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Great American Celebrations

June 28, 2017
Fireworks at the National Mall

For some, July 4th means grilling in the back yard, getting together with family and friends, and watching the big celebrations in Washington D.C. and elsewhere on television. But at Mitch-Stuart, we think that the Fourth of July is one of the best holidays of the year for themed travel. A federal holiday, in the summer with kids out of school? It’s no wonder that AAA rates July 4th as one of the largest travel holidays of the year; more people often hit the road in early July than do for Memorial Day!

We’re big proponents of traveling for a specific reason, whether it’s a tremendous wine tour in Italy or a Broadway show in New York. And while many of these Fourth of July celebrations are travel-worthy on their own, some are add-ons to already-fantastic events. Consider it a two-for-one Independence Day Sale: Your donors can go to an event and get a party at the same time.

For those looking to combine a patriotic display with an attraction in one of our favorite destinations, these celebrations are ones to watch.

There are fireworks displays in and around Los Angeles too numerous to count. A favorite for decades, though, has been the July 4th show at the Hollywood Bowl. Often headlined by a legendary music act (Smokey Robinson played the 2016 edition) and always with a patriotic medley performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, it’s a quintessential summer evening in L.A. Pair it with a pre-show picnic (outside food and drink are allowed at the Bowl), and a donor will have a unique story to tell about a trip to the City of Angels.

The biggest Fourth of July celebration in some destinations is tied to a local sports team. In San Francisco and Atlanta, for instance, fireworks follow the baseball games of the Giants and Braves, respectively. Cities with minor league baseball squads often light the skies over their stadiums, as well. The best-kept secret, though, may be in Denver, where Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids throw an all-day affair, called 4th Fest. Since the team’s inception, it’s been the one of, if not the, biggest celebration in the state’s capital city.

Of course, considering the historical import of the day, it is not surprising that museums often do a great job of celebrating July 4th. In cities like Boston (at the Museum of Science), San Diego (USS Midway and Maritime Museums), and Chicago (Chicago History Museum) revelers can spend the day splitting time between picnics and exhibits. And of course, the biggest museum-adjacent celebration is also the nation’s most famous, as the National Mall (which is lined with different Smithsonian museums) welcomes as many as a million people for a concert and fireworks show.

Summer Cuisine

June 21, 2017
When it is blazing hot outside, few people want a hearty meal. The summer is the time for lighter cuisine, with dishes that match the seasonal availability of many fruits and vegetables – and often don’t require adding to the home’s heat problems by turning on the oven.

Mitch-Stuart loves to send donors on foodie adventures with its non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. During the summer, those trips are less about rib-sticking soul food or heavy cream-based sauces and recipes, and more about light dishes, the type that don’t weigh a diner down afterward and can be eaten in between hikes, bike rides or even surfing runs. If you’ve got some supporters who think the way to a good vacation is through the stomach, we’ve got destinations to which they’d like to go during the summer months.

When it comes to lighter summer fare, no city may spring to mind faster than Los Angeles. The City of Angels eats lean throughout the year, and there’s an abundance of options; some of the country’s best sushi restaurants are here (five of the top 20, according to an MSN list released in late 2016), and seafood is fresh and abundant. In addition, health-conscious Angelinos take some of the lightest options from elsewhere and make them their own, as evident in the town’s current poke fever.

More than a continent away, Italian food is often stereotyped as being heavy, thanks to rich sauces and plates full of pasta. But in the southern part of the state, especially along the coasts, seafood reigns. A city like Sorrento is as well known for its clams as its spaghetti – in fact, the combination of the two is one of the town’s most popular dishes. And almost every meal here for those of age ends with a digestif of limoncello; it’s such a tradition, some restaurants offer a pour of it free of charge when diners ask for the bill.

Lighter cuisine can also describe the portions, too. Take Barcelona, where its traditional foods like gazpacho and paella are served as tapas, or small plates. Not only does this mean no entrée-sized calorie bombs, but also it allows for diners to sample a wider range of dishes. Dinner at a restaurant in Barcelona often means being able to sample, snack on and share the entire menu, rather than making just one choice. Considering that options will often range from pa amb tomaquet (tomato bread) to Iberian ham, even the heartiest diners may want to downsize their dishes.

