plenty of gorgeous sights. The sheer number of trees changing color may be smaller than in the northeast, thanks to the prominence of evergreens, but mixing in aspens and birches make for a rainbow of natural hues.
Introducing: Mitch-Stuart’s Raffle Packages
September 02, 2015
We’re excited to introduce a new way to incorporate Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s catalog of once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities into your non-profit’s fundraising plans. Now, along with adding excitement and the allure of a luxury vacation to your gala charity auctions, or selling multiple trips to the same destination via a “buy it now” option, we can also help you reach out to donors and supporters of all ages, income levels and even tastes with a raffle – using our travel packages as grand prizes!
With a raffle, non-profits can get a larger percentage of their bases to “buy in” to supporting a cause, whether it is in person at an event, by mail or online. Instead of trying to get big bids out of a subset of your donors, organizations can get everyone to participate.
So, why create a fundraising raffle?
It allows supporters who may be able to attend a gala, but not be fiscally able to bid on a silent or live auction item, a chance to participate and give what they can. It can be easy to get caught up in the big ticket, big bid items at a fundraiser, but 100 people giving $20 is the same as one person giving 2,000.
It can be done in conjunction with an event, or separate from one. Now, charity auction fundraising doesn’t have to happen once a year. Raffle tickets can be purchased by mail, online or in person, and it doesn’t need to involve catering and theme decorations.
It’s FUN! The anticipation, the chance to win, the dreaming of what one could do on a Caribbean cruise or a trip to the Super Bowl … a raffle can add excitement to any auction event and get the whole room involved. Raffles help maximize results by getting people engaged while donating to your cause. They can even involve large target audiences like family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, as gala attendees often buy tickets for those not in attendance.
Raffles can raise incredible amounts of money for your organization. You can easily raise $10,000 and, when tied to galas and events, you can exceed $25,000 and raise as much as $100,000 or more… all at no-risk!
It’s easy. Give us your price range, and we can give you a list of trips that would be hits with your crowd. You can raffle off one trip or give your winner a choice of three different adventures, which will attract a broader audience and sell more tickets.
There are as many variations of a charity raffle as there are travel opportunities in our catalog to choose as prizes. For more information on this exciting new opportunity, reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
Labor Day: The Underrated Travel Holiday
August 26, 2015
Everyone loves Memorial Day. The final Monday in May marks the unofficial beginning of summer, and is one of the busiest travel holidays of the year; AAA estimated that more than 37 million Americans would use the three-day weekend as a chance to get out of town, while the U.S. Travel Association estimated that those travelers would spend more than $12.3 billion on their trips.
But the unofficial end of summer rarely sees such numbers – and, accordingly, such hype. With families concentrated on getting school-ready and everyone else nursing sunburns, Labor Day is often used as a three-day breather before heading into the fall.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we specialize in sending your organization’s donors and supporters on once-in-a-lifetime trips with our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. That includes trips to celebrate Memorial Day, July 4th and even Thanksgiving or Christmas in far-flung locales. But we also love giving your donors the chance to win a summer send-off trip, a weekend away to gather thoughts and prepare for the upcoming seasonal shift. If you’d like to offer such an opportunity to your supporters, may we suggest…
Washington, DC? By the beginning of September, the worst of the summer humidity is over but the winter chill hasn’t set in yet. It’s a perfect time to walk around the monuments, catch a baseball game at the gorgeous Nationals Park or visit the Smithsonian museums. Even better, the DC area is home to several Labor Day events, including the free Labor Day Capitol Concert, which takes place on the lawn of the United States Capitol.
Napa or Sonoma Valley? Harvest season is in full swing by Labor Day, and the local wineries often have season-exclusive events that occur during prime picking time. Gatherings like the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend involve winemaker lunches, barbecues and the signature Taste of Sonoma event, with more than 200 wineries pouring thousands of wines. It’s a great weekend adventure for parents looking for one last 72 hours of sanity before the fall begins.
Colorado? Most people think of the Rocky Mountain State as a fantastic winter skiing destination, but those slopes also make for great hiking and mountain biking during the summer. Cities like Aspen and Telluride live the outdoor life year-round, but are much less crowded when there’s grass on the ground rather than snow. Without skiing to draw people to town, many of these cities also offer more cultural events; Jazz Aspen Snowmass, for instance, is a three-day musical wonderland, this year featuring acts like indie rock favorite Hozier, disco kings Chic and even the Count Basie Orchestra.
August 18, 2015
Most people love going on vacation, but that’s not to say there aren’t annoyances that pop up while on the road. Whether it’s long security lines at the airport, navigating a foreign city in a different language or trying to squeeze one more stop into an already-packed itinerary, travel has its share of inconveniences. One of the biggest of those challenges is waiting in long lines at popular tourist destinations around the globe, sweating or shivering on a sidewalk while trying to get into an exhibit, a restaurant or a monument.
The good news: No matter how popular a destination, Mitch-Stuart can help. Our fundraising auction travel packages take donors around the world, of course, but they can also help supporters skip the lines for unique, private experiences in some of our favorite cities.
While the types of resorts with which Mitch-Stuart deal with aren’t the sort to have thin walls or other inconveniences associated with over-crowding, travelers still find it nice to be staying on their own on occasion. In two of our favorite international destinations, that privacy is also given a luxurious upgrade. The “Under the Tuscan Sun” package comes with a seven-night stay in a stunning, five-bedroom private villa in a restored 16th century Italian manor, along with a private driver and even one evening with a private chef. In Southeast Asia, meanwhile, the “Bali’s Breathtaking Beauty” package includes seven nights at the Bali Double V Villa, with three bedrooms and a private pool.
Getting away from crowds isn’t just for retiring for the evening, either. Anyone who has ever stood in a long line at a tourist attraction knows that long wait times can cut into not just the enjoyment of the sight being seen, but also curb the number of sights that can be seen. In a city like Paris, it can be tough to escape the mobs of visitors … unless traveling on one of our trips to the City of Lights. We can send your supporters on private, evening tours of the Louvre, led by guides who can transform a simple walk around an exhibit into an engrossing history lesson, all while checking out the works of da Vinci, sculptures from Greece and Rome and even early Egyptian art. For those more interested in getting outside, a private nighttime tour of the city’s famous sights may be in order. It includes a cruise along the River Seine and a gourmet dinner, as well.
Along with long lines, the winery tours in California’s wine country can also involve some unfortunate encounters with those whom have overindulged. Cut them out of the picture with one of our private winery tours, available on several of our vino-based trips. Donors can ride in chauffeured luxury sedans between stops, and the entire itinerary can be based around their personal preferences. One of our favorite packages, “Indulge in the Ultimate Wine Country Excursion,” even includes a private lunch with some of the region’s vinters themselves, meaning that supporters can combine drinking and learning.
Want to help your donors avoid the crowds? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
Hook, Line and Sinker
August 12, 2015
“If people concentrated on the really important things in life,” journalist Doug Larson once said, “there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.”
For all that people do to try and slow down – yoga, meditation, even gardening – there’s little that can beat standing hip-deep in a river, trying to hook a salmon or other dinner-appropriate fish. Mitch-Stuart, Inc., offers plenty of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to help donors relax, but not all down time needs to come with a massage or facial. Sometimes, supporters want to kick back on a boat or wade into a river and let the reel fly. For those potential fishers, we can offer destination choices from Alaska to the Caribbean.
Fishing along the Alaskan coast does not have to involve a days-long hike through the wilderness to arrive at a watering hole. Instead, let a Royal Caribbean cruise ship drop your donors off nearby. Fishing is a seasonal add-on “excursion” for the “Alaska’s Majestic Frontier” trip, which takes travelers from Seattle up the Pacific coast, past the Tracy Arm and Fjord and the Hubbard Glacier and back to the lower 48 states. Of course, fellow guests can also choose from walking tours, salmon bakes and even tramway rides, as well.
For those who’d rather leave the sea living to the fish, Mitch-Stuart can also plan an entire vacation around a fishing expedition. “Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada” takes both experienced and novice anglers to one of the Fairmont resorts in either Alberta or British Columbia, Canada, for a freshwater fly fishing experience. Everything is included – the guide’s help, the boat, the gear, bait and even lunch. And if it gets a bit chilly out on the water, heading back to the five-star resort and soaking in a hot tub is a pretty good way to end the day.
Of course, fishing expeditions don’t have to be out in the cold wilderness, either. They can be, for example, beachside in the Caribbean, with our “All-Inclusive Fun Under the Sun – Island Style” package. Supporters can head to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for a four-hour salt-water fishing trip, aboard a 40-foot ship, trying to reel in mahi mahi, offshore tuna and more. For the aficionados, a full-day experience is available for an additional cost, as well. The best news: If the donor comes back empty-handed, the Lobster Grill at the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort can probably cook up a great bit of fish, too.
Choose Your Own Adventure
August 05, 2015
One donor loves the bright lights of New York City. Another loves the relative peace of Jackson Hole. One wants to take his son to Wrigley Field in Chicago. Another wants to see basketball played in the mecca of the sport, Madison Square Garden.
Get them all bidding on the same trip.
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we pride ourselves in being able to help charities and other organizations select the perfect non-profit auction travel packages to offer at gala events, the type of trip that really brings the “wow” factor. But sometimes, donors love the freedom to be able to pick their own destinations, to choose from several options. For organizations willing to let their supporters take control of their own vacations, here are three of the ways that we can help.
Want more information on how to maximize bidding by letting donors choose their own destinations? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
Sports fans are a fickle bunch. While they love their specific team, many of them won’t go too far out of their way to watch games featuring other squads. That can make picking a specific destination to attract donors who love a professional squad difficult: Your gala may feature fans of several, even dozens, different franchises in different cities. The good news: Our “Go to Any Game in 50 Markets” trip avoids having to make that decision. We can secure tickets to any game in any of the four major professional sports, so your Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers fans can all bid on the same travel package – and more competition means more money!
