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Indulgent Vacations

April 12, 2017
In day to day life, we hold back. We can’t eat a five-course meal for lunch, because we’d fall asleep at our desk in the afternoon. We can’t finish that bottle of wine at dinner, because we have to be productive the next day. We can’t spend the day shopping or relaxing at the spa, because we’ve got real-world responsibilities.

On vacation, though, we are different people. And we are ready to indulge.

Some are coming off of a Lenten season of self-denial, while others may just want a chance to take a break from a diet or other restriction. But all of your donors want to let loose when they hit the road. With our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, they can do just that. And while any vacation is bound to have the chance to indulge in one way or another, there are some destinations that are come to mind immediately when thinking about treating yourself.

It’s not a coincidence that Mardi Gras, the festival of indulgence that precedes the self-denial of Lent in the Catholic (and other Christian) faith, has found its spiritual home in New Orleans, From the city signatures like beignets and Sazerac to the all-night jazz jams in the bars of the French Quarter, New Orleans is built for the binge. But the Big Easy is more than the drunken revelry of the Mardi Gras parade; it’s a city where people serious about their crafts, whether bartenders making Hurricanes or bakers making those powdered-sugar breakfast confections. And for those for whom indulgence comes aurally, there may be no city in the world more in love with music than New Orleans. Walk into any random bar on Frenchmen Street and you’ll be blown away by the jazz combo playing in the back corner.

One of the most indulgent ways to spend a day is immersed in “shopping therapy,” going through racks and racks to find that perfect wardrobe piece. For those looking to splurge, Beverly Hills may be the destination; with shops for many of the high couture world’s most-loved brands, it’s no wonder that people from around the world plan vacations to visit. And for those who want to make sure there are no surprises when the credit card bill comes in, our “Beverly Hills Sensational Shopping Spree” packages even comes with a $1,000 gift card for Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue or Barneys.

But as cliché as it may be to say, Las Vegas likely still leads the league in indulgence. It’s in the Nevada desert that travelers can eat their body weights in gourmet food at all-you-can-eat buffets, discover their next favorite cocktail at one of the city’s many forward-thinking, mixologist-led bars, or relax the day away at a spa with world-class treatments. The impulse to overdo is built into the city’s DNA. And while it was once best-known for its seedier escapades, Las Vegas now offers something for fanatics looking to sate any hunger: Golfers, theater lovers and music fans also can spend days in Sin City consumed by their respective passion.


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Thank You, Auctioneers!

April 05, 2017
Did you know that March 18 was National Corn Dog Day? Or that, in July, you’ll be able to celebrate both National Ice Cream Day (July 16) and National Milk Chocolate Day (July 28)? There seems to be a special day set aside for every interest throughout the year. But we prefer to celebrate for a little longer – and this week is our chance.
 
April 3-8 is National Auctioneers Week, and we’re thrilled to take a minute to celebrate those people who do so much to help our friends in the non-profit world raise funds for so many worthy causes. So consider this our love letter to our gavel-wielding, (sometimes) fast-talking associates.
 
Thank you, auctioneers, for…
 
Organizing gala events to maximize funds raised. Your encyclopedic knowledge of how a well-run event should flow helps take the guesswork out of setting an evening’s agenda for organizers everywhere.
 
Being a wealth of knowledge for non-profits running their first fundraising events. Everyone is a rookie at one point – but with your help, even those putting together their first event can be successful right out of the gate. This helps young, fledgling organizations survive those lean early years.
 
Helping to spread the message of the charities with which you work. The work of the non-profits with which you work comes alive when described from the stage. Putting the charity’s story into your hands guarantees that it will be told in a way that draws supporters in and makes them even more ready to lend their support.
 
Making sure our partner non-profits raise the most money possible with our fundraising auction travel packages. Your ability to read the room and get everyone involved helps keep the atmosphere loose and fun, which encourages those with the ability to give a little more to do so.
 
Helping insure that all of the event attendees leave with a smile on their face. You bring a spark and a joy to your job that can’t help but light up the room. From the winning bidders to those who just watched, you make sure that everyone goes home having enjoyed the auction and the event surrounding it – and in doing so, you leave everyone with a pleasant feeling about the organizing non-profit, too!
 

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Beyond the Beach

February 15, 2017
If you live in the Great Lakes region, early-to-middle February tends to be the coldest time of year. According to a report from the Guardian in 2012, we are in the middle of the coldest week in England of the year. February 13, 14, 17, 18 and 20 are five of the ten coldest days, on average, in the U.K. And for almost everyone else, the snow on the ground and the tiny “high” temperatures each day act as constant reminders that we’re in the depths of the winter.

It is at times like these that travel thoughts often drift toward sandy beaches, tropical drinks, and all of the sun one can soak up on an island vacation. But while we love sending your donors on adventures with our fundraising auction travel packages, we also love it when your supporters get to fully explore a destination, not just the space directly around a beach chair. Our island-based trips include some destinations that are both about the beach and the culture or activities found inland.

There certainly are beaches on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, but the sand that most immediately associate with the resorts there sits in fairway-adjacent bunkers. The island is the home of 24 different golf courses (there are 40 in the area overall), and it’s become one of the most popular destinations in the country for both the weekend duffer and the scratch (that means even par, or very good) player. It’s also the home of 300 tennis courts, a major arts center and a tremendous local dining scene. It’s possible, in fact, to spend an entire vacation on Hilton Head without ever touching the sand – as long as you keep the ball in the fairway.

Golf isn’t necessarily high on the amenity list on Mount Desert Island in Maine, despite its name; being that far north usually makes courses unplayable for much of the year. But what it may lack in putting surfaces, it makes up for in natural beauty. The island is the home of Acadia National Park, the first park east of the Mississippi River, established in 1919. The park’s roads make for perfect hiking and biking trails. Bar Harbor, one of the island’s biggest towns (only topping out at a little more than 5,000 people), is a well-known tourist destination, and its downtown sector is a particular draw during the summer months.

Whether it’s the height of summer or the dead of winter, the isle of Ireland is better known for its green grass than its beige sand. That’s not to say there aren’t places to break out the beach chairs, of course, but a trip to Ireland is a trip focused much more on culture than suntans. And despite being an island, Ireland has its fair share of geographic variety, too; the coastal mountains don’t reach the heights of the Rockies or the Alps, but they do provide for both recreation and dramatic backdrops for photographs. Its rolling green hills, meanwhile, draw visitors at nearly every time of year.


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Preparing the Auctioneer

January 11, 2017
Auctioneers sell items, right? That seems to be the job description: Stand on stage, maybe talk fast, and sell sell sell, getting the biggest bids possible for your non-profit fundraising auction lots. But to look at a professional auctioneer as someone who only handles running the bidding process of an auction is to miss so many other ways in which this broker can be beneficial.
 
At Mitch-Stuart, we love it when our charities and non-profits get the most money out of our fundraising auction travel packages. It’s why we recommend working with a professional auctioneer; what an organization has to spend to hire someone from the outside, it usually more than makes back. Auctioneers are trained in the art of raising bids and can maximize the value of your items.
 
But it’s not all about high bids for a professional auctioneer. If, along with the gavel, you give your hired pro a few important items before getting started, he or she can focus on what you’re really selling that night: Your mission.
 
First, make sure your auctioneer is fully up-to-speed on the goals of your non-profit. A mission statement can be helpful here, but go a bit beyond, too – answer the who and the what, sure, but also the why. What has made this assemblage of people, this entity, so passionate about its work? Passion is contagious: If your auctioneer shows passion for your mission, it will help persuade donors to support it.
 
Also, donors want to hear where their money is going. Giving your auctioneer some background on the impact of your organization’s work will allow some of those tidbits to come out just as your supporters are thinking about supporting your non-profit with a bigger bid. And while the inclination here may be to write down all of those facts and figures, make sure you also include the context into which those numbers fit. Numbers are great, but the full picture of how those numbers work together to impact the community you serve can help your donors understand why this auction is so important.
 
Finally, give your auctioneer good stories. It’s important to get the facts and figures in there, sure, but it can be just as important to be able to tell the story of someone you’ve helped: A family in need, a first-generation college attendee, a struggling veteran on a holiday made better by a hot meal. Catching the attention of the audience by putting it in the shoes of someone your non-profit is helping can add an emotional side to your “ask,” to go with impact statistical details.
 

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Let Your Donors Surprise You!

December 14, 2016
If asking for donations is tough, asking for big donations can be terrifying. But if you’re not asking for more money, you won’t get it.

One of the most common worries we hear from auction planners is that they’re not sure that their donors can afford one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. But as our Senior Vice President Michael Upp and auctioneer Kathy Kingston recently detailed on their “Mythbusters” teleseminar, that line of thinking may leave your organization with a smaller haul from a gala event.

It may be true, for instance, that some of your donors will not be able to afford a big-ticket auction item. Whether it’s a younger supporter or one who gives more to your organization by volunteering, not everyone will have the same resources at their disposal. But to focus on your average donor when planning an auction can severely limit the amount of money you raise. After all, it doesn’t take a room full of bidders to win a trip – just a couple of them with generous, open wallets. If only one person will win the item in question, then focusing on the biggest donors makes sense.

In addition, spending is not always done with the logical side of the brain. There’s a cliché in the sales world, “people buy on emotion and justify with logic,” and that may be even truer when it comes to giving to a cause for which they are passionate. According to Harvard Business School’s Gerald Zaltman, an astounding 95 percent of purchase decisions are made unconsciously. So even if your donors may not think that they’re looking to spend a lot of money at your gala, they may *feel* like it’s a good idea – and that can be a big motivator.

Finally, to worry about your donors not having the money to bid on big-ticket items is to worry about something unknowable. It could be, for instance, that a supporter who rarely gives more than a few dollars at a time has been saving up for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Or maybe a bidder just got a big raise at work and is looking to use it on a major vacation. In order for your donors to surprise you with their generosity, you have to give them the opportunity.

According to a 2012 fundraising study, 44 percent of donors say they could have afforded a bigger contribution to their favorite causes. By offering more expensive auction items, you give those supporters a chance to help more.


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Comfort Food for the Traveler

November 22, 2016

As the temperature drops, what we eat and drink changes. Lemonade is swapped out for hot chocolate. Apple juice becomes apple cider (and, in some cases, apple cider spiked with rum or bourbon). And those summer salads and watermelon become the rib-sticking, carb-heavy cuisine known to many as “comfort food.”

