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The Trip Around the Event

January 31, 2018
You got them! You got tickets to the big event – the Super Bowl, the Masters, the American Music Awards. Those could be big earners at your upcoming gala auction.

The emphasis, though, is on “could.”

We’ve talked before about how to maximize the potential of great fundraising travel packages. There’s another way, however, of making sure that you’re getting the full value, specifically of a trip to a major event, and that is to make sure that it’s the center of a great itinerary.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages often come pre-packaged with both tickets to the big event and other activities. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t add your own ideas to the lot. Here are some ways to make sure that your once-in-a-lifetime event tickets bring in as much money as possible.

The big event may only appeal to one-half of a traveling couple. One person may be a big football fan, for instance. Maybe one is a big music fan and is looking forward to an awards show. In these situations, thinking of “counter-programming” may be helpful. If the big event is the Super Bowl, a gift card for spa services or a dinner cruise of some sort might work. Going to an awards show? Couple it with a great dress-down activity, maybe something involving the outdoors. A weekend away, even one centered around a singular event, is plenty of time to appeal to every traveler’s desires.

Any excuse to go to a nice restaurant is a good one; we are a culture, after all, that made “dinner and a movie” into a thing, even when the cost of the food far outpaces the tickets for the film. Having reservations at one of the hottest eateries in town for a nice meal before the main event is a great way of turning a moment into an evening. Great food can often be found near venues, as restauranteurs know that they’ve got a massive nearby audience, looking for a pre- or post-outing plate.

Finally, these events can be tiring. Super Bowl LI in 2017 took almost four hours from opening kick to the final play – and that doesn’t include the time it took to get into and out of the stadium. Awards shows are notorious for running long. And some other sporting events, like The Masters, involve a full day of walking. Making sure the accommodations are comfortable and high-quality is vital; it’s why we insist on luxury hotels for each of our trips to big happenings.

From the Catalog: In the Ocean

January 24, 2018
Whether it’s snowbirds looking for a break from the winter doldrums or donors looking for summer vacation plans, our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that feature beaches always get great reactions. But while the sand is a draw all its own, there’s plenty to do beyond the surf’s break line. Giving your donors a chance to not only relax by the beach, but also play in the ocean itself can elevate a trip and give your supporters stories to tell when they get home.

Many of our travel packages that take place at beach destinations also feature some sort of ocean activity, whether it’s in the water or just slightly above it. Some of our favorites include:

It can be a bit intimidating at first to consider a scuba diving outing, considering the training that has to go into the activity. Thankfully, our travel packages like “Bali’s Exotic Indonesian Escape” involve scuba lessons, meaning that anyone can explore the depths of the ocean. Supporters can also check out a fascinating World War II artifact; The wreckage of a U.S. Army transport, torpedoed by the Japanese, lies on the ocean floor off the coast of the fishing village of Tulamben.

Getting out on the open seas while behind the steering wheel of a yacht can be an unparalleled rush. With our “An America’s Cup Yacht Experience” package, your donors can have an interactive sailing adventure in San Diego Bay, with views of both dramatic natural coastline and the city itself. If a different “bay” destination is desired, there’s the “Skipper an America’s Cup Yacht in the Bay,” which takes trip winners to San Francisco. And on the other side of the country, the “Anchor’s Away” package brings supporters to Newport, Rhode Island to ride on an America’s Cup yacht when not exploring the summer oasis of a town.

Dinner cruises: Of course, staying on the water rather than in it can be enticing, as well. With our “Get Jazzy in the Big Easy” package, your donors can take a jazz cruise and get a gorgeous view of the city while also listening to some of the Crescent City’s best musicians. Meanwhile the “San Diego’s Enchanting Coastal Chic” trip includes a dinner cruise around the city’s harbor, one that sometimes features a beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

The clear blue waters of Hawaii make for a great snorkeling adventure; floating on the surface of the ocean means needing that clarity of sight to get the most out of a trip. Our “Aquatic Adventure at Hawaii’s Magic Isle” trip takes your donors to Maui and sets them up with a guided reef tour and a stop at Molokini, a partially-submerged volcanic crater.

Adventures in a Winter Wonderland, Ski-Free

January 17, 2018
It’s been said that there’s no such thing as cold weather, just inappropriate clothing. And while that’s tough for us Southern Californians to remember at times, it’s true: Some snow and cold temperatures don’t have to put a damper on your winter vacations.

As the popularity of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to cold-weather destinations would attest, there are plenty of people (including some of your donors, likely) who love getting out into the snow. But those packages don’t just sell to skiers; there’s a diverse range of wintertime outdoor activities that can get even the most cold-adverse person out of the hotel and into the powder.

What else is there to do other than speed down the mountains on skis (or even snowboards)? Here are some ideas to pass along to your donors.

The thrill of speed and the challenge of keeping balance can be found on sheets of ice as well as slopes of snow. Ice skating can get the reticent out of the house and into the weather (in the case of an outdoor rink) or, at least, into a cold building (for indoor facilities). Most resort towns will have a rink somewhere nearby, but Vancouver might be the most interesting; there are outdoor and indoor facilities across the city, as many as golf courses in most major cities, and they include Trout Lake Rink, a venue built for the 2010 Olympics.

