OR
Toll Free: 1-800-574-9991

BeCause

Mitch-Stuart Blog

Any questions?
Call our experts today.
1-800-574-9991
 

RSS FEED
Click here to access our RSS feed

ARCHIVES
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012

TAG CLOUD
2013 2014 afp airports appreciation association of fundraising professionals auction auction fundraisers auction help auction ideas auction items auction planning auction travel packages award shows baby boomers blog canada case study charities charity auction charity auction fundraiser charity auction fundraisers charity auction ideas charity auction items charity auctions charity fundraising ideas cinema client referrals consignment cruise customer service destination spotlight destinations direct marketing disney donations donor recognition donors employee incentives employee motivation europe event planning event tips events exotic destinations facebook family vacations flickr food france fundraiser fundraiser auction ideas fundraiser auction packages fundraiser ideas fundraiser packages fundraiser venues fundraisers fundraising fundraising auctions fundraising events fundraising ideas fundraising packages fundraising professionals fundraising raffles fundraising tips fundraising trips galas getaways giving great fundraising opportunities holiday holidays incentive travel incentive travel packages incentive travel program increase auction bidding journal marketing mitch-stuart movies new orleans non profit auction non-profit non-profit fundraising ideas non-profit organization nonprofit times npt oscars paris philanthropy raffles repeat business social media sports packages success story successful auctions summer vacations tags: auction ideas technology things to do things to eat tips tours travel travel experience travel incentives travel packages travel tips travel trends twitter vacation vacation packages veteran's day volunteers youtube

What’s Hot for 2017?

December 28, 2016
We love every trip in our catalog of more than 300 non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, but each year we get asked the same question: What’s hot? What’s motivating donors right now? What’s drawing the biggest bids?

There are, of course, evergreen answers to that question. Trips with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities attached – Super Bowl or award show tickets, for example – will always be popular. Certain destinations, like New York or Napa Valley, will likewise always draw eyeballs.

But as we get our tuxes and dresses ready for New Year’s Eve, we wanted to take a look at some other ideas for 2017. Based on trend-spotters across the travel industry, here are some of the areas to consider if you want to ride the wave of a current surge in interest to a bigger fundraising haul.

Return of the Snow-Seeker:
People “pinning” snowbound travel adventures on Pinterest have increased by more than 300 percent, according to the site’s “Pinterest 100” trend report for 2017. Destinations like Vancouver, Colorado and Jackson Hole may see an uptick in interest for those looking to get a blast of winter cool while snowshoeing or skiing.

Bali is Big: One of Booking.com’s picks for trendy locales in 2017, Bali is seen by many as a great choice for a relaxing “sanctustay,” coupling sightseeing with spa visits and wellness activities like yoga. Giving donors the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the Pacific may prove to be even more popular in the coming year.

Go National: The National Park System celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016, and the increased attention to jewels like Yosemite and Yellowstone seems to have whetted the appetite of travelers. Parks and park-related activities have been seen an increase in “pinning” on Pinterest of 66 percent, again according to “Pinterest 100.”

Baby Boomers Looking at International Travel: According to AARP, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United Kingdom are the three leading destinations for Boomers looking to use their passports. And while 51 percent of those surveyed are looking to stay in the U.S. (Florida and California being the two leading domestic vacation spots), 43 percent are planning to take at least one trip beyond our borders.

Cajun Hospitality: According to the trend-spotters at JWT Intelligence, New Orleans looks to be a major player in 2017 tourism. With cultural events like Jazz Fest and the Essence Festival growing larger each year and conferences like the tech-centric Collision moving to the city, there may not be a better time to offer your supporters a chance to see the Crescent City.


To leave a comment, please click here.

On the Road, In Search of Unique Gifts

December 21, 2016
The pressure is on; with only days until both Hanukkah and Christmas, the malls are loaded with frantic shoppers, and online stores are keeping delivery services busy all the way up to the holidays. But the internet’s reach has meant that it can be difficult to find that one-of-a-kind present, the one that could only come from you and be given to a special someone. Every person everywhere has access to the world’s great stores.

At Mitch-Stuart, we believe that our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages make great gifts, of course. But for those looking to check off an even longer list of present recipients, we love the idea of travelling to a different locale in search of unique items, the ones not sold in department stores or on websites. Thankfully, even in this age of megamarts, there are still cities with great local markets, the types of places where artisans, antique dealers and craftspeople get together and sell their wares. And it’s at these exchanges that some of the most interesting gifts can be found.

If your donors are fortunate to find themselves in Provence, France on a Saturday morning, thanks to winning one of our non-profit fundraising travel packages, tell them to get up early. The market scene in the region gets going around 8 a.m., and it’s both a shopping and social destination. Vendors of all sorts can be found under awnings or in stalls in seemingly any village in the region, selling clothing, art, antiques and food to locals and tourists alike. Bring cash to the markets – and maybe extra luggage on the trip to get everything home.

With options around the corner from nearly every Tube stop, London has managed to maintain its market culture     through the years. Markets like Spitalfields can trace their history back centuries    , and many are in areas of general interest as well; a trip to Piccadilly Market, with its antiques and collectibles, can be folded into a day at the nearby Circus or an evening at a West End theater. Some of the markets are marvels themselves, like Covent Garden and its neo-classical architecture. To wander London’s bazaars and talk with the sellers is to live like a local, even if it’s just in between tourist stops.

Not all great bazaars are a trans-Atlantic flight away. Santa Fe’s open-air markets are so plentiful that Travel and Leisure once wrote that the city “feels more like it belongs in Europe or Latin America.” Whether it’s the once-yearly International Folk Art Market, the nearly-year-round Santa Fe Artists Market or the Railyard Artisan Market, open every Sunday, there’s plenty of chances to browse the works of local artisans. Everything from paintings to leatherworks, sculpture to hot sauces can be purchased here and brought home to give to an appreciative recipient.


To leave a comment, please click here.

Let Your Donors Surprise You!

December 14, 2016
If asking for donations is tough, asking for big donations can be terrifying. But if you’re not asking for more money, you won’t get it.

One of the most common worries we hear from auction planners is that they’re not sure that their donors can afford one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. But as our Senior Vice President Michael Upp and auctioneer Kathy Kingston recently detailed on their “Mythbusters” teleseminar, that line of thinking may leave your organization with a smaller haul from a gala event.

It may be true, for instance, that some of your donors will not be able to afford a big-ticket auction item. Whether it’s a younger supporter or one who gives more to your organization by volunteering, not everyone will have the same resources at their disposal. But to focus on your average donor when planning an auction can severely limit the amount of money you raise. After all, it doesn’t take a room full of bidders to win a trip – just a couple of them with generous, open wallets. If only one person will win the item in question, then focusing on the biggest donors makes sense.

In addition, spending is not always done with the logical side of the brain. There’s a cliché in the sales world, “people buy on emotion and justify with logic,” and that may be even truer when it comes to giving to a cause for which they are passionate. According to Harvard Business School’s Gerald Zaltman, an astounding 95 percent of purchase decisions are made unconsciously. So even if your donors may not think that they’re looking to spend a lot of money at your gala, they may *feel* like it’s a good idea – and that can be a big motivator.

Finally, to worry about your donors not having the money to bid on big-ticket items is to worry about something unknowable. It could be, for instance, that a supporter who rarely gives more than a few dollars at a time has been saving up for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Or maybe a bidder just got a big raise at work and is looking to use it on a major vacation. In order for your donors to surprise you with their generosity, you have to give them the opportunity.

According to a 2012 fundraising study, 44 percent of donors say they could have afforded a bigger contribution to their favorite causes. By offering more expensive auction items, you give those supporters a chance to help more.


To leave a comment, please click here.

The Whys of Holiday Travel

December 07, 2016
AAA estimated that nearly 100 million Americans traveled during the holiday season in 2015, the largest number since the non-profit started keeping track of the number in 2001, and it’s hard to see that number receding any time soon. And while there are likely as many reasons for making those December trips as there are people on the road, there are certain general categories into which we can place most of these adventures.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can be used at all times of the year for any number of purposes, of course. However, if your organization is planning a late-fall or early-winter event, it might be the right time to consider why your donors are hitting the road – and how you can help them have a holiday season they’ll always remember.

Forty-three percent of all long-distance travel during the holiday season involves people trying to meet up with family members, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics. But if your donors are already going to be traveling a long distance, maybe they’d prefer to hold the reunion someplace a little more exciting? Let your supporters tell the rest of their family that holiday dinner will be held this year in an Italian villa, or that the traditional touch football game will be held at the base of a ski run in breathtaking Telluride, Colorado. Taking the family for a memory-making excursion can be a strong motivator for your donors.

For families with kids, the holiday season can carry an extra level of stress; not only can gift-buying be a hassle, but also the children are around all day thanks to winter vacation. But that school-year intermission also gives families an opportunity: Unlike eight other months of the year, when kids can only travel so far from their hometowns thanks to classes on Monday morning, a two-week break is a chance to take a once-in-a-lifetime retreat to a far-away land. Our travel packages to the Palace Resorts of Mexico, for instance, make for great family getaways (and they’re all-inclusive, to boot!), and no one has to feel rushed by cramming a long trip into a short weekend.

Of course, not everyone holds the holiday season in high regard. For some, the end of the year is a schmaltzy mess of bad television specials, packed mall parking lots and early store closures. If that sounds like some of your donors, there’s still a holiday trip for them … Las Vegas! The holiday season in Sin City looks a lot like every other season in the Nevada desert: Neon lights, shows, and some of the best new dining options in the country. Your winning supporter will be surrounded by like-minded travelers, escaping from the sometimes overwhelming holiday atmosphere in a city that never sleeps.
To leave a comment, please click here.

The Gift of Travel

November 30, 2016
Making a list, checking it twice: For many, the most stressful aspect of the holiday season is gift-giving. Just finding the right gift for each recipient is hard enough; throw in negotiating mall parking lots and waiting for deliveries, and there’s a lot to add to the season’s already-full plate.

We like to help non-profits make their fundraising auctions easy, by offering travel packages on a consignment basis to take some of the guesswork out of galas. But while we’re helping you plan your fundraiser, you can help your supporters by giving them the chance to cross off one name from their shopping lists. Our travel packages make great gifts, and you can make shopping easy on your donors in one of these ways.

There are few presents for which the gift-giver does not know the cost. There aren’t auctions in department store aisles, after all. But your donors can know exactly how much that special travel package will cost if your organization offers them at a “buy-it-now” price. Setting one price for a trip allows your supporters to make their own shopping list for your gala event, while also allowing you to sell more than one package. It adds an element of certainty, allowing your buyers to make sure that they’re not busting their holiday item on one gift.

When some of your donors wake up on Christmas morning, there may be a lottery ticket or two stuffed into a stocking, hanging on the mantle. A tradition in some families, the fun of receiving a “scratcher” for the holiday is the anticipation, the possibility, even the daydreaming of winning the big prize. If your supporters are used to adding a little gambling to their holiday season, why not set up a raffle? Instead of waking up with an infinitesimal chance at winning a big prize, your donors can wake to a much better chance of heading out on a once-in-a-lifetime trip – a chance that has directly helped your non-profit.

Finally, if you want to attract the gift-giving supporter to your fundraising auction, think about auctioning off a travel package that includes a special event. Whether it’s a pair of tickets to the Super Bowl for your sports fans or a night at a star-studded awards show for the celebrity-obsessed, “traveling with a ticket” makes for a great gift, appealing both to a personal interest and the desire to travel. Best of all, several of these “tickets,” like the awards shows, aren’t available to the general public, guaranteeing that your auction-winning supporter’s gift will get the biggest reaction.


To leave a comment, please click here.

Comfort Food for the Traveler

November 22, 2016

As the temperature drops, what we eat and drink changes. Lemonade is swapped out for hot chocolate. Apple juice becomes apple cider (and, in some cases, apple cider spiked with rum or bourbon). And those summer salads and watermelon become the rib-sticking, carb-heavy cuisine known to many as “comfort food.”

There may be no true dictionary-style definition of this genre of dish; just like Mitch-Stuart’s fundraising auction travel packages, comfort food comes in many varieties. And during this season of big meals and tryptophan comas, selling a trip by appealing to donors’ stomachs may not be a bad idea. Here are a few of our favorite destinations from our catalog for filling, comforting cuisine.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Lone Star State, the home of chili con carne and the league leader in brisket, excels at comfort food. But while Austin and San Antonio get the lion’s share of plaudits for their cuisines, Dallas has its own food culture, with richer dishes playing a major role. Rudy’s Chicken, with a line of cars around the block, is a local institution thanks to its fried chicken, while hungry diners have filled Norma’s Café for sixty years to try its chicken-fried steak. Ask any local, and you’ll get a long list of eateries serving up heavy meals.

Of course, if the idea of “comfort food” has a spiritual home in this country, it would have to be in the Southeast. One of our favorite destinations in the region is Savannah, with its southern charm, cobblestone streets and historic squares. From the Boursin Chicken of 17Hundred90 Inn & Restaurant to the hole-in-the-wall charm of Walls’ BBQ, this is a city with a comforting, filling meal around every corner. Bonus: The food walking tour included in our Savannah travel package will allow your donors to walk off the calories, too!

There are a few staples of the comfort food world – chili, fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, lots of other fried things – and then there’s the Cajun cuisine of New Orleans. We posit, however, that those two things don’t need to be considered separately. Cajun gumbo will keep the hungriest diner full and warm, while beignets round out any starch-friendly meal. Restaurants like Mr. B’s Bistro (with its Gumbo Ya Ya) and Commander’s Palace (with its famous, rich Turtle Soup) may not serve up chicken-fried anything, but there’s still plenty here to satisfy that comfort food craving.




To leave a comment, please click here.

Raffles on the Road

November 16, 2016
We love galas. The pomp, the fancy menus, the gorgeous, decked-out venues, all of it – including, of course, the fun and excitement of a fundraising auction. But we also recognize that it is a ton of work to throw one; when your organization is responsible for everything from set-up to tear-down, it can stretch the resources of even a larger non-profit.

The good news: If you’re looking for a fundraising opportunity without throwing a gala event, or your in-person fundraiser is still months away, we can help.

Mitch-Stuart puts together non-profit fundraising travel packages for events big and small, and ever since we added raffles to our repertoire of tools, you don’t even need your own soiree in order to send a donor on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Need a way to raise money beyond the gala auction?

Join the Arts: If your non-profit is an arts organization, like a theater or ballet company, it’s a no brainer to offer raffle tickets in the lobby and even add a purchase form to your program. If your charity isn’t? Pair with one, and offer to split the proceeds! You’ll both raise money and gain an ally in future efforts.

A Partner’s Party: Is your non-profit close with a local business – maybe an area law firm, advertising agency or other corporation? See if you can set up a table at their holiday party or summer barbeque! It gives the company a fun attraction for their celebration, and it gives your charity access to potential new donors and a fundraiser that doesn’t need extensive planning.