There may be no true dictionary-style definition of this genre of dish; just like Mitch-Stuart’s fundraising auction travel packages, comfort food comes in many varieties. And during this season of big meals and tryptophan comas, selling a trip by appealing to donors’ stomachs may not be a bad idea. Here are a few of our favorite destinations from our catalog for filling, comforting cuisine.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Lone Star State, the home of chili con carne and the league leader in brisket, excels at comfort food. But while Austin and San Antonio get the lion’s share of plaudits for their cuisines, Dallas has its own food culture, with richer dishes playing a major role. Rudy’s Chicken, with a line of cars around the block, is a local institution thanks to its fried chicken, while hungry diners have filled Norma’s Café for sixty years to try its chicken-fried steak. Ask any local, and you’ll get a long list of eateries serving up heavy meals.

Of course, if the idea of “comfort food” has a spiritual home in this country, it would have to be in the Southeast. One of our favorite destinations in the region is Savannah, with its southern charm, cobblestone streets and historic squares. From the Boursin Chicken of 17Hundred90 Inn & Restaurant to the hole-in-the-wall charm of Walls’ BBQ, this is a city with a comforting, filling meal around every corner. Bonus: The food walking tour included in our Savannah travel package will allow your donors to walk off the calories, too!

There are a few staples of the comfort food world – chili, fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, lots of other fried things – and then there’s the Cajun cuisine of New Orleans. We posit, however, that those two things don’t need to be considered separately. Cajun gumbo will keep the hungriest diner full and warm, while beignets round out any starch-friendly meal. Restaurants like Mr. B’s Bistro (with its Gumbo Ya Ya) and Commander’s Palace (with its famous, rich Turtle Soup) may not serve up chicken-fried anything, but there’s still plenty here to satisfy that comfort food craving.




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You Must Be This Tall to Scare

October 26, 2016
The Halloween season has returned, bringing with it ghouls, ghosts and zombies. Houses in the neighborhood are decorated, pumpkins are carved and faces are painted. But the holiday is not often considered a chance for travel; kids usually have school activities tied to Halloween and anyone older might not remember the magic of the day fondly enough to set aside time for a road trip.

However, Halloween is one of our favorite holidays at Americas theme parks. With an entire cast of characters in the spirit of the day, and plenty of resources available to transform spaces into truly frightening playpens of the macabre, there may be no better place to take in the atmosphere of the season than one of these amusement parks each one a part of a fundraising auction travel package available through Mitch-Stuart.

In Southern California, Disneyland is putting costumes on costumes for the month of October, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, among others, wandering the park in their own Halloween outfits. Pumpkin King Jack Skellington and Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas also wander the premises. But the big attraction of 2016 is actually a closing, rather than an opening: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is on its way out, giving way to a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed ride next summer. This is the last year to ride the elevator drop while listening to the spookily-soothing voice of Rod Serling.

On the other side of the country, meanwhile Disney World Orlando has a different take on the holiday, with some of the traditional villains of Halloween recast. Zombies find their voices with the Cadaver Dans, a barbershop quartet of the undead. The Sanderson sisters of Disneys Hocus Pocus mix potions, shadows and some of their evil friends to create the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular show. And the fireworks show, a traditional favorite of a visit to Disney World, gets a makeover during the season, becoming HalloWishes and incorporating more of Disneys catalog of antagonists.

But no amusement park may make a bigger commitment to All Hallows Eve than Knotts Berry Farm. The Anaheim-adjacent theme park transforms each year into Knotts Scary Farm, with mazes and monsters at every turn. Scare zones act as themed immersive atmospheres; this years include Carnevil and The Hollow. Mazes and rides also take on a creepy feel, and even dining gets a Halloween theme, with a boo-fet available each night before Knotts opens (the scares are the roaming monsters, not any mystery meats). The park has even put together a less-intense experience, Knotts Spooky Farm, for families with younger kids; its open during the daytime on weekends.

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Little Extras, Big Benefits!

October 12, 2016
It can be easy, in the rush of putting together a fundraising gala, to treat the set-up as a checklist and skim over some of the items therein. Music? Check. Photographer? Check. There are plenty of decisions to make, and not all might create money right now, at this moment. But theres a lot of goodwill to be mined from what might seem like smaller considerations for a planning committee. And that goodwill can help donors remember your organization, both for future events and for other fundraising drives throughout the year.

We love it when non-profits add a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. fundraising auction travel package to its gala event. Theyre designed to grab attention, to make donors sit up in their chairs and start dreaming about vacations to far-away places and as they do that, they leave an impression on the attendees about the organization hosting the soiree. In addition to your auction lot list, however, there are other ways to try and add that extra-special shine to what could be an overlooked element of your night.

The DJ: There is a skill to disc jockeying that sometimes goes underappreciated; its often a good idea to hire one, rather than depending on a computer playlist or, worse, the radio to provide tunes. But if you really want to get people talking, reach out in your community to find a DJ who spins real records. Not only will you know youve got someone committed to the craft, but youll also add an extra visual element: Records just look better than laptops. Best of all: Many DJs who spin from records do so because they have certain specialties, and so it may be easier to find a disc jockey with expertise in, say, 50s and 60s soul (or the music era of your choice) to fit your theme.

The Photos: We love professional photographers for their skill, their flexibility and, from a business standpoint, their ability to deliver photos that your organization can use as promotional materials in the future. But your attendees will also appreciate the chance to capture their own memories from the evening. And while many have cameras on their cell phone, few will have the ability to make animated GIFs, for example, or paper flip books. Consider hiring an outside vendor to provide a photo booth experience, such as an automated GIF maker (stitching together several photos in quick succession to create a herky-jerky animation) or a flip book printer, to help donors and guests make memories on their own.

The Drinks: A couple of good choices of wine, a local brew or two or maybe a sponsor? Its very easy to overlook any sort of alcohol choices, because its pretty hard to go wrong with offering adults free drinks. But its also a great place for a little extra inspiration. Were in the middle of a craft cocktail renaissance right now, and there are numerous bartenders in your city that are creating fascinating new drinks. Find a local expert and create your own, themed specialty drink list! It doesnt have to be long maybe one for guests who like lighter mixtures, and one a little boozier but its the type of added extra that will get guests talking. And if the drinks are big hits, they might even be reaching out later to get the recipe!


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Thankful for Canada

October 05, 2016
In America, were getting ready for Halloween at the end of this month, but our Canadian friends are skipping right past that and heading straight for Thanksgiving. Canadas version of the holiday occurs on the second Monday of October each year (meaning October 10 in 2016). Starting from a desire to give thanks for a bountiful harvest, todays version is about gratitude for all things good people, events or circumstances.

Canada is one of our favorite destinations for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, and so this seems like as good a time as any to tip our cap in appreciation of our friends to the north.

So, why are we thankful for Canada? Here are three of many! reasons:

Hockey! The clich is true: If youve never seen hockey live, you havent experienced the sport at its finest. And though the Canadian teams of the NHL have struggled a bit in the recent past (no teams from our northern neighbor made the playoffs in the 2015-16, the first time thats happened since 1970), places like the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens are epicenters of the sport still. With our Go to Any NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS Game or PGA Tournament travel package, your donors can celebrate the countrys national sport with a trip to any of the seven Canadian cities with teams. (For the record, that package also works with basketball, a sport invented in Massachusetts, but by a Canadian its a sort of athletic dual citizen).

Gorgeous winter wonderlands! The Pacific Northwest is beautiful at all times of year, but the winter months are when it really shines. Vancouver practically sparkles through the season, and neighboring Whistler is one the worlds great snowy playgrounds. Trips like Perfect Winter Wonderland and Vancouvers Gateway to the Pacific can transport donors to this stunning region for a seasonal getaway. Whether its exploring the charms of Vancouver itself (like the ice skating rinks that remain from the 2010 Winter Olympics) or barreling down a ski run in Whistler, the seasons charms come alive north of the border.

Fun fishing expeditions! Outdoor activities in Canada arent limited to ice and snow, though. During the summer, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and become an outdoorsperson (even if its only for a vacation). One of our favorites: the guided freshwater fly fishing experience that comes with the Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada package. Escape to either Alberta or British Columbia and spend a day with a guide and enough equipment to catch that evenings dinner. Theres little more relaxing than taking in that summery lake view from a boat on the water.






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Chasing the Summer to the South

September 28, 2016
The early days of the fall are so charming, with the leaves changing colors and the air possessing that small bite. And the early days of the winter are cute too that first light snowfall, maybe, or the first night gathered around a roaring fire. But once the first blushes have passed, winter can be a slog. And weve all had that feeling, maybe sometime in January or February, of desperation, waiting for the sun to return.

Of course, when the northern hemisphere is at its coldest, our neighbors to the south are basking in the summer sun. And there are plenty of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages in the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence catalog that can send one of your supporters south of the equator to chase that summer feeling, even when the weather at home is stuck in a deep freeze.

A few of our favorites:

Winter in Australia is more myth than fact, as it is, especially in the North Queensland area. The coldest month of the year features average high temperatures in the high 70s, so your supporter can go on our Experience Two World Heritage Sites trip at any time of year and be guaranteed some rays. But for the most tropical experience, December and January is the time to get on the plane, with temps in the 90s. Of course, your donors will have the chance to cool off, while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef or relaxing in their villas private plunge pool.

Of course, much of the southern hemisphere has that same year-round summer feel. A good example: The Summer Olympics this year were technically held in the winter August in Rio de Janeiro should, by the calendar, be the equivalent of February here. Of course, Rios February looks much different than ours; by average, its the hottest month of the year, averaging 81 degrees for its daily high perfect weather to explore the beaches of the Barra de Tijuca neighborhood on our Sunsets, Samba and Soul trip.

The closer one comes to the equator, though, the less seasons tend to matter. And Bali is the closest of our destinations to the middle of the earth, meaning that theres never a bad time to visit. The average high and low temperatures barely fluctuate throughout the year; our winter and their summer is mostly designated by rainfall rather than degrees. And while it does rain more in Bali over the winter months, this is a lot different than the driving, bracing rain one may find in colder weather. For those not afraid of the occasional cloud cover during a vacation, finding the warmer temperatures of Bali during our winter months can still make for a great break from the doldrums of the season.
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NYC at Its Best the Fall!