Those who wish to be pampered know that there’s no geographic bounds to luxury. That’s why donors looking for a high level of sophisticated service know to seek out resorts in the Fairmont Hotel family – Fairmont, Raffles and Hotels and Resorts and Swissotel. And that’s why your supporters can be guaranteed that pampered feeling with our “Legendary Luxury Around the World” package, which will send them to one of the aforementioned properties anywhere in the world. With destinations ranging from Seattle to Abu Dhabi, it’s hard to imagine a potential bidder who won’t find a dream vacation location for this trip.
Of course, there’s even a way to offer an auction item that opens up Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s entire catalog of more than 300 unique travel experiences: Let the donors choose with a gift certificate! Available in denominations of $500, gift certificates allow our organization the opportunity to make any once-in-a-lifetime travel dream come true for your donor, and it takes any of the guesswork out of picking the right auction option for your supporters.
What’s New at Mitch-Stuart
July 28, 2015
Each time the seasons change, we get ready for something new: New climate, new holidays, new activities, new dawns and dusks. At Mitch-Stuart, the new season also brings one of our favorite changes: New additions to our catalog of fundraising auction travel packages. We take a look at the best experiences from around the world, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that give your gala auctions that “wow” factor, and then find a way to offer them on a consignment basis to charities and other organizations the world over.
What’s new for the summer of 2015?
First, we’ve added even more options for those looking for unique, city-specific experiences in some of our favorite destinations in the United States. Experience a hop-on, hop-off trolley tour through American history in Boston (“Explore the Oldest City in America”), ride in a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park (“An Exceptional Excursion Through Central Park”) or visit the Alamo in San Antonio (“Remember the Alamo”). We’ve even got a new take on the wine vacation, moving south from Napa Valley to stunning Santa Barbara, with tours of four wineries in four days and three nights, all while setting up home base at an oceanside hotel.
One destination that has been growing in popularity has been Costa Rica, with its bio-diverse jungles and gorgeous beaches. Two new trips can take donors on either a zip line adventure and horseback ride in Guanacaste (“Embrace Costa Rica’s Pura Vida”) or stay in three different cities over the course of eight days, seeing the full spectrum of environments for which the nation is known (“Discover Costa Rica’s Paradise”).
The neon signs and over-the-top lifestyle have long been the stars of Las Vegas, but your donors can now meet some new ones, with a trip to Sin City to meet the stars of the reality television show “Pawn Stars.” Get a tour of their Vegas, along with a two-night stay at Paris Las Vegas (“Sin City’s Full of Paris, Poker and Pawn Stars”).
For those looking at that Euro-to-Dollar conversion rate and salivating, we’ve added three European destinations, each remarkable for their history, their culture and their luxury accommodations. Whether it’s six nights at the The Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I in Barcelona (“Ensconce Yourself in Spanish Exclusivity”), a stay at the historic Hotel Orfila in Madrid (“Fall in Love with the Beguiling Charms of Spain”) or a four-star experience right in the heart of Rome (“Discovering the Inspiring Italian Coast”), Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to the most fascinating cities while putting them up in the nicest resorts.
And finally, not even the dog days of summer can stop the golf lovers among your donors. We’ve added rounds of play at courses like Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Couse, Pasatiempo Golf Club and The Links at Spanish Bay to our already-impressive 18-hole inventory. We’ve even added a trip that is sure to get the attention of the sport’s biggest fans: Four days and three nights at The Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, with three rounds of golf – including one on Course No. 2, the host of the 2014 U.S. Open (“America’s First True Golf Resort”).
Thinking ahead: Trips by Season
July 22, 2015
There’s a point, usually sometime in February, when most of the United States is willing to spend any amount of money to get out of a cold, dark winter and spend a week warming up on the beach. There’s also a point, usually around August, when much of the country would give anything to sit in the snow at the top of a mountain.
When planning a fundraising gala, the calendar already plays a big role. But when thinking about which of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to offer, it’s also important to consider for when your supporters are planning. If it’s August, can they squeeze in a beach vacation before school? Or have they already set their sights on winter break? Picking a trip with luxurious accommodations and once-in-a-lifetime experiences is easy. Make sure you think about the season of your gala in order to pick a trip with maximum interest in that moment for the highest bids.
Fall: The leaves are turning, the heat is breaking and school is back in session. Your donors attending a fall gala are more likely to have just returned from a major vacation than at any other time of the year, and turning around and planning another seven-day excursion might seem like a lot. This might be a good time to schedule a winter or spring weekend getaway. Give your supporters a chance to do that with a three-day, two-night high roller experience in Las Vegas, featuring anything from show tickets to rounds of golf. It’s just the energy infusion one would want, and even springtime in Sin City avoids the triple-digit temperatures, to boot.
Winter: Last year, Boston got 110 inches of snow. The last of that record-breaking snowfall finally melted on July 14. Needless to say, much of the country will be looking forward to sun and sand by the time the depths of winter hit. But also remember that those same donors may be starting to lock in summer plans at this point. It could be the perfect time, for instance, to auction off one of our eight-day, seven-night sojourns to Bali. Our summer is their winter, technically, but with its location being so close to the equator, the island never really gets cold by our standards.
Spring: In some ways, choosing trips to auction off in the spring can be the most difficult of the season-based decisions. Fall is a busy time of year for many donors, after all, with school resuming and the work schedule ramping up for many professionals. But if there’s one national obsession that Americans always make time for, it tends to be football. With Mitch-Stuart’s “Go to Any Game in 50 Markets!” package allows donors to pick the NFL (or, if they prefer, baseball, basketball or hockey) game of their choice for a three-day, two-night sporting experience. And if your donor base is still basking in the glow of post-Super Bowl glory (we see you, Bostonians), the spring might be the time to allow one to book a chance to see the local side repeat, with the “Winner Takes All at the 2016 Super Bowl!” package.
Summer: Remember when you were a kid, and you complained to your parents that it was too hot? Did they tell you to think of something cold to cool off? Booking a winter vacation to Aspen for skiing would certainly qualify as both “cold” and “cool”! The “Aspen Winter Wonderland” package sets donors up with a home base in the mountain resort town for five days and four nights of skiing, spa pampering and dining. Serve an ice cream dessert at your gala, and your supporters will forget about the shirt-dampening humidity outside.
Our Travel Experts have answers for all seasons. If you’d like to offer one of these travel packages – or any of the excellent options in our catalog – reach out today!
Don’t Forget the “Where”
July 15, 2015
There are plenty of decisions to make when planning a non-profit fundraising event: What should the theme be? What should be on the menu? Which Mitch-Stuart fundraising auction travel packages should you offer to the highest bidder (AHEM)? But one of the most important decisions is actually one of the most underrated: Where should all of this go down?
Picking a venue at which to hold a charity gala can be a stressful experience, but going into the decision-making process with a clear set of guidelines can help focus your organization’s vision and make the pick an easy one. Here are some questions to ask before placing a deposit on that hotel grand ballroom:
Can my donors get there?
If your donor base lives in the suburbs, the most beautiful downtown ballroom might be a bad fit, especially if the event is taking place on a weeknight. If you’re throwing an event in New York or San Francisco, however, heading to the suburbs might eliminate supporters who live a car-free lifestyle. Getting to your event should be as easy as possible for the people looking to support your cause.
What facilities are available?
Don’t let the natural beauty of an open park space, for instance, make you overlook the lack of electricity or indoor plumbing. And that brilliant ballroom in the historic downtown district may not be up to code in terms of wheelchair accessibility – not to mention its lack of parking. Attending a charity gala should, in most cases, be much easier to do than attending a summer music festival on a farm or in the desert.
Is it “hot”?
The “wow factor” extends past auction items and celebrity appearances. Holding a gala at an architectural marvel, or a newly-opened facility, can let donors not only support a cause, but explore a new part of their city. Even smaller events can benefit from novel locations: A city’s newest restaurant may be looking for new diners, and your supporters may want to try out the latest in local dining.
Is it on theme?
If there are multiple facilities that check each of the boxes above, it might be time to move on to examining the atmosphere one is trying to create. That luau event might not feel right in an art deco masterpiece, and it is hard to hold an upscale “casino night” in a cavernous warehouse. Practical considerations should likely come first, but theme-based factors make for a great tiebreaker.
Can we stay here long term?
We’ve talked before about making gala planning earlier by repeating a party’s most popular elements. It can be a source of comfort for donors and a sign of stability for an organization to have a yearly event that happens in the same location. If your group is at that point where settling into an annual groove with your gala makes sense, locking down a multi-year contract with a venue can reduce your yearly cost and create a lasting connection in your community.
Have any other tips for gala planners? Talk to us! Tell us on our Facebook page and our Twitter account.
Spectacular “Home Courts”
July 08, 2015
London is synonymous with Big Ben. The first image of Paris that the mind conjures is the Eiffel Tower. There are some landmarks so well known that they’ve become iconic, indelibly tied to their location. But it’s not just major monuments and structures that have those kind of geographic connections. It can be food and drink (champagne equals France, bourbon equals Kentucky), or it can be celebrations (New Year’s Eve is all about Times Square in New York City).
London is synonymous with Big Ben. The first image of Paris that the mind conjures is the Eiffel Tower. There are some landmarks so well known that they’ve become iconic, indelibly tied to their location. But it’s not just major monuments and structures that have those kind of geographic connections. It can be food and drink (champagne equals France, bourbon equals Kentucky), or it can be celebrations (New Year’s Eve is all about Times Square in New York City).
Some of our favorite non-profit fundraising auction travel packages take donors to visit these destinations, so closely linked to their geographic homes. But we’ve also got ways to connect your supporters to the world’s great sporting events, contests that not only bring the best athletes to the field (or court, or course, or…) but also become intertwined with the local fabric in a special way.
