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The Horror! Five Big Auction Mistakes

October 25, 2017
Horror movies are based on bad decisions, like asking the wrong person for help after a car breakdown or running toward the haunted house. It’s these moments when the protagonist’s fate is often sealed.

In a similar (if less graphic) manner, there are mistakes that an auction planner can make that seal a gala event’s fundraising fate, too. And while very few of them involve hockey-masked madmen or knife-gloved, wisecracking demons, they’re still worth avoiding in order to make sure that you raise as much money for your charitable cause as possible.

Thinking Small – It can be a bit scary to offer a big-ticket item, like a week-long travel package or luxury goods. What happens if no one even bids the reserve price? But let your donors step up to the challenge; it’s better to ask for too much (especially if the item, like our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, is being offered on no-risk consignment) than to ask for too little and possibly leave money out there.

Saving the Biggest For Last – It superficially makes sense to save the highest-priced item for the last lot of the evening, letting the anticipation build to the very end. But think logically: If you’ve got two people bidding on the last item, one of them will lose. And that person will go home with money in his or her pocket that may otherwise have been destined for a different auction item. Don’t lead with the most expensive item of the day, of course, but don’t leave it until last, either.

Getting a Volunteer to be Auctioneer – As well meaning as volunteers can be, a good auctioneer is worth his or her cost. There’s much more to running the show than talking fast and exclaiming “sold!,” and a professional auctioneer is skilled at getting the biggest bids out of an audience.

Ignoring the Smaller Donors – Unless there was a lotto jackpot involved, it’s a good bet that your biggest donors started out as small-dollar supporters. Make sure that every bid or donation is recognized, and that those who might right now only be able to afford a smaller gift feel the love, too – it’s the right thing to do, and it could pay off in the future.

Forgetting to Say Thank You – Your donors are happy to help your cause, of course, but it’s always nice to be recognized. Make sure that your supporters know how much their auction bids, contributions and presence means to you with thank you cards, follow-up phone calls and any other sort of recognition possible.


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Traveling Without Driving

October 18, 2017
There are some public transit systems so popular, you can buy their memorabilia. There are t-shirts available online with images of the New York City subway map and mugs with London’s famous “Mind the Gap” slogan emblazoned on the side. In fact, renting a car while traveling to either city – and being responsible for parking said car – can be incredibly inconvenient.

Many of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages come with bonuses like airport transfers. But when your donors are in the city, how do they want to get around? Do they want the hassle of driving, looking for gas stations and constantly worrying about parking, or would they rather let a good subway or bus system take care of the logistics? If your supporters lean toward the later, here are some of our favorite non-New York, non-London options.

London may be the first European city that comes to mind when public transit is the topic, but don’t discount its neighbor across the Channel. Paris is home to the second-busiest subway in Europe, and has more than 300 stations. That sounds like it could be overwhelming for the outsider, but its density is a big benefit; there’s hardly an attraction in the city that isn’t accessible by train. Some of the older stations, which were built in the Art Deco and Beaux Arts style, are also architectural beauties on their own.

Any city where the attractions are bunched together can be navigable via public transit, and there may be no better example of that than Las Vegas. With so many of Sin City’s activities situated on the Las Vegas Strip, it’s easy to use either the hop-on Strip bus “The Deuce” or take the monorail to jump from resort to resort. And with so many of the tours (like those to the Grand Canyon) taking off from Stripside spots, it’s like Mother Nature has her own bus stop.

That same geographic centrality helps make San Francisco an excellent town to visit without a car. The trolleys are world famous, of course, but the Bay Area Rapid Transit system does the harder work for locals, connecting the City by the Bay to Oakland and Berkeley. Combined with local buses, the subway is enough for a visitor to see it all, without having to fight rush-hour traffic.

There may be no city more closely associated with the automobile than Los Angeles, but the transit culture is changing there. Winners of our Los Angeles awards show packages can take the train almost directly to the front door of the Microsoft Theater in downtown L.A. – and during off hours, that same train can take your supporters to the beaches of Santa Monica, to the Hollywood Walk of Stars and even the Hollywood Bowl. It’s amazing to say, but it’s true: A visitor to Los Angeles can see most of the attractions and have a tremendous time without getting into a car.


