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Travel on the Silver Screen

February 28, 2018
Film has the ability to transport the viewer to places never seen or imagined in a unique manner. Sitting in a darkened theater, we give ourselves over to this idea, to being taken on an adventure in a new setting. In many ways, movies are their own kind of travel.

Of course, we prefer the physical type, and we love to send your donors on adventures with our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. But we enjoy the cinematic version as well, the best of which will be represented this Sunday at the Academy Awards. In fact, some of our favorite films are ones that teach us important values when it comes to travel, whether the movie is a serious drama or over-the-top comedy.

Want to learn about how to travel? Here are some films with which to start.

“Lost in Translation”

The Oscar winner from Sophia Coppola beautifully captures the feeling of isolation a traveler can experience while in a strange land, surrounded by people speaking a foreign language. The way out for Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray? Jumping into that world head-first.

The Lesson: Never be afraid to immerse yourself in a new culture.

 “Paris, je t’aime”

A compilation of short films shot in different Parisian neighborhoods, “Paris je t’aime” features 18 different casts of characters, including vampires and the ghost of Oscar Wilde.

The Lesson: Even when you think you know a destination, there’s always something new to learn or explore.

“Before Sunrise”

A film that taught many in Generation X the meaning of romance, the first of the “Before” film trilogy features Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy meeting on a train and exploring the beautiful world of Vienna for a day.

The Lesson:
Whether it’s a bartender, a tour guide, or a beautiful someone on public transit, talk to the locals. They’ll know where to go and what to do.

“Planes, Trains & Automobiles”

Not every travel experience is positive. Steve Martin and John Candy spend an excruciating Thanksgiving week dealing with bad weather, transportation problems and each other in this hilarious ‘80s classic, written and directed by John Hughes.

The Lesson: Do your best to be nice when you face unexpected hiccups in your itinerary.

“Under the Tuscany Sun”

A recent divorcee buys a villa in Cortona, Tuscany (the destination for several of our Italy travel packages!), in an attempt to change her life and rediscover romance.

The Lesson: Go to Tuscany. Seriously.


Developing an Audience

February 21, 2018
When it comes time to organize a fundraising auction, the first committee to be formed might in charged of item procurement. And it’s true: It is easier to raise money with better auction lots than worse ones. But more important that what’s for sale might be who’s doing the buying. Are the right people in the audience to make sure your non-profit is getting full value out of its items?

Mitch-Stuart has helped facilitate the sale of more than $1 billion in fundraising auction travel packages over more than 20 years of experience. In that time, we’ve seen plenty of different committees and all sorts of organizational structures. But one that is near-mandatory is an audience development committee, dedicated to making sure the right supporters are there and primed to bid.

In an age of divided media channels, when it might be hard to pick places to advertise and reach a large audience, contacting your supporters with the audience development committee may be the best marketing available. There’s nothing as motivating as a personal invitation, and that’s where your board can make a big difference, more than individual paper invitations or other ideas. That human contact allows you and other “recruiters” to not only gage interest, but also gain insight into what is working and what isn’t in the eyes of its donor base.

By engaging meaningfully with your supporters – especially your biggest donors – in the run-up to a fundraising auction, you can get an idea on what they’d love to see on that item list. Maybe one is looking for a romantic trip for an upcoming anniversary. Maybe another wants to find a beach paradise. By getting a cross-section of what supporters want, you can give them the chance to support your cause and check an item off a shopping list at the same time. This makes the job of the item procurement committee easier in two ways: Not only do they know on what to focus, but also it can lead to the acquisition of small, but still treasured, items for the auction, the type that might be easier to get.

On the night of the event, the job of the audience development committee isn’t over. Making sure donors are engaged and enjoying themselves will make sure that they come back next year, too. That could mean acting as table hosts, talking with sponsors and supporters, or even working the silent auction tables. The best way to attract donors to a gala event is making sure that those same people had a good time at the last one.