Next week, the eyes of the international sports world moves from England to its neighbor, Scotland, for one of golf’s signature events. The British Open takes place at St. Andrews Links, sometimes referred to as the birthplace of the sport. While the Open Championship (as it’s formally called) is rotated between several courses in Scotland and England, it’s the Old Course at St. Andrews that is the most common host. While Mitch-Stuart doesn’t have specific spectator packages for the Open, we can go one step further: Our “Home of Golf” travel package allows donors to play the Torrance and Kittocks Courses at the Fairmont St. Andrews, two of the most spectacular courses in the country!
There are several yearly events in France that people associate with the country (the clay courts of Roland Garros have made the French Open an iconic tournament of tennis’ Grand Slam), but only one covers a tremendous amount of the nation’s land and ends with an iconic trip down the Champs-Elysees. The Tour de France is a summer sports favorite, an event that attracts eyes from around the world and introduces everyday fans to some of the planet’s top athletes, who otherwise train in obscurity. The best part: Watching the Tour riders pass by is free for general spectators (though VIP tickets are available for those who don’t want to line up and wait roadside), meaning that almost every trip Mitch-Stuart, Inc., offers to France can be a Tour de France trip with a little bit of planning and the willingness to arrive at the race course early.
Of course, in America we’re best known for one particular sporting event as well, even if it changes venues each year. The Super Bowl is a single-game experience like none other; for one afternoon, seemingly the entire nation stops to gather in living rooms, gorge on snacks and watch a lot of … commercials (with some football sprinkled in). It’s a true bucket list ticket for sports fans – and one to which we have access! Our “Winner Takes All at the 2016 Super Bowl!” package can send donors to the 2016 Super Bowl at the new Levi Stadium in Santa Clarita, CA, with two tickets for the game and a three-night hotel stay, along with transportation to and from both the airport and the Bowl itself.
Independence Day Around the World
July 01, 2015
This weekend, Americans of all backgrounds will get together, listen to patriotic music, barbecue any foodstuff within sight, and watch fireworks explode in the night sky, all to celebrate Independence Day. It’s a day, an event, for which people from around the world come to the United States to see.
But the United States is obviously not the only country that celebrates its independence, and the holiday activities in many other countries are not just fun, but perfect opportunities for visitors to get to know these destinations. If you’ve got donors who want to go on a Mitch-Stuart non-profit auction travel package trip, one of these celebrations could be the perfect excuse.
Started in the late 18th century to celebrate the start of the French Revolution, Bastille Day brings the people of France together each year for parades and fireworks. The largest military parade in all of Europe occurs on July 14 each year, along the Champs-Elysees in Paris, and fireworks often frame the Eiffel Tower. Any of our ten trips to France can take donors to a Bastille Day celebration, but the “Enjoy Paris’ Joie de Vivre” package is the one that can put supporters closest to the Tower or the Arc de Triomphe, with hotel options like the MonHotel and Le Marquis Eiffel.
In Italy, Republic Day is the yearly celebration of the vote in which the Italian people chose to transition to a republic rather than a monarchy after World War II. A major parade, watched over by the country’s president, goes by the Roman Forum and military bands play at the president’s residence. In addition, the Italian version of the “Blue Angels” fly in crazy patterns over Rome, leaving trails of red, green and blue (the colors of the Italian flag) smoke. Send a donor to Italy with our “Fall in Love with Italy” or “Roman History, Cuisine and Enotecas” packages, among others, and they can schedule their trip around the holiday.
If the quasi-militaristic nature of the European celebrations is off-putting to your donors, it might be time to consider a trip to the Caribbean (in fairness, though, isn’t it always time to consider a trip to the Caribbean?). One of our favorites is Independence Day in Barbados, not just for the beautiful blue-and-yellow lights that illuminate everything from government buildings to roundabouts, but also because it is celebrated yearly on November 30th, the perfect destination for those looking to avoid those late fall cold snaps. With our “Timeless Caribbean Elegance” package, donors can stay in the luxurious The Fairmont Royal Pavilion, check out the parade and the lights, and still find time to get to the beach.
Popular Destinations for Popular Auctions
June 23, 2015
With over twenty years in the non-profit auction travel business, and more than $1 billion raised for charities around the world, we’ve accumulated a good amount of knowledge about what donors and supporters like. Donors heading to Hawaii want to go to the beach. Donors heading to Colorado want to either go hiking (the summer) or skiing (the rest of the year).
But some of our destinations are so multi-faceted that they appeal to a wide range of bidders and so popular that demand has dictated giving them multiple itineraries. That’s why our catalog – with more than 300 travel packages available – offers multiple options for many of our favorite destinations. These popular locations attract all sorts of different bidders, making them great additions to any auction.
There’s an experience for everyone in New York City, which is why Mitch-Stuart offers 17 different trips to the Big Apple. Sports fans will enjoy the chance to take in the U.S. Open, one of tennis great tournaments, while foodies will love the “Nosh Your Way Through Three New York Delis” that includes gift cards to Katz’s, 2nd Ave. and Carnegie Delis. There’s “Shop ‘Til You Drop” and “Worldwide Passion for Fashion” for the fashionista bidder, and even a package with tours of the city’s historical landmarks, “New York’s History in the Making.” A fan of New York could attend your auctions for years and never see it all!
As a region, Southern California may be as diverse a block of land as can be found in America, from the San Diego Zoo to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Fittingly, Mitch-Stuart offers a diverse list of travel experiences in the Southland. Whether it’s golf in Carlsbad or Indian Wells, luxury on the beach in Laguna Niguel, or attending an award show like the People’s Choice Awards or ESPYs in Los Angeles, there are plenty of ways to play in the California sun.
American destinations are not the only ones with a wide range of available adventures, either. Mitch-Stuart has nine separate trips to Paris, to celebrate the city’s art, food and joie de vivre. Send your donors to some of Paris’ greatest museums with the “Paris as an Art History Destination – Magnifique!” package, or make a couple’s anniversary dream come true with “The City of Lights is Yours to Love” itinerary, which includes an evening “private illuminations tour.” Mitch-Stuart even offers two tour that split time between Paris and Rome, for the indecisive donor, based around either landmarks or food.
Need help picking a package for one of our most popular destinations? Talk your decision through with a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
Around the (Art) World: Our Favorite Museums
June 17, 2015
Even in an age where most important works of art can be seen with a quick Internet search, there’s something special about seeing paintings and sculptures in person. Standing in the same room as a canvas that once stood in front of Picasso, or standing under a ceiling on which Michelangelo created one of the world’s enduring wonders, is an almost-spiritual experience for fans of either art or history.
Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can create non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to beautiful beaches around the world, send donors to the great restaurants and events of our time, but there may be no more culturally important trips than those that take people to see our shared artistic history. Here are some of our favorite itineraries that feature stops at the world’s great museums:
Even Americans with an aversion to the French language know how to pronounce “Louvre” – or, more importantly, know what the museum means to the art world. Our “Paris as an Art History Destination – Magnifique!” package gets donors inside the 650,000-plus square foot museum to see everything from the Mona Lisa to tremendous collections of Greek, Roman and Islamic art. But to see just the Louvre on a trip to Paris is akin to seeing just the White House in Washington, D.C.: There’s so much more to explore! That’s why the Mitch-Stuart, Inc., charity auction travel package also includes tours of the Musee d’Orsay and the Centre George Pompidou; the former is a repository of impressionist art from masters like Monet and Renoir, while the latter has one of the largest modern art collections in Europe.
For fans of the Renaissance, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Italy is where to go. But where in Italy (or, the place surrounded by Italy, to be precise) may be unexpected: The museums of the Vatican are, combined, one of the most often-visited collections of art in the world. Works by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael are highlights, but what rightfully comes to mind for many is the Sistine Chapel, the ceiling of which was one of the greatest works of Michelangelo. With so much to see in one place, taking a tour (like the one that comes with our “Discover Rome’s Eternal Charm” package) is a must.
Your donors don’t have to cross an ocean to visit a great museum, of course. There are plenty of fantastic choices in American cities, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the brand-new The Broad in downtown Los Angeles, coming in September of 2015. But not even the biggest cities have a monopoly on great collections: Our “Santa Fe is the Perfect Getaway” trip includes admission to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (the world-famous painter passed away in the New Mexico city in 1986) for two. Exhibits draw from the 1,200-plus collection of pieces to showcase different aspects of O’Keeffe’s life and work, along with the work of fellow American modernists.
Destinations Near Destinations
June 09, 2015
The trips that make up Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s catalog of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take donors to some of the most glamorous, the most remote and the most beautiful destinations on the planet. Supporters can never run out of amazing vistas, exciting activities and first-class luxury options everywhere from Bali to Paris.
For some, though, one destination simply isn’t enough. Rather than sending one of these bidders to a remote location, why not pick one where, within a half-day or less drive, (s)he can be in a new place, with different activities and a wholly unique vibe? If your donors want to hit the road even after hitting the road, consider sending them to one of these great destinations.
Amazingly, a city known best for its neon lights and man-made volcanos and lakes is the perfect home base for an outdoors adventure in the Great American West. Las Vegas might be filled to the brim with entertainment and diversions, but it also is only a short drive from some of the most beautiful natural vistas available. Of course, the Hoover Dam is a short drive (or helicopter ride) to the south of the city, but also within a reasonable distance lies both the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.
History buffs love heading to Washington, D.C., with its museums and monuments. But the city also makes a great departure point for several different adventures. Travelers looking for even more history can make the short drive to the Revolutionary War battle sites in Virginia and Pennsylvania, hitting cities like Williamsburg, Va. And while D.C. doesn’t have any beaches of its own, coastal towns like Rehoboth Beach, Del. and Virginia Beach, Va. are popular summer getaways for both residents of the nation’s capital and for tourists who want to get some sun in between Smithsonian visits.
Travelers who want to drive to multiple tourist destinations on one trip, however, may love Florida most of all. Anyone who’s ever visited the Sunshine State can testify that Orlando, Miami and Key West each have different vibes, from the family-friendly fun of Disney World to the nightlife of South Beach. What fewer people consider, though, is that all of those different vacation profiles happen within short distances: According to Google Maps, it is only 238 miles from Epcot Center to Crobar, one of the hottest nightclubs in Miami. And Miami is within shouting distance of natural beauty as well, as tours of the Florida Everglades are just down the road.