For those who need a little more heat to draw them outdoors in the winter, there’s always the day-ending bonfire. There are few experiences quite like making s’mores, huddled under a blanket on a clear winter night. These can happen anywhere, of course, but Telluride, Colo. might be the best place; the cold there, when it’s not snowing, is dry enough to feel a touch warmer. Also, the city has hosted major bonfires before; in 2015, Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson hosted a massive one in Telluride as a sacrifice to the snow gods. It worked: The town got 29 inches of powder the following weekends, according to Curbed.

Interesting in fishing? You don’t have to put away the rod and the reel when the temperature dips. Instead, a destination like Banff is ready for you to camp out on the smooth ice of a lake in the Canadian Rockies. Get ready to see some of the most spectacular winter sights and catch lunch or dinner at the same time. The best news: Many guides will help you set up huts to protect you a bit from the conditions, should the often-sunny skies give way to precipitation.

Finally, snow shouldn’t stop you from taking part in some activities more associated with warmer weather months. Hiking trails through the colder states take on a different look with a dusting of snow, and those widescreen vistas we so often seek can take on an otherworldly feel in the winter. And thankfully, almost any place with colder winters has examples of coat-worthy trails; head outside of Boston for walk on Noon Hill, for instance, or Carrickgollogan, a hill in the south of Dublin with the “best winter views” in Dublin, according to the Independent.

How Great Items Sell

January 10, 2018
One of the biggest mistakes we see organizations make when it comes to our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is thinking that simply offering the once-in-a-lifetime trip is enough. While there will be bidders in the room, that doesn’t mean that just offering travel to a great destination will be ready to open their wallet. There’s a lot that goes into setting fundraising records, especially before an event.

First, maximizing the fundraising potential of a great item means coming up with and following a great marketing plan. More people in the room means more bidders, which can mean both more competition (driving up prices) and more energy (especially if you’ve got the right auctioneer). Make sure that everyone you need to drive up bids knows about your gala event.

That list of people needed to help drive up bids should include a fair share of “connectors” as well. What’s a connector? It’s someone who can connect your great cause and non-profit organization to people who are ready to offer their support. Is one of your supporters plugged into the larger non-profit world? Does someone on your donor list know executives and other big-wigs at local corporations? You don’t have to know everyone in your city on your own, if you make sure that your supporters are doing some of the lifting for you by talking your cause up by the watercooler or at the country club.

Once you’ve identified your biggest donors (and biggest potential ones, too), there’s no reason not to ask them what they’d like to see at your auction. If your supporters prefer beach vacations and you offer a trip to Jackson Hole, it’s going to be rough sledding trying to get maximum value. At Mitch-Stuart, we’ve got trips for every type of traveler; whether your donors want a snowy wonderland, a beach escape, an urban adventure or rural serenity, we can help. But to do that right, you need to know what your supporters want.

Finally, for the night of the gala auction, it’s important to promote the item as much as possible in the room. That means making a highly visual display (lots and lots of photos!), announcements throughout the night (“the auction’s coming up, featuring our bucket-list-worthy trip to Bali!”) and one-on-one mentions when your board members roam the room chatting with supporters. Like any big-time event, there’s an amount of hype needed to make sure that everyone is eagerly looking forward to either bidding on this great item or seeing who will win it.

Hidden Snowbird Paradises

January 03, 2018
Much of the country is just beginning to come out of a rough cold snap. It snowed more than four feet over the holidays in parts of Pennsylvania. And remember, this is less than three weeks into winter. Your donors may want to see the sun. And soon.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages are made to be used at all times of year, but there’s something about the winter months that inspires some of your top bidders to pursue sunshine and beaches. It’s why trips to places like the Caribbean and Southern California are so popular. But those looking to escape winter’s chill have more options available than beach cruises. If your supporters want to chase the sun during the winter, here are some options about which they may not have thought.

Belize: The Central American jewel may not get the attention that its Caribbean neighbors receive, but its beaches are just as beautiful. In addition, your donors can avoid the crowds completely; some of our trips to Belize feature accommodations on a private island, with a private chef, butler and even sommelier to cater to your supporters’ every need.

New Orleans: Of course, Crescent City demands its share of attention on at least one winter day, when Mardi Gras takes over the city and turns the French Quarter into the world’s biggest party. However, New Orleans in winter isn’t just beads and drinks; the city’s jazz scene is year-round, and the food never goes out of season. Combine that with high temperatures in the sixties on average in January and February, and New Orleans’ best, most hospitable season may be the winter.

Palm Springs: It’s neighbors Los Angeles and Las Vegas get much of the acclaim, but this California desert community features almost picture-perfect winter weather (just watch for the occasional desert winds) and plenty of activities. The winter, while being a peak time of year for visitors, still doesn’t feature the music festivals that can overrun the city (nearby Indio hosts three consecutive weekends of festivals in April), meaning there’s plenty of room to spread out next to the pool or get a tee time on one of the scores of local golf courses.

Seychelles: The Indian Ocean island nation is in its summer months while we’re in the midst of winter, but it doesn’t alter the temperature much; the hottest month of the year is February, with an average high of 82 degrees, while the coldest is July, where the average high dips all the way to … 78 degrees. It’s true that our winter months do coincide with their “rainy” season, but February and March each still only average 11 days with precipitation – and with the temperature as consistently perfect as it is, the rain is almost always warm and soothing.