Romantic Restaurants

February 14, 2018
If it was good for nothing else, Valentine’s Day would be valuable as an excuse to make reservations at that restaurant you’ve been eyeing. Dinner dates on the holiday are almost as de rigueur as chocolate and flowers. They are wonderful ways for a couple to reconnect outside of the flow of the ever-cacophonous daily life.
 
With our non-profit fundraising travel packages, though, your donors don’t have to wait for one day in February for a romantic meal. In fact, our catalog is loaded with possible eateries in destinations that will make the heart flutter.
 
A (small!) few of our favorites:
 
In Asheville, The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate was named one of 2017’s most romantic restaurants in America by reservation service OpenTable. Your donors can get dressed up and sample from the eatery’s long wine list or jump right in to the farm-to-table cuisine that has garnered The Dining Room so many accolades since its opening.
 
If a couple’s romance is less sportscoats and dresses and more flip-flops, our “California Dreamin’” package gives donors a gift card good for dining options steps off the beach in Santa Monica. It can be used on the Santa Monica Pier at a seafood restaurant like The Albright, which features some of the best sunset views in the Los Angeles area, looking right over the sand. Or, your supporters can stroll from the beach to downtown Santa Monica to grab a meal at the intimate Mercado, with its upscale Mexican cuisine.
 
For a different sort of Valentine’s Day, the restaurants of Las Vegas combine elegant settings with star power. World famous chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Nobu Matsuhisa have set up shop here, bringing their respective Cajun and Japanese cuisines to hungry Strip tourists. Nobu Restaurant Las Vegas, in the Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace, is the largest of the Nobu eateries, measuring more than 10,000 square feet, while Emeril's New Orleans Fish House at MGM Grand features a sea-inspired design that will have your donors taking pictures of the beauty both on the plates and in the space.
 
Not every romantic meal has to happen under the cover of darkness. At 58 Tour Eiffel, lunch may be the best meal of the day; the restaurant’s elevated view means diners seeing a large chunk of Paris, and during the afternoon hours the detail is stunning. In New York, Tavern on the Green has enough outdoor seating that it may be, depending on the time of year, much more comfortable to eat while the sun is still in the sky. Either are romantic restaurants that can awaken those stomach butterflies from a couple’s early dates.
 

Where to Catch the Olympic Spirit

February 07, 2018
We’re two days away from the opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics, taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea. If your donors are getting into the Olympic spirit, this might be a fun time to offer one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to send supporters to one of the Games’ previous homes.

Of Olympics held from 2000 to today, we’ve got trips that can take your donors to or near five different Games’ hosts – and that number increases quickly going back to 1980, as well. Here are a few of the destinations where your supporters can chase the ghosts of Olympics past – and the attractions at which to start within each.

Vancouver has shown what can be made out of Games infrastructure with the refurbishing of the Olympic Village. Locals now live in the same rooms where the athletes stayed in 2010, but the street level of the buildings now features restaurants like Tap and Barrel, the first of the mini-chain, which has gorgeous views both from its patio and its balcony. Porto Café is another local favorite for its coffee and breakfast sandwiches. After some early funding snafus, it’s become its own desirable neighborhood, one that your donors may want to check out.

In Montreal, where the 1976 Olympics took place, stop by the DOMO Café in the hip neighborhood of Mile-Ex. Your donors can grab a latte while looking at – and maybe buying as a souvenir – mementos from both the ’76 Winter Games and the 1967 World Expo. There are official posters on the wall and mugs and pins (among other items) on the shelves. Also, supporters can look at the shop’s design and subway collections for that piece of the world’s second-largest French-speaking city that will look good back home.

America has had its own hosting adventures, of course, and the 1996 Sumer Games in Atlanta may be the best place to catch the Olympic spirit. Visitors can drive by the Olympic Torch Tower along Interstate 75; a similarly torch-based sculpture can be found in Savannah, along the coast. Some of the large venues used during the Games are still in operation, as well, like the former Turner Field (which hosted the opening ceremonies), which has been redesigned and now hosts college football. But the main attraction may be Centennial Olympic Park, right in the heart of Atlanta, which now hosts free concerts and civic events.