June 03, 2015
To raise the most money during a gala auction, it helps to sell items that play on the event’s theme. It’s one reason why our trips to locations like Las Vegas are popular with organizations who throw “casino night” parties, or that sophisticated travel packages to places like Paris and London go well with black-tie affairs.
But an often-neglected way of pairing auction with event can be literally served up on a plate: Creating a menu for the evening that goes well with a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. non-profit auction travel package can be a fun way to highlight a night’s aesthetic while also making supporters hunger for a trip out of town. Some of our most popular trips include lots of exposure to local cuisine, and that means plenty of unique dishes to spice up your get-together.
One of the many traits New York City is famous for, of course, is its food. If you doubt that, ask any native New Yorker you know about where in the city to get the best slice of pizza or best bagel – but only do so if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill listening to the response. If a non-profit is offering one of our Big Apple trips – like perhaps the “Savor New York – Deliciously!” package, which includes a food tour through either the Lower East Side or NoLita? – a fun way of drawing attention may be to set up a faux-hot dog stand on the premises. While donors wander around and mingle, they can grab a dog as well. This works especially well at fancier parties, believe it or not, as there’s no better conversation starter than the shared danger of trying to eat a hot dog with ketchup and mustard while wearing formal clothing.
Want to go quirkier? Fans of the southwest will enjoy our “Sophisticated Southwest Style” trip, which takes donors on a four-day, three-night trip to Santa Fe, NM, to explore the culture of one of the region’s most artistically-forward cities. But Santa Fe is also a capital of southwestern cuisine, and to get the attention of your supporters, there is but one dish to serve: The Frito pie. The casserole-esque dish is said by some to have gotten its start in Santa Fe at a Woolworth’s lunch counter and even spawned a mini-controversy when chef and critic Anthony Bourdain insulted it during his CNN show. It works as a side dish or, maybe even better, as a passed hors-d'oeuvre; simply cut open a small bag of Fritos lengthwise and top with chili, cheese and anything else that would go on, say, a taco.
Tacos aren’t a part of the menu at most places in New Orleans, but if your organization would like to offer trips to the Crescent City there are plenty of culinary delights to pair with the travel package. Adventures like our “Discover New Orleans’ Celebrated Downtown” and “The Home of Jazz” both offer donors a chance to take a cooking class as the famed New Orleans School of Cooking, and it is almost a guarantee they’ll learn to whip up a beignet while in the city. The pastry makes for a perfect breakfast when in New Orleans, but load it up with powdered sugar and it can make an excellent dessert course. Don’t forget to add a strong cup of coffee and some live Dixieland jazz.
We don’t have a test kitchen, but we do have more suggestions – reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert to talk about offering one of these trips!
Go Big in the Summer
May 27, 2015
Whether it’s our muscle memory from scholastic days, the longer periods of light or the beautiful weather, summer is embedded in our minds as the season to travel. It feels almost like a biological response: The calendar hits June, and people are ready to hit the road, head to the airport or even get on a train and get away.
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together travel packages for all times of year, going to beaches in the summer and ski slopes in the winter. Some are short weekend-style getaways, while others are tied to a specific event. But during June, July and August, when travelers seem the most willing to free up extended periods of time, we find that they want to really escape, taking longer trips in terms of both time and distance away.
Want to send your donors on a summertime getaway that takes advantage of the season’s longer vacation windows? Here are a few ideas.
If your donors have the time to take a week-long vacation, many of our trips to Europe will allow them to explore the continent at their own pace. This can come by settling in to one city on a trip to a single destination, or through one of our multi-stop adventures. Voyages like “Hit the Road, Jacque!” or “Indulge in the City of Light and the Eternal City” use the longer time frame to take your donors to multiple landmarks across the European Union (like Paris and Rome, in those two examples), while still experiencing local culture along the way.
If a slower pace is more in demand for your supporters, think of a trip to Bali. It may take almost a full day to get there from the west coast of the United States, but the island’s gorgeous vistas and hospitality have made it a very popular vacation destination anyway. Four of Mitch-Stuart’s five trips to the Indonesian paradise are for a full seven nights (with one “shorter” getaway being for a six-night stay), meaning plenty of time to get there, settle in, cope with the 15-hour time difference from the Pacific time zone, then start enjoying scuba lessons, beach time and pampering luxury.
There may be no more interesting combination of luxury and wilderness, though, than the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in Kenya. Surrounded by the Mara River and on the edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve, the Club is remote; it can take more than a day to even get here from the United States, with connections in mainland Europe being almost standard. But the time it takes to get here will be worth it once your donors head on a game drive, bush walk or any other of a number of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And with the weeklong stay being a part of our “Explore Kenya's Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife” package, there’ll be plenty of time to shake the jet lag, too.
Summertime is Disney Time
May 19, 2015
There are some brand names that are so synonymous with an activity or product that the proper, trademarked noun replaces the common descriptor. We Xerox pages, rather than photocopy them. We use a Kleenex, rather than a tissue. We don’t search for something online – we Google it.
The word “Disney” is not quite to that level of usage saturation, but Mickey Mouse and company are nearly synonymous with quality family entertainment. A trip to either Disney World in Orlando or Disneyland in Southern California can be more than a vacation for a youngster – it becomes a goal, something to look forward to for months in advance (and something, accordingly, that parents can use as a great motivator to get young ones to do chores and behave).
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we offer non-profit auction travel packages to destinations around the world, with trips to far-flung corners of the world and once-in-a-lifetime events. But ask any pre-teen, and the stars of our catalog are the journeys to hang out with Goofy, Mickey, Minnie and company in sunny Florida or California.
Why Disney for your donors?
Want to send donors to Disneyland? Reach out to one of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s travel experts for more information!
Kids obviously love the attractions of the Disney parks, but parents should love them as well, as so much of the experience is designed for and based around the needs of families. There’s never a desperate rush to find a changing table in a Disney park, and no concerns about children being exposed to inappropriate material. Taking the family to a destination aimed at families means less time adapting a setting to a family-friendly zone and more time enjoying a vacation.
The Disney parks aren’t just teacup rides and princesses. There’s plenty for adults to do, as well. A restaurant like Victoria and Albert’s, with its chef’s table and massive wine list, is definitely a grownup affair, while the surrounding Orlando area has become a hot-spot for wine, as we mentioned on our Twitter feed. And Disneyland has a House of Blues concert venue and a ESPN Zone sports bar in its Downtown Disney area, both of which cater to adults (even if the latter features sports arcade games, as well).
Going to Disney World or Disneyland doesn’t just involve going to either of those parks. If your donor takes advantage of our “Happiest Place on Earth and More!” trip, (s)he will also spend a day at nearby Knott’s Berry Farm, while our three trips to Orlando and Disney World include options like excursions to SeaWorld or Universal Studios.
Vacations Under One Roof
May 13, 2015
Anyone who’s ever traveled with a close friend or family member and spent the trip arguing about when to wake up, when to hit the city and when to relax knows that there are as many types of travelers as there are destinations. For some, sleeping is for plane rides only: There are sights to see, activities in which to partake, and nightlife to enjoy. For others, though, the chance to go elsewhere is also the chance to relax, to kick off shoes and grab a drink by a pool, or enjoy a five-star meal and only have to waddle back to a hotel room.
For the latter, Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can help. While we love sending your non-profit fundraising auction winners to major events like the Kentucky Derby or the Tony’s, and we love sending donors to far-flung destinations like Bali for once-in-a-lifetime adventures, we also get that sometimes, vacation is just a chance to sit in one place for an extended period of time, maybe get a nice spa treatment, eat (and drink) well and sit by a pool.
For those travelers who get to a destination and don’t want to leave the hotel, we’ve got a great selection of charity auction travel packages:
Want a view of three different countries, all from one rooftop? The Fairmont Monte Carlo (home base for our “A Royal Retreat” and “Bask in the Glory of the French Riviera” trips) affords sights of France, Italy and Monaco, all without leaving the hotel. And once “sightseeing” is done for the day, it also has its own Nobu restaurant on premises, and the Willow Stream Spa offers treatments for pairs (with two couples experience suites) and singles alike.
Some hotels double as historical sites, meaning that staying there is like seeing a city’s past. The Savoy Hotel of London (“Stay at the Most Iconic London Hotel”) has more than 125 years of history, including being the home of performances by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Bette Midler. It’s also one of the original centers of cocktail culture; “The Savoy Cocktail Book” has been republished and updated multiple times since its 1930 debut. Today, the Savoy also is home to Savoy Grill, Gordon Ramsay’s ode to glamorous and opulent fine dining. On this side of the pond, the Plaza in New York (“Exquisite New York Dazzles Like Never Before” and “Perfect Moments at the Plaza”) covers food and drinks as well, with its stunning Champagne Bar overlooking the historic Grand Army Plaza and Pulitzer Fountain.
Of course, for travelers who like heading outdoors as long as they don’t have to travel too far to get there, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort (“All Inclusive Fun Under the Sun – Island Style!” and “Escape to the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Sun, Sand and Sea”) has its own cove on St. Thomas, with access to some of the most beautiful sand available to the Caribbean traveler – right there on property. And for when your donors get thirsty, Bolongo Bay also has Iggies, which has been voted “Caribbean’s Best Beach Bar” by a local publication multiple times. Dinner, drinks, sun and sand – who needs to explore?
Summers in Europe
May 06, 2015
We’ve written before in this space about the relative weakness of the Euro against the dollar, but it bears repeating: Your money has not gone further on the European continent than it does right now. Depending on the expenses, some voyages to countries like France, Spain or Italy will likely be hundreds of dollars cheaper this summer than last, just because of the fluctuation of the currency exchanges.
How can your donors take advantage? Glad you asked.
