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Recognizing Your Donors

July 26, 2017
We all know the importance of saying “thank you.” After learning to not eat things off the ground and not touch a hot stove, it’s one of the first, basic lessons we learn as children. And in the non-profit fundraising world, we know that saying thank you to donors is important, as well; it gives them the chance to form a bond with an organization or cause, hopefully insuring that the supporters will help when called upon.

But donors can sometimes be a wider category than we think. Yes, those who respond to mail solicitations or buy gala tickets and bid on auction items fall into that classification, but to limit the term to just them leaves out many supporters, including some that you’d be hard-pressed to get along without.

We’ve seen the power of “thank you” first hand in our experience of working with non-profits to help raise money with our fundraising auction travel packages. Just to make sure you’re saying thank you to all the right people, we want to make sure your list is updated to include all sorts of donors, including…

Those Who Donate Items: Not all donations to your cause come in monetary form. Whether it’s business owners passing on a few of their wares or collectible items from a personal collection, getting auction lots donated to your cause can be worth their weight in bids. And since you’re going to turn those auction items into money anyway, it’s important to make sure that donors are recognized accordingly. Thank you notes after the auction are great, but also think about other options in conjunction, like a mention of gratitude when the lot is introduced at the auction itself, or a “donated by…” in the program.

We spent some time in this space going over the benefits of encouraging major donors to “underwrite” certain trips. This can be a major commitment, of course, and so it’s important to recognize those contributors in any way possible. Like a donated item, they’ve made this travel package available, in their own way, so a mention during the auction, a thank you after the gala, and a program shout-out are all appropriate. It might also be nice to pass along any notes, thank yous or photos that you receive from the item winner after he or she returns from traveling – a way of including the underwriter later and an excuse for a reminder that the next gala auction event is always around the corner.

Volunteers: It’s difficult to pull off a major auction event with just your paid staff, which is why most galas depend on a team of volunteers. You may not be able to pay them, but you can make sure that they feel important. Giving them recognition from the stage and sending thank you notes are, again, both important. But trying to find other ways to put them in the spotlight can be fun, too; maybe a volunteer helps introduce one of the night’s biggest auction items, or gets on the microphone to give some background on the cause for which your organization is raising money. Letting your volunteers take center stage give them one more reason to feel warm and fuzzy about your non-profit, which will help when you call for their unpaid assistance in the future.

Travel with a … Grill?

July 19, 2017
Picture, if you will, a big plate of barbecue. Depending on where you’re from, you might have an image in your head of a chicken leg doused in a dark red sauce, or maybe a tangy pulled pork sandwich with a side of almost-translucent dressing. Either of those are correct, of course. And barbecue fans will go back and forth all day as to which style of ‘cue is the most “authentic.”

But to limit barbecue, the unofficial foodstuff of summer, to a binary choice is to ignore grilling traditions from not only all over the country, but all over the world.

Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to use for any number of reasons, and many of them have culinary twists, whether it’s food tours or in-residence cooking lessons. If you’ve got donors who are connected at the hip to their grills, the type who like to look over the shoulder of the chef at every cookout, some of these alternative barbecue destinations may garner big bids at an auction.

Anyone who has seen Hawaii portrayed on television is likely familiar with the luau, where the party often barbecues a full pig. But that’s not the only way that Hawaiians prepare meat over an open flame. When on the island of Oahu, ask around for a good purveyor of huli-huli, which is chicken done rotisserie-style and, as one might expect, seasoned with a pineapple-forward marinade. While a full luau can be hard to find (and costly to attend), huli-huli is sometimes found even at stands or food trucks.

Really good ‘cue is likely a little too heavy for the health-conscious residents of Los Angeles. But head up the coast a couple of hours – closer to Santa Barbara – and you hit Santa Maria, the home of tri-tip barbecue. A Santa Maria-style plate of barbecue is likely to closely resemble a steak as served in a restaurant; seasoning is sparse, and the taste of the meat (and the smoke created by the oak-powered fire) is the star. The supporting cast, though, can steal the show; most Santa Maria-style barbecue joints will serve it alongside grilled French bread that’s been decadently dipped in butter.