Auction 201

June 14, 2017
You know about using an auctioneer, you know about planning for outdoor venues, and you know where to spend money to make sure your event is as successful as possible. Along with providing once-in-a-lifetime fundraising auction travel packages to sell on consignment, we love to help out with any advice you may need when it comes to arranging a fundraising gala.  

Many of the more basic tips are either common sense or discussed elsewhere on the blog. So this week, let’s look at some other ways to make your next fundraising auction the best one yet.

1. Diversify

We often talk about diversifying auction items; a lot list with nothing but golf items may not appeal to the widest range of gala attendees. But by offering different kinds of trips during your event, you can reach every type of bidder, too, whether it’s the supporter who likes the thrill of a competitive back-and-forth or someone who just wants to buy an item to help, rather than deal with an escalating price. Offering live and silent auctions, along with “buy it now” items and even raffles, means offering your donors more chances to get involved.

2. Identify top bidders for future events

Every bid is a data point for the planning of future auctions. If you see someone going big, whether winning or losing, you want to know their interests and what they might be seeking. These are the people to which you want to reach out before the next event, to see what has caught their eye lately. Then, figure out how to deliver that item. It will take some of the guesswork out of the process of rounding up auction items and guarantee that every item has someone in the crowd for which it’s the pinnacle of the evening.

3. Group smaller donated items together

Sometimes, items are stronger together. If you’ve got some donated lots that may not be big enough to deserve their own time in the auction spotlight, find a creative theme and turn three or more small pieces into one big gift basket. It gives you more time during the auction to spend on each lot, and it takes focus away from the individual items. Instead, your donors will have the chance to support your cause by buying a “basket” of items, at least one of which a supporter may be interested in. In fact, if you’ve got donors interested in different parts of the collection, you’ve just increased the competition for all of them.

Want more auction tips? We’ve got them! Reach out to one of our Travel Experts for more information.

Where Summer Rules

June 07, 2017
As May turns into June, Memorial Day fades in the rear view mirror, and the summer solstice sneaks up on us, thoughts often turn to vacation. Kids are out of school, workplaces may be a little more lenient when it comes to three-day weekends, and something about the warmer temperatures tells us that it’s time to get outside.

Often, as we pull out our calendars, we think of area beaches – or even of flying to nicer ones. But there’s another way to think about the summer traveling season: What are the destinations that are, by far, best in the summer? Where should you go in June, July and August where there’s a major advantage over November, December and January?

At Mitch-Stuart, we believe that the vast majority of destinations for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages – including those below! – are appropriate for year-round travel. But for these cities, states and island provinces, there’s something about summer that makes them “musts” during those months rather than “maybes.”

While it’s true that modern cruise ships are pretty well climate-controlled, summer is still the best season by far to take a trip through Alaska. The “cruise season” is said to run from April through to September, making summer the most popular time, and with good reason: High temperatures are warm enough that off-boat excursions don’t require coats. Late summer, in particular may be particularly attractive, with nighttime growing dark enough to catch glimpses of the northern lights and the mosquito population beginning to thin out.

Average high temperatures in Reykjavik, Iceland never get above 60 degrees, even during the summer, so it’s not the place for the thin-blooded. But considering that the average high temperature in the winter months hovers around freezing and summer precipitation averages are as much as 40 percent lower, anyone looking at heading to the Icelandic capital would do well to consider June, July and August. An added bonus: At the summer solstice, the city gets as many as 21 hours of sunlight, meaning even more time for exploring the country’s rugged beauty.

The southern hemisphere is in the midst of winter when we’re enjoying beach weather here in the north. The temperatures in Bali, though, do not deviate much throughout the year, thanks to the island’s proximity to the equator. Accordingly, the seasons are separated less by degrees and more by inches of precipitation. The winter, according to the travel experts at Frommer’s, is considered the rainy months, where flash floods and afternoon thunderstorms are frequent. If your donors would like to explore Bali’s charms without getting soaked (or carrying around an umbrella), our summer is by far the best time to visit.