September 21, 2016
New York City doesnt need much help in the way of tourism marketing, but someone in City Hall should likely tip a cap in the direction of Matthew Broderick around this time each year. For a generation of moviegoers, its Ferris Buellers lip-synced version of Danke Schoen that forever tied the countrys most famous urban park to the autumn: I recall/Central Park in fall But theres plenty of reason to seek out New York in the fall beyond the central Manhattan attraction.

Mitch-Stuart produces non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to be used at any time of year, and supporters often use them to head to the beach in the summer or to the ski slopes in the winter. But unlike the heat and humidity of a Big Apple summer or the wet, biting cold of the city in the winter, the fall is the perfect season to explore a city best seen while walking its avenues.

Need more reasons to head to NYC for a fall vacation? How about:

Outdoor Museums: The Museum of Metropolitan Art is a year-round concern, of course; air conditioners and heaters work wonders. But the fall brings interesting exhibits outdoors, like at the day-trip-worthy Storm King Art Center, with more than 100 works of sculpture dotting 500 acres of beautiful fields and hills. Closer to home, the Queens County Farm Museum features a three-acre corn maze, pumpkin patch and haunted house.

Broadway: The fall also brings with it a host of new Broadway shows. Star-studded revivals are on tap, led by The Front Page with Nathan Lane and John Slattery, along with world premieres and musical adaptations of Hollywood films (watch for Holiday Inn, the stage version of the Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire classic, to draw big crowds). After a slow summer season, Broadway is often heating up just as the temperature is starting to drop.

Festivals: Oktoberfest is a favorite celebration everywhere where there are people who imbibe, and New York does it up right with its biggest celebrations taking place in Central Park and on the East River. 2016s biggest dates have already passed (American Oktoberfest is mostly celebrated in September, due to weather concerns), but beer fans can start planning for next year. Or, if theyd like a boozy celebration sooner, theres also Cider Week, observed this year from October 21-31.
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Three Ways to Supercharge Your Fundraising Auction

September 14, 2016
If your organization has been running fundraising auctions at gala events, you might have, by now, fallen into a pattern. You know when the decorations go up, you know who to contact for food, and you even know which emcee or professional auctioneer to call.

But just because a certain idea or decision has become automatic doesnt mean that its the best one for your organization. Its good to reexamine those automatic choices that you may be making for your fundraising auction from time to time, just to make sure that youre earning every dollar possible for your cause.

Need some new ideas? Here are three small ways to maximize fundraising auctions earning potential.

Shake It Up: Its tempting to arrange the items of a gala auction in the same way one would arrange an award show: Opening with the smaller items, and then building to the big money-earners. And it makes sense on an emotional level, to crescendo throughout the event to its climactic end. However, from a pure money-raising standpoint, leaving the biggest items until the end may mean keeping some of your biggest supporters on the sidelines. After all, if a donor has set a budget for their bidding and really wants, say, that gorgeous trip to Bali, he or she could sit out earlier items of interest to save up. And then if that supporter doesnt win the trip, the budget goes home, rather than into a different purchase. Mixing up the order of items a couple of smaller ones, then one of the big-money lots, then back to a couple of smaller ones makes it more likely that your biggest monetary supporters will walk away with something.

Dream BIG: If you want to raise big funds from an auction, you have to ask for big funds. Sure, youll have a certain number of donors willing to overpay for a basket of goods from local artisans (and putting that basket together will help strengthen ties to your community, as well), but you cant get what you dont request. So, upgrade that trip: Offer the weeklong European sojourn alongside the weekend in Las Vegas (with our consignment travel packages, you dont have to pay for them unless they sell, anyway). Give your donors the chance to step up to the plate; you may be surprised by what happens.

Something for Everyone: On the other end of the spectrum, though, there will be some donors who cant pay for the luxury travel, the expensive memorabilia, or even the local artist gift basket. Maybe they just believe in your cause so much, they wanted to support it in person, on its biggest night. Not only do you want to make sure that they have a great time, but you also want to give them the chance to participate in the gala fundraising. Thats where a good raffle can come into play. Giving people the option of trying to win a big prize via a small donation and a drawing keeps smaller donors engaged throughout the evening as a participant, not just an observer. Its one easy way to make sure everyone in the room is excited while still generating revenue for your non-profit.


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Healthy Habits as Travel Souvenirs

July 13, 2016
Whether it is postcards, that perfect sea shell or even a snow globe for a collector at home, trinkets from vacation always fill any leftover space in luggage when a traveler returns from a voyage. But not all souvenirs are physical; some globe-hoppers may come back with fascinating stories, others with a new affinity for a specific wine varietal. Some may even have figured out how to finally hit that untrustworthy pitching wedge (just kidding, of course no one knows how to do that). But maybe best of all is when someone returns from time away with something healthy to add to their life a new habit, perhaps, or a positive change in outlook.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we believe that travel is inherently positive, whether its as healthy as a beachside yoga retreat or as gluttonous as a weekend in Sin City. But there are some habits that your donors can pick up on the road that can translate to a healthier lifestyle at home, and a vacation away from the stresses of the day-to-day life may be the perfect time to acquire those patterns.

One healthy habit that can be picked up while on the road is also our first form of transportation walking! Exploring a new destination on foot can be one of the most insightful ways of seeing what makes a city tick, along with being a way for travelers to find their own hidden gems those corner cafs or small parks that dont make the guidebooks. Spend a week walking around a dense, urban center like New York or London, and one may want to come home and spend more time discovering the lesser-known neighborhoods their own city has to offer.

Of course, not all by-foot exploration needs to be urban. Some of our favorite trips give donors a chance to go hiking in some of the worlds most beautiful destinations. Getting out and seeing the sights of the Rocky Mountains in Aspen, or the wilderness of Jackson Hole, may be the catalyst a donor needs to conquer that hike closer to home, and get a good workout in at the same time.

American take-out food consumption has risen dramatically over the past few decades, as has obesity rates. Correlation doesnt prove causation, of course, but the added ingredients in a lot of the fast food we consume certainly dont make us healthier. If you want to start a new habit of eating better food, you can go on the road to a few different cities for inspiration. One trip to take may be to San Francisco, where chef and food activist Alice Waters opened her first restaurant, Chez Panisse, in 1971. In doing so, she sought out organic foods to serve, long before farm-to-table was a buzzword, and her restaurant continues in that tradition to this day. For those who want to have control over a meals ingredients by learning how to cook it themselves, several of our trips to Italy, France and even New Orleans feature cooking lessons, as well.

Weve spent some time recently extolling the virtues of stress relief while on the road, but its important enough to mention again: Traveling doesnt have to be a tension-accumulator. Thankfully, many of our trips include treatments at resort spas, like those at the all-inclusive Palace Resorts in Mexico, several trips to Florida and even some adventures in Californias wine country (combine a massage with a glass of wine for full relaxation).

London


New York


New Orleans Cooking School


Massage at Bali Villa


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Raising Funds Under the Stars

June 22, 2016
Take a look around everyone is outside. Coworkers are taking their lunch breaks at that park across the street. Evenings are spent at baseball games. Vacations involve beaches, camping or long hikes. This is the season for al fresco everything.

So why keep your gala indoors?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. loves helping non-profits raise money with our fundraising auction travel packages theyre the perfect addition of wow! to any gala program. But we *really* love it when we get to help charities pair the perfect auction destination with an amazing outdoor event. And while pulling off a successful outdoor fundraising gala is not easy, a bit of foresight and planning can create memories for your supporters that will make sure they always think of you and your cause fondly.

Where does your event committee need to focus its energy when planning an outdoor event? Start with these three areas:

Theme: If youre going to go through the trouble of moving an event outside, make it count! Whether centered around a menu item (barbecues, crawfish boils, etc.) or a larger, atmosphere-based idea (with a title like Enchanted Forest or Beach Bonfire), this is the chance to create a night to remember by piggybacking on the beauty of nature. Have fun with it, and dont be afraid to push a little past your normal boundaries; its likely that your supporters will be a little more forgiving about small problems if youre trying something daring and fun.

Logistics: Everything from picking the right location to having enough flat surfaces and tables becomes magnified at an outdoor gala. As an example when inside, you can just look for an extra power outlet, but if you havent run adequate juice to run both the DJ equipment and the temporary lighting, for instance, theres little that can be done on the fly. It might be a good idea to run something approximating a dry run of the event a week prior with as much of the equipment as possible (no need to add rental days for anything gear coming from outside of the organization, however). And before locking into a space for the event, make sure you visit it during the time of day which youll be holding the gala, to check for things like bug population.

Food: The cuisine you serve outdoors is often a function of the seating you have available. If youve got formal tables set up, it may still be easy to present delicate meals requiring all utensils. But if your outdoor space is a little less formal standing pub tables, for instance finger food might be the way to go. Just stock up on wat napkins, in order to avoid long lines at whatever running water is available. Its also important in an outdoor space to think about the distance from the kitchen to the gathering. Is food going to be prepared off site? Will it stay warm as its being brought to the party? And whos going to bring it all? The meal is the most tangible item for which a guest is paying with their ticket get it right, and few are going home unhappy.

Got any other suggestions for pulling off an outdoor gala? Let us know on social media: Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more tips and travel inspiration.


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The Summer of Cool

June 15, 2016
The stereotypical images of summer vacation involve beaches. Whether its lounging on the shore, playing in the sand or swimming in an ocean or lake, the images that spring to mind when people talk about the summer months are those of surf, sandcastles and sunscreen. But just because snow is far from the average mind not to mention the weather report doesnt mean that mountains and colder regions should be considered off limits.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together non-profit fundraising travel packages to destinations all over the world, and many times winning bidders want to see the sights during peak seasons. But as summer gets ready to make its entrance, its nice to remember that the best places to vacation during these months arent always the sandy beaches. In fact, heading to a location best known for its winter escapades can be the best way to spend a summer break.