Nowhere: For that matter, who needs a venue at all? Offer your donors a chance to win a trip to any of our Destinations of Excellence® from anywhere. Raffle tickets can be purchased over the phone, by email or even online, and since your audience isn’t limited by geography or venue, this type of fundraiser can bring in big bucks.


To leave a comment, please click here.

Staycations: Pro or Con?

November 09, 2016
In an ideal world, we’d all have time. We’d be able to take a leisurely vacation that sends us to a remote part of the world, zipping through flight security, angelic family in tow. The clock on our trip wouldn’t start until we arrived, of course, and we’d get the full amount of pleasure out of our destination without jet lag. And then, refreshed, we’d come back home with a new outlook on life.

This, sadly, is not that world. We’re big proponents of once-in-a-lifetime travel, yes, but we also understand that a multi-flight trip to a land with fewer creature comforts may not fit into everyone’s plans.

And we’re not alone: The “staycation” became a part of the travel lexicon a few years back, when families were looking to take vacations without some of the hassles and costs of major travel. Now, only 35 percent of Americans were planning on traveling more than 50 miles from their homes in 2016, according to AAA.

If you’re organization is based in one of our Destinations of Excellence® locations, could you benefit from offering a “staycation” at one of our partner luxury resorts and hotels? Let’s look at the benefits and the drawbacks.

PROS

Less Travel Means Less Stress: A family with small children may not be interested in anything involving a long flight. An elderly donor may not be able to physically manage a plane ride. A couple may enjoy a quick romantic getaway. And no one, even someone with a passport full of stamps, likes dealing with the airport. Giving your supporters a chance for a luxurious, relaxing experience in their own hometown means getting to avoid long security lines and packing for every possible whim of a fussy toddler.

Get to the Good Stuff: It can feel sometimes like a weeklong vacation is really only five days, with the first and final being lost to planes, trains and automobiles. But if the travel only involves driving across town, those “travel days” end up being “days by the pool,” “days on the beach” or “days on the wine tour.”

Know Your Home: In some of our larger destinations, it can be hard for residents to really know everything. New York is different on seemingly every other block, for instance, and Dorothy Parker supposedly once called Los Angeles “72 suburbs in search of a city.” People return from our travel package destinations with new favorite restaurants, music or activities; when your supporters haven’t left town, they can keep going back to and indulging in those new discoveries – after all, those finds are just a short car ride away.

The Fanciest “Spare Bedroom”: If your donors have family that comes into town over the holidays, then you can help them with their seasonal preparations. Your supporters can give that “staycation” to their kin. It’s a win-win: The travelers get to bask in luxury, while the hosts (your supporters) don’t have to clean out the guestroom.

CONS

The “WOW” Factor: Your auctioneer will have to put some extra elbow grease into convincing your donors of the unique nature of staying in their own town. This is easy to do if the trip package includes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (getting a Los Angelino to bid on a package featuring tickets to the ESPYs or the American Music Awards, for instance), but could be more difficult with a simple hotel stay.

Smaller Bids: With no transportation needed as a part of the package, many of these trips could start from a lower first-bid price, which could translate to a lower winning bid. Again, this is where a professional auctioneer is important; he or she is likely a master in setting a mood and vibe in the room conducive to big money pledges.

Raffle Resistance: To get a donor to buy a raffle ticket is to ask them to gamble, essentially, and if the prize isn’t seen as exceptional, it may be a more difficult ask. The risk-and-reward balance may be different for a staycation than a more traditional, eye-widening choice.

Staycations for Fundraising Auctions: What do you think? Let us know on our Facebook page or on Twitter @MitchStuartInc.


To leave a comment, please click here.

Mitch-Stuart Endorses…

November 02, 2016
What feels like the longest election season in history is finally (mercifully?) almost over. Less than a week from now, voters will go to the polls to choose the president, senators, representatives and ballot propositions. During the run-up to any vote, newspapers and other media organizations put forward their choices of the candidates, dating at least back to the New York Times throwing its weight behind, a tall, skinny guy from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.

At Mitch-Stuart, we’re in the business of fundraising and travel, not politics. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to get in on the fun of backing some of our favorite aspects of travelling. Note that this is not an all-inclusive list, of course; to list all of the great qualities of travel would take us through the next presidential race.

So, for 2016, Mitch-Stuart endorses…

Wine Tastings: We heartily endorse wine tastings for several reasons, but the best one may actually come after your donors return from their trip. For the rest of their life, when they see a certain varietal at the store or on a menu, they’ll recall that magical time they had in Napa, or France, or Italy – and they’ll remember the organization that sent them, too. (As a bonus: We also wholly endorse Designated Drivers, which is why many of our wine tours also include private drivers.)

Wallet-Free Vacations:
Whether it’s a cruise to Alaska or relaxation on a Caribbean beach, all-inclusive vacations allow your supporters to enjoy time without worrying about trading currency or calling credit card companies to confirm purchases. There’s a variety of choices for these kinds of trips, from basics included to anything goes, and we endorse all of them.

Award Shows: Want to really “wow” your gala attendees? Offer them access they can’t get from a travel agent. The American Music Awards, the ESPYs, the People’s Choice Awards … by giving your donors a chance to rub shoulders with their favorite athletes or stars, you’re giving them a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that will always get our endorsement.

Getting Outside: No matter the time of year, breaking out of the office and hitting the great outdoors is en vogue. That’s why we endorse fly fishing in Canada with every bit as much gusto as skiing in Colorado or horseback riding in Costa Rica. Some prefer the cold, some prefer the heat, but everybody prefers the sun to those fluorescent lights in the office.

Travel: This will not come as a shock, of course. We believe in travel both as a fundraising tool for non-profit organizations and as an important part of life, as a chance to expand ones horizons, and as an opportunity to take time away from work and relax. We believe that the stats are true: People who travel are healthier, more productive and happier. And we believe that by pairing travel with your organization, you can make positive connections that will last a donor’s lifetime.

Voting:
It’s game day for democracy. So, get out there and vote on November 8.


To leave a comment, please click here.

You Must Be This Tall to Scare

October 26, 2016
The Halloween season has returned, bringing with it ghouls, ghosts and zombies. Houses in the neighborhood are decorated, pumpkins are carved and faces are painted. But the holiday is not often considered a chance for travel; kids usually have school activities tied to Halloween and anyone older might not remember the magic of the day fondly enough to set aside time for a road trip.

However, Halloween is one of our favorite holidays at Americas theme parks. With an entire cast of characters in the spirit of the day, and plenty of resources available to transform spaces into truly frightening playpens of the macabre, there may be no better place to take in the atmosphere of the season than one of these amusement parks each one a part of a fundraising auction travel package available through Mitch-Stuart.

In Southern California, Disneyland is putting costumes on costumes for the month of October, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, among others, wandering the park in their own Halloween outfits. Pumpkin King Jack Skellington and Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas also wander the premises. But the big attraction of 2016 is actually a closing, rather than an opening: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is on its way out, giving way to a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed ride next summer. This is the last year to ride the elevator drop while listening to the spookily-soothing voice of Rod Serling.

On the other side of the country, meanwhile Disney World Orlando has a different take on the holiday, with some of the traditional villains of Halloween recast. Zombies find their voices with the Cadaver Dans, a barbershop quartet of the undead. The Sanderson sisters of Disneys Hocus Pocus mix potions, shadows and some of their evil friends to create the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular show. And the fireworks show, a traditional favorite of a visit to Disney World, gets a makeover during the season, becoming HalloWishes and incorporating more of Disneys catalog of antagonists.

But no amusement park may make a bigger commitment to All Hallows Eve than Knotts Berry Farm. The Anaheim-adjacent theme park transforms each year into Knotts Scary Farm, with mazes and monsters at every turn. Scare zones act as themed immersive atmospheres; this years include Carnevil and The Hollow. Mazes and rides also take on a creepy feel, and even dining gets a Halloween theme, with a boo-fet available each night before Knotts opens (the scares are the roaming monsters, not any mystery meats). The park has even put together a less-intense experience, Knotts Spooky Farm, for families with younger kids; its open during the daytime on weekends.

To leave a comment, please click here.

Five Great All-Inclusive Perks

October 19, 2016
All-inclusive is an easy enough term to understand; it simply means everything is included in a trips price. But when our non-profit partners offer a fundraising auction travel package that includes a stay at an all-inclusive resort, or on a similar cruise, theres a question always asked: What does all-inclusive actually mean? What is the everything that comes with the package price?

If you want to help your donors understand just how great a deal all-inclusive travel can be, we can help. Here are five of our favorite perks that come with the package price at some of our destinations.

  1. Food: When one thinks of meals being included in a purchase price, its easy to remember the last disappointing, cold Continental breakfast in a chain hotels lobby. But whether its the 24-hour room service of a Celebrity Cruise journey though the Caribbean or the nightly lobster course at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the cuisine already figured in to the trips package price is leagues beyond stale bagels and soggy bacon.
  2. Equipment: Many of our favorite all-inclusive resorts are in gorgeous locations with plenty of outdoor activity options. So being able to borrow snorkeling gear in Costa Rica or a kayak in Bolongo Bay allows visitors to take advantage of the beautiful scenery without having to pack a ridiculous amount of gear.
  3. Entertainment: Get a taste of the culture of the destination at a resort like Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Jamaica; a stay there may include an international dance show, a street music revue or even a steel band playing the night away. Theres never a cover, and your room is only a short walk away (although far enough to be able to retire in peace).
  4. Classes: Want to learn how to scuba dive? Its included in the price when you go to Bolongo Bay. How about a class on making sushi? The Westin Playa Conchal Resort and Spa in Costa Rica has you covered. Heading to an all-inclusive resort can sometimes mean bringing home a new skill or obsession.
  5. Kids Activities: Not every all-inclusive resort is kid-friendly, but those that are do a wonderful job of keeping the young ones entertained. Moon Palace in Cancun, for instance, features game rooms with playgrounds, mini-movie theaters and a fully equipped arcade, among other attractions. And with the resorts staff supervising the children, the parents can sneak off and get in some golf, a spa treatment or just some quiet time walking along the beach.

Thinking about offering your donors an all-inclusive vacation? Talk to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!

Bolongo Bay


Playa Conchal Costa Rica


Playa Conchal Resort


Moon Palace Resort


To leave a comment, please click here.

Little Extras, Big Benefits!

October 12, 2016
It can be easy, in the rush of putting together a fundraising gala, to treat the set-up as a checklist and skim over some of the items therein. Music? Check. Photographer? Check. There are plenty of decisions to make, and not all might create money right now, at this moment. But theres a lot of goodwill to be mined from what might seem like smaller considerations for a planning committee. And that goodwill can help donors remember your organization, both for future events and for other fundraising drives throughout the year.

We love it when non-profits add a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. fundraising auction travel package to its gala event. Theyre designed to grab attention, to make donors sit up in their chairs and start dreaming about vacations to far-away places and as they do that, they leave an impression on the attendees about the organization hosting the soiree. In addition to your auction lot list, however, there are other ways to try and add that extra-special shine to what could be an overlooked element of your night.

The DJ: There is a skill to disc jockeying that sometimes goes underappreciated; its often a good idea to hire one, rather than depending on a computer playlist or, worse, the radio to provide tunes. But if you really want to get people talking, reach out in your community to find a DJ who spins real records. Not only will you know youve got someone committed to the craft, but youll also add an extra visual element: Records just look better than laptops. Best of all: Many DJs who spin from records do so because they have certain specialties, and so it may be easier to find a disc jockey with expertise in, say, 50s and 60s soul (or the music era of your choice) to fit your theme.

The Photos: We love professional photographers for their skill, their flexibility and, from a business standpoint, their ability to deliver photos that your organization can use as promotional materials in the future. But your attendees will also appreciate the chance to capture their own memories from the evening. And while many have cameras on their cell phone, few will have the ability to make animated GIFs, for example, or paper flip books. Consider hiring an outside vendor to provide a photo booth experience, such as an automated GIF maker (stitching together several photos in quick succession to create a herky-jerky animation) or a flip book printer, to help donors and guests make memories on their own.

The Drinks: A couple of good choices of wine, a local brew or two or maybe a sponsor? Its very easy to overlook any sort of alcohol choices, because its pretty hard to go wrong with offering adults free drinks. But its also a great place for a little extra inspiration. Were in the middle of a craft cocktail renaissance right now, and there are numerous bartenders in your city that are creating fascinating new drinks. Find a local expert and create your own, themed specialty drink list! It doesnt have to be long maybe one for guests who like lighter mixtures, and one a little boozier but its the type of added extra that will get guests talking. And if the drinks are big hits, they might even be reaching out later to get the recipe!


To leave a comment, please click here.

Thankful for Canada

October 05, 2016
In America, were getting ready for Halloween at the end of this month, but our Canadian friends are skipping right past that and heading straight for Thanksgiving. Canadas version of the holiday occurs on the second Monday of October each year (meaning October 10 in 2016). Starting from a desire to give thanks for a bountiful harvest, todays version is about gratitude for all things good people, events or circumstances.

Canada is one of our favorite destinations for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, and so this seems like as good a time as any to tip our cap in appreciation of our friends to the north.

So, why are we thankful for Canada? Here are three of many! reasons:

Hockey! The clich is true: If youve never seen hockey live, you havent experienced the sport at its finest. And though the Canadian teams of the NHL have struggled a bit in the recent past (no teams from our northern neighbor made the playoffs in the 2015-16, the first time thats happened since 1970), places like the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens are epicenters of the sport still. With our Go to Any NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS Game or PGA Tournament travel package, your donors can celebrate the countrys national sport with a trip to any of the seven Canadian cities with teams. (For the record, that package also works with basketball, a sport invented in Massachusetts, but by a Canadian its a sort of athletic dual citizen).

Gorgeous winter wonderlands! The Pacific Northwest is beautiful at all times of year, but the winter months are when it really shines. Vancouver practically sparkles through the season, and neighboring Whistler is one the worlds great snowy playgrounds. Trips like Perfect Winter Wonderland and Vancouvers Gateway to the Pacific can transport donors to this stunning region for a seasonal getaway. Whether its exploring the charms of Vancouver itself (like the ice skating rinks that remain from the 2010 Winter Olympics) or barreling down a ski run in Whistler, the seasons charms come alive north of the border.

Fun fishing expeditions! Outdoor activities in Canada arent limited to ice and snow, though. During the summer, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and become an outdoorsperson (even if its only for a vacation). One of our favorites: the guided freshwater fly fishing experience that comes with the Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada package. Escape to either Alberta or British Columbia and spend a day with a guide and enough equipment to catch that evenings dinner. Theres little more relaxing than taking in that summery lake view from a boat on the water.






To leave a comment, please click here.