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. puts together once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for non-profit auctions, the types of items that bring the “wow” factor to any gala and send supporters to all corners of the globe for all sorts of memory-making activities. Right now, some of our most popular itineraries take advantage of the exchange rate and the upcoming summer season to send supporters to gorgeous European destinations, like…
France: Non-profits and charities can send their donors to several different parts of France with a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel package. Trips like “A Decadent and Delicious Parisian Experience” couple city exploration with cooking class and a champagne cruise, while art lovers can see the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and Centre George Pompidou with the “Paris as an Art History Destination – Magnifique!” package. Those looking for a coastal experience instead can head to Cannes for the world-famous film festival and some much-needed beach time.
Spain: Whether it’s a flamenco show in Barcelona or the gardens of Madrid, there’s plenty to see on a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. excursion to Spain. The country may be best explored through its cuisine, with tapas and wine tours in Barcelona. And with accommodations in Madrid near so many of the city’s famed landmarks – everything from Puerta del Sol to Teatro Espanol within walking distance! – donors can see it all at their own pace.
Italy: There may be no more popular European destination in our catalog, however, than Italy. Mitch-Stuart offers more than a dozen trips to the Mediterranean jewel, with activities like cooking classes, wine tasting, museum tours and more. The “Discover Rome’s Eternal Charm” package may be the highlight for those who enjoy interacting with history while on vacation, thanks to tours of the Sistine Chapel and the Roman Forum, while oenophiles will love the “Roman History, Cuisine and Enotecas” itinerary, which includes a private, secret wine bar tour. “Under the Tuscan Sun” is also a favorite: The trip includes seven nights in a five-bedroom villa, with one private villa feast prepared by an Italian Master Chef.
“Recycle” Your Gala
April 29, 2015
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we like making non-profit fundraising auctions easier. Whether it’s offering great charity auction travel packages to organizations on a consignment basis or setting up a group with our partners to help with everything from running the auction to collecting bids, we want to help make event planners’ lives simpler.
One of the best ways to make the year-over-year process of pulling off fantastic non-profit fundraising events less stressful is to avoid reinventing the wheel. Each year, there are several major decisions that an organization has to make in terms of promotion, of theme and even of location. But why go through all the effort to do that each year, when you can make the same decision work for years to come? Here are three ways in which a recycled idea can make the yearly work of planning that gala a little easier.
A Visual Brand:
Yes, you can certainly use your organization’s logo on promotional materials for your gala event. But developing – and then reusing – a special image for posters and flyers about the fundraiser not only pops off of advertising, it also lets donors and supporters know that something special is about to occur. It separates this one event, this one moment, from all the other marketing collateral you might send over the course of a year.
Go All-In on a Theme:
Developing a “brand” for your event can save a lot of effort each year. If your home city knows that, each spring, you’ll be throwing a beach party by a local pool, or that ugly sweater parties around Christmas are your thing, then crowds will be on the lookout for the yearly invite. And don’t worry about being repetitive: There are countless variations on a theme that can differentiate this year’s event from prior editions. For example, if you’re throwing a “casino night,” gambling in Las Vegas is very different from the gaming of, say, the French Riviera. Both, however, will utilize the same basic equipment (roulette wheels, poker tables, etc.) and fall under the umbrella of what you’ve established your event “brand” to be.
Lock Up the Location:
In some cases, the venue for a charity event is as iconic as any theme and as dazzling as any auction item. If your non-profit has found a home for its gala fundraiser in a historic, grand or just special location, there’s no need to shop around every year. Make your event into THE event at the historic opera house, mansion or even park picnic area. Giving predictability to a gala’s location can help brand your fundraiser in the public’s mind, and make people from the outside want to find out about that “great night out” that happens in that gorgeous venue each year.
More Vendors, Less Work
April 22, 2015
There are seemingly a thousand moving parts when it comes to a non-profit fundraising event
, from catering to theme selection, from invitations to decorating and from entertainment to auction set-up. Getting a gala off the ground and ready to entertain guests can be a tremendous amount of work.
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. certainly knows how to help provide your charity event with no-risk auction travel packages that can add the “wow” factor to any gala. But did you know that our network of partners can help make the burden of planning and pulling off a fundraiser easier in several other ways as well? One call to us can get the ball rolling on…
Filling out the auction list:
Obviously, we can send your donors on once-in-a-lifetime adventures from Boston to Bali, and to events like the Super Bowl or the Tony Awards. But our partners at Grandstand Sports and Memorabilia® can add more lots to your auction, with everything from sports gear to platinum record plaques and rare film items, signed and presented with certificates of authenticity.
Getting the biggest bids:
Yes, you can get a volunteer to act as auctioneer over the course of an evening. Yes, they can get to live out their dream of saying things like, “I see $500, I see $500, can I see six?” as quickly as possible. But if you do, you will be leaving money on the table. A good auctioneer is like a good emcee or host: You may be able to do without one, but you’ll notice their absence. For more, check out our blog post with reasons to hire a professional auctioneer
Organizing the auction:
So you’ve got a list of items, you’ve got people who want to bid on those items and you’ve got someone to sell them. Who’s going to be in charge of collecting payments and distributing the items? Don’t make a volunteer sit in the back of the room with a credit card reader attached to an iPad, swiping cards and handing out envelopes with certificates. Leave that to a company like GiveSmart™, which along with mobile bidding (another item to incorporate into your auction with little effort!), also offers “check out” services. Allow winners to pay without standing in a long line at the end of the evening, and know immediately who has paid and who hasn’t.
Want more great tips on how to get help planning and running your gala auction? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. expert today!
Supporting Without Attending
April 16, 2015
We at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. love a fancy party. We love the gala atmosphere, the food, the camaraderie and, of course, the bid-inducing non-profit fundraising travel packages available for auction. And we especially love the results of fancy parties for our customers: Fundraising success, translating into money going toward worthy causes.
But we also recognize that not everyone feels the way we do about galas and other events. Whether it’s scheduling, geography or just a really good night of television, some supporters won’t be able to make it to your charity fundraising night. The good news: It’s still possible, thanks to technology, to keep those donors engage and involved in your big night. Here are some examples:
Yes, we love it when two people in the same room bid each other up (over and over again!) over a special trip or other auction item. But the more people who have the ability to bid, the more bidders will actually put money on the line. Companies like Mitch-Stuart partner GiveSmart®
allow your auction to be open not just to those at the gala, but to those all over the world.
Is the head of your organization giving a “state of the charity” speech? Have you scheduled an amazing, inspirational keynote speaker? Make sure to get a good quality recording of the address – even if it’s a one-camera shot from a table on the gala floor. With a quick upload to YouTube, you have another reason to send an email to your donors and supporters, and one more reason for your supporters to be thinking about you.
Participate Without Participating:
For donors who can’t be there live, there are ways of allowing them to support you in advance. Whether it’s the chance to save a “virtual seat” (have a table set up in the back with name placards for donors who couldn’t attend), the opportunity to put their name on something (a special cocktail, perhaps?) or even letting them buy mementos from the night, there are plenty of ways for a traveling donor to still be an active donor.
Just make sure to send the absent supporters lots of photos.
Spring Into a New Trip!
April 07, 2015
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we’re proud of the catalog of non-profit auction travel packages
that we’ve put together over the years. Whether it’s a deli tour of New York, a trip to the Masters or even a stay at a castle, we’ve got something for every donor’s desire.
Still, every few months we get the chance to try and one-up ourselves, to create great new options for charity organizations to add to fundraising auctions and give supporters those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. What’s new for the spring at Mitch-Stuart?
These trips, along with scores more, can be found in the spring version of the Mitch-Stuart, Inc. catalog. Reach out to one of our Travel Experts for more information and to find out how to add that “wow factor” to your fundraising auction!
Three new trips take advantage of the dollar’s current strength against the Euro by taking donors across the pond: Look for great food and flamenco dancing in Barcelona, wine and treats in Tuscany, and luxury in London.
Lots of “normal” trips involve tour boats. Very few, like our travel package to San Francisco, involve a hands-on sailing experience aboard an America’s Cup yacht. For those who have fantasized about taking to the open seas – or just want a good excuse to wear a captain’s hat – this is the chance.
If you think your donor base could use chances to de-stress, we’ve got both domestic and international opportunities to do so. Send supporters on a wine tour through Napa Valley by horse and carriage (much less stressful than driving!) and keep them in the States, or fly them overseas to Bali, an in-demand destination, and let them find bliss on the sand of Sanur Beach or in a truly indulgent villa (set up for ten guests!) with a private chef and barman.
New ways to see two of our favorite U.S. destinations: Send friends of your organization to Miami Beach and put them up at the Art Deco boutique Courtyard Cadillac Miami Beach/Oceanfront Hotel, or put them in the middle of it all at the Grand Hyatt in Times Square, with passes to see everything via the popular Gray Line bus tour.
And two more opportunities to run screaming from this winter’s chill, with adventure in Nassau and an all-inclusive stay in Jamaica. Whether it’s drinks in Montego Bay or a spa day at Baha Mar, shoveling snow will be the furthest worry from your donor’s mind while warming up in the Caribbean.
Trip of the Month: St. Thomas
April 01, 2015
Mitch-Stuart, Inc., is the industry leader in non-profit auction travel packages, with a world’s worth of options from which to choose – from Boston to Bali, from Las Vegas to London and from Palm Springs to Paris. With such a massive catalog, choosing a trip to offer to your donors at your gala fundraising auction can seem overwhelming, so each month we’re going to highlight a top-selling adventure available through Mitch-Stuart, including its accommodations, its draws and ways that we can even sweeten the deal.
All-Inclusive Fun Under the Sun – Island Style!
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
After a tough winter across much of the country, anything with a beach view is going to get the attention of a prospective bidder/donor. And there are few places that scream “beach view” quite like the Caribbean.
The all-inclusive resort Bolongo Bay Beach Resort caters to almost every whim of its guests. A regular fixture on “best beachfront hotels” lists, Bolongo Bay offers gratis meals and drinks – yes, unlimited cocktails – to those staying on the property. This means everything from eggs and OJ in the morning to lobster and wine in the evening is pre-paid. There are no pockets for your wallet in those swimming trunks anyway.