Its strange to see a destination with Lake in its name and think of wintertime fun, but Lake Tahoe is probably best known for its world-class skiing, both downhill and cross country. During the summer, though, Tahoe still shines, thanks to its diversity of entertainment options. Water-based activities are a must in the resort town, of course, with stand-up paddle boarding and jet skiing possibly the most popular. But the surrounding mountains are great during the warmer months, as well; rent a mountain bike and head downhill, or grab your gear and go hiking through some gorgeous wilderness. Theres even some fine art, for those who want to take it a little easier, in the form of summers Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, which takes place in the stunning Sand Harbor State Park.

The hottest average high temperature in Bar Harbor, Maine, is just 75 degrees (coming at the end of July). Thats just one of the reason that the town has become a prime escape for northeastern city-dwellers. Exploring Acadia National Park is a treat as the climate becomes more temperate, and with so many New Yorkers and Bostonians coming to town, there are plenty of concerts, pop-up art spaces and interesting dining experiences here, as well. Make sure to stop in at some of the historical monuments and collections, as well; the Abbe Museum is a repository of Native American artifacts and stories, while younger kids tend to love the Dorr Museum of Natural History.

The cities of Vancouver and Victoria are thought of by many as great skiing outposts. In fact, the towns are so synonymous with winter that the former was awarded the Winter Olympics in 2010. But in the summer, the largest city and the capital city, respectively, of the province of British Columbia are just as beautiful and have just as much to do. Scheduling a trip around Victorias Summer Splash is a good way to go; the local symphony performs a program from a barge in the Inner Harbour, while locals either picnic on land or float around in kayaks. Outdoor activities about in both the two cities and the surrounding area, with hiking and mountain biking being favorites. And, for those who absolutely must have a beach trip, Vancouver landmark Kitsilano Beach fits the bill nicely.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino


Bar Harbor Maine


Acadia National Park


Vancouver


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Picnicking In Paradise!

June 01, 2016
Spring is turning into summer right before our eyes, which means its time to dig the beach-and-pool gear out of the closet and stock up on sunscreen. June, July and August are ingrained in the minds of many as a time for leisure, going all the way back to the summer vacations of childhood. Longer days mean staying out later into the evening, and even the heat itself manufactures a certain unhurried pace.

One of the best ways of soaking up that sun during the summer months is getting a group of friends, the extended family or even just your significant other outside for some al fresco dining. The picnic is practically a summer must: Go to any public park in a temperate climate on a Sunday afternoon and youll see blankets spread out everywhere, homemade food, mini-speakers playing music and the occasional football or Frisbee being tossed around.

Our non-profit fundraising travel packages often put your donors in the middle of cities with incredible restaurant scenes, making it tempting to spend the trip dining in. But it would be a shame to not get some food to go in one of these destinations and spend a leisurely afternoon outside, admiring one of the worlds great vistas.

When Travel + Leisure put together its list of the top cities in America for picnics, two of the top three choices were in Southern California. It makes sense: The Southland has year-round picnic-acceptable weather and plenty of beachfront land upon which to lay out a blanket. But both San Diego (which finished second) and Los Angeles (third) also have fantastic options for picnic-ready carryout meals (important for those traveling with little access to a kitchen) and a variety of landscapes; spend a day in LAs Griffith Park or an afternoon in Balboa Park in San Diego and youll see these two gorgeous cities from a different angle.

To go to Paris and not enjoy a baguette al fresco would be a crime of some sort, surely. The good news: Possibly the best view of the Eiffel Tower comes in the citys 7th Arrondissement (or district), on a grassy strip of land, called Champ de Mars, leading up to the base of the monument. In fact, many of the most well-known sites in Paris have green areas nearby to admire the view while dining on that glorious French food; outside the Sacre-Coeur, alongside the River Seine and in the Luxembourg Gardens are all lovely spots. Eating outdoors is a popular enough pastime in the city that several services will deliver a picnic lunch to tourists true blanketside service!

Of course, when it comes to parks that are perfect for picnics, there may be no better example in America than Central Park in New York. The crown jewel of the citys open space, Central Park has been attracting visitors with blankets and baskets for more than 150 years. Its not the only great vista in the Big Apple to take in while dining, though; the High Line has plenty of space to dine while overlooking Chelsea, and for those heading to other boroughs, Prospect Park is a perennial favorite. Even better: Your donors can pick up their meal at one of New Yorks great delis with one of the gift cards that comes with our Nosh Your Way Through Three New York Delis package.

Santa Barbara Beach


Eiffel Tower


Central Park


Central Park


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Travel-Worthy Tributes

May 25, 2016
In pop culture, Memorial Day means the beginning of summer, cookouts, spontaneous beach trips and, for younger people, finals and the end of the school year. And with the exception of those year-end tests, were in favor of all of those ideas, too. But its also important on Memorial Day to take time and reflect on the reason for the holiday: Honoring those who gave their lives, what Abraham Lincoln once called the last full measure of devotion, to protecting and serving this country.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we have hundreds of non-profit fundraising travel packages that donors bid on in order to go on relaxing, energizing, or just plain fun vacations. But our trips work for any occasion, including paying solemn respects this weekend at one of these monuments to our fallen Armed Forces members.

Many travelers make their way to Indianapolis, Indiana on Memorial Day weekend for the Indy 500, one of Americas great car races and one that has been scheduled on or near the end of May since 1911. But the city is also home to one of the most iconic memorials in America, the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument. At just 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty, the obelisk was built as an ode to Indiana residents who fought in the Civil War, but has over time expanded to honoring soldiers in the Revolutionary and Spanish-American Wars as well. It also now houses the Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. When it was established in 1902, it was thought to be the only monument at that time to be dedicated to the everyday soldiers, the rank-and-file, rather than a general or a commander.

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is made up of nine different locations in three different states, but the majority of the locations are in Honolulu, at the site of the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS Arizona Memorial is a tremendously-designed monument; the structure straddles the sunken battleship, without ever touching it, allowing for unique visual perspective of the wreckage. There are also monuments to the USS Utah and Oklahoma there, while the USS Missouri, not technically a part of the monument, is also docked in the harbor, having been turned into a museum.  Taken in whole, its a powerful reminder of those who gave their lives in the Pacific.

The largest concentration of memorials, however, is in the area of our nations capital. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial may be the most famous, its wall of names receiving more than three million visitors each year, but the DC War Memorial, the U.S. Navy Memorial and the World War II Memorial all also fall not just within the city limits, but within a short distance of each other. With Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Imo Jima memorial) located a short subway ride away in Northern Virginia, not to mention all of the presidential monuments and other historic landmarks in the metro area, there are many opportunities for patriotic visitor to pay their respects.

Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Pearl Harbor

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial


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Bid and Stretch Trips for Yogis

May 18, 2016
For many, the goal of a vacation is to relax. Its a chance to leave the worries of day-to-day life behind, get on the road and unwind, even if its just for a few days. For those who cant get out of town in between, say, the end of work today and the beginning of work tomorrow, though, theres the stress-relieving properties of yoga.

Between 2008 and 2013, the number of Americans who participated in a yoga class at least once in the year increased from 17 to 24 million. Thats nearly as many yogis (of varying levels) as there are golfers, according to USA Today. Chances are, there are supporters of your organization that have a favorite class or teacher in your hometown and theres also a good chance that some of their identities may surprise you.

At Mitch-Stuart, we have fundraising auction travel packages that take donors all over the world, to hot sports for golf, foodie culture, music and high culture. Yoga has such centers, too, and for those who want to get some downward-facing dog time while on vacation, these destinations may attract extra bids.

A favorite of Worlds Best Yoga Spots lists, Bali is the home of the yearly Bali Spirit Festival, a confluence of dance, music and, of course, yoga. But the island is a favorite of yogis all year, with places to practice on the beach, in the jungle and everywhere in between. And despite having a reputation for attracting regular practitioners, many of the classes in Bali are considered more restorative and relaxing, meaning that theyre appropriate for all experience levels.

Costa Rica is a favorite nation for yoga retreats, with places like the Blue Spirit Retreat Center and the Luna Lodge hosting traveling groups from around the world for weeklong sessions in the wild and on the beach. But your donors dont have to commit to a full seven days worth of downward-facing dog to get in a stretch or two. The Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort features multiple classes a day in beautiful Nosara, for instance, and Montezuma Yoga hosts morning and evening sessions in Playa Montezuma. Even some of our partner resorts offer their own classes, like those at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa.

None of this is to say that your donors need to leave the country for a yoga-cation. Major metropolitan areas in the country like New York and San Francisco have so many options for classes that to list them would take days. But if you want to find Americas great yoga secret, head to Asheville, North Carolina. No, really: The city was named one of the top ten cities in America for yoga by Yoga Journal, thanks in part to its close-knit community and surprising variety of styles.

Bali Villa

Bali Beachfront Villa

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

Port Douglas


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Oh The Places They Will Go!

May 11, 2016
May brings Mothers Day, the Kentucky Derby and, of course, flowers (according to the Theory of April Showers). But its also the time of year when students get together, listen to one final lecture, and walk across a stage to be handed a piece of paper. It is graduation season in America, and this can be a fun time, celebrating the academic achievements of friends and relatives of friends. But it can also occasionally be confusing: What present does one get for a recent graduate?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s fundraising auction travel packages are often used as gifts, whether its for birthdays or anniversaries. But there are plenty of trips in our catalog that make a lot of sense to give to a college graduate as a celebration of their maturation into the real world, while also raising money for a good cause.

As anyone who has joined the working world knows, there may be no freer period of ones life than the one that comes between graduation and a first job. Whether its just a couple of weeks after final exams or a job search that stretches throughout the summer, there often are few worries as post-grads start to dive into the real world. This means that there may be no better time in the near future for a traveler to take that major trip, the week-long one to a part of the world that falls way outside of weekend getaway status. Several of our Destinations of Excellence fall into that category, but the hottest one right now might be Bali, the Indonesian island that has been popping up in travel magazines for the last several years. Its the type of once-in-a-lifetime trip that is meant to be savored, and not rushed perfect for the recent graduate with a little bit of flexibility on his or her hands.

The backpacking trip across Europe has been a staple of post-graduate travel for generations. The romance of the open road, sleeping in train cabins, and seeing the entire continent is a major draw to the young and adventurous. It also can be stress-inducing for the parents of those doing the traveling, however. Help your donors split the difference with the Hit the Road, Jacques! travel package, which sends a donor or a donors gift recipient to both Paris and Rome, with stays in nice hotels (no sleeper cars here!) and tours of the city on a vintage motorcycle and a Vespa, respectively. The trip couples the thrill of roadtripping with the knowledge of where a traveler will be sleeping and showering, allowing worried parents to sleep better.