Chasing the Summer to the South

September 28, 2016
The early days of the fall are so charming, with the leaves changing colors and the air possessing that small bite. And the early days of the winter are cute too that first light snowfall, maybe, or the first night gathered around a roaring fire. But once the first blushes have passed, winter can be a slog. And weve all had that feeling, maybe sometime in January or February, of desperation, waiting for the sun to return.

Of course, when the northern hemisphere is at its coldest, our neighbors to the south are basking in the summer sun. And there are plenty of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages in the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence catalog that can send one of your supporters south of the equator to chase that summer feeling, even when the weather at home is stuck in a deep freeze.

A few of our favorites:

Winter in Australia is more myth than fact, as it is, especially in the North Queensland area. The coldest month of the year features average high temperatures in the high 70s, so your supporter can go on our Experience Two World Heritage Sites trip at any time of year and be guaranteed some rays. But for the most tropical experience, December and January is the time to get on the plane, with temps in the 90s. Of course, your donors will have the chance to cool off, while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef or relaxing in their villas private plunge pool.

Of course, much of the southern hemisphere has that same year-round summer feel. A good example: The Summer Olympics this year were technically held in the winter August in Rio de Janeiro should, by the calendar, be the equivalent of February here. Of course, Rios February looks much different than ours; by average, its the hottest month of the year, averaging 81 degrees for its daily high perfect weather to explore the beaches of the Barra de Tijuca neighborhood on our Sunsets, Samba and Soul trip.

The closer one comes to the equator, though, the less seasons tend to matter. And Bali is the closest of our destinations to the middle of the earth, meaning that theres never a bad time to visit. The average high and low temperatures barely fluctuate throughout the year; our winter and their summer is mostly designated by rainfall rather than degrees. And while it does rain more in Bali over the winter months, this is a lot different than the driving, bracing rain one may find in colder weather. For those not afraid of the occasional cloud cover during a vacation, finding the warmer temperatures of Bali during our winter months can still make for a great break from the doldrums of the season.
To leave a comment, please click here.

NYC at Its Best the Fall!

September 21, 2016
New York City doesnt need much help in the way of tourism marketing, but someone in City Hall should likely tip a cap in the direction of Matthew Broderick around this time each year. For a generation of moviegoers, its Ferris Buellers lip-synced version of Danke Schoen that forever tied the countrys most famous urban park to the autumn: I recall/Central Park in fall But theres plenty of reason to seek out New York in the fall beyond the central Manhattan attraction.

Mitch-Stuart produces non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to be used at any time of year, and supporters often use them to head to the beach in the summer or to the ski slopes in the winter. But unlike the heat and humidity of a Big Apple summer or the wet, biting cold of the city in the winter, the fall is the perfect season to explore a city best seen while walking its avenues.

Need more reasons to head to NYC for a fall vacation? How about:

Outdoor Museums: The Museum of Metropolitan Art is a year-round concern, of course; air conditioners and heaters work wonders. But the fall brings interesting exhibits outdoors, like at the day-trip-worthy Storm King Art Center, with more than 100 works of sculpture dotting 500 acres of beautiful fields and hills. Closer to home, the Queens County Farm Museum features a three-acre corn maze, pumpkin patch and haunted house.

Broadway: The fall also brings with it a host of new Broadway shows. Star-studded revivals are on tap, led by The Front Page with Nathan Lane and John Slattery, along with world premieres and musical adaptations of Hollywood films (watch for Holiday Inn, the stage version of the Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire classic, to draw big crowds). After a slow summer season, Broadway is often heating up just as the temperature is starting to drop.

Festivals: Oktoberfest is a favorite celebration everywhere where there are people who imbibe, and New York does it up right with its biggest celebrations taking place in Central Park and on the East River. 2016s biggest dates have already passed (American Oktoberfest is mostly celebrated in September, due to weather concerns), but beer fans can start planning for next year. Or, if theyd like a boozy celebration sooner, theres also Cider Week, observed this year from October 21-31.
To leave a comment, please click here.

Three Ways to Supercharge Your Fundraising Auction

September 14, 2016
If your organization has been running fundraising auctions at gala events, you might have, by now, fallen into a pattern. You know when the decorations go up, you know who to contact for food, and you even know which emcee or professional auctioneer to call.

But just because a certain idea or decision has become automatic doesnt mean that its the best one for your organization. Its good to reexamine those automatic choices that you may be making for your fundraising auction from time to time, just to make sure that youre earning every dollar possible for your cause.

Need some new ideas? Here are three small ways to maximize fundraising auctions earning potential.

Shake It Up: Its tempting to arrange the items of a gala auction in the same way one would arrange an award show: Opening with the smaller items, and then building to the big money-earners. And it makes sense on an emotional level, to crescendo throughout the event to its climactic end. However, from a pure money-raising standpoint, leaving the biggest items until the end may mean keeping some of your biggest supporters on the sidelines. After all, if a donor has set a budget for their bidding and really wants, say, that gorgeous trip to Bali, he or she could sit out earlier items of interest to save up. And then if that supporter doesnt win the trip, the budget goes home, rather than into a different purchase. Mixing up the order of items a couple of smaller ones, then one of the big-money lots, then back to a couple of smaller ones makes it more likely that your biggest monetary supporters will walk away with something.

Dream BIG: If you want to raise big funds from an auction, you have to ask for big funds. Sure, youll have a certain number of donors willing to overpay for a basket of goods from local artisans (and putting that basket together will help strengthen ties to your community, as well), but you cant get what you dont request. So, upgrade that trip: Offer the weeklong European sojourn alongside the weekend in Las Vegas (with our consignment travel packages, you dont have to pay for them unless they sell, anyway). Give your donors the chance to step up to the plate; you may be surprised by what happens.

Something for Everyone: On the other end of the spectrum, though, there will be some donors who cant pay for the luxury travel, the expensive memorabilia, or even the local artist gift basket. Maybe they just believe in your cause so much, they wanted to support it in person, on its biggest night. Not only do you want to make sure that they have a great time, but you also want to give them the chance to participate in the gala fundraising. Thats where a good raffle can come into play. Giving people the option of trying to win a big prize via a small donation and a drawing keeps smaller donors engaged throughout the evening as a participant, not just an observer. Its one easy way to make sure everyone in the room is excited while still generating revenue for your non-profit.


To leave a comment, please click here.

The Food of Napa Valley

September 07, 2016
Calvin and Hobbes. Tailgating and barbecue. The Chicago Cubs and well get em next season. Some pairings just make sense. The art of matching gets taken to a whole new level in wine-centric destinations; sommeliers have made whole careers out of perfecting suggestions for pairing wine with food.

Napa Valley is one of our most popular Destinations of Excellence, and the first reason that springs to mind is, of course, the areas wineries. Some of the best American vinos are made here, and a visitor can spend multiple trips to Napa and still not run out of new tasting rooms to visit. But those in the know also understand that the wine capital of America has a thriving culinary scene, one to match the highs of its bottled treats and that very clearly holds up its end in any food and wine pairing.

With the prevalence of alcohol in the Napa culture, it should be no surprise that there are plenty of ways to get around the valley sans auto. And while walking and bicycling around is a fun way to see everything up close, theres a major drawback: Its hard to eat while walking, and nearly impossible to do so while on a bike. Thats where the Napa Valley Wine Train comes in, and with it a three-course gourmet meal. Enjoy roasted beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin or even a catch of the day fish entre en route to the Grgich Hills Estates, for a private tour and tasting. Theres even a dessert course for the ride home, for those whom have worked up an appetite seeing the Grgich grounds.

Just down the road at Saint Helena, the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is the home of chef Timothy Mosblech, recognized by California Home and Design magazine as one of wine countrys best kept secrets. His Chefs Table (a component of our Napa Valleys Perfect Blend of Indulgences package) lunch includes a plethora of farm-to-table dishes Long Meadow Ranch is one of a handful of wineries that also grow their own grub paired with their flavor profile wine siblings. And as recognized as Long Meadow is for its wine, dont miss out on its award-winning olive oil, also available.

Unfortunately, Chef Mosblech wont fit in your donors carry-on luggage, which means your supporter will have to leave behind the cuisine of Napa Valley upon departure. But they can learn how to recreate some of Northern Californias magic at home with the Raise Your Glass and Say Cheers to Napa trip. Donors can choose to take a class from an expert chef, including seasonal ingredients, expert cooking techniques and, crucially, what wines to pair with their new recipes. Its a perfect way to make sure that your supporters return from their trip with something to share because getting them to give up one of their new bottles of wine might be difficult.




To leave a comment, please click here.

Travel with a Ticket

August 31, 2016
Almost 50 percent of Americans did not use any of their vacation days in 2014. Its easy to understand why, on one hand: If one feels overworked, taking a week off might seem like setting up a work avalanche upon returning to the job. And its not like that dream beach or ski resort is going anywhere, right? But aside from the well-documented health benefits of vacations, getting out of the office means getting the chance to see some pretty special events, the type of once-in-a-lifetime occurrences that wont be there waiting during that mythical down time at the job.

Mitch-Stuart sends donors to dream destinations regularly with its fundraising auction travel packages. But as amazing as it sounds, it can sometimes be tough to get supporters to actually take a vacation. One of the easiest ways to fix that: Give your bidders a chance to win a trip that is not just to a place, but an event, one that only occurs once a year. In addition to the appeal of leaving work behind, these trips also speak to supporters who need a date certain on the calendar for which to plan a getaway.

The most prestigious film festival in America is Sundance, which takes place every year in the winter wonderland of Park City, Utah. The most prestigious film festival in the rest of the world is Cannes, which takes place in its namesake, a sunny, summery destination on the southern coast of France. And Mitch-Stuart has your donors ticket to either one. Whether the dream itinerary involves American indie films and skiing, or international movies and time on the beach, supporters can be the first to see the films about which everyone will be talking within the year. And the parties at each festival are legendary.

For those who want even more of a red-carpet experience, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to one of several spectacular awards shows. We wrote earlier this year about the different ways that your supporters can rub shoulders with the superstars of sports, music and stage; the chance to center a trip on such a glamorous event is one at which supporters will leap. In addition, the cities involved in these award show packages places like Los Angeles and Nashville are Destinations of Excellence on their own, meaning that theres plenty to see when not hobnobbing with celebrities.

If your donors want to have a say in the event ticket that goes with their travel package, let them choose their own adventure! Our Any Live Concert or Theater Production Experience trip allows your winning supporter to pick a show to attend anywhere in America. The biggest Broadway productions? Sure! That arena-sized concert? Absolutely! Even passes to a multi-day festival are in play here. Whether its for themselves or for a family member (thanks to the personalization, it makes a great gift item), donors love the chance to control their itinerary with this trip.






To leave a comment, please click here.

On the Road Again

August 24, 2016
Theres so much to do in some of our Destinations of Excellence packages that it can be hard to fit everything into an itinerary. Throw in time to relax in luxury accommodations, and finding time to even sleep seems difficult.

But an underrated use of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is as home bases, places where a supporter can start a trip, but then head off to other nearby communities. Having a nice suite or villa to which to come back can simplify a road trip, giving the traveler less reason to worry and more space to have fun on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Some of our favorite home bases:

Less than six hours separates the three biggest cities of the Pacific Northwest, making the triumvirate of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver prime road trip fodder. Starting in British Columbia, check out the gorgeous sites of Vancouver (and neighboring Whistler) before heading across the border to Seattle and its iconic skyline not to mention its great coffee! From there, the Rose City is just three hours to the south, with its lively street food and microbrew scenes.

The Kentucky Derby is one of our favorite sporting events, and weve got a couple of travel packages that can take horse racing fans to the jewel of the Triple Crown. But once the horses have retired to their stables and the crazy hats are back in their boxes, it might be time to hit the Bourbon Trail. The distilleries of favorite big-name bourbons like Evan Williams, Jim Beam and Bulleit are all in the city itself, but there are several more (including Makers Mark and Four Roses) within a short driving distance. The trail is made up of nine distilleries in all, and the thirsty traveler who visits each one gets a free t-shirt.

Of course, Northern California has its own share of boozy tourism, and the Anderson Valley wine trail is one its lesser-known treasures. About 100 miles north of Napa, the trail may be just ten miles or so long, but its home to 25 different wineries. Its also the home to several major events each year, including a Pinot Noir festival and a barrel tasting weekend that involves almost every different vino producer in the area. (Obviously, for both this one and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, bringing a designated driver is a must).

But one of the most underrated home bases for great road trips is the City of Sin itself, Las Vegas. Sure, the town has its fair share of diversions, too, but its also a half-day or less drive from the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Death Valley National Park, Zion National Park and, if ones willing to spend just a little while longer in the car, Yosemite National Park. For a city best known for its neon signs, the natural sights within a short distance of Las Vegas may be even more impressive.

Vancouver

Kentucky Derby

Napa Valley

Grand Canyon


To leave a comment, please click here.

What I Did During Summer Vacation

August 17, 2016
For families across the country, August means heat waves, last-minute trips and the return of school. And along with the beginning of the educational year, the sons and daughters of your supporters will each be asked one simple question, whether its in the form of a written report or playground small talk:

For families across the country, August means heat waves, last-minute trips and the return of school. And along with the beginning of the educational year, the sons and daughters of your supporters will each be asked one simple question, whether its in the form of a written report or playground small talk:

What did you do during summer vacation?

The good news: You can help your supporters make sure that their kids have a good answer.

Mitch-Stuart offers non-profit fundraising auction travel packages for all sorts of occasions, whether its a bucket-list cruise or a honeymoon villa on a tantalizing island. We also can help gets kids ready to answer that first question of the school year with stories, photos and mementos that will make them the talk of their classes.

That final trip before the school year begins can be used to help the kids warm up their brains before heading back into academia, and there may be no place that combines history and modern fun better than Washington, DC. With monuments and museums scattered all around the city, the District of Columbia is a perfect place for youngsters to learn about history while also seeing some of the worlds most recognizable sights. Our Celebrate the Heart of the Red, White and Blue trip includes an Old Town trolley tour with more than 100 points of interest, and the Smithsonian museums have always strived to make learning fun for all ages (the Air and Space Museums ride simulators give kids the chance to feel the thrill of space flight or air combat, for instance).

There are plenty of souvenirs of summer, but there are few that look better in a homeward-bound carry-on bag than leis and sea shells. Yes, the charms of Hawaii make for a great send-off to summer, and our Captivating Island Culture package includes a suite stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani on the island of Maui. With the beach just steps away, kids can spend their last days of freedom running through the surf, building sand castles and searching for the perfect sea shell to show off at home. Your donors can bring home an excellent memento, as well; the resort offers complementary photo sessions to capture the whole family in one of the worlds most beautiful environments.