Lounging on the beach all day while sipping colorful frozen drinks is one way to do a trip to the Caribbean. But another is to get active – and this package includes an introductory SCUBA lesson in the Bolongo Bay pool, along with a half-day snorkeling trip for an up-close-and-personal encounter with the local turtle population.
St. Thomas is known to be the most cosmopolitan of the Virgin Islands, and there’s as much to do here as any other part of the Caribbean. The Mahogany Run Golf Course features a three-hole run called the “Devil’s Triangle,” which awards a certificate to any player who can simply get through them without taking a penalty stroke. After 18 holes, it might be time to get a massage; there are day spas all over the island for relaxation. And though the resort dining is spectacular, those looking to head off into the island for different fare can look up Old Stone Farmhouse, where diners meet with the chef before the meal to prepare their own, personal menu.
Want to find out more about this trip? Want to get the rundown on the rest of our catalog of once-in-a-lifetime travel packages to offer your donors? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart Travel Expert today.
Guest Post: Don’t Get Dumped by Your Donors
March 24, 2015
(We’re happy to turn over our blog to Christie King of cKing Benefit Auctions and the Benefit Auction Institute this week. It can take a lot of effort to attract a new supporter, but just a little more work can turn a one-time donation into a long-term relationship. Read on to find out more.)
Many donors only give once. This may be a shocking statement, but it’s true. One thing almost all nonprofit organizations have in common is the issue of how to keep donors engaged and giving year after year. Here are a few suggestions to help with donor retention.
After each event, print the list of donors who attended, then pick up the phone and call them
. Do not go this alone. Divide the list among your board members and have them assist in making these calls… I already know what you’re thinking – “We’re going to get our board members to do this?” Yes! As leaders of your organization it is critical that they make these calls. And their part is easy, rewarding and fun. All they need to do is thank your donors for their support. If the donor does not answer the phone, they can simply leave a message of thanks. Ideally these phone calls should take place within 24 hours of your event, but no longer than 48 hours afterward.
This simple gesture conveys to your donors that they are appreciated and that they matter. This is critical because nonprofits are often competing for the same dollars, causing donors to become more strategic in their giving.
Keeping donors engaged and informed is also important in donor retention. I suggest you reach out to them via a special email every quarter
sharing progress of various activities their money has supported. This tells your donors that you respect their investment enough to share its impact over time. And, of course, time builds trust—critical to building long-term donors.
Develop a Donor Retention Plan and follow it. Don’t leave this very important step to chance.
Thanks for the tips, Christie! To find out more about cKing Benefit Auctions, find it on the web at ckingbenefits.com. For the Institute, head to benefitauctioninstitute.com.
Get Warm, Get Active!
March 18, 2015
We’re big fans of the outdoors at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., and you can see that in our non-profit auction fundraising travel packages. We send donors to Jackson Hole, to Aspen and even to Quebec for winter adventures.
But when the sun comes out, some people default to lounge chairs, tall drinks and beachside reading. Don’t get us wrong, we love heading to the shore for a day of relaxation, and we certainly love our beachside resorts and bars. There are some activities, though, in which it makes a lot more sense to engage during the warmer months. If your donors are looking for a warm-weather retreat, maybe it’s time to look into one of these activity-based consignment travel packages.
There’s a reason that NASCAR takes the winter off: Driving at triple-digit speeds through snow is not an appealing thought. But it’s not just the professionals that get back in the driver’s seat after a few months off for holidays and cold temperatures. Winners of our “It’s Just You and the Speedway” package can get in a real life racecar and take it for a spin with the Mario Andretti Racing Experience. In a three-hour experience, the driver gets a meeting with a crew chief, two-way radio communication with a spotter for tips while out on the track, and personal racing instruction from the experienced Andretti crew. Available in four different states (Arizona, Illinois, New Hampshire or North Carolina), the Experience is also convenient for the donor who may not know where (s)he wants to go, or would rather stay closer to home.
For those who really want to get away, though, there’s the Great White North. While there may be a form of “romance” to roughing it while ice fishing in the wilds of Canada, the slightly-warmer climes of the spring make wading out into a river a lot more comfortable. Making the process even nicer: Unwinding at a Fairmont resort afterward. With our “Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada” package, your donors could find themselves at one of four different Canadian resorts, spending time with a guide during a private freshwater fly fishing experience (and yes, the bait and gear are included) and trying to catch that night’s dinner. Don’t worry about a donor going hungry, though: Each of the Fairmonts have fantastic dining options, too, if your charity’s supporter wasn’t able to reel in the night’s entrée.
With the skies clearing a little, now might also be the time to get in the cockpit. Yes, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors into the sky with a “Top Gun” package, available to any one of twenty-five different cities. Your donors will fly on a “fighter pilot mission experience,” practicing formation flying and basic maneuvers before engaging in a few dogfights. Multiple cameras in the cockpit will capture the experience for posterity and give friends a chance to be jealous (or maybe a good laugh!) back on land.
March 11, 2015
For many, the first thought of Independence Day involves fireworks over the National Monument in Washington, D.C. When Thanksgiving comes up, invariably so does the tradition of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, live from New York City. New Year’s Eve? It’s hard to separate the day from the ball dropping in Times Square, isn’t it?
One can celebrate a holiday anywhere, of course, but there are some places that have become ingrained in the culture as the “home base” for a certain day of the year. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors to some of the world’s most interesting destinations with our non-profit auction travel packages, but one trait that some don’t realize is that there are few to no “blackout dates” on these trips. So, if you’ve got a donor itching to go to the Big Apple for Thanksgiving, we can make that happen.
Here are a few other places that we can send your donors who want to celebrate specific holidays:
When thoughts turn to St. Patrick’s Day
, many immediately think of two east coast cities where many of the Irish who came to America settled: Boston and New York. But only one major metropolis go so far as to dye a natural resource green. Yes, Chicago may be better known for pierogies and deep dish pizza than shamrocks, but Irish-Americans are the city’s largest ethnic group. The city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the country’s grandest, and the dying of the Chicago River has to be seen to be believed: Thousands line up and watch a boat dispense the green-colored dye into the river each year.
Unlike St. Patrick’s Day, Labor Day
doesn’t lend itself to massive celebrations on its own. The commemorating of the labor movement in America is important, sure, but it’s often conflated with its place on the calendar and the changing season; Labor Day is much more about the end of summer than overtime laws. For that reason, thousands flock to Las Vegas every year to get that last bit of consequence-free Vitamin D before hunkering down for a long winter. From massive pool parties to decadent (and celebrity chef-filled) restaurant scene, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the excess of summer’s freedom in Sin City.
Other holidays have become synonymous with the cities that recognize them the loudest. Patriots’ Day
is the third Monday in April, and was set aside to celebrate the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Technically, it’s recognized in Maine and Wisconsin, but it tends to be known around the country as a holiday specifically for Boston, where it’s a day off from school and work, along with a chance to relax (hopefully) in the spring sun. For Beantown, it’s a big sports day, too: The Boston Marathon is run in the morning, and the Boston Red Sox have had a home game at Fenway Park on nearly every Patriots’ Day since 1959.
Destination Spotlight: Costa Rica
March 03, 2015
When one thinks about vacations south of the border, Mexico is often the first destination that pops to mind. For others, a cruise around the Caribbean may be in order. But the travel experts, those whose passports are running out of room for new entry stamps, know that Costa Rica, even with its upswing in “ecotourism” over the past couple of decades, is the hidden jewel of the equatorial Americas.
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has non-profit fundraising travel packages ready for destinations all over the world. But while cities like London and Paris attract a lot of attention, Costa Rica is sometime overlooked. This is great for the knowledgeable traveler: It means fewer tourists and more space to explore all the country has to offer! In fact, Costa Rica has something for every type of vacationer.
For the beach-comber: With coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the nation has almost 300 beaches, with more than a handful sure to suit the personality of any sun worshipper. The Papapgayo Gulf is a favorite for those visiting the resorts of Guanacaste, while the isolation of Uvita makes it a perfect place to hide out from the world. The youth and culture surrounding Montezuma make it the equivalent of a Southern California coastal community, and it’s impossible to take a photo of the white sands of Nosara that is less than postcard worthy. With such a diversity of experiences, one could spend a whole week in swim gear.
For the jungle explorer: Around 25 percent of the land in Costa Rica is in either a national park or other protected area, but the best to explore might be Corcovado National Park. Once called the “most biologically intense place on Earth” by National Geographic, Corcovado contains endangered species like the Baird’s tapir, a sort of pig-hippopotamus hybrid, and the Central American squirrel monkey. The stars of the show, though, are the two- and three-toed sloths. Other smaller parks and rainforests are scattered throughout the country, and tour operators take visitors sightseeing using everything from cars to zip lines.
For the luxury lounger: While the outdoors are attention-grabbing, there’s plenty of beauty to be found indoors as well. The view of the ocean from the room balconies at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa is tremendous, and the on-site spa includes saunas, pools and even palapas, or thatched-roof huts, to mix clean air with a massage. In San Jose, the Cala Luna Boutique Hotel and Villas features a poolside dining experience unrivaled, with local flavors and farm-to-table foods. Visiting the city is no excuse to skip finer living, either: The Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose is a converted Victorian mansion, with a secluded rooftop Jacuzzi terrace that has to be experienced to be believed.
Beach, jungle and luxury – Costa Rica has it all! Let your donors bid on a once-in-a-lifetime trip at your next gala auction. Contact a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. Travel Expert today to get started!
Top of the Lux
February 24, 2015
There are lots of little touches that make a vacation a relaxing experience. Someone else makes the bed in the hotel. At most places, it’s impossible to cook, which means there’s no dishes to do. But one of the best for many is the ability to forget about bills and finances for a few days. Whether it’s that extra drink at happy hour or the bottle of wonderful wine, it’s easier to indulge miles away from home.