Of course, for some, getting out of school is a stressful enough proposition that a recent graduate may just want to sit on a beach chair, sipping a frozen drink that has a cocktail umbrella in it. For those ex-students who need some time to decompress, there may be few better places to do so than at Montego Bay in Jamaica, at an all-inclusive resort like the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. Its the best of both worlds for a young traveler: A diversion-filled property where the food and drinks are complementary, on an island known for its world-class culture, lively arts scene and fascinating cuisine.

Bali Villa

Arc De Triomphe, Paris, France

Vespa in Rome

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall


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Spring Updating: The New Catalog!

April 27, 2016
Spring is the time to declutter, the time to go through closets and get rid of that which you dont need anymore. We do it to create space for ourselves, both metaphorically (dont you feel more relaxed when surrounded by less stuff?) and physically. But best of all: All that new space means youve got room to store new purchases.

Weve got the same impulses at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., but in our case its more of a freshening up. Thats why our new catalog of fundraising auction travel packages features some brand-new trips to the worlds greatest destinations.

Whats new in the Mitch-Stuart catalog? Check out:

  • New continents! Weve brought back an adventure to Australia that is perfect for your outdoorsy supporters; it includes a stay in a three-bedroom villa and chances to see the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. And we also return to South America with a trip to Rio de Janeiro, with a weeklong stay in the prestigious Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, which will host a large number of venues for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Stays in gorgeous villas! Give your donors the chance to take a whole family or crew on vacation to places like the island of St. John in the Caribbean and the Rich Coast of Costa Rica (both with four-bedroom accommodations). Catch your dinner in Costa Rica and bring it to a private chef to prepare, or visit Caneel Bay, also known as the Rockefeller Estate, in St. John
  • More options in Bali! Stay in a five-bedroom beachfront mansion on one outing, or get in touch with your spiritual side with a trek to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. And weve also added a trip to nearby Thailand, with a stay in a villa located just minutes from the countrys stunning West Coast beaches.
  • More golf courses! Play a round at Pete Dye's Valley Course, the sibling to the world-famous Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, while staying in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Or take a shorter break in Scottsdale, Arizona while still getting in games at the Troon North Golf Club, named one of the Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play by Golf Magazine.
  • More beachside fun! New options in Belize, St. Thomas and Cabo San Lucas combine sandy fun with luxury and adventure.

If youd like to hear more about any of these new ways to send your donors on the vacation of a lifetime (while making money for your organization), reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today.
Port Douglas Australia Villa

Rio de Janeiro

Bali Beachfront Villa

World Golf Village Florida


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Do You REALLY Make Money from the Highest Bidder?

March 07, 2016
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, auctioneer and SocialSmarts founder Corinne Gregory tells us how activity, not deep pockets, drives auction fundraising. Enjoy!)

If youve ever been to an auction and Im assuming since you are reading this, you are already a veteran of at least one event -- you are aware that the high bidder is the one the auctioneer sells the item to when the bidding has concluded.  So, its natural to believe that the high bidder is the one who is making the money for the charity during a Live or Silent Auction.

Well, folks, let me be the one to break it to you: It isnt true! Yet so many charities covet the high bidders because they truly believe that these individuals are going to make more for the cause. Even most auctioneers will work particularly hard on getting to the high bidder because they feel this is where their energies should be focused. And that may be costing you money and not making you more as you would expect.

First of all, there is a common misconception that, in order to make more money at your event, you need to invite more people with high net-worth. While it would seem to make sense that people with more money will be prime targets to spend more and be your high bidders, frequently the opposite is true. When people have ample discretionary income, they tend to buy things that they want as it comes along. They arent going to wait around and save up just to buy at your auction. Thats not to say that these individuals arent generous or wont contribute to your auctions bottom line, but they arent going to be the ones generating the most bid activity.

So then, if the people at the top of your buying pyramid arent going to be the ones generating the most bids, who is going to help you make more money? The answer is simple, really: everyone else.  Activity is where the money is.

Why is activity so important? Well, although we do collect money from the high bidder, each time someone puts their bid number down on a Silent Auction form or raises their Bid Card during the Live Auction they are raising more money for the charity. The second, third and fourth high bidders are helping raise the price of that item. Ultimately, the high bidder is the one who is determined to hang in there and out-bid the competition. So, as I like to say to my auction audience, Its the job of the second, third and fourth high bidders to make sure that the winner pays appropriately!

So, if we are making money from any and all bidders that participate, its crucial to have audience engagement. We want them all to bid -- more bid cards in the air means the revenue to the charity increases. That means, as an auctioneer, I need to be courting the second and third high bidders, giving them permission to stay in the game, and not just focusing on one or two potential high bidders. In fact, I coach my audience, letting them know they can play along all they want -- be my second and third high bidders all night long. But, if they dont actually want the item, they should pull their cards down before I say Sold!

So, remember, while we do ultimately collect the money from the high bidder, we make money from every guest that places a higher bid on a Silent Auction form or raises their bid card during the Live Auction. Its important to keep your entire audience engaged and interacting because, even if they dont win, their participation ensures that the charity does.

(Big thanks to Corinne Gregory for sharing her insights with us this week! For more information about her, go to auctionhelp.com and corinnegregory.com.)
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Las Vegas: Spring Wonderland

February 17, 2016
The summers in Las Vegas can be brutal. Average high temperatures in Sin City during the summer months stay in the triple digits, with a peak of 106 degrees on average in July. The winters head to the other end of the spectrum; while average highs in December and January are just under 60 degrees, the lows get down to nearly freezing, and the desert winds can run right through a snowbirds bones.

Thankfully, theres the spring. While Las Vegas doesnt have as many of the blooms that other cities might have (theres nothing in the area that could compare to, say, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.), the more moderate temperatures of March, April and May can draw visitors out of the air-conditioned casinos and into the fresh desert air.

At Mitch-Stuart, our non-profit auction travel packages are designed to be used at almost any time throughout the year, but there are definitely seasons that, depending on a travelers hobbies and activities, are more pleasant than others. And if youve got supporters who love poolside libations, golfing, or just outdoor sightseeing, springtime in Las Vegas is hard to beat.

One of the favorite pastimes of spring Vegas visitors is camping out poolside for an afternoon, with a drink (alcoholic or otherwise) in one hand and a good book in the other. The pools at the major casinos start opening for business in mid-March, and with temperatures being warm (especially for those coming from colder, snowbound homes) but not scorching, there are plenty of chances for working on that tan while relaxing in a lounge chair. Hotels like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Caesars Palace have raucous poolside atmospheres, while Paris Las Vegas Soleil Pool is a calming oasis in the shadow of the resorts replica Eiffel Tower.

Playing golf in the tremendous heat of a Vegas summer can feel more like a death march than a game. Going in March or April rather than July or August, however, keeps the heat on simmer rather than broil. And the city is an underrated stop for golfers, too, with a major variety of courses in the area; the TPC Las Vegas is a stunner appropriate for strong players, while Angel Parks Cloud Nine is a shorter, executive course designed for hackers of all levels. Players dont even have to leave the Strip, with the Wynn Golf Club providing an 18-hole layout in the shadow of the resort.

Even sightseeing can take on a labored pace in 100+ degree heat, meaning that natural wonders like the Grand Canyon may be better appreciated in the spring, rather than the summer. For all the manmade, neon diversions of Sin City, its most beautiful vistas can be found in the surrounding desert. Red Rock Canyon offers tremendous hiking and rock climbing, and Hoover Dam is a unique architectural marvel. And though it sits in the neighboring state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon hosts visitors from Vegas every day, thanks to a plethora of tour operators flying helicopters to and from the natural wonder.
Las Vegas

Maverick Helicopters Las Vegas

The Wynn

Grand Canyon


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The Romantics Valentines Day Gift

February 10, 2016
Chocolate? Meh. Flowers? Theyll be dead in a week. Jewelry? Sure, but do people really need more stuff? We may be biased, but there may be no more romantic gift than the gift of travel.

Mitch-Stuart can set up your donors with fundraising auction travel packages for any time of the year and for any occasion, of course, but theres something special about sending two lovebirds out into the world together, to explore and make wonderful memories. Whether youve got supporters looking for a honeymoon excursion, a babymoon last hurrah, or just an adventure with the love of his or her life, setting them up with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a Destination of Excellence will plant you in their mind every time they reflect on that romantic getaway.

What makes travel so romantic? Some ideas:

Two people enter a relationship with lifetimes worth of experiences in their past. That extends to cities visited, which means that if one-half of a couple is a regular in, say, Las Vegas, the other half may feel more like a tourist following a guide than an equal partner. But when two people explore a new destination together, it can be a bonding experience. Want to give your donors the chance to make a destination feel like a shared romantic getaway? Offer one of our packages to a far-flung locale, perhaps like Bali, where your supporters can relax on beaches, get couples massages and explore an island while making it theirs.

Going on an adventure together can also push you and your partner out of your comfort zone. Whether you feel stuck in a rut or just would like to infuse your romance with a little spice, the adrenaline triggered by trying something new can be a great way to jump start emotions, as well. This could mean, for instance, heading for Africa with our Explore Kenyas Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife package, which includes a gift card that can be used for game drives, bush walks and other safari experiences.

Finally, while the act of traveling is romantic on its own, the destination often has its own enchanting activities. We touched on that idea last year around this time, but it bears repeating: Booking the right itinerary once on the ground can make any place seductive. Exploring New York as a couple may mean a walk through Central Park at sunset or a date night at the Plaza. Any Southern California or Caribbean trip means walks along the beach. Skiing adventures in Aspen means aprs-ski cuddles by the fire. No matter the trip, theres something waiting at the destination for couples.
Massage

Fairmont Kenya Safari

Central Park Carriage New York

The Buccaneer St. Croix


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Guest Post: How to Ask Big Donors for Leadership Gifts in Six Steps

December 16, 2015
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, Keith McLane of KLM Auctions tells us about reaching out to those major gift donors. Enjoy!)

Charity fundraising events pose a tough challenge: You have to mobilize financial resources from donors to meet your aggressive monetary goals. To launch your campaign, you turn to your high-power donors, the heavy hitters who make or break your efforts. Your outreach to them takes first priority.