If your donors really want to give their kids an experience that will make the youngsters the talk of the class, though, theres Disney. Whether in Southern California or Florida, Mickey Mouses theme parks are so beloved, in part, because of the number of only-in-Disney experiences and sights available. Even better: Mitch-Stuarts trips to each park also include experiences at other, nearby attractions; Happiest Place on Earth takes supporters to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm (and even includes dinner at Medieval Times!), while the The Most Magical Place on Earth package includes passes to Universal Studios (with its The Wizarding World of Harry Potter parks) along with Orlandos Disney World. Coming back to school wearing those instantly-recognizable mouse ears will earn a donors son or daughter instant cool points during recess.

Washington DC

The Smithsonian

The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

Disneyland


To leave a comment, please click here.

Ever heard of

August 09, 2016
People love to be in the know. Whether its the secret pop-up restaurant, the speakeasy with an entrance through a barber shop or the newest underground music act, theres a thrill that comes with experiencing something different, something that your peer group hasnt discovered yet.

We love our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to places like New York, Las Vegas and Hawaii, of course. But not every trip needs to be to one of the capitals of tourism. If your supporters are looking for that hidden gem of a vacation, the one that none of their friends have taken, these options may be for you.

Have your donors thought about traveling to

Asheville? The North Carolina retreat is a cultural oasis in western North Carolina; theres nearly as much live music here as there is in a city like Nashville, and even though the population has been booming as of late, it still maintains the feel of a small town. Theres also the historic charm of the Biltmore House & Gardens, a winery tour and even a chocolate tasting included in our travel package for the city.

Boothbay Harbor? Small town living never seemed as picturesque as in this Maine destination. Go whale-watching on one of the ships that works the harbor, or spot the historic lighthouses that dot the rocky shores. Ditch the rental car and walk through the charming town itself, stopping in at the various antique and curio shops. Or charter your own yacht and set sail for a day on the water. One summertime trip to Boothbay Harbor can make the town the little secret that one of your donors loves to talk about!

Charleston? The southern charm of South Carolinas second-largest city has been recognized by others; Travel + Leisure magazine named it Americas Most Friendly City in 2011, and Conde Nast Traveler has called its people insanely nice. But the hospitality of strangers is only one reason to visit this underappreciated jewel; walking along cobblestone streets and admiring the gorgeous, preserved old homes will work up an appetite, and the booming restaurant scene in the city will fill your donors back up.

Riviera Maya? The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is an incredibly scenic area, with beaches and jungle to complement the almost-mandatory trek to the ruins of Chichen Itza, one of UNESCOs World Heritage Sites. Combine that with the luxury found at the Fairmont Mayakoba, and you get a vacation that will appeal to a wide cross-section of your supporters.

The Biltmore

The Nonantum Resort

Charleston

Fairmont Mayakoba


To leave a comment, please click here.

Travel Obsessions

August 03, 2016
This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will face off against the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game. Its the first exhibition game of the season, one in which star players like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck will likely play for the first quarter, if even that long. And yet it will still be a ratings bonanza for ESPN, as millions of football-starved fans tune in. If baseball is the national pastime, then football has become the national obsession. But Americas not the only country with a major infatuation.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take your donors almost anywhere in America and to any NFL or college football game, as well! but they can also be used to check out the obsessions of other countries around the world. For those who want to find and enjoy those local passions, here are a few options.

Staying in the sports realm, the English Premier League is known around the world as one of the top levels of play in soccer. And within the country itself, the words of a former Liverpool manager ring true: Some people think footballs a matter of life or death. I assure you, its much more important than that. Theres nothing quite like walking into Old Trafford in Manchester, Anfield in Liverpool or Stamford Bridge in London to witness the passion, the pageantry and the colors of a Premier League match in person.

With grape-growing regions throughout the country and more than eight billion bottles produced each year, France is a world capital of wine. But its not just one of the countrys top exports; the French take their wine seriously, and study it closely. Theres even the Cite du Vin, a new museum dedicated to wine in Bordeaux, thats been informally named the Disneyland of Wine, with more than 14,000 bottles from more than 80 countries. For anyone who cares deeply about wine, theyll find doppelganger obsessives in France.

For a closer sojourn, there are few countries that can legitimately claim to be the spiritual home of a genre of music. But Jamaica has always had a sort of claim to reggae that few other nations hold on one style or rhythm; an artist gets immediate credibility in reggae just by having Jamaican ancestry, much less being from the island itself. Any trip to the country would be incomplete without stops at places like the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. And if the travel plans line up, Reggae Summerfest in Montego Bay is the worlds biggest and best festival for the genre.


To leave a comment, please click here.

This or That?

July 26, 2016
Some of the Destinations of Excellence in the Mitch-Stuart catalog are synonymous with an interest, an attraction or even a climate. Oenophiles know to go to Napa Valley or on one of our adventures in France. Want beaches? Thats why weve got trips and cruises that go throughout the Caribbean. But sometimes, a traveling pair may differ on what each wants. Cityscapes or nature? Warm weather or sweaters and fireplaces?

For those donors who cant decide on the type of vacation they want, we can still help. Many of our charity fundraising auction travel packages appeal to not just different interests, but even direct opposite ones. If youve got supporters who dont know what they want to do, but do know that they want to get out of town, one of these trips could raise big bids.

Do your donors want

Nature or Luxury?: For some, vacation perfection is a tent, a campfire and smores. For others, its infinity pools and relaxing spa treatments. The island of Praslin in Seychelles combines both with Raffles and its 86 villas, restaurants featuring cuisine ranging from Creole to sushi, beachside spa and two infinity pools staring down the Indian Ocean. Beyond the resort, there are ample chances to explore nature, with hiking, ziplining and even rock climbing available in the nearby forests.

Hot or Cool?: Summers in Telluride, Colorado feature a little something for everyone in terms of climate. The average high temperature in the city in the month of July almost hits 80 degrees, warm enough for t-shirts and shorts while hiking or mountain biking through the Rocky Mountains. In the evening, though, bring a coat: The average low temperature dips hovers around 40 degrees, which is great bonfire weather. For those who like either sunscreen or sweaters, summertime in Colorado is perfect and with golf courses and private outdoor hot tubs, our Colorado at Its Absolute Best trip will let your donors experience both.

Fast-Paced or Relaxed?: Southern California has a little something for everyone. Visitors can even ski in the morning and watch the sunset over the beach in the evening, if they like. But with the opening of the citys newest light rail line, Los Angeles has made it easier than ever to go from the bustling atmosphere of Hollywood or the hip downtown district to the laid-back, beachside vibes of Santa Monica or Venice. If your donors want to see the sights of the City of Angels while also getting in a surf session in the morning or a beachside picnic dinner in the evening, this might be the best time to do so.

Raffles Praslin


Raffles Praslin


Telluride


Santa Monica


To leave a comment, please click here.

Geek Out On the Road

July 20, 2016
Tonight, thousands of costume-clad fans of pop culture will flood the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con, the largest gathering of fans of comic books and comic-adjacent entertainment in the country. Between July 20 and 24, more than 130,000 attendees will look for rare issues of comics, watch new trailers for forthcoming movies and flood the restaurants and bars of the host citys lively Gaslamp District.

Your donors may not be into cosplay (dressing up like favorite fictional characters), or willing to stand in long, snaking lines for free posters, but we guarantee theyre something that theyre equally as geeky about. And whether its a genre of music, a type of wine or even cooking from world-famous chefs, Mitch-Stuart quite likely has a non-profit fundraising auction trip that can send your donors to the home base of any passion.

Music lovers can be incredibly dedicated to their favorite genres, and some cities are inexorably tied to the styles of song that have made a home within city limits. Two in particular stand out at great destinations for great tunes: Nashville is, in many ways, the spiritual home of country music, and with either of our travel packages that can take your supporters to the Country Music Awards, donors can rub elbows with the shining lights of the genre as well. A few miles south, jazz music is such a part of the blood of New Orleans that its jazz festival is one of the worlds greatest. Go to any bar around town, and a combo is likely to be playing in one corner. Or better, let your jazz-obsessed winner go to Preservation Hall, dedicated to preserving the citys musical heritage (and home of the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band).

Some call themselves oenophiles. Others are fine with winos. Whether fancy or simple, wine lovers are motivated to travel to taste their favorite varietals. A quick word search of our catalog reveals more than 30 different trips that involve the spirit in one way or another. Your supporters can tour wineries closer to home, in Napa Valley or the Williamette Valley of Oregon. If they want to go bigger: How about adventures to Italy, Spain or France? There are chances for wine fans to fly all around the world in search of that perfect label, that rare bottle or just the opportunity to geek out with fellow connoisseurs.

Of course, those destinations are already on the lips of fans of music or wine. But did you know that one of the biggest gathering of chefs and wineries each year AND the one of the biggest art shows take place in the same city? And that its not New York or Los Angeles? Each year, thousands of foodies and art fans flock to Miami for (during different weeks, of course) a chance to surround themselves with like-minded aficionados at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival and Art Basel Miami Beach, both in the sunny city of Miami.  The conventioneer website BizBash named each event the top in the country in their respective categories, meaning that, besides the world-class entertainment and gorgeous beaches, theres yet another reason that a supporter might want to take the chance to support your cause while also heading to Florida.

New Orleans


B Cellars Vineyards And Winery


Chateau Angelus


South Beach Food & Wine Festival


To leave a comment, please click here.

Healthy Habits as Travel Souvenirs

July 13, 2016
Whether it is postcards, that perfect sea shell or even a snow globe for a collector at home, trinkets from vacation always fill any leftover space in luggage when a traveler returns from a voyage. But not all souvenirs are physical; some globe-hoppers may come back with fascinating stories, others with a new affinity for a specific wine varietal. Some may even have figured out how to finally hit that untrustworthy pitching wedge (just kidding, of course no one knows how to do that). But maybe best of all is when someone returns from time away with something healthy to add to their life a new habit, perhaps, or a positive change in outlook.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we believe that travel is inherently positive, whether its as healthy as a beachside yoga retreat or as gluttonous as a weekend in Sin City. But there are some habits that your donors can pick up on the road that can translate to a healthier lifestyle at home, and a vacation away from the stresses of the day-to-day life may be the perfect time to acquire those patterns.

One healthy habit that can be picked up while on the road is also our first form of transportation walking! Exploring a new destination on foot can be one of the most insightful ways of seeing what makes a city tick, along with being a way for travelers to find their own hidden gems those corner cafs or small parks that dont make the guidebooks. Spend a week walking around a dense, urban center like New York or London, and one may want to come home and spend more time discovering the lesser-known neighborhoods their own city has to offer.

Of course, not all by-foot exploration needs to be urban. Some of our favorite trips give donors a chance to go hiking in some of the worlds most beautiful destinations. Getting out and seeing the sights of the Rocky Mountains in Aspen, or the wilderness of Jackson Hole, may be the catalyst a donor needs to conquer that hike closer to home, and get a good workout in at the same time.

American take-out food consumption has risen dramatically over the past few decades, as has obesity rates. Correlation doesnt prove causation, of course, but the added ingredients in a lot of the fast food we consume certainly dont make us healthier. If you want to start a new habit of eating better food, you can go on the road to a few different cities for inspiration. One trip to take may be to San Francisco, where chef and food activist Alice Waters opened her first restaurant, Chez Panisse, in 1971. In doing so, she sought out organic foods to serve, long before farm-to-table was a buzzword, and her restaurant continues in that tradition to this day. For those who want to have control over a meals ingredients by learning how to cook it themselves, several of our trips to Italy, France and even New Orleans feature cooking lessons, as well.

Weve spent some time recently extolling the virtues of stress relief while on the road, but its important enough to mention again: Traveling doesnt have to be a tension-accumulator. Thankfully, many of our trips include treatments at resort spas, like those at the all-inclusive Palace Resorts in Mexico, several trips to Florida and even some adventures in Californias wine country (combine a massage with a glass of wine for full relaxation).

London


New York


New Orleans Cooking School


Massage at Bali Villa


To leave a comment, please click here.

Travel in a Time of Brexit

July 06, 2016
The news of Great Britain leaving the E.U., known as Brexit, has left the world in shock. The vote sent waves through every international market, and while stocks have mostly evened out and in some cases gained back the losses they suffered one important economic marker has yet to fully recover.

The American dollar has not been as strong against the British pound in recent memory, with one pound now fetching around $1.33 US. This is in comparison to around $1.46 in the run-up to the Brexit vote, and more than $2 per pound in October of 2007.

Mitch-Stuarts fundraising auction travel packages can take your supporters to Destinations of Excellence around the world, but there may be no better time than now to offer your donors a chance to head to London, where the dollar currently goes further than it almost ever has before. How does this translate on the ground? Your auction winner can:

Catch a game: The Premier League is one of the worlds most popular sports associations, with soccer fans around the globe tuning in on a weekly basis to watch teams like Manchester City, Liverpool and 2015-16 champion Leicester City. The drop in the pound also means that ticket prices have fallen, as well; Arsenals league-topping cost of 97 pounds on average for a single match ticket now comes in at just under $130, as opposed to almost $142, while Leicesters 22 pounds price sure to go up after winning last seasons title has fallen from $32 to under $30, a steal for championship-caliber soccer anywhere.

See a show: Londons West End is a favorite destination for theater-lovers from around the world, a close second maybe to only Broadway for the peak of the art form. Accordingly, admission prices are higher here than in most theater districts around the world; an average high-end ticket cost almost 100 pounds in 2014. The current dip translates to a $13 dip enough for a post-show pint at a nearby pub after the show.

Grab a meal: The English capital city has some of the worlds most inventive chefs working, but getting a table at Sketch or The Grill at The Dorchester may cause a bit of sticker shock. Those prices are a little less shocking now, though; The Grills summer prix fixe menu gets a small haircut (now under $75), while the Michelin-starred Sketch can now come in under triple digits.

Theres never really a bad time to help a donor visit London, but theres almost never been a time during which the dollar has gone further than today. Want to set up your supporters with a chance to visit the United Kingdom? Reach out to one of our Travel Experts!


To leave a comment, please click here.

Guest Post: Take a Chance on a Raffle!

June 29, 2016
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, Kelly Russell tells us about a recent experience running a raffle using a Mitch-Stuart travel package as the prize. Enjoy!)

A client of mine wanted to offer a Golden Ticket Raffle at their event without losing one of their live auction items. They tried something unique that worked well. They chose eight consignment packages from Mitch-Stuart, Inc. as options, and allowed the winner to select any one of the eight amazing vacations. We had a few great outcomes to our evening.

It expedited our timeline at the top of the auction.

Once we declared the winner of the Golden Ticket Raffle, we did not have to wait for the winner to rifle through the catalog to determine what they wanted to take out of the live auction line-up. They had the entire night to think about which location would make for their dream vacation.

The variety added interest.

With all the options, many people were interested in taking their chance in the raffle. If you won, you were going somewhere great. MSI has a wonderful selection of packages and many include airfare so you get a complete experience. This adds to the interest factor.

Dedicated packages allow for pre-sales on raffle tickets to guests.