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love sending your donors on all sorts of adventures with our non-profit auction travel packages. Some of our favorite ones are those loaded with the sort of indulgences, those luxurious extras on trips to destinations both common and once-in-a-lifetime, which make long-lasting memories and add the elusive “wow” factor to an auction lot list. Whether it’s four-figure gift certificates to glamorous jewelers or the poshest accommodations, some of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s biggest selling itineraries are all about living the high life.
The Plaza in New York City has defined luxury in the Big Apple for more than a century. A favorite of Hollywood filmmakers looking to capture Manhattan extravagance in a single shot (films from “Barefoot in the Park” to “American Hustle” have featured the hotel), The Plaza is a favorite for everything from afternoon tea to late-night drinks in the Champagne Bar. It also features 24-hour butler service and some of the city’s best concierges. Our “Exquisite New York Dazzles Like Never Before” package, however, doesn’t stop at Central Park South, though; we also include a $1,000 gift certificate to Tiffany and Co., the centuries-old jeweler and tastemaker. Donors who win this package can both relax and shop in style, picking up memories for a lifetime and maybe even an heirloom set to last even longer.
What The Plaza represents to Americans, The Savoy is to the British. Its guest rooms feature panoramic views of the River Thames and underwent a 220 million pound renovation that was completed in 2010. The “Stay at the Most Iconic London Hotel – The Savoy” package highlights the property’s extensive list of charms – the close location to all London has to offer, the afternoon tea overlooking the Thames, the white-glove services and top-notch butler and concierge staffs. It also includes a $500 gift card to visit the hotel’s restaurant, Gordon Ramsey’s Savoy Grill, which features all of the genius of the titular chef’s creations with none of the berating that comes from his television appearances.
Of course, there are few more luxurious places on the planet than the French Riviera. The southern French coast has been a resort escape for Europeans since the 1700s, and now attracts celebrities from around the world (musicians like Elton John and Bono have flocked there, along with movie stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). But travelers don’t have to buy a second (or third…or fourth) home along the coast to enjoy the region’s spoils; our “Bask in the Glory of the French Riviera” package includes a suite at the Fairmont Monte Carlo and a $1,000 gift card for sightseeing tours but make sure to get in some relaxation at the Fairmont’s Willow Stream Spa and grab a meal at Nobu Fairmont Monte Carlo, the Riviera outpost of famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s global cuisine empire.
Guest Post: On Consignment
February 18, 2015
(From Mitch-Stuart, Inc.: Word is spreading about the advantages of auctioning consignment items at charity galas! Our friends at Scott Robertson Auctioneers recently wrote a blog post on the topic, and we love their enthusiasm for getting the best possible travel packages for non-profit fundraising auctions into the hands of bidders. That post appears below, with their permission.)
Seemingly every day I receive a message from a client asking “How do we secure great items for our fundraising auction?” Does this question sound familiar to you and your committee? You are not alone in this quest to find high profit items that will excite your guests and get them to bid.
Experience has taught me that in order to have a successful fundraising auction you need the following four components in place.
The right people in the seats. These guests must believe in your cause, have the financial resources to support the cause, and the desire to help.
Great items for the attendees to purchase. Everyone is strategic in their bidding and will not bid on items they don’t intend to use. Pre-event promotion is always a good idea so attendees arrive ready to bid on items that excite them.
A great ambassador like a fundraising auctioneer. He or she will be the glue that holds the other components together and motivates the audience.
A cause that people can easily support. Those donating their money at a fundraising event want to make sure their donation will make an impact on the lives of others.
If you have three of the four components in place then great, you’re almost there. But the component I’ve seen left out most often is #2 – great items. If the right people are there, the right auctioneer is there and the cause is right, but the items are wrong, a charity will leave so much money on the table because they weren’t strategic in their item procurement.
I hear from many charities throughout the year. They tell me they would love to have better live auction items but don’t have the resources. I totally understand. In fact, getting the right items for a live auction is more challenging than ever for some.
One possible solution for these charities may be – and I stress may be – consignment companies, great businesses that are totally focused on putting together trips and experiences that make unique and wonderful top-shelf items.
These companies purchase items at volume wholesale prices, mark them up a little, and then provide the item or package to not-for-profit organizations at no initial cost. The charity only pays for the item after it is auctioned and sold at the charity’s gala. Rest assured a good fundraising auctioneer never sells an item below the cost of the package.
Another advantage of using consignment is that the packages can be sold multiple to times to several bidders, a donated item typically can only be sold once.
When the auction is over the charity contacts the consignment company, informs them which item was purchased, provides them with the funds and then gives them the contact information of the person who won the item.
The consignment company will act as the concierge and contact the bidder directly and work with them all the way until the bidder utilizes the trip. Typically quality consignment companies can be flexible, if needed, to modify the trip to meet the needs of the buyer (it’s important the consignment company acts as the concierge so the buyer receives the personal service they deserve and the charity can focus on other matters).
Another great point about these companies is that they often under promise and over deliver and that will make the winning bidder feel even better about the item they purchased. That’s pretty rare in today’s world.
I do have one caution. There are a lot of consignment companies out there. Do not go with one you just found on the Internet – or the cheapest. You need to use a company that has an outstanding reputation and a great track record for delivering what it promises.
I hope this helps those charities looking for unique items and experiences their guests will truly love to bid on. Sure, there is a cost involved. But even with the cost big dividends await.
(We want to thank our friends at Scott Robertson Auctioneers
for the great summary of why non-profits should work with consignment sellers to help give their auctions that “wow” factor. If you’re ready to send a donor on an once-in-a-lifetime adventure, reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today!)
Scott Robertson Auctioneers
Travel for Two
February 11, 2015
Travel is inherently romantic. It pushed people out of their comfort zones and into new experiences, often requiring assistance from others (directions on the subway, translation of a menu in another language). It makes people vulnerable, a state which can help forge stronger, closer connections. It’s also been a trope in books and films for as long as there’s been fiction; movies like “Lost in Translation” and “Before Sunrise” are based around the idea of finding love in the midst of a trip.
But the act of going somewhere is not, all on its own, “romantic.” Mitch-Stuart, Inc. sends donors around the world with its charity auction travel packages, and a big part of the appeal is the destination itself. But it is often the experiences during these once-in-a-lifetime trips that make the most lasting memories. If you want to set up your donors with an adventure for sweethearts, look to these travel packages for inspiration.
There are plenty of romantic adventures available in Hawaii, of course, but the grandest gesture may be taking your relationship back to the day you said “I do.” Our “Hawaii is a Lovers’ Paradise” package sends a pair of donors to Oahu for either the wedding of a lifetime or a renewal of vows ceremony, beachside at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort. Choose from one of three different island beaches, and we’ll do the rest – provide an ecumenical minister, take care of any and all fees, and even give the ceremony that extra island flair with a pair of leis. There’s even a gift certificate to be used on champagne and fruit back at the hotel.
The vineyards and restaurants of Sonoma have their own romantic pull, as well. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers seven different trips through that part of Northern California’s wine country, and all of them have one amenity in common: A stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa. It’s the spa part that should be of special interest to lovebirds; the Willow Stream Spa is ranked in the top 25 of Travel + Leisure’s spa list, and includes mineral baths and a huge list of treatments. There are four different couples experiences on offer, including massages and other body treatments.
Even trips to a city known for romance, like New York, requires some advance planning. Thankfully, staying at The Plaza can make those plans easier. Between its room package ideas like the “Bubbles and Baubles” getaway (which includes jewelry, champagne and chocolates) to its Valentine’s weekend restaurant menus with names like “Champagne and Canapes,” The Plaza has made itself a major destination for once-in-a-lifetime romance. And with some of the top concierges in New York in its employ, The Plaza can help round out a sweetheart getaway with tough-to-procure tickets or reservations nearly anywhere in the city.
Want to send your donors on a romantic getaway? Want to add touches of Cupid to another package? Get in touch with a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today!
Destination Spotlight: Augusta
February 04, 2015
There are a lot of signs of spring beyond longer and warmer days. For some, it’s the first day of baseball season. For others, it’s the return of music festivals, or maybe the first barbecue invite. But one of our favorite rites of the season is The Masters, one of golf’s oldest and most prestigious tournaments. Each year, the planet’s best golfers descend upon Augusta, Georgia for four days that could make or break a professional player’s career.
But while the biggest action may take place at the Augusta National Golf Club, the city and surrounding area has attractions for both golf aficionados and everyday travelers alike. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we pride ourselves on creating once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for non-profit fundraising auctions, so our trips to Augusta features day badges to either one or two days of The Masters. But those hours on the golf course aren’t the only reasons to head to the city.
Thanks in part to Augusta’s age, there are plenty of fascinating architectural elements to explore. The Lamar Building, in the city’s Downtown Historic District, was built a century ago, but its rooftop glass enclosure was designed in the 1970s by famed architect I.M. Pei (he designed the pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris). The entire district, in fact, is on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks in part to its diversity of building styles; everything from Art Deco pieces to Craftsman homes can be found by discerning eyes.
That type of range can also be seen in local cuisine, where southern comfort food can be found steps away from white-cloth, upscale restaurants. High-end eateries like Le Maison are in major demand during The Masters; reservations are often made months in advance and credit cards are used to hold spots. But down-home diners like Ruth’s Family Restaurant have an appeal all their own, as well, with locals gossiping over biscuits and gravy during the breakfast rush.
But one of the best-kept secrets about the Augusta area is its natural beauty. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors (and maybe work up the appetite for those biscuits and gravy!) at local parks and other sights. Take a stroll along the Augusta Riverwalk, for instance, and stop and smell the flowers at its various gardens, along the Savannah River. Or rent a bike (or, for the more adventurous, a canoe) and explore the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. Keep an eye on the boat tour schedule, too; the canal’s Music Cruises are popular ways to both experience the scenery and local culture, with bluegrass and beauty in equal measure.
The 2015 Masters start April 9 – and we’ve still got time to help you send a donor there! Contact a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today.