So how do you address these big donors in a pre-auction fundraising letter and hit all the right notes? Lets take it step-by-step.

  1. Start off with a big thank you for past generosity:

    Dear Stan and Jan,

    Thank you again for the donation of your Tahoe home for the auction; it was incredibly generous and I hope it goes for some really big money this year!

  2. Make your supporters understand how important their contributions are, and how their leadership role will be critical in the new project:

    I'm reaching out to very select families regarding this year's Fund-a-Need. I don't know if you saw my earlier email to the auction RSVP list, but we have an idea we're very excited about: To add artificial turf and a retaining wall to the dirt hill near Annex (beside the ramp between the upper and lower playgrounds). We think it will make a huge difference to the children's experience and really liven up the play space.
  3. Emphasize the immediate challenge ahead, and how the big donor will be a visible trailblazer who sets the tone for the entire community.

    But it doesn't come cheap.

    We've been working with landscape architects and the bids are on the order of $60,000, of which I'd like to raise $50K or more from Fund-a-Need. It's a high goal, but in the past when the (Name of School) community has mobilized we've come in at or above that level and I'm hopeful we can do it again. If we hit the $50K target, we should be able to make up the remainder from the general auction proceeds.

  4. Let your donor know that if they are first in the game, they can be a game-changer in realizing fundraising goals:

    Hence my request. I have no idea if you are planning to contribute to Fund-a-Need or not this year, but our professional auctioneer tells us the most successful technique is to have one or two pre-committed top-tier bids in his pocket. It gets the energy in the room flowing and gets the paddles going up at nice high levels.

    In other words, we don't want to guess what the high bid is going to be, and we don't want to start too low.

  5. Show understanding and flexibility youre not forcing anything on your big donor. At the same time, express your gratitude again and drive it home that they can play a prominent, instrumental role in realizing a community dream.

    I'm asking about a dozen families to try to find someone to start our bidding at $5,000. Yes, I realize that's a large amount and that you've already done a ton for the school and for the auction, for which we are all extremely grateful. And I realize we're coming at families with asks left and right and if this is too much I absolutely, totally get it; no problem whatsoever.

    But looking at past years' bidding patterns, if we can get someone to start at this level I do think we can hit it out of the ballpark.

  6. Establish a basis for quick personal follow-up a call or a meeting. Give another hearty thank you and a reminder to save the date.

    I will give you a call this evening to touch base in person. Thanks in advance for your consideration, and thanks once again for the generous donation of your Tahoe home!

    Take care, and looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.
In these six steps and with personal engagement, you can make your fundraising goals a reality.

Let your biggest donors know how grateful you are, and have them imagine what they could achieve next by dreaming big.

Keith McLane of KLM Auctions is one of California and the Nations top charity auctioneers and fundraising strategists. KLM Auctions auctioneers have all earned the distinguished Benefit Auction Specialist (BAS) designation from the National Auctioneers Associationa designation held by fewer than 20 auctioneers in California.


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Guest Post: Fundraising Lessons From Apple Picking

December 02, 2015
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, were re-posting this wonderful essay by Connie Johnson of the Benefit Auction Institute about the parallels between fundraising and the outside world. Enjoy!)

Eight years ago my husband planted a Honeycrisp apple tree in our front yard. And being Minnesotans we are very biased that all Honeycrisp apples if not the ones from our very own front tree are the best on the planet. Of course, we place a premium on the fruit that the tree produces because there is some amount of work in getting to the point of harvest. Between the watering, the tiny amount of spraying, and the occasional pruning of the branches, there is something very satisfying about getting to the place where we can pick our prized apples.

Here are a few lessons Ive gleaned from our apple tree and some parallels I've found in charity event fundraising:

Some apples are a lost cause. Get rid of them!

Despite our intention to have as near to organic fruits and vegetables in our yard as possible, my husband learned through trial and error that some degree of fruit would be lost without preventive measures like spraying. And even then, some apples still end up taken over by worms, bees or various bugs. We dont try to save those apples. We get them off the tree and into the compost bin so they can feed the soil and serve us in some capacity later.

Relating to fundraising, you should be surveying your practices regularly, analyzing what works best and offloading the practices that have bugs in them. What produces the most donor fruit? Focus there and lose what is ineffective or even harmful.

Some apples are only partially compromised. Save what can be saved.

OK, so heres the thing: At our house we try really hard not to waste what can be saved. And honestly, when you take a good look at bad apples, many apples can be savedat least in part. We pull them off the tree and cut off the bruised or compromised area and eat the part thats OK.
In planning your event, maybe you dont have to dispose of an entire procedure, but merely tweak it for better results. Cut out whats undesirable. Find a way to make whats left work.

Some apples are beautiful on the outside, rosy and colorful, but dont taste good because theyre not ripe enough or theyre overripe. Strike when the fruit is at its peak!

So much of effective harvesting boils down to timing, doesnt it? Strike too soon or too late and the fruit may not taste right. It might be too tart or have little taste at all.

When harvesting donor gifts, you have to consider if the donor is ready for your ask. Have you done the proper work to select the optimum date for your events demographic? Have you informed them of what your nonprofits mission makes possible and what youll be able to do with more resources? Have you reminded them that your event is a key part of your nonprofits giving calendar and how critical each gift is to your cause? Have you let key person-to-person encounters pass by and with them a great opportunity to ask for their support?     
    
When picking apples, your reach matters.

Several weeks ago we got a frost warning. In essence, get those apples off the tree, or lose them! My husband worked so hard to care for the tree and its fruit and I wasnt about to lose those apples to a cold night! I grabbed the step stool from the garage and very carefully pulled down what I was capable of getting to. But heres the thing: I am a petite woman and could not reach all of those apples by myself. I plucked off what I could, but I also knew my limitations and called in reinforcements. My husband is a tall guy and was able to reach higher (the Benefit Auction Institutes tag line) to get those last apples down.

In the world of fundraising galas, you know as well as I, that it takes a solid and strategic team effort to get your best results. Look carefully at your limitations, opportunities and resources, and make sure that the right person is working on the right task to optimize the event that you work so tirelessly on for months.

Enjoy the fruit and share it.


At a family party before the final harvest we let everyone pick an apple off the tree. We had plenty and some gifts are meant to be shared. My soon-to-be three-year old niece heard she got to choose her own apple so I brought her out to the tree and hoisted her up. She looked at her options and then yanked her favorite apple off. Before I could even get her inside to wash the apple, she took a gleeful bite out of ither apple moment, and that sight made my week.

Isnt the point of fundraising to share the bounty? To make sure that the resources that your nonprofit needs are within reach because of the generosity of people who care about your mission and programs? Then share. Share donor resources. Share stories donor, program recipient, volunteer, staff member. And give everyone on your team a chance to have their apple moment. It is the very best part of fundraising.

Happy harvesting!

(Big big thanks to Connie Johnson and the team over at Benefit Auction Institute for sharing their apples with us this week! For more information about the Institute, go to benefitauctioninstitute.com or call 651-318-0115.)



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Dont Skimp!

September 30, 2015
There a lot of pressure placed upon fundraisers, especially event planners, to keep costs down when planning a gala or special evening. After all, the theory goes, the less money spent on the event, the more the organization will get to keep. But what if, by skimping in some areas, you were actually costing your organization money, rather than saving it?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. loves setting up its non-profit partners with consignment auction travel packages to raise money for worthy causes, and we particularly love it when they sell for the biggest amounts possible. In order to do that, though, its important to spend money in the right places and for the right reasons. Here are three places where a little extra investment at the gala can pay off in bigger bids and more donations.

If a live auction is a part of the program, make sure that a professional benefit auctioneer is in charge. While the job may look like just speaking fast and taking bids from the outside, an experienced auctioneer can bring in bigger bids and keep audiences engaged in ways that amateurs may not even be able to identify, much less duplicate. Everything from between-item banter to voice inflections when recording bids can help loosen up a room and encourage everyone to get involved, and the people who spend their lives doing this are naturally going to be better than a volunteer.

Yes, you could set up a playlist on a streaming website or through your phone. Or sure, you could get a particularly talented family member to play some piano. But good live entertainment at an event is a critical component to keeping attendees engaged, whether its a comedian doing a short set, a live musical performance or a DJ playing in the background during the dinner. Getting the audience laughing or dancing can be a big step towards getting them bidding, too, and the pros in these areas know how to read a crowd and tell the right joke or play the right song for the moment.

After a gala, theres still opportunities for fundraising, based on follow-up solicitations. Make those next-day and next-week emails look even better by having a professional photographer document your event. Hiring an experienced shutterbug will allow you and your staff to focus on connecting with donors individually, while the pro runs around (usually with camera equipment well beyond the price range of the average picture-taker) and makes sure that the memories created over the course of the evening are captured forever. Having these professional photos will help sell tickets to future events, as well, making it an investment that pays for itself.


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Fall-Infused Galas

September 24, 2015
The seasonal signposts are everywhere: Leaves are changing, days are getting shorter, and evenings are getting cooler. Fall is here, and with it comes a new color palette, a new climate and a new feeling.

Our specialty, of course, is setting non-profits up with once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for fundraising auctions, and we told you about some of the best ones for fall galas a few weeks back. But were also always here to help incorporate new ideas into your fundraising auctions and galas, whether its cuisine pairings or recycling themes and branding. If your organization has an upcoming event, here are a couple of ways to stand out by using the beauty and spirit of the season.

Fall galas have a full color palette with which to play, one that feels out of place at other points in the year. Soft oranges and browns, yellows and even forest greens are all in play, and can give an event a feeling of timeliness. From there, the type of gala will dictate the decorations, of course; a black-tie affair probably doesnt need cutout leaves (or real ones!) throughout the room. But even lining the entryway to a ballroom with lights and colors matching the season can put attendees in the right frame of mind for the evening.

One of the newest fall traditions for many is trips to the local chain coffee shop for "pumpkin spice infused drinks. And while that name is a misnomer 2015 is the first time that Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte will include any actual pumpkin theres no question that spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are essential to fall cooking. There are plenty of places for those fall tastes at your gala, as well. A dessert course is an easy place to start, with a traditional pumpkin pie or pudding. One fun idea: If your event will involve alcohol, there are several cocktails that involve combinations of pumpkin, maple syrup and whiskey or bourbon.