Nothing is worse than not being able to attend your childs school auction when you go EVERY year. With a set raffle selection, you are at least offering the opportunity to participate in absentia. Bonus: If you have a limited number of tickets to sell in your raffle, as well as a limited number of attendees at your event, pre-sales broaden your donor base.

Gamble with a new idea and see how it works at your next fundraiser!

Need a great consignment package for your next event? Let the folks at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. know that Kelly Russell at Artisan Auctions sent you!

(Big thanks to Kelly Russell and Artisan Auctions for sharing this with us! For more information about Artisan, go to artisanauctions.com.)


To leave a comment, please click here.

Raising Funds Under the Stars

June 22, 2016
Take a look around everyone is outside. Coworkers are taking their lunch breaks at that park across the street. Evenings are spent at baseball games. Vacations involve beaches, camping or long hikes. This is the season for al fresco everything.

So why keep your gala indoors?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. loves helping non-profits raise money with our fundraising auction travel packages theyre the perfect addition of wow! to any gala program. But we *really* love it when we get to help charities pair the perfect auction destination with an amazing outdoor event. And while pulling off a successful outdoor fundraising gala is not easy, a bit of foresight and planning can create memories for your supporters that will make sure they always think of you and your cause fondly.

Where does your event committee need to focus its energy when planning an outdoor event? Start with these three areas:

Theme: If youre going to go through the trouble of moving an event outside, make it count! Whether centered around a menu item (barbecues, crawfish boils, etc.) or a larger, atmosphere-based idea (with a title like Enchanted Forest or Beach Bonfire), this is the chance to create a night to remember by piggybacking on the beauty of nature. Have fun with it, and dont be afraid to push a little past your normal boundaries; its likely that your supporters will be a little more forgiving about small problems if youre trying something daring and fun.

Logistics: Everything from picking the right location to having enough flat surfaces and tables becomes magnified at an outdoor gala. As an example when inside, you can just look for an extra power outlet, but if you havent run adequate juice to run both the DJ equipment and the temporary lighting, for instance, theres little that can be done on the fly. It might be a good idea to run something approximating a dry run of the event a week prior with as much of the equipment as possible (no need to add rental days for anything gear coming from outside of the organization, however). And before locking into a space for the event, make sure you visit it during the time of day which youll be holding the gala, to check for things like bug population.

Food: The cuisine you serve outdoors is often a function of the seating you have available. If youve got formal tables set up, it may still be easy to present delicate meals requiring all utensils. But if your outdoor space is a little less formal standing pub tables, for instance finger food might be the way to go. Just stock up on wat napkins, in order to avoid long lines at whatever running water is available. Its also important in an outdoor space to think about the distance from the kitchen to the gathering. Is food going to be prepared off site? Will it stay warm as its being brought to the party? And whos going to bring it all? The meal is the most tangible item for which a guest is paying with their ticket get it right, and few are going home unhappy.

Got any other suggestions for pulling off an outdoor gala? Let us know on social media: Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more tips and travel inspiration.


To leave a comment, please click here.

The Summer of Cool

June 15, 2016
The stereotypical images of summer vacation involve beaches. Whether its lounging on the shore, playing in the sand or swimming in an ocean or lake, the images that spring to mind when people talk about the summer months are those of surf, sandcastles and sunscreen. But just because snow is far from the average mind not to mention the weather report doesnt mean that mountains and colder regions should be considered off limits.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together non-profit fundraising travel packages to destinations all over the world, and many times winning bidders want to see the sights during peak seasons. But as summer gets ready to make its entrance, its nice to remember that the best places to vacation during these months arent always the sandy beaches. In fact, heading to a location best known for its winter escapades can be the best way to spend a summer break.

Its strange to see a destination with Lake in its name and think of wintertime fun, but Lake Tahoe is probably best known for its world-class skiing, both downhill and cross country. During the summer, though, Tahoe still shines, thanks to its diversity of entertainment options. Water-based activities are a must in the resort town, of course, with stand-up paddle boarding and jet skiing possibly the most popular. But the surrounding mountains are great during the warmer months, as well; rent a mountain bike and head downhill, or grab your gear and go hiking through some gorgeous wilderness. Theres even some fine art, for those who want to take it a little easier, in the form of summers Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, which takes place in the stunning Sand Harbor State Park.

The hottest average high temperature in Bar Harbor, Maine, is just 75 degrees (coming at the end of July). Thats just one of the reason that the town has become a prime escape for northeastern city-dwellers. Exploring Acadia National Park is a treat as the climate becomes more temperate, and with so many New Yorkers and Bostonians coming to town, there are plenty of concerts, pop-up art spaces and interesting dining experiences here, as well. Make sure to stop in at some of the historical monuments and collections, as well; the Abbe Museum is a repository of Native American artifacts and stories, while younger kids tend to love the Dorr Museum of Natural History.

The cities of Vancouver and Victoria are thought of by many as great skiing outposts. In fact, the towns are so synonymous with winter that the former was awarded the Winter Olympics in 2010. But in the summer, the largest city and the capital city, respectively, of the province of British Columbia are just as beautiful and have just as much to do. Scheduling a trip around Victorias Summer Splash is a good way to go; the local symphony performs a program from a barge in the Inner Harbour, while locals either picnic on land or float around in kayaks. Outdoor activities about in both the two cities and the surrounding area, with hiking and mountain biking being favorites. And, for those who absolutely must have a beach trip, Vancouver landmark Kitsilano Beach fits the bill nicely.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino


Bar Harbor Maine


Acadia National Park


Vancouver


To leave a comment, please click here.

Inner Peace, Out on the Road

June 08, 2016
For an activity that is said to be so relaxing, travel certainly contains its share of stressors. From flight delays to safety worries and even starting from the process of packing, it takes a lot of work to hit the road, and that work doesnt come without some level of mental strain.

We at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., love travel its why were so committed to helping non-profit fundraising with our auction travel packages. But even we recognize that going on vacation isnt as simple as waking up one morning having been transported to paradise. Send this cheat sheet along to your donors who win one of our travel packages at auction so they can make their experience that much easier.

The stress usually starts before travelers even arrive at their destinations. With the busy summer travel season upon us and the Transportation Security Administration seemingly devoted to hour-plus long security lines, a familiar muscle tightness can develop even before reaching a departure gate. So for flyers taking off at airports like San Francisco International and Chicago OHare, a sanctuary from the bustle can be a relief. Thats where the yoga room comes into play. Several airports, and several more in the near future, offer separate rooms for travelers to lay out a (provided) mat and stretch, either with ones own yoga routine or led by a teaching video. After standing in a long, winding security line, its a chance to catch ones breath before boarding.

Of course, its hard to pull off downward dog or Tree Pose while seated on a full flight or driving on a road trip, for that matter. For cases in which physical stress relief may not be possible, theres always guided meditations, and theres a wide variety of apps available for smartphones that can help. Stop, Breathe & Think is a good place to start for the novice, while Calm has a tremendous catalog of programs for different purposes (self-affirmation, sleep inducement, etc.). The engine roar may not be as calming as the wind chimes of a local meditation or mindfulness center, but noise-cancelling headphones and the right soothing voice coming from a cellphone can turn the stress of flight into a chance to relax.

No one wants to carry around that travel stress after arriving at a destination for a vacation. So many of our non-profit fundraising trip packages take supporters to resorts with world-class spa accommodations, making that post-flight massage easy to book. Be it aromatherapy, facials or a simple dip in the hot tub, these facilities can kick-start a vacation and put even more mental distance between the joys of travel and the stress of the workday.


To leave a comment, please click here.

Picnicking In Paradise!

June 01, 2016
Spring is turning into summer right before our eyes, which means its time to dig the beach-and-pool gear out of the closet and stock up on sunscreen. June, July and August are ingrained in the minds of many as a time for leisure, going all the way back to the summer vacations of childhood. Longer days mean staying out later into the evening, and even the heat itself manufactures a certain unhurried pace.

One of the best ways of soaking up that sun during the summer months is getting a group of friends, the extended family or even just your significant other outside for some al fresco dining. The picnic is practically a summer must: Go to any public park in a temperate climate on a Sunday afternoon and youll see blankets spread out everywhere, homemade food, mini-speakers playing music and the occasional football or Frisbee being tossed around.

Our non-profit fundraising travel packages often put your donors in the middle of cities with incredible restaurant scenes, making it tempting to spend the trip dining in. But it would be a shame to not get some food to go in one of these destinations and spend a leisurely afternoon outside, admiring one of the worlds great vistas.

When Travel + Leisure put together its list of the top cities in America for picnics, two of the top three choices were in Southern California. It makes sense: The Southland has year-round picnic-acceptable weather and plenty of beachfront land upon which to lay out a blanket. But both San Diego (which finished second) and Los Angeles (third) also have fantastic options for picnic-ready carryout meals (important for those traveling with little access to a kitchen) and a variety of landscapes; spend a day in LAs Griffith Park or an afternoon in Balboa Park in San Diego and youll see these two gorgeous cities from a different angle.

To go to Paris and not enjoy a baguette al fresco would be a crime of some sort, surely. The good news: Possibly the best view of the Eiffel Tower comes in the citys 7th Arrondissement (or district), on a grassy strip of land, called Champ de Mars, leading up to the base of the monument. In fact, many of the most well-known sites in Paris have green areas nearby to admire the view while dining on that glorious French food; outside the Sacre-Coeur, alongside the River Seine and in the Luxembourg Gardens are all lovely spots. Eating outdoors is a popular enough pastime in the city that several services will deliver a picnic lunch to tourists true blanketside service!

Of course, when it comes to parks that are perfect for picnics, there may be no better example in America than Central Park in New York. The crown jewel of the citys open space, Central Park has been attracting visitors with blankets and baskets for more than 150 years. Its not the only great vista in the Big Apple to take in while dining, though; the High Line has plenty of space to dine while overlooking Chelsea, and for those heading to other boroughs, Prospect Park is a perennial favorite. Even better: Your donors can pick up their meal at one of New Yorks great delis with one of the gift cards that comes with our Nosh Your Way Through Three New York Delis package.

Santa Barbara Beach


Eiffel Tower


Central Park


Central Park


To leave a comment, please click here.

Travel-Worthy Tributes

May 25, 2016
In pop culture, Memorial Day means the beginning of summer, cookouts, spontaneous beach trips and, for younger people, finals and the end of the school year. And with the exception of those year-end tests, were in favor of all of those ideas, too. But its also important on Memorial Day to take time and reflect on the reason for the holiday: Honoring those who gave their lives, what Abraham Lincoln once called the last full measure of devotion, to protecting and serving this country.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we have hundreds of non-profit fundraising travel packages that donors bid on in order to go on relaxing, energizing, or just plain fun vacations. But our trips work for any occasion, including paying solemn respects this weekend at one of these monuments to our fallen Armed Forces members.

Many travelers make their way to Indianapolis, Indiana on Memorial Day weekend for the Indy 500, one of Americas great car races and one that has been scheduled on or near the end of May since 1911. But the city is also home to one of the most iconic memorials in America, the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument. At just 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty, the obelisk was built as an ode to Indiana residents who fought in the Civil War, but has over time expanded to honoring soldiers in the Revolutionary and Spanish-American Wars as well. It also now houses the Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. When it was established in 1902, it was thought to be the only monument at that time to be dedicated to the everyday soldiers, the rank-and-file, rather than a general or a commander.

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is made up of nine different locations in three different states, but the majority of the locations are in Honolulu, at the site of the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS Arizona Memorial is a tremendously-designed monument; the structure straddles the sunken battleship, without ever touching it, allowing for unique visual perspective of the wreckage. There are also monuments to the USS Utah and Oklahoma there, while the USS Missouri, not technically a part of the monument, is also docked in the harbor, having been turned into a museum.  Taken in whole, its a powerful reminder of those who gave their lives in the Pacific.

The largest concentration of memorials, however, is in the area of our nations capital. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial may be the most famous, its wall of names receiving more than three million visitors each year, but the DC War Memorial, the U.S. Navy Memorial and the World War II Memorial all also fall not just within the city limits, but within a short distance of each other. With Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Imo Jima memorial) located a short subway ride away in Northern Virginia, not to mention all of the presidential monuments and other historic landmarks in the metro area, there are many opportunities for patriotic visitor to pay their respects.

Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Pearl Harbor

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial


To leave a comment, please click here.

Bid and Stretch Trips for Yogis

May 18, 2016
For many, the goal of a vacation is to relax. Its a chance to leave the worries of day-to-day life behind, get on the road and unwind, even if its just for a few days. For those who cant get out of town in between, say, the end of work today and the beginning of work tomorrow, though, theres the stress-relieving properties of yoga.

Between 2008 and 2013, the number of Americans who participated in a yoga class at least once in the year increased from 17 to 24 million. Thats nearly as many yogis (of varying levels) as there are golfers, according to USA Today. Chances are, there are supporters of your organization that have a favorite class or teacher in your hometown and theres also a good chance that some of their identities may surprise you.

At Mitch-Stuart, we have fundraising auction travel packages that take donors all over the world, to hot sports for golf, foodie culture, music and high culture. Yoga has such centers, too, and for those who want to get some downward-facing dog time while on vacation, these destinations may attract extra bids.

A favorite of Worlds Best Yoga Spots lists, Bali is the home of the yearly Bali Spirit Festival, a confluence of dance, music and, of course, yoga. But the island is a favorite of yogis all year, with places to practice on the beach, in the jungle and everywhere in between. And despite having a reputation for attracting regular practitioners, many of the classes in Bali are considered more restorative and relaxing, meaning that theyre appropriate for all experience levels.

Costa Rica is a favorite nation for yoga retreats, with places like the Blue Spirit Retreat Center and the Luna Lodge hosting traveling groups from around the world for weeklong sessions in the wild and on the beach. But your donors dont have to commit to a full seven days worth of downward-facing dog to get in a stretch or two. The Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort features multiple classes a day in beautiful Nosara, for instance, and Montezuma Yoga hosts morning and evening sessions in Playa Montezuma. Even some of our partner resorts offer their own classes, like those at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa.

None of this is to say that your donors need to leave the country for a yoga-cation. Major metropolitan areas in the country like New York and San Francisco have so many options for classes that to list them would take days. But if you want to find Americas great yoga secret, head to Asheville, North Carolina. No, really: The city was named one of the top ten cities in America for yoga by Yoga Journal, thanks in part to its close-knit community and surprising variety of styles.

Bali Villa

Bali Beachfront Villa

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

Port Douglas


To leave a comment, please click here.

Oh The Places They Will Go!

May 11, 2016
May brings Mothers Day, the Kentucky Derby and, of course, flowers (according to the Theory of April Showers). But its also the time of year when students get together, listen to one final lecture, and walk across a stage to be handed a piece of paper. It is graduation season in America, and this can be a fun time, celebrating the academic achievements of friends and relatives of friends. But it can also occasionally be confusing: What present does one get for a recent graduate?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s fundraising auction travel packages are often used as gifts, whether its for birthdays or anniversaries. But there are plenty of trips in our catalog that make a lot of sense to give to a college graduate as a celebration of their maturation into the real world, while also raising money for a good cause.