Silver Screen Travel
January 28, 2015
This is the time of year when even those only minimally interested in movies have one eye on the silver screen. The major award shows seem to come every weekend, and the multiplexes feature many of the previous year’s best releases. Of course, when minds turn to cinema, they often also turn to Los Angeles or New York, the great centers of American film. But making movies is no longer just the province of the two largest cities in the country – and that means that your donors can make a cinema-themed adventure out of a trip to several different locations.
The Mitch-Stuart, Inc. catalog of non-profit auction travel packages includes trips all around the world, for all sorts of occasions. Some of our favorite destinations can make a film lover’s dream come true, all while experiencing a luxurious vacation and benefiting your charity.
A major reason for a film to shoot outside of Los Angeles or New York is when its setting is so iconic that it can’t be faked. Since even a major movie studio likely doesn’t have the space to reproduce the National Mall, Washington D.C. sees more than its fair share of productions. While the actual halls of power – the Oval Office, the Supreme Court chamber, the House of Representatives and the Senate – are reproduced on sound stages far away, other city-specific locations like the Kennedy Center (seen in “State of Play” and “All the President’s Men”), the Lincoln Memorial (“Wedding Crashers,” “Election” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” among others) and the National Mall (“Three Days of the Condor,” “Dave” and “National Treasure”) have all made for important backdrops. The city has loaned more than just federal monuments to the silver screen, too: Local culinary favorite Ben’s Chili Bowl shows up in “The Pelican Brief” and “State of Play,” along with many television shows.
Chicago may be best known for its lively theater scene (especially improvisational comedy factories like Second City and iO), but it’s also been the setting for some of cinema’s most beloved stories. In particular, director/writer John Hughes set most of his films in and around the Windy City, and many of the locations seen on the screen can be seen in person, as well. Ferris Bueller and his co-conspirators take in the Art Institute of Chicago and Wrigley Field during his “day off,” Northbrook Mall showed up in “Weird Science,” though many of the stores have changed, and churches like Glencoe Union and Trinity United Methodist hosted scenes from “Sixteen Candles” and “Home Alone,” respectively. Private tours from companies like Viator take tourists around the city on a regular basis, either for general film tours or for movie-specific experiences (“The Blues Brothers” is a popular one).
Not every city with a thriving film industry is a major metropolis, though. For a mix of movie magic and a small-town feel, head to Asheville, North Carolina. Films like “Forrest Gump,” “The Hunger Games” and “Dirty Dancing” made use of the city for locations. One setting in particular has become a favorite for Hollywood scouts: The Biltmore Estate has shown up in the aforementioned “Gump,” the film version of “Hannibal” and more than a dozen other recognizable titles. The best news: Visitors can see the estate, tour its vineyards, have a meal at its Dining Room (featuring estate-raised beef and lamb) or even get married on the grounds.
The Newest of the New
January 20, 2015
Part of making sure that we’re offering your organization the best charity auction travel packages is updating our roster of once-in-a-lifetime trips. Each quarter, we put together new ideas, new adventures and new luxury experiences for non-profits to use as fundraising items
at gala auction events
. What’s new in the Mitch-Stuart catalog? Let look at some of the latest and greatest options.
Fittingly, our winter update features several new options for your donors who love the rush of skiing. Send them to Colorado with our “Aspen’s Winter Wonderland” package: A four-night/five-day stay at Little Nell Resort and Spa with gift certificates for the spa and dining. Little Nell sits at the base of Aspen Mountain resort, one of the top ski destinations in the country. Just down the road in Crested Butte, our “Crested Butte Promises a Superb Alpine Adventure” package puts the donor at the base of the town’s ski resort, and gives them access to a VIP members lounge and even a bonus “adventure,” like snowmobiling, hiking tours or even horseback riding.
If your donors like runways more than ski runs, the starring edition to our catalog comes from the Big Apple. “Get Caught Up in Couture” sends your donor to New York City for a three-day, two-night jaunt during one of the city’s two 2015 New York Fashion Weeks. Along with the de facto exhibitions happening on the sidewalks of Manhattan each day, donors/winning bidders will also get two premier tickets to a Lincoln Center fashion show, where exhibitors like Prada and Marc Jacobs show off their collections for the next season. Your donors can be on the cutting edge of the fashion industry, all while supporting your cause.
Of course, some of our favorite trips every year involve wine, and we’ve added some great vino-related adventures, both domestic and abroad. Our “Raise a Toast to the Pacific Northwest Coast” package focuses on the vineyards of the region, with tours of Chateau St. Michelle and a second boutique winery to be named. For those looking for an international, big-ticket experience, there’s the “Indulge in the Italian Culture and Countryside” and “Wine, Dine and View Art So Fine” packages, both of which involve Florence, Italy-based adventures and tastings in some of the country’s great wine cellars. Each package offers additional fun as well – a tiramisu tasting, a visit to the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, or the sights of the Snoqualmie Falls and a tour of Boehm’s Swiss Chocolate Factory.
Want to hear about the latest and greatest once-in-a-lifetime adventures available from Mitch-Stuart, Inc.? Call or email a representative today!
January 14, 2015
The sporting world turns its eyes toward the Super Bowl every winter, as the months-long NFL season reaches its apex. For this yearâ€™s edition, the league returns to warmer weather (the 2014 game was held in New Jersey): Glendale, Arizona, home of University of Phoenix Stadium and the Arizona Cardinals. But whether itâ€™s the rare cold-weather host like in 2014 or the southwestern flavor of the Grand Canyon State, itâ€™s a sure bet every year that the championship game will be played in a great travel destination.
With our catalog of consignment, charity auction travel packages, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to any one of a number of the Super Bowlâ€™s former host cities. Whether itâ€™s an area thatâ€™s hosted a big number of big games, or just a football-mad metropolis that can turn high school contests into major events, these destinations are perfect for the pigskin fanatics in your donor community.
Miami has hosted the Super Bowl ten times over the years, with games split between the Orange Bowl and Sun Life Stadium. The former was the home of the University of Miami before its demolition, while the latter holds the Miami Dolphins. But the game is only part of the spectacle in the jewel of South Florida. For one thing, the Super Bowlâ€™s early February placement on the calendar means that all of the tourists flock to the beaches with the kind of intensity only match by children escaping school for spring break. Local sports watering holes tend to show respect to local football favorites; Bokamperâ€™s (named after linebacker/defensive end Kim Bokamper) and Bruâ€™s Room (named after linebacker Bob Brudzinski) are perennials on any â€śbest sports barâ€ť list.
The Big Easy has hosted the Super Bowl on numerous occasions, and itâ€™s obvious why â€“ there may be no city in America that can become one non-stop party quite like New Orleans. The Saints run this town in terms of rooting interest, but fans of all allegiances can feel at home in the French Quarter. Sports bars like local favorite Cooter Brownâ€™s combine sport and cuisine as well as anywhere in the country; Brownâ€™s features boiled crawfish and raw oysters along with poâ€™ boys and other, more traditional bar dishes. And of course, if itâ€™s not football season, Mardi Gras and New Orleans Jazz Fest are pretty good excuses to end up in the Crescent City, as well.
But for the bidder that wants to feel like he or she is in football country, heading to Dallas might be the best option. The area has only hosted one Super Bowl to date â€“ 2011â€™s showdown between Green Bay and Pittsburgh â€“ but the sport is an integral part of the cityâ€™s life, at all levels. Friday nights are as often about high school football as they are about any other entertainment, while it seems like the entire city is in silver and blue on Sundays to cheer on the Cowboys. For the true fanatic, take a day trip south to Waco for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, which is heavy on pigskin-centric exhibits.
Want to send your donors on a Super adventure? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert for more information.
Destination Spotlight: Hilton Head
January 06, 2015
Certain destinations are synonymous with their biggest attractions. It’s nearly impossible to think about Orlando without conjuring images of Disney World. A visit to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower is unimaginable. And when one thinks about Hilton Head Island, the resort community in South Carolina, golf is the first word to spring to mind. In the past, we’ve written about the amazing opportunities for golfers at Hilton Head
. The town has one of the highest concentrations of course available in the world, with difficulty ranging from professional-level to links appropriate for amateur hackers.
But Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s charity auction travel packages to Hilton Head are about more than just putters and drivers. The city has plenty for the non-golfer, whether it’s natural beauty, culture or fine dining. Whether it’s waiting for a family member to finish up a round, or looking for a refueling stop after 18 holes, Hilton Head Island has a lot to offer.
For instance, not all sand in Hilton Head belongs to a formidable golf course hazard. Coligny Beach is a lovely oceanside walk, with public access and nearby shopping and dining, while the Mitchellville Freedom Park features hiking and a look at the interesting history of Hilton Head Island. There’s a beach for every type of vacationer on the island, and they each can make for a great post-golf relaxation spot, an easy way to forget about that hooked drive or terrible three-putt.
In addition, Hilton Head has a lively arts scene, especially for a city of less than 40,000 residents (according to the last Census report). Touring Broadway musicals come to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina; shows like “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash” and “Gypsy” are on their way to the ACC in the first half of 2015. The Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra is also highly rated, and features Maestro John Morris Russell, a Conductor Designate of the world-renowned Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. For a less-formal cultural experience, the annual Hilton Head Island Arts Festival and Craft Marketplace allows visitors to both see beautiful works and take home a memento of the trip.
After a day on the golf course, frolicking on the beach or checking out the local art scene, travelers can have their pick of the island’s restaurants, spanning the world of cuisine. An eatery like A Lowcounty Backyard Restaurant replicates family cookouts convincingly, while Alexander’s Seafood is a white tablecloth experience with a wine list in the triple digits and a surf-and-turf-inspired menu. And throughout the year, Hilton Head plays host to a tremendous number of food festivals, like the Seafood Festival (held March 1-7 this year), the Wine and Food Festival (March 9 through 14) and the Beer, Bacon and Music Festival in May.
Ready to send a lucky auction winner to Hilton Head? Reach out to one of our representatives today!