Finally, never overlook location when it comes to fundraising events. While it can be tricky to plan around seasonal weather, getting your donors outside for a fun twist on a gala can create lifelong memories ones that are most closely associated with your cause. How about an event in an actual pumpkin patch? Or maybe a traveling gala, one that rolls on hayrides? Even setting up in a local park, surrounded by the changing colors, even with a cold snap in the air, can brand a gathering in a way that will make supporters want to come back every year.


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Dont Forget the Where

July 15, 2015
There are plenty of decisions to make when planning a non-profit fundraising event: What should the theme be? What should be on the menu? Which Mitch-Stuart fundraising auction travel packages should you offer to the highest bidder (AHEM)? But one of the most important decisions is actually one of the most underrated: Where should all of this go down?

Picking a venue at which to hold a charity gala can be a stressful experience, but going into the decision-making process with a clear set of guidelines can help focus your organizations vision and make the pick an easy one. Here are some questions to ask before placing a deposit on that hotel grand ballroom:

Can my donors get there? If your donor base lives in the suburbs, the most beautiful downtown ballroom might be a bad fit, especially if the event is taking place on a weeknight. If youre throwing an event in New York or San Francisco, however, heading to the suburbs might eliminate supporters who live a car-free lifestyle. Getting to your event should be as easy as possible for the people looking to support your cause.

What facilities are available? Dont let the natural beauty of an open park space, for instance, make you overlook the lack of electricity or indoor plumbing. And that brilliant ballroom in the historic downtown district may not be up to code in terms of wheelchair accessibility not to mention its lack of parking. Attending a charity gala should, in most cases, be much easier to do than attending a summer music festival on a farm or in the desert.

Is it hot? The wow factor extends past auction items and celebrity appearances. Holding a gala at an architectural marvel, or a newly-opened facility, can let donors not only support a cause, but explore a new part of their city. Even smaller events can benefit from novel locations: A citys newest restaurant may be looking for new diners, and your supporters may want to try out the latest in local dining.

Is it on theme? If there are multiple facilities that check each of the boxes above, it might be time to move on to examining the atmosphere one is trying to create. That luau event might not feel right in an art deco masterpiece, and it is hard to hold an upscale casino night in a cavernous warehouse. Practical considerations should likely come first, but theme-based factors make for a great tiebreaker.

Can we stay here long term? Weve talked before about making gala planning earlier by repeating a partys most popular elements. It can be a source of comfort for donors and a sign of stability for an organization to have a yearly event that happens in the same location. If your group is at that point where settling into an annual groove with your gala makes sense, locking down a multi-year contract with a venue can reduce your yearly cost and create a lasting connection in your community.

Have any other tips for gala planners? Talk to us! Tell us on our Facebook page and our Twitter account.


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Recycle Your Gala

April 29, 2015
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we like making non-profit fundraising auctions easier. Whether its offering great charity auction travel packages to organizations on a consignment basis or setting up a group with our partners to help with everything from running the auction to collecting bids, we want to help make event planners lives simpler.

One of the best ways to make the year-over-year process of pulling off fantastic non-profit fundraising events less stressful is to avoid reinventing the wheel. Each year, there are several major decisions that an organization has to make in terms of promotion, of theme and even of location. But why go through all the effort to do that each year, when you can make the same decision work for years to come? Here are three ways in which a recycled idea can make the yearly work of planning that gala a little easier.

A Visual Brand:
Yes, you can certainly use your organizations logo on promotional materials for your gala event. But developing and then reusing a special image for posters and flyers about the fundraiser not only pops off of advertising, it also lets donors and supporters know that something special is about to occur. It separates this one event, this one moment, from all the other marketing collateral you might send over the course of a year.

Go All-In on a Theme:
Developing a brand for your event can save a lot of effort each year. If your home city knows that, each spring, youll be throwing a beach party by a local pool, or that ugly sweater parties around Christmas are your thing, then crowds will be on the lookout for the yearly invite. And dont worry about being repetitive: There are countless variations on a theme that can differentiate this years event from prior editions. For example, if youre throwing a casino night, gambling in Las Vegas is very different from the gaming of, say, the French Riviera. Both, however, will utilize the same basic equipment (roulette wheels, poker tables, etc.) and fall under the umbrella of what youve established your event brand to be.

Lock Up the Location:
In some cases, the venue for a charity event is as iconic as any theme and as dazzling as any auction item. If your non-profit has found a home for its gala fundraiser in a historic, grand or just special location, theres no need to shop around every year. Make your event into THE event at the historic opera house, mansion or even park picnic area. Giving predictability to a galas location can help brand your fundraiser in the publics mind, and make people from the outside want to find out about that great night out that happens in that gorgeous venue each year.


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More Vendors, Less Work

April 22, 2015
There are seemingly a thousand moving parts when it comes to a non-profit fundraising event, from catering to theme selection, from invitations to decorating and from entertainment to auction set-up. Getting a gala off the ground and ready to entertain guests can be a tremendous amount of work.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. certainly knows how to help provide your charity event with no-risk auction travel packages that can add the wow factor to any gala. But did you know that our network of partners can help make the burden of planning and pulling off a fundraiser easier in several other ways as well? One call to us can get the ball rolling on

Filling out the auction list:
Obviously, we can send your donors on once-in-a-lifetime adventures from Boston to Bali, and to events like the Super Bowl or the Tony Awards. But our partners at Grandstand Sports and Memorabilia can add more lots to your auction, with everything from sports gear to platinum record plaques and rare film items, signed and presented with certificates of authenticity.

Getting the biggest bids:
Yes, you can get a volunteer to act as auctioneer over the course of an evening. Yes, they can get to live out their dream of saying things like, I see $500, I see $500, can I see six? as quickly as possible. But if you do, you will be leaving money on the table. A good auctioneer is like a good emcee or host: You may be able to do without one, but youll notice their absence. For more, check out our blog post with reasons to hire a professional auctioneer.

Organizing the auction:
So youve got a list of items, youve got people who want to bid on those items and youve got someone to sell them. Whos going to be in charge of collecting payments and distributing the items? Dont make a volunteer sit in the back of the room with a credit card reader attached to an iPad, swiping cards and handing out envelopes with certificates. Leave that to a company like GiveSmart, which along with mobile bidding (another item to incorporate into your auction with little effort!), also offers check out services. Allow winners to pay without standing in a long line at the end of the evening, and know immediately who has paid and who hasnt.

Want more great tips on how to get help planning and running your gala auction? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. expert today!


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Supporting Without Attending

April 16, 2015
We at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. love a fancy party. We love the gala atmosphere, the food, the camaraderie and, of course, the bid-inducing non-profit fundraising travel packages available for auction. And we especially love the results of fancy parties for our customers: Fundraising success, translating into money going toward worthy causes.

But we also recognize that not everyone feels the way we do about galas and other events. Whether its scheduling, geography or just a really good night of television, some supporters wont be able to make it to your charity fundraising night. The good news: Its still possible, thanks to technology, to keep those donors engage and involved in your big night. Here are some examples:

Mobile Bidding: Yes, we love it when two people in the same room bid each other up (over and over again!) over a special trip or other auction item. But the more people who have the ability to bid, the more bidders will actually put money on the line. Companies like Mitch-Stuart partner GiveSmart allow your auction to be open not just to those at the gala, but to those all over the world.

Go Digital:
Is the head of your organization giving a state of the charity speech? Have you scheduled an amazing, inspirational keynote speaker? Make sure to get a good quality recording of the address even if its a one-camera shot from a table on the gala floor. With a quick upload to YouTube, you have another reason to send an email to your donors and supporters, and one more reason for your supporters to be thinking about you.

Participate Without Participating: For donors who cant be there live, there are ways of allowing them to support you in advance. Whether its the chance to save a virtual seat (have a table set up in the back with name placards for donors who couldnt attend), the opportunity to put their name on something (a special cocktail, perhaps?) or even letting them buy mementos from the night, there are plenty of ways for a traveling donor to still be an active donor.

Just make sure to send the absent supporters lots of photos.


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Guest Post: On Consignment

February 18, 2015
(From Mitch-Stuart, Inc.: Word is spreading about the advantages of auctioning consignment items at charity galas! Our friends at Scott Robertson Auctioneers recently wrote a blog post on the topic, and we love their enthusiasm for getting the best possible travel packages for non-profit fundraising auctions into the hands of bidders. That post appears below, with their permission.)

Seemingly every day I receive a message from a client asking How do we secure great items for our fundraising auction? Does this question sound familiar to you and your committee? You are not alone in this quest to find high profit items that will excite your guests and get them to bid.

Experience has taught me that in order to have a successful fundraising auction you need the following four components in place.
  1. The right people in the seats. These guests must believe in your cause, have the financial resources to support the cause, and the desire to help.
  2. Great items for the attendees to purchase. Everyone is strategic in their bidding and will not bid on items they dont intend to use. Pre-event promotion is always a good idea so attendees arrive ready to bid on items that excite them.
  3. A great ambassador like a fundraising auctioneer. He or she will be the glue that holds the other components together and motivates the audience.
  4. A cause that people can easily support. Those donating their money at a fundraising event want to make sure their donation will make an impact on the lives of others.
If you have three of the four components in place then great, youre almost there. But the component Ive seen left out most often is #2 great items. If the right people are there, the right auctioneer is there and the cause is right, but the items are wrong, a charity will leave so much money on the table because they werent strategic in their item procurement.

I hear from many charities throughout the year. They tell me they would love to have better live auction items but dont have the resources. I totally understand. In fact, getting the right items for a live auction is more challenging than ever for some.

One possible solution for these charities may be and I stress may be consignment companies, great businesses that are totally focused on putting together trips and experiences that make unique and wonderful top-shelf items.

These companies purchase items at volume wholesale prices, mark them up a little, and then provide the item or package to not-for-profit organizations at no initial cost. The charity only pays for the item after it is auctioned and sold at the charitys gala. Rest assured a good fundraising auctioneer never sells an item below the cost of the package.

Another advantage of using consignment is that the packages can be sold multiple to times to several bidders, a donated item typically can only be sold once.

When the auction is over the charity contacts the consignment company, informs them which item was purchased, provides them with the funds and then gives them the contact information of the person who won the item.