As anyone who has joined the working world knows, there may be no freer period of ones life than the one that comes between graduation and a first job. Whether its just a couple of weeks after final exams or a job search that stretches throughout the summer, there often are few worries as post-grads start to dive into the real world. This means that there may be no better time in the near future for a traveler to take that major trip, the week-long one to a part of the world that falls way outside of weekend getaway status. Several of our Destinations of Excellence fall into that category, but the hottest one right now might be Bali, the Indonesian island that has been popping up in travel magazines for the last several years. Its the type of once-in-a-lifetime trip that is meant to be savored, and not rushed perfect for the recent graduate with a little bit of flexibility on his or her hands.

The backpacking trip across Europe has been a staple of post-graduate travel for generations. The romance of the open road, sleeping in train cabins, and seeing the entire continent is a major draw to the young and adventurous. It also can be stress-inducing for the parents of those doing the traveling, however. Help your donors split the difference with the Hit the Road, Jacques! travel package, which sends a donor or a donors gift recipient to both Paris and Rome, with stays in nice hotels (no sleeper cars here!) and tours of the city on a vintage motorcycle and a Vespa, respectively. The trip couples the thrill of roadtripping with the knowledge of where a traveler will be sleeping and showering, allowing worried parents to sleep better.

Of course, for some, getting out of school is a stressful enough proposition that a recent graduate may just want to sit on a beach chair, sipping a frozen drink that has a cocktail umbrella in it. For those ex-students who need some time to decompress, there may be few better places to do so than at Montego Bay in Jamaica, at an all-inclusive resort like the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. Its the best of both worlds for a young traveler: A diversion-filled property where the food and drinks are complementary, on an island known for its world-class culture, lively arts scene and fascinating cuisine.

Bali Villa

Arc De Triomphe, Paris, France

Vespa in Rome

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall


To leave a comment, please click here.

Luxurious Travel for Mom

May 04, 2016
Mom. She gave you so much while, in many cases, sacrificing her own desires. Each year, we set aside a day to celebrate the mothers in our lives, and give them gifts of gratitude. And while most mothers are happy with a brunch and a scented candle, doesnt it feel like we can do more?

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love it when donors win our fundraising auction travel packages as presents for others. Whether its a graduation adventure, a birthday gift or a special anniversary getaway, we think that travel is one of the worlds greatest experiences and, therefore, one of the worlds most meaningful gifts. Some of our Destinations of Excellence can act as perfect getaways for moms, as well, giving them the chance to relax in the arms of luxury.


If mom has a taste for the finer things (or if your donors want to give her that taste), there are few cities more attuned to the luxurious lifestyle than New York. And while we have several trips to Big Apple, one of our favorites is the Exquisite New York Dazzles Like Never Before package. The adventure includes a stay at The Plaza, the world-famous hotel located right off of Central Park, in a Rose Suite, with a separate sitting room and a marble wet bar. But the biggest highlight may be the $1,000 gift card to Tiffany & Co., perfect to pick up that special necklace, pair of earrings or ring.


Does mom have a sweet tooth? If so, maybe San Francisco is the destination for her. The city by the Bay is known as a tech industry hub, as a place with stunning views and fantastic seafood. But its also the home of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company and on our San Francisco Sweet and Savory trip, mom can go on an Ultra Chocolate Tour, featuring seven tastings and even some wine and cocktail pairings! That adventure also includes a stay in a suite at The Fairmont San Francisco, with its unparalleled view of the city from the top of Nob Hill.


Of course, there are few cities on the planet more closely tied with luxurious indulgence than Paris. From its bustling caf culture to its rich cuisine, the City of Light is a place for relaxation, for letting loose and for enjoying high-end experiences of extravagance. Our Royal Parisian Palace package features a hands-on cooking course at one of the citys top schools, a lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel in the Eiffel Tower and even a cruise along the River Seine. Its capped off with accommodations at Le Littre, right on the Left Bank and a short distance away from Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.

The Plaza New York

Ghirardelli San Francisco

L'Atelier des Sens

Eiffel Tower at Night


To leave a comment, please click here.

Spring Updating: The New Catalog!

April 27, 2016
Spring is the time to declutter, the time to go through closets and get rid of that which you dont need anymore. We do it to create space for ourselves, both metaphorically (dont you feel more relaxed when surrounded by less stuff?) and physically. But best of all: All that new space means youve got room to store new purchases.

Weve got the same impulses at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., but in our case its more of a freshening up. Thats why our new catalog of fundraising auction travel packages features some brand-new trips to the worlds greatest destinations.

Whats new in the Mitch-Stuart catalog? Check out:

  • New continents! Weve brought back an adventure to Australia that is perfect for your outdoorsy supporters; it includes a stay in a three-bedroom villa and chances to see the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. And we also return to South America with a trip to Rio de Janeiro, with a weeklong stay in the prestigious Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, which will host a large number of venues for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Stays in gorgeous villas! Give your donors the chance to take a whole family or crew on vacation to places like the island of St. John in the Caribbean and the Rich Coast of Costa Rica (both with four-bedroom accommodations). Catch your dinner in Costa Rica and bring it to a private chef to prepare, or visit Caneel Bay, also known as the Rockefeller Estate, in St. John
  • More options in Bali! Stay in a five-bedroom beachfront mansion on one outing, or get in touch with your spiritual side with a trek to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. And weve also added a trip to nearby Thailand, with a stay in a villa located just minutes from the countrys stunning West Coast beaches.
  • More golf courses! Play a round at Pete Dye's Valley Course, the sibling to the world-famous Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, while staying in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Or take a shorter break in Scottsdale, Arizona while still getting in games at the Troon North Golf Club, named one of the Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play by Golf Magazine.
  • More beachside fun! New options in Belize, St. Thomas and Cabo San Lucas combine sandy fun with luxury and adventure.

If youd like to hear more about any of these new ways to send your donors on the vacation of a lifetime (while making money for your organization), reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today.
Port Douglas Australia Villa

Rio de Janeiro

Bali Beachfront Villa

World Golf Village Florida


To leave a comment, please click here.

Happy Centennial, NPS!

April 20, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

In 2016, the National Park Service turns 100 years young. Formed in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson, the agency has had the mission, as the president said at the time, to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. Thats a big task, but for a century the NPS has done exactly that, preserving some of Americas most scenic lands and making sure that people can enjoy them without harming the surrounding environment.

At Mitch-Stuart, were appreciative of everything the National Park Service has done for travel and travelers in America every day, but especially so during National Park Week, which in 2016 stretches from April 16-23. During this time, entrance to the parks is free, and there are different programs throughout the country, both educational and fun. If youve got a national park near you, youve got a couple more days to go for free, and if youve got donors who love the outdoors, youve got a big selection of trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog that can pique their interest.

The serene setting and outdoor beauty is a major reason that Jackson Hole has been an in-demand destination for decades. Part of that beauty comes from the surrounding national parks: Grand Teton is the closest, with its mountaineering and fishing opportunities, in the shadow of the mountain range of the same name, and Yellowstone, the wilderness that many consider to be the cornerstone of the national park system. Photo opportunities about here, of course, be it Old Faithful Geyser, Snake River or any of the hundreds of species of animals that can be spotted by a patient (and quiet) observer. Our Premier Retreat in the Great American West package can take your donors to two of the jewels of this countrys outdoors.

Not all national parks are far off in the wilderness, though. The National Parks of New York Harbor is the group name to 22 different monuments and ten parks in New York City and the surrounding area.  The most famous of these sights is the Statue of Liberty, but the list also includes the Federal Hall National Memorial (home to the first Congress and Supreme Court), Governors Island National Monument and the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt. And when the concrete jungle gets to be overwhelming, the Gateway National Recreation Area offers beaches, lighthouses and even archery ranges.

One of the most underrated getaways in the national park circuit, however, comes in the countrys northeastern corner. Acadia National Park goes from mountains to beaches, all within a short distance from Bar Harbor. Visitors can check out the only fjord on the east coast of the U.S., go biking or hiking on a myriad of trails, and even take a horse out on 45 miles of carriage roads. Our East Coast Escape to Mount Desert Island travel package can set your donors up with all the outdoor adventure and gorgeous vistas they could want.
Grand Teton National Park

Statue of Liberty

Acadia National Park

Bar Harbor


To leave a comment, please click here.

Traveling the Earth, On Its Day

April 13, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

April 22 is not the Earths birthday, of course. But it is the day weve set aside to celebrate the rounded pebble on which we float through space, the home that provides water to drink, food to eat and gravity to keep us stuck to the ground. Its also a day to think about the planets challenges, the areas that need the most help and support in offsetting human influence, be it deforestation, pollution or other ruination of natural resources.

Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to some of the most beautiful corners of the world, of course, but some of those Destinations of Excellence are also the most fragile areas. On this Earth Day, we spotlight some of those places where preservationists are hard at work and places that could use tourism dollars to aid in conservation efforts.

While the Brazilian rainforests may be the most well-known, there are plenty of other stunning examples a little closer to home. In Costa Rica, for instance, Corcovado National Park has gorgeous views of the last remaining tropical lowland rainforests in the country, while the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve contains more than 2,500 plant species, many of which are visible from one of the reserves hiking trails or ziplines. Belize is another Central American country where rainforests remain; one of the largest remaining populations of the jaguar can be found there along with the howler monkey. And the Reef Bay Trail on the tiny Caribbean island of St. John is one of the most popular attractions there, incorporating both the beauty of the bio-diversity and the history of the island in the form of abandoned sugar estates and the remains of the last plantation.

One doesnt have to leave America to find a bio-diverse environment, of course. In fact, one of the worlds habitats with the most varied collection of native species is the Florida Everglades. Stretching from just south of the Orlando area all the way to outside of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, the marshland is home to more than 350 types of birds, including endangered species such as the wood stork and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Plant life thrives in the humid conditions, as well, and its also home of the Florida panther, of which only an estimated 80 remain, according to the National Wildlife Federation. With all of the parks throughout the wetlands, including Everglades National Park, there are plenty of ways to interact with the area while being respectful of the preservation efforts in place.

If youve got donors interested in a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experience, though, send them to the coral reefs off the coast of Bali. The island is a part of the Coral Triangle, which has been called the Amazon of the Ocean because of its biodiversity; 76 percent of all coral species in the world are within the triangle, along with 37 percent of the worlds reef fish species. Its been the subject of a high-level conservation effort for almost a decade now, called the Coral Triangle Initiative, and that work is partially supported by the $12 billion nature-tourism industry there. Exploring the region from the sea, whether its on boat or scuba diving in the ocean itself, is a must-do for the nature-obsessed.
Costa Rica Rainforest

Rainforest Howler Monkey

Bali Villa

Florida Panthers


To leave a comment, please click here.

Rock and Travel?

April 06, 2016
In a few days, the attention of the music world will focus on tiny Indio, California. The desert community just outside of Palm Springs will host one of the countrys biggest gatherings of rock, indie, hip-hop and youth culture. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (named after the valley that is home to Indio, Palm Springs and other neighboring cities) draws nearly 200,000 people to inland California over the course of two weekends, all to watch some of the largest names in music. Festivalgoers travel from around the world to camp outside of the Empire Polo Grounds, the host of the concert, or book hotel rooms across the valley.

Like a food festival, a particular sporting event or even a season change (like fall in New England or spring among the cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C.) music can be a great motivator for a traveler. Thankfully, Mitch-Stuarts catalog of fundraising auction travel packages can absolutely be used to send a music aficionado on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure involving some of the great names and places in music history.

For music fans, there are few cities more accommodating than New Orleans. Beyond every caf and bar in the French Quarter with a jazz combo playing in the back corner, the city is home to some of the countrys best music festivals. The New Orleans Jazz Festival brings in some of the worlds brightest lights in its titular genre, along with soul, R&B and even rock acts (Pearl Jam and Stevie Wonder are headlining in 2016). The Essence Festival, traditionally held during the summer, may be Americas biggest celebration of African-American culture, including music headliners, guest speakers and others. And Voodoo Music and Arts Experience combines great tunes with interactive art in a way that draws fans of both.

For those who prefer music of a different era, a trip to visit one of the countrys museums dedicated to the art may be a great bidding motivator. Whether its the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland or even a smaller tribute (the Stax Museum in Memphis, for instance, dedicated to the classic soul label), a trip with a built-in musical attraction like one of these destinations can turn heads at a fundraising auction. These excursions can be bonus features to an already-existing package (a country fan bidding on our CMA Awards, Country Music's Biggest Night! item, for instance) or reasons to utilize one of Mitch-Stuarts Choose Your Own Adventure packages, making them versatile selling points.

And if your supporters want to combine the energy of music with the star power of awards shows, weve got trips to two different nights filled with statuettes, live performances and surprises galore. As mentioned before, the CMA Awards, Country Musics Biggest Night! takes donors to Nashville this November to watch the 50th annual Country Music Awards. And while the show itself is the centerpiece, fans will find plenty to do during the rest of the time; theres a reason Nashville earned the nickname Music City, after all. And no city does glitz and glamor quite like Los Angeles, meaning that the 2016 American Music Awards, also held in November, attracts a whos-who of the pop charts. The 2015 edition featured Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, One Direction and Coldplay and the 2016 show could feature your supporters (in the audience, at least) with the Rock On at the American Music Awards! package.
Louis Armstrong Statue

New Orleans Jazz Band

Taylor Swift

Coldplay Concert


To leave a comment, please click here.

April Foolish Travel

March 30, 2016
April Fools Day is Friday. Do not believe anything.

There may be no holiday more custom-built for the Internet than April Fools Day. Between joke articles on websites, the yearly Google product announcement video and the constant silliness of social media, the web goes all out for April Fools Day like Boston does for St. Patricks Day.

If youve got donors who go all-in on April 1, who push for your charity to send out fake fundraising letters or posts faux sonograms on their social media feeds, they may also be the type of person who would love to travel to one of comedys meccas, one of the cities responsible for the development and production of humor. There are several Mitch-Stuart fundraising auction travel packages that can put your supporters within a stones throw of comedy history.

Despite its reputation for being teeming with tear-jerking dramas, Broadway has shown its ability to be fall-down funny over the past 15 years in particular. Shows like The Book of Mormon, Spamalot and Avenue Q combine stage theatrics with big laughs, whether its social satire or pure silliness. Mormon is still on Broadway to this day, while Avenue Q has moved to an off-Broadway house. Of course, the rest of the city has deep roots in comedy, as well; Carolines on Broadway and Gotham Comedy Club are two of the most famous stand-up stages in the country, and incubators like The Pit NYC and Upright Citizens Brigade feature the next generation of funny people first.