And America does not have a monopoly on great grilling, of course. In Barcelona, the art of barbacoa involves a heavier emphasis on pork over cow or chicken, but it still tastes delicious all the same. And barbacoa in Barcelona is often done in a very communal atmosphere; festivals are prevalent, maybe as common as private, backyard affairs. And in Tuscany, like Santa Maria, there’s no sauce used (except for a finishing drizzle of olive oil), but the flavor that comes from the all-wood fire is plenty for most barbecue fans. With an emphasis on fresh elements (especially vegetables), European grilling is both healthy and flavorful.

Water World

July 12, 2017
There may be no more quintessential summer vacation than one involving a beach. Ever since automobiles have existed, Americans have jumped in the car to take day trips out to the shore. And there are several trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog set up for your sand-loving donors. But to limit major bodies of water to objects of stares from seaside recliners is to ignore several different ways in which water can be the centerpoint of a fantastic vacation.

Do you have any water-loving donors? If so, we’ve got a non-profit fundraising auction travel package that lets them interact with oceans, rivers and seas in almost any manner.

In the Water: For those supporters who want to do more than stare at an ocean, three of our trips to Bali might fit the bill. SCUBA lessons are easy ways for your donors, even the inexperienced ones, to interact with underwater nature, and in the pristine waters around Amed, the fishing villages on the eastern side of the island, there’s plenty to see beneath the sea. Maybe they’ll even spot the sunfish, Bali’s 2,000-kilogram docile monster of a fish, for a great photo opportunity.

On the Water: We love cruises here at Mitch-Stuart – we just took this space last week to talk about best practices for your donors who are heading out on the seas. But if you’ve got supporters who want to stick to one destination but still get in some boat time, offer one of packages with sightseeing or dinner cruises. Be it gliding through Amsterdam’s canals at night, exploring the architecture of Chicago, or experiencing some of the best jazz that New Orleans has to offer (along with a Creole buffet!), the options for day-long or shorter cruises on our trips seem endless.

By the Water: Of course, just being ocean-adjacent is good enough for many people. Mitch-Stuart has dozens of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that will put your donors on a beach chair overlooking some body of water. But another way to stay by the water is to find a great stream and go fishing. Our “Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada” package sends supporters to Alberta or British Columbia for a fly fishing expedition. With the reasonable Canadian temperatures (the average high in Whistler is 80 degrees during July, the city’s hottest month) and the fun of learning how to fish from experts, the travel package is the type that will have certain donors jumping out of their seats during an auction.

Enjoying the Seas

July 05, 2017
At Mitch-Stuart, some of our most popular non-profit fundraising auction travel packages involve cruises. We love being able to send donors on an all-inclusive trip that touches on several different countries and offers opportunities for a tremendous range of activities. And since we’ve been fans of cruises for so long, we know some great ways for a donor to take advantage of time out at sea. If your donors follow these four suggestions, they’ll make numerous new memories – and they’ll remember that your non-profit helped make them happen!

Pace Yourself:
Whether it’s food, drink, or sun, it’s easy to be a bit too gluttonous on day one of a cruise. And as big as a modern cruise ship is, there’s way too much to see at once. Relax, make reservations for activities at a later date, and try to soak in a bit of the ocean before trying to do it all.

Get Off the Ship: It can be hard to remember, with all of the food, the activities and the amenities aboard a cruise liner, that the ship itself is only part of the destination. Whether it’s a warm-weather cruise around the Caribbean or an adventure into the waters of Alaska, these trips explore some of the world’s most beloved territory. And with adventures ranging from guided tours to adrenaline rushes, there’s something off the ship – just like there’s something on the ship – for everybody.

Expand Your Palate: The variety of dining options on modern cruise lines, especially the ones in our trip catalog, is breathtaking. If your donors want to make sure they enjoy their journey, they should eat more than the same five dishes that make up their diet at home. Try sushi, or Chinese hot pot cuisine. Go to that Tuscan Italian steakhouse. It’s a rare opportunity to have so many options at just an arm’s length; tell your donors to take advantage (and to send pictures of the exquisite meals back, of course!).

Don’t Wait: Want to try out one of the specialty restaurants? How about getting a massage? Your donors need to approach the trip with an outline of what they want to do while at sea, and make sure to reserve their spots as soon as possible. That great off-ship hike or fantastic chef’s table dinner is not hidden, and there are hundreds of other passengers likely interested. If they commit early, then they can relax and enjoy their voyage without the fear of missing out.