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The Foods of Fall

October 11, 2017
As seasons change, tastes change. The light fare of the summer months gives way to the rib-sticking comfort food of the fall. Vegetables come in and out of season – it’s time for pumpkins and squash. And vacation destinations often change, as well, as visitors flock to leaf-peeping areas or other places where the fall is colorful.

We’ve written before about chasing the fall colors, so today we’d like to focus on how your donors can use our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to chase the fall tastes. Far beyond a trip to the local coffee shop for a pumpkin spice latte, these vacation ideas can bring your supporters to where the vibrancy of the season can be both seen and tasted.

When it comes to all things fall, the New England area tends to spring to mind directly. And at least two dishes that end up at meals across the world when the leaves change color have roots – some literally! – in the area. Pumpkin pie was technically invented in England, but their version is in no way similar to what we see on dessert tables at Thanksgiving; the modern pie could be said to get its start in the very first American cookbook, written in 1796 by Amelia Simmons in Connecticut. And the most popular variety of butternut squash, one of the fall’s most versatile side dishes, was developed in Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.

Our northeast doesn’t have a monopoly on the season, however. We might think of “Here We Go a Wassailing” as a Christmas song, but did you know that “wassailing” has a second definition, tied to visiting orchards? In the West Country of England, cider is a major product, and ceremonies are performed there meant to give thanks for apple trees. Singing or not, the end product is fantastic apple cider, to be enjoyed either on its own or with a “spike” from an adult beverage.

The fall is also a great time to break out those comfort foods, and there are few foods more comfortable than Irish stew. The dish goes back to the pre-potato famine days, using leftovers and cheaper bits of meat to make a meal out of scraps. That tradition has continued around the globe, as the Irish diaspora has spread; no two recipes for Irish stew seem to be the same, as locals use whatever is on hand to fill out the bowl. But if it’s got root vegetables and lamb or beef, it probably originated on the Emerald Isle.


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The Shoulder Season

October 03, 2017
We think of fall as the time for pumpkin spice, football and the changing colors of foliage. But at travel agencies, hotel front desks and even some restaurant maître d’ stations, the season has a different name: Shoulder Season.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can be used throughout the year, of course, but we’ve got a special place in our heart for that time when the biggest mass of tourists has gone home, the weather is still good and destinations are still at their most welcoming. The shoulder season, for certain travelers, can be the best time of year in some cities.

“Shoulder season” is the name given to time periods that fall in between peak and off-peak seasons at tourist destinations. For instance, Montreal is glorious in the summer, but considered by many to be a bit too cold for winter travel. The fall, in between the beautiful summer and tougher winter, is considered the shoulder season there, along with April and May.

Booking trips during this season, which can vary slightly based on destination but often comes in the fall and/or spring, can be a great way to get the most out of a vacation. Attractions are often less crowded, meaning more room to spread out on the beach or less time waiting in lines at Disneyland. Restaurant reservations can be easier to score, as well. And some destinations have shoulder seasons that come with unique attractions, as well; hiking in the Rocky Mountains can be rough during the winter, but fall walks through color-changing aspen trees in Telluride are stunning.

There are some minimal risks to shoulder season travel, especially when it comes to the weather. Between late-season heatwaves and early-season storms, the climate can be unpredictable. Before the winter snowbirds arrive on Miami’s beaches in January, the region is prone to spurts of severe weather, for instance – even if the shoulder season here lies technically outside of hurricane season. Spring comes to life in most places at slightly different times each year; a trip too far north in April may mean dealing with snow. And shoulder season can fall during an inconvenient time of the year for some; for most destinations, it’s in the fall or the spring, making it a tough time for families to take kids out of school for a road trip.

But if your donors are willing to take a small risk in terms of weather, they can often find destinations that are easier to navigate and have just as many attractions during the shoulder season as during the peak season.


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