For those interested in the recent history of comedy, Chicago is an interesting choice for a vacation. It was here that Second City, the improv troupe and school that gave the world everyone from Alan Arkin and Fred Willard to Tina Fey and Chris Farley. Stretching back to the 1950s, when the comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May were seen on stage at a Second City predecessor, the city of Chicago gave talented funny people room to create comic personas without the glare of Hollywood or New Yorks bright lights. Its also the home city of two classic comedies of the 1980s, The Blues Brothers and Ferris Buellers Day Off.

For the best in comedy today, though, Los Angeles may be the destination. Improv theaters like The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade have been the primary farm systems for Saturday Night Live cast members for decades now, and everywhere from the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard to the Whole Foods in Pasadena (no, really!) now hosts stand-ups. One of our favorites is the Largo at the Coronet, a 280-seat theater near the Beverly Center shopping mall that hosts the best in alternative comics stars like Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman are regulars there in an artist-friendly environment (no cell phones and no talking in the theater). Bonus: Its next door to one of the best cocktail lounges in the city, the Roger Room, making for a quintessentially L.A. one-two punch.
Monty Python's Spamalot NY

Chicago

Los Angeles


To leave a comment, please click here.

Break for Spring

March 23, 2016
Maybe schools have it right, after all.

After a winter of tough weather, indoor activities and heavy coats, people are ready to get outside and run around at the first sight of the sun. Schools have long accepted this fact, giving kids a week off to go and burn off that pent-up energy. Starting with the Colgate swimming team heading south to Florida in 1935, the modern Spring Break is often wrapped up in parties, alcohol and an ever-increasing amount of corporate sponsorship (see: Most Florida beaches throughout the month of March).

But just because one leaves academia behind doesnt mean that a Spring Break becomes unnecessary. After a full winter of going from home to car to office building and then back, getting into the outdoors for a few days can do wonders for the spirit. At Mitch-Stuart, we offer fundraising auction travel packages for all times of year, but many of our trips can help melt away the winter doldrums and serve as a spring break for the post-graduation set. Want some ideas for adventures to offer for auction at a spring-flavored gala? How about

On the Links: Months off due to weather can leave a golf swing pretty rusty. And one way to get that Vitamin D infusion is by walking 18 pristine holes somewhere in the southern half of the country. Resort towns like Hilton Head, South Carolina and Scottsdale, Arizona feature numerous course options for the semi-pro player all the way down to the weekend hacker. Meanwhile, desert towns like Palm Springs and Indian Wells are still temperate enough in the spring to play all day; those triple-digit mid-day temps dont start showing up consistently until June.

Hit the Beach: Yes, plenty of college kids will be heading to cities in Florida, Texas or Southern California to celebrate the season (and we can send your donors to those places as well, if they want to join the revelry). But for those who prefer their beverages in containers other than red Solo cups, the Caribbean makes for a great getaway. Whether its five days in Aruba, Bermuda or Jamaica, theres no place to get reacquainted with sunshine than on a beach chair, listening to the waves roll in. And for those with a limited vacation window, the Caribbean is a closer journey than you might think; take off from Manhattan in the morning, and youll be in Aruba in time for happy hour, for instance.

Head to the Islands: For students, hopping a flight to Hawaii usually is out of the question; between the travel time and the expense, the 50th state does not attract the kind of collegiate crowd one would expect based on its stunning beaches and warm climate. But for those who are just looking to miss that last cold snap at home and defrost under the springtime sun, there may be no more scenic place in America to do it than Hawaii. And with ten different trips to the islands, encompassing stays on four different islands, all the views of the state are available.


To leave a comment, please click here.

Celebrating Americas Diversity

March 16, 2016
This Thursday, people around the country will fill Irish bars, drink a pint of Guinness and toast St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Emerald Isle. But while, for many, intoxicants and green clothing will make up the bulk of the revelry, theres a great amount of cultural significance to the day in this country; its a celebration of the Irish people who meant so much to Americas development when they began coming to the United States en masse in the 19th century.

These types of celebrations, these recognitions of cultures that have contributed so much to the American fabric, can be great reasons to travel to some of Americas favorite cities. For your donors who win a fundraising auction travel package from Mitch-Stuart, here are some great holidays worthy of a trip.

According to numbers from the Migration Policy Institute, there are more people from Mexico in Los Angeles County than there are in any individual city in Mexico itself, save the capital. With such a large population, its no wonder that L.A. is a national leader in Cinco de Mayo celebrations. But while every Mexican food restaurants from Tinseltown to the border will offer some sort of special menu, and some revelers will be much more interested in the libations of the country than the culture, those with an interest in the heritage of our southern neighbors will head to Olvera Street, in downtown Los Angeles. Theres food and drink, of course, but theres also music, exhibitors, and traditional dancing. Even bigger: The streets Dia de los Muertos celebration each year stretches for almost a week, and includes nightly processions and stunningly-decorated alters.

Long considered the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, San Franciscos version of the neighborhood throws one of the biggest Chinese New Year parties in the country. The area around Telegraph Hill in the City by the Bay plays host to a parade, a run, and a gorgeous street fair with great food, merchants and artisans teaching traditional Chinese cultural arts like lantern- and kite-making. About a half-million attendees walk the streets each year during the celebrations, making it a popular choice for travelers looking to see San Francisco through the prism of one of its oldest neighborhoods.

Spotlighting New York City for its celebrations of international culture feels like a cheat; in the Big Apple, nearly every nation in the world has a sizeable population (and, in many cases, a pride parade). One of our favorites, since we love to travel for foodie adventures, is the Feast of San Gennaro, held in the citys Little Italy neighborhood. Theres a procession here, as well, but theres also musical entertainment, remembrances and ceremonies, and most importantly all sorts of Italian food. Restaurants and cafes open their doors and offer special menus, those with bigger stomachs participate in a cannoli-eating competition and chefs demonstrate how to add that touch of Tuscany (or other provincial cuisines) to any home-cooked meal. The 2016 edition is expected to draw more than a million visitors to lower Manhattan from September 15-25.
To leave a comment, please click here.

Were Heading to Boston Join Us!

March 09, 2016
Were packing our bags, getting plenty of rest and trying to find where we put our heavy coats. The AFP International Fundraising Conference takes place in Boston on March 20-22, and were excited to announce that well be on the exhibit hall floor at Booth #918, talking with attendees about our non-profit auction travel packages! Well also be sharing out booth with our friends at Grandstand Sports, the home of one-of-a-kind autographs, posters, game-used equipment and other mementos that make for fantastic auction items.

If you or someone in your organization is attending the conference, heres a cheat sheet of some of the highlights:

GONE! 3 Fundraising Auction Mistakes How to Engage New Donors, Solicit High-Profit Auction Items and Break Revenue Records Every Time! Our friend Kathy Kingston has her own seminar! The author of A Higher Bid will break down the three most commonly-made mistakes in preparing for and executing a fundraising auction, and give attendees the knowledge needed to use a fundraising auction as a catalyst for donor development. And even better: Kingston will make her way from her lecture to our booth, #918, for a Q-and-A session and refreshments. (March 21, 11:00-11:30 a.m.)

Leveraging Social Media to Engage Millennials & Drive Event Fundraising Social media will likely never replace a personal call or mailed invitation for gala events, but getting the word out on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms can help introduce your fundraiser (and non-profit) to the broader world, and gives your supporters an easily-shareable invite so that they can bring friends. KC Fox of Eventbrite and Darian Heyman of the NUMI Foundation will take attendees through the best practices of the digital space. (March 20, 10:15-11:30 a.m.)

Donor Surveys For The Win You know who donated money to you, whether it was as a gift or with a winning bid at a fundraising auction. But do you why they did? Shanon Doolittle breaks down the art and science of the donor survey, how to analyze the results and how to use that new information. Its a seminar with practical tips that can be immediately put in place. (March 22, 3:15-4:30 p.m.)

Boston Pizza and Taverns Tour No, this isnt a seminar about how to throw a pizza party in a bar as a fundraiser. Instead, its a three-hour walk around the city, stopping in at different pizzerias, taking a ferry ride and seeing some of Americas oldest and most historic pubs. Its one of our favorite parts of our The Savory and Smooth Tastes of Boston non-profit auction travel package, and if youre in Boston the Saturday before the conference, it may be a great way to see the city.

Again, well be set up at Booth #918 throughout the conference. Stop by and say hello!
To leave a comment, please click here.

Do You REALLY Make Money from the Highest Bidder?

March 07, 2016
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, auctioneer and SocialSmarts founder Corinne Gregory tells us how activity, not deep pockets, drives auction fundraising. Enjoy!)

If youve ever been to an auction and Im assuming since you are reading this, you are already a veteran of at least one event -- you are aware that the high bidder is the one the auctioneer sells the item to when the bidding has concluded.  So, its natural to believe that the high bidder is the one who is making the money for the charity during a Live or Silent Auction.

Well, folks, let me be the one to break it to you: It isnt true! Yet so many charities covet the high bidders because they truly believe that these individuals are going to make more for the cause. Even most auctioneers will work particularly hard on getting to the high bidder because they feel this is where their energies should be focused. And that may be costing you money and not making you more as you would expect.

First of all, there is a common misconception that, in order to make more money at your event, you need to invite more people with high net-worth. While it would seem to make sense that people with more money will be prime targets to spend more and be your high bidders, frequently the opposite is true. When people have ample discretionary income, they tend to buy things that they want as it comes along. They arent going to wait around and save up just to buy at your auction. Thats not to say that these individuals arent generous or wont contribute to your auctions bottom line, but they arent going to be the ones generating the most bid activity.

So then, if the people at the top of your buying pyramid arent going to be the ones generating the most bids, who is going to help you make more money? The answer is simple, really: everyone else.  Activity is where the money is.

Why is activity so important? Well, although we do collect money from the high bidder, each time someone puts their bid number down on a Silent Auction form or raises their Bid Card during the Live Auction they are raising more money for the charity. The second, third and fourth high bidders are helping raise the price of that item. Ultimately, the high bidder is the one who is determined to hang in there and out-bid the competition. So, as I like to say to my auction audience, Its the job of the second, third and fourth high bidders to make sure that the winner pays appropriately!

So, if we are making money from any and all bidders that participate, its crucial to have audience engagement. We want them all to bid -- more bid cards in the air means the revenue to the charity increases. That means, as an auctioneer, I need to be courting the second and third high bidders, giving them permission to stay in the game, and not just focusing on one or two potential high bidders. In fact, I coach my audience, letting them know they can play along all they want -- be my second and third high bidders all night long. But, if they dont actually want the item, they should pull their cards down before I say Sold!

So, remember, while we do ultimately collect the money from the high bidder, we make money from every guest that places a higher bid on a Silent Auction form or raises their bid card during the Live Auction. Its important to keep your entire audience engaged and interacting because, even if they dont win, their participation ensures that the charity does.

(Big thanks to Corinne Gregory for sharing her insights with us this week! For more information about her, go to auctionhelp.com and corinnegregory.com.)
To leave a comment, please click here.

Awards for (Auction) Winners

February 24, 2016
The tuxes are pressed, the limos are gassed up and the neighbors of Hollywood’s Dolby Theater have listed their apartments on home-sharing sites to make extra money. It’s awards season in Los Angeles, and it culminates this Sunday with the Academy Awards presented live in front of a theater filled with celebrities and a home audience measuring in the multiple millions.

But while the Oscars represent the end of film’s awards season, there are plenty such ceremonies throughout the year, evenings that combine star power with glitz and glamour. Mitch-Stuart has tickets for your donors to some of the biggest award shows of the year in our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, including these great 2016 commemorations.

There may be no greater intersection of sports and pop culture than the year ESPY Awards, held next in July of 2016. From its downtown Los Angeles home, the ESPYs recognize great achievement in sports over the previous 12 months, including top players, top plays and top teams. But whether a donor’s favorite franchise won the Super Bowl or didn’t even make the playoffs, there’s plenty to celebrate – and plenty of stars of film, music and television with whom to celebrate. And for those who wish to balance their sports with some art, the trip package puts the auction winner at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel, mere blocks from The Broad, one of contemporary art’s splashiest openings of 2015.

For a trip that combines big names and a down-home feel, offer our “CMA Awards, Country Music’s Biggest Night” package. Held in Nashville this November, the Country Music Awards honors the best and brightest in the genre, while featuring plenty of performances; last year’s show saw “The Voice” host Blake Shelton, “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood and the legendary Reba McEntire take the stage, with even Justin Timberlake helping out his buddy Chris Singleton on a song. Combine that night of stars with three days and one more night of Nashville’s local music scene, tremendous food and historic beauty, and it’s a weekend that will make lifelong memories.

But the longest-running award show in our catalog will take your donors to the Great White Way for the 70th annual Tony Awards. If you’ve got a supporter in love with the smash-hit musical “Hamilton,” this will likely be the year he or she wants to go; the show is likely to be up for everything from “Best Musical” to “Best Soundtrack With Which to Sing Along While Stuck in Traffic.” Throw in a likely performance, and this June’s Tonys could be the night for a “Hamilton” obsessive – and the two-night stay at the Grand Hyatt New York, a stone’s throw away from Central Park and Times Square, means that the fun doesn’t stop at the doors of the Beacon Theatre.
Drew Brees

Carrie Underwood and Katie Cook

Brad Paisley

Tony Awards


To leave a comment, please click here.

Las Vegas: Spring Wonderland

February 17, 2016
The summers in Las Vegas can be brutal. Average high temperatures in Sin City during the summer months stay in the triple digits, with a peak of 106 degrees on average in July. The winters head to the other end of the spectrum; while average highs in December and January are just under 60 degrees, the lows get down to nearly freezing, and the desert winds can run right through a snowbirds bones.

Thankfully, theres the spring. While Las Vegas doesnt have as many of the blooms that other cities might have (theres nothing in the area that could compare to, say, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.), the more moderate temperatures of March, April and May can draw visitors out of the air-conditioned casinos and into the fresh desert air.

At Mitch-Stuart, our non-profit auction travel packages are designed to be used at almost any time throughout the year, but there are definitely seasons that, depending on a travelers hobbies and activities, are more pleasant than others. And if youve got supporters who love poolside libations, golfing, or just outdoor sightseeing, springtime in Las Vegas is hard to beat.

One of the favorite pastimes of spring Vegas visitors is camping out poolside for an afternoon, with a drink (alcoholic or otherwise) in one hand and a good book in the other. The pools at the major casinos start opening for business in mid-March, and with temperatures being warm (especially for those coming from colder, snowbound homes) but not scorching, there are plenty of chances for working on that tan while relaxing in a lounge chair. Hotels like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Caesars Palace have raucous poolside atmospheres, while Paris Las Vegas Soleil Pool is a calming oasis in the shadow of the resorts replica Eiffel Tower.