The consignment company will act as the concierge and contact the bidder directly and work with them all the way until the bidder utilizes the trip. Typically quality consignment companies can be flexible, if needed, to modify the trip to meet the needs of the buyer (its important the consignment company acts as the concierge so the buyer receives the personal service they deserve and the charity can focus on other matters).

Another great point about these companies is that they often under promise and over deliver and that will make the winning bidder feel even better about the item they purchased. Thats pretty rare in todays world.

I do have one caution. There are a lot of consignment companies out there. Do not go with one you just found on the Internet or the cheapest. You need to use a company that has an outstanding reputation and a great track record for delivering what it promises.

I hope this helps those charities looking for unique items and experiences their guests will truly love to bid on. Sure, there is a cost involved. But even with the cost big dividends await.

(We want to thank our friends at Scott Robertson Auctioneers for the great summary of why non-profits should work with consignment sellers to help give their auctions that wow factor. If youre ready to send a donor on an once-in-a-lifetime adventure, reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today!)

Scott Robertson Auctioneers
srauctioneers@gmail.com
239-246-2139


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Get Awayand Get Active!

September 17, 2014
There may be few places as depressing as a mediocre hotel gym. Often a lobby-adjacent afterthought, the collection of treadmills and one Nautilus machine that passes for a workout room may not feel sufficient for those vacationers seeking a sweat while on the road.

Colorado
Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe
Alisal Guest Ranch
While Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s charity auction travel packages dont include gym memberships (yet!), we can help those in search of a great active vacation, one that stimulates the imagination and the circulatory system. For some of our trip packages, exercise options are built in to the itinerary.

Colorado is one of the American states best known for staying active; all that exercise has helped the city of Boulder lead the country with the lowest obesity rate, and three of the countrys ten thinnest cities are in the state. A big reason why is the number of options available to locals for exercise. The Rocky Mountains hold ski resorts in the winter and mountain biking opportunities in the spring and summer. Take advantage of those opportunities like a local with a trip to Beaver Creek, Crested Butte or Telluride for downhill fun.

Nevada, of course, may be better known for neon and cheap shrimp cocktail than mountain biking and skiing. But if one can look away from the spectacle of Sin City, the northern part of the state has plenty of opportunities to get outside. One of the best of those chances is at Lake Tahoe, with the day-long Adventure Experience. Available through our Splendid Alpine Setting package, donors can choose between horseback riding, hiking tours and mountain biking around and through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Those whod prefer a little less legwork can also choose ATV, snowmobile or Jeep rides, as well.

For those who like their activities a little slower-paced, theres the beauty of Solvang, California, and the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. Visitors have the entirety of the outdoors at their disposal, and that can mean guided mountain or road biking tours of the Santa Ynez Valley, a day of fishing at Alisal Lake (or archery with the lake in the background) or even horse-riding lessons. Off the resort, meanwhile, lies some of Californias most scenic hikes; the Santa Ynez River Trail, for instance, offers a good workout and watering holes for swimming.

Whether its urban hiking and exploring, cliff-side yoga classes or some other form of exercise, your vacation can get your heart pumping for reasons beyond stunning scenery. Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative for more information.


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Choose Your Own (Travel) Adventure

September 03, 2014
All of the choices available in the Mitch-Stuart, Inc. charity auction package catalog can make it hard to pick just one to offer. Do you send your donors to New York? How about Las Vegas? Or maybe to Paris, or London, or any of practically countless other options?

Pedicure
Fairmont Empress Hotel
Hyatt San Diego
But for those hearty few who want even more choices, even more destinations, there is a cornucopia of options available with a Choose Your Destination package. Whether its the perfect match for your non-profit auctions theme, a sentimental choice for a subset of your donors or any other reason, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can set you up with options around the world.

How can you best take advantage of the opportunity to build your own travel package?

Think Thematically: If your gala or charity auction event has a theme, theres a destination somewhere that would make a perfect match. Popular themes like casino night may conjure obvious trip partners, but a more subtle through-line for an evening could require a more tailored adventure.

Dont Forget the Hotel: While many planners focus on the city (or country) of the destination, the hotel itself can be a major draw for donors, too. Hotel chains like the Fairmont and Swissotel have worldwide reputations for luxury, meaning that a trip to Peru or Ecuador can be both about exploring a country and reveling in five-star service and amenities. Machu Picchu and mani-pedis in the same package? Why not? Or how about a visit to the world famous Pikes Place Fish Market in Seattle, followed by a tremendous dinner at the Fairmont Olympic Hotels in-house restaurant, the AAA Four Diamond-earning The Georgian?

Travel for the Cause: Are there major events involving your charity on a yearly basis? A conference open to the public to discuss the issue for which you advocate? With the larger number of options available via the Choose Your Destination category our The Journey of a Lifetime! trip can send a donor to a Hyatt anywhere from Seattle to Boston and San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale its easy to send a supporter to a destination or conference that deepens his or her connection to your cause.

For more ideas, or to get the lowdown on the (literally) hundreds of choose-your-destination options available, contact your Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative today!


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Winter is Coming

August 26, 2014
Theres a reason that the end of August is often referred to as the dog days of summer, and its not that people have overwhelming love for them like we do our pets. Its hot across most of the country, kids are getting restless as school is approaching, and everything from the sports world to summer television seems to be saying, talk to us again next month.

In the non-profit world, however, many organizations spend August gearing up for fall fundraising, and in particular, yearly gala or auction events. That means reaching out to us to talk about partnering for including consignment travel packages to destinations around the world, but it also means thinking about what will be on the minds of donors come the fall.

Let us help: Snow.

Offering the right trips that will garner the most interest is an important part of putting together a charity auction, and we can help. For your donors who love winter wonderlands, heres a small sampling of the type of vacations you can offer (risk-free to your organization, of course!) by partnering with Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

When thoughts turn to winter, the mind almost immediately conjures images of snow, be it on city streets or mountaintops. While the former condition may be as annoying as beautiful, a peak covered in snow is an opportunity for high speeds and downhill thrills. Whether in the Canadian Rockies, the American west or even the mountains of Vermont, skiers can bid on perfect winter vacations when your non-profit pairs with Mitch-Stuart on a nonprofit travel package or experience. Resorts like the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in British Columbia and the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Nevada are known for their luxury services for the indoorsy types, as well, with spa packages and great dining.

The winter also has its share of gift-giving holidays, including Christmas and Valentines Day. Shopping malls get extremely crowded and browsing on the Internet can be more difficult than browsing a stores selection in person. Why not make a vacation out of the experience of finding that perfect present for a significant other, family member or even for the entire office? One of our most popular packages, the to-the-point-named Shop Til You Drop!, combines four nights at The Plaza in New York City with a $2,000 shopping spree at either Bergdorf-Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue or Bloomingdales. Take the trip in December and revel in the splendor of a city preparing to celebrate the holidays, while crossing off errands from your to-do-when-I-get-home list.

When its time for those holidays, the stress levels increase. As families return to a home base, theres cleaning and cooking to be done groceries to be bought and sets of the nice dishes to be broken out. Donors can skip every one of those steps by bringing the family aboard either a Celebrity Cruises or Royal Caribbean International cruise ship for a trip through the tranquil waters of the Caribbean or Bahamas. Guests aboard each are treated to gourmet meals and 24-hour room service (no more standing in front of the refrigerator, picking at leftover turkey) along with state-of-the-art fitness facilities to work off all that food. With the entire family aboard, your donor can even take his or her photo for next years holiday cards..
Skiing the Rockies
Bloomingdales
The Plaza New York
Celebrity Solstice, Virgin Islands


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Learning on the Road

August 19, 2014
In the next couple of weeks, kids will go back to school, picking up a bag full of textbooks on the first day to learn about everything from the founding of the United States to the creation of the worlds great works of art. Theyll be presented by teachers as words on the page, artifacts of history that have long since been left to the passage of time.

The National Mall
Lincoln Memorial
Gettysburg Battlefield
Louvre, Paris, France
But those seminal events, those works of art, that meaningful history, doesnt have to be left behind. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for any number of different reasons: Relaxation, excitement, a change-of-pace or even an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But some of our favorite vacations involve opportunities for donors to bring their families along and make history come alive. Give your donors the gift of education with one of these great travel packages.

Washington, DC is a living, breathing civics classroom, and a trip there can give life to an otherwise dry subject. The National Mall is filled with museums (almost all Smithsonian institutions feature free admission) and monuments, but with a little advance planning, travelers can also see the halls of power as they operate today. Reaching out to the local representatives office can produce anything from a Capitol Hill tour led by a staff member to gallery passes to watch the House or Senate in action. Especially worthy of attention: The tour of the monuments at night is breathtaking.

To go a little further back in American history, a trip to Gettysburg immerses the entire family in the Civil War. The turning point of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest of the war, and because of that the city was also the site of President Abraham Lincolns famous Gettysburg Address. Send a donor and his/her family here for bus tours, museums and reenactments. For when the history gets to be too much, visitors can retreat to the 30-acre nature reserve and relax.

Not all forms of history are about war, though. For those of a more artistic sensibility, Paris is one of the worlds leaders in galleries and art history, with museums like the Louvre and the Musee dOrsay. One of our trips to the French capital includes half-day tours of each of those, plus the Centre George Pompidou, home of the Musee National dArt Moderne, the largest modern art museum in Europe. Works of great historical significance to the world are located in each, including those by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Vincent van Gogh and, of course, Leonardo da Vincis Mona Lisa. Its practically a full AP Art course masquerading as a city.


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Summers Last Hurrah

August 13, 2014
Shopping carts filled with pencils and folders, registration days and What I Did During My Summer Vacation reports: While parents everywhere get ready to send their children back to school, those kids are desperately trying to hold on to their last days of freedom and escape the onset of the school year.

Help them.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together great charity auction travel packages for any occasion and with any combination of family members. Sometimes, that means romantic getaways for parents, and other times it means event-based itineraries to awards shows or sporting events. But in August, many families are looking for one last, great adventure before the school year begins, the type of experience that will make the other kids on the bus jealous when junior recounts his/her summer exploits. Give your donors those opportunities with one of these trips.

Of course, when one thinks of trips for families, the first idea often involves Mickey Mouse. Whether its Disneyland in Southern California or Disney World in Orlando, adventures to