Playing golf in the tremendous heat of a Vegas summer can feel more like a death march than a game. Going in March or April rather than July or August, however, keeps the heat on simmer rather than broil. And the city is an underrated stop for golfers, too, with a major variety of courses in the area; the TPC Las Vegas is a stunner appropriate for strong players, while Angel Parks Cloud Nine is a shorter, executive course designed for hackers of all levels. Players dont even have to leave the Strip, with the Wynn Golf Club providing an 18-hole layout in the shadow of the resort.

Even sightseeing can take on a labored pace in 100+ degree heat, meaning that natural wonders like the Grand Canyon may be better appreciated in the spring, rather than the summer. For all the manmade, neon diversions of Sin City, its most beautiful vistas can be found in the surrounding desert. Red Rock Canyon offers tremendous hiking and rock climbing, and Hoover Dam is a unique architectural marvel. And though it sits in the neighboring state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon hosts visitors from Vegas every day, thanks to a plethora of tour operators flying helicopters to and from the natural wonder.
Las Vegas

Maverick Helicopters Las Vegas

The Wynn

Grand Canyon


To leave a comment, please click here.

The Romantics Valentines Day Gift

February 10, 2016
Chocolate? Meh. Flowers? Theyll be dead in a week. Jewelry? Sure, but do people really need more stuff? We may be biased, but there may be no more romantic gift than the gift of travel.

Mitch-Stuart can set up your donors with fundraising auction travel packages for any time of the year and for any occasion, of course, but theres something special about sending two lovebirds out into the world together, to explore and make wonderful memories. Whether youve got supporters looking for a honeymoon excursion, a babymoon last hurrah, or just an adventure with the love of his or her life, setting them up with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a Destination of Excellence will plant you in their mind every time they reflect on that romantic getaway.

What makes travel so romantic? Some ideas:

Two people enter a relationship with lifetimes worth of experiences in their past. That extends to cities visited, which means that if one-half of a couple is a regular in, say, Las Vegas, the other half may feel more like a tourist following a guide than an equal partner. But when two people explore a new destination together, it can be a bonding experience. Want to give your donors the chance to make a destination feel like a shared romantic getaway? Offer one of our packages to a far-flung locale, perhaps like Bali, where your supporters can relax on beaches, get couples massages and explore an island while making it theirs.

Going on an adventure together can also push you and your partner out of your comfort zone. Whether you feel stuck in a rut or just would like to infuse your romance with a little spice, the adrenaline triggered by trying something new can be a great way to jump start emotions, as well. This could mean, for instance, heading for Africa with our Explore Kenyas Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife package, which includes a gift card that can be used for game drives, bush walks and other safari experiences.

Finally, while the act of traveling is romantic on its own, the destination often has its own enchanting activities. We touched on that idea last year around this time, but it bears repeating: Booking the right itinerary once on the ground can make any place seductive. Exploring New York as a couple may mean a walk through Central Park at sunset or a date night at the Plaza. Any Southern California or Caribbean trip means walks along the beach. Skiing adventures in Aspen means aprs-ski cuddles by the fire. No matter the trip, theres something waiting at the destination for couples.
Massage

Fairmont Kenya Safari

Central Park Carriage New York

The Buccaneer St. Croix


To leave a comment, please click here.

Mardi Gras Around the World

February 03, 2016
Its a funny reason for a Christian holiday: The night before the purging season of Lent, Mardi Gras celebrates binging, preparing for the relative austerity of the weeks pre-Easter by over-indulging for one night. For some, that means plenty of adult beverages, while for others its fatty and sugary foods. No matter the gluttony of choice, Mardi Gras is best observed by consuming too much of something that will put the celebrant in confession the next day. Of course, like other holidays, Fat Tuesday (as its known in some parts of the world) is only partially about religion anymore, as it has been adapted as a secular celebration for revelers of all (or no) faiths.

While New Orleans may be considered the holidays epicenter, Mardi Gras parties arent the sole domain of the Crescent City. In fact, with our fundraising auction travel packages, Mitch-Stuart can send one of your supporters to a celebration in any one of the great travel destinations around the world. Want to enjoy the day without a trip down Bourbon Street? You and your donors have options.

While New Orleans may be the city most associated with the holiday today, its origins are in French Catholic traditions. It should be no surprise, then, that France has nationwide celebrations of Carnival and Mardi Gras to this day. Parades in Nice, Paris and other cities mark the occasion, with large floats, ornate masks and confetti being the coins of the realm. Nice, in particular, is a special celebration; it attracts more than a million visitors to the city.

In Italy, Carnival is tied closely to Mardi Gras, as well; Fat Tuesday is the final day of the celebration that involves fireworks, special dinners and parties, and art. In 2016, the Venice festival is featuring almost 150 separate events, leading up to a best mask of Carnival contest, a closing ceremony and fireworks at the Arsenal of Venice.

Your donors dont have to leave the country to celebrate Mardi Gras, either. Universal Studios in Orlando celebrates the holiday on select dates between February and April, with parades and concerts in a family-friendly environment. Music is a major part of the fun here; 2016 features traditional New Orleans Zydeco bands in the French Quarter Courtyard and big name touring acts like Adam Lambert and Diana Ross on the Music Plaza stage.

And while New Orleans will always be the gold standard of Mardi Gras celebrations in America, most major cities in the country mark the day with some sort of event. In New York, the 2nd Avenue Mardi Gras Stroll enters its 19th year of libation-fueled fun, while the Mardi Gras Ball in Boston is into its third decade of existence. Mid-sized communities get into the act, as well; In North Carolina, Asheville has its own parade on the weekend preceding Fat Tuesday, and Snowmass, just miles outside of Aspen, kicks off the day itself with the Mother of All Ascensions, an uphill snowshoe race.
Carnival in Nice

Carnival in Venice

Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida

Mardi Gras at Snowmass


To leave a comment, please click here.

Beyond the Slopes

January 27, 2016
For some, skiing is the most thrilling activity imaginable on two planks of wood: The speed, the adrenaline, the rush of careening down a mountainside with the wind whizzing past. For others, it seems like the easiest way to book a vacation in a local emergency room.

Offering a ski-themed fundraising auction travel package can make a lot of sense for organizations, especially those based in warmer climates. But if you want to widen your trips appeal, make sure to point out the non-skiing based fun that can be had in many of our favorite winter wonderlands.

In Colorado, the Rocky Mountains attract bicyclists throughout the summer months, taking to the hills in search of good workouts and downhill sprints. But just because the winter months bring snow to the ski runs doesnt mean that bicyclists have to hang up their helmets. Visitors to the city of Telluride, for instance, can take the Telluride Brewing Company Tour, with a fat tire bike tour of the surrounding valleys floor, finishing with a tasting at the titular brewery. The wider-than-normal tires grip the ground better, meaning increased traction and safety in even the most treacherous of conditions. The tour is a beautiful way to enjoy the bracing cold of the season, then immediately warm up with a pint of beer.

Weve written at length about the reasons that Jackson Hole makes for a great getaway, but one of our favorite options for vacations during the Wyoming winter is a cold-weather safari. Local tour guides take visitors out into places like the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park, looking for everything from waterfowl to wolves. And with the guide doing the driving, everyone on the vacation can relax and sightsee, rather than one unlucky person having to drive. Bonus: No trip photo may beat that of a donor, standing out on the Antelope Flats, with mountains in the background and bison or other animals roaming nearby.

For those who still want to strap something to their feet, a trip to Whistler may be in order, where the infrastructure left in place from the 2010 Winter Olympics has created a surplus of ice rinks upon which to skate. Pose for group photos on the surface of the rink in the Olympic Plaza, for instance, with the five rings of the Olympic Games still standing in the background, or head indoors to the Meadow Park Sports Centre to find an NHL-sized sheet of ice and instructors ready to help teach neophytes. And if being out in nature is a priority, the Whistler area has a number of lakes that, during the winter, freeze over enough to support skaters (check local safety guides, of course). Skating in circles, with the gorgeous backdrop of British Columbia, can be every bit as satisfying as speeding down a mountain.
Telluride
 
Grand Teton National Park
 
Fairmont Chateau Whistler


To leave a comment, please click here.

Disney for Everyone

January 20, 2016
The first thought is of the ears, the ubiquitous hats with plastic versions of Mickey Mouses circular stand-ins for hearing appendages. Theyre must-have pieces of memorabilia for the kids that are most closely associated with the Disney theme parks in Southern California and Orlando.

Like those ears, when many people think about Disneyland and Disney World, they imagine an army of children, running from line to line and eating cotton candy. But empty sugar calories and roller coasters are only one side of the most popular attractions in Anaheim and Orlando, respectively.

Mitch-Stuart prides itself in setting up non-profits with fundraising auction travel packages to Destinations of Excellence around the world. It can be easy to overlook the Disney resorts as options for donor bases who seek more grown-up experiences, but the Happiest Place on Earth has plenty of charms to make even the most sophisticated supporter smile.

While many may associate amusement parks with hot dogs, funnel cakes and too-sweet lemonade, both Disney resorts have expanded their food offerings to appeal to visitors with more mature palettes. In Florida, restaurants like Victoria and Alberts bring fine dining to Disney with a dress code (dinner jackets for the gentlemen, dresses or pantsuits for ladies) and one of the most coveted meals in the city of Orlando: The Chefs Table, a one-seating-per-night affair with an ever-shifting tasting menu. Southern California, of course, has a cuisine of its own, and it comes to life at Napa Rose inside the Grand Californian Hotel, while the upscale Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disneyland feels like a supper club.

Each resort also has its own version of a Main Street, with different experiences best enjoyed by those whom have reached at least 21 years of age. In Anaheim, Downtown Disney is a favorite for everyone from sports nuts (its the home of the lone remaining ESPNZone restaurant) to music lovers (jazz fans flock to Jazz Kitchen, while some of the top touring acts of today play the House of Blues). In Florida, Disney Springs features a resident Cirque du Soleil show, its own House of Blues and the trendy Paradiso 37 lounge.

But not every adult activity in Anaheim or Orlando has to be cartoon mouse-free. For anyone who wants to see the parks with fewer rugrats running around, try to time your trips to the Magic Kingdom Park or Disneyland Park for later in the evening. Disneyland Park stays open as late as midnight, depending on the season, and the Magic Kingdom Park has a 12 a.m. bedtime year-round. Its true that kids tend to get to stay up later when on vacation, but even with that caveat the 11 p.m. Main Street Electrical Parade at Magic Kingdom Park is still attended mostly by the young-at-heart, rather than the young-in-actual-age.
Disney

World of Color Disneyland

Disney Cars

Disney Castle


To leave a comment, please click here.

Fundraising Auction Resolutions

January 12, 2016
Were almost two weeks into 2016. How are those resolutions doing?

According to a Harris Interactive poll from two years ago, one in three people who make a New Years resolution has ditched it by the end of January. Whether its shedding a few extra pounds, staying within a budget or even stopping smoking, changes made based on the calendar seem to carry less weight for individuals than those made out of true need. However, for your organization, the New Year may be just the time to supercharge a fundraising auction.

We love helping non-profit organizations raise funds with our gala auction travel packages, but we also want to make sure that each trip offered fetches the maximum bid possible, while also being easy for both the supporters and the staff. What are some changes you can make to guarantee that 2016 is your most successful fundraising year?

  • Get mobile. Pew Research says that almost two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone as of the spring of 2015, and that number certainly is not going to decrease. Using a mobile bidding system like our partner, GiveSmart, allows your gala attendees to place bids from their table and, maybe more importantly, pay from their phones, helping to lessen that end-of-evening payment crush at the auction table. It also simplifies your post-auction process by collecting fulfillment and payment information in one place, meaning less paperwork.
  • Get wide. Yes, most resolutions involve getting more narrow (especially when it comes to waists and guts), but it might be time for your gala auction event to try and reach out to more people. An eye-popping 87 percent of millennials gave to charity in 2013, but for those who are just starting in their chosen career paths, bidding $5,000 on a trip may be impractical. However, by offering a travel package raffle, those same 20- and 30-somethings who may not be able to shell out the big bucks can support your organization while having a chance at winning a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
  • Get big. On the opposite end of the affordability spectrum, never be afraid of offering the kinds of trips that bring in the biggest bids. Offering at least one affordable option is important to get everyone involved, but your biggest donors are willing to buy more than a couple of raffle tickets. Weeklong adventures to Bali, safaris, tickets to the biggest sporting events and award shows each of these can bring in the type of money that turns a fundraising effort into a major success. Give your supporters a real chance to step up to the plate, and you may be surprised by what theyll do.


To leave a comment, please click here.

Travel With Your Pack

January 06, 2016
Multiple times every year, we gather together our travel experts and put together new trips for our Destinations of Excellence catalog. These fundraising auction travel packages can be sold at galas or via raffles, and are sold on consignment, meaning theres no upfront cost to the charitable organization.

Our last catalog update included the expansion of our Villas and Residencies section, featuring trips with accommodations for up to ten people, in housing beyond the normal hotel room. From private residences to water-side villas, these vacations can not only bring in bigger bids, but can appeal to very specific types of bidders. If any of these motivations for shopping at your charity auction sounds familiar, weve got just the trip to make your supporters happy, all while raising funds for your important cause.

As some parents may have discovered over the last month, buying gifts for kids especially college-aged or grown kids can be tough. But experiences never go out of style, and globe-trotting with friends is even better. If youve got supporters who have kids that are ready for traveling with their peer group, offer them the chance to bid on trips like our This is Your Balinese Paradise or Balis Breathtaking Beauty packages. These type of international adventures can spark a lifelong love of travel in a recent grad, and in most cases will be otherwise out of reach financially for the gifts recipient. Theyll also get a great chance to bond with their friends, classmates or new coworkers in a way that transcends the connections forged at, say, happy hour.

For your donors who might have formed their own social clubs, be they ski, wine or golf-centric, the prospect of getting the whole group out to explore its passion can bring in big money. For the golfers, the Colorado at Its Absolute Best trip takes up to eight people or two foursomes to Telluride, with discounted green fees and access to the Telluride Golf Clubs Members Club. Oenophiles will love heading to Sonoma, California with up to six people staying in a private residence. And skiers can head out on the slopes in Deer Valley or Telluride, with up to eight people. Meeting at the local wine bar or playing the nearby 18 may never feel the same.

But the most common and trendiest reason for travelers to need extra room in their accommodations is multi-generational trips. Getting the entire family together and getting out on the road can lead to the creation of lifelong memories, the type that are rehashed at holiday dinners for years to come. Any of the trips in our catalog are capable of creating those once-in-a-lifetime moments, but our trips to Italy may be the best at offering fun for the whole family. The Under the Tuscan Sun package allows a donor to bring nine more people to Tuscany, and includes an in-villa gourmet meal for the entire family, either an artisanal cheese or olive-picking experience and, for the grown-ups (or grown kids), a full-day wine tour.
Bali
 
Villas at Tristant
 
Sonoma
 
Tuscany Villa


To leave a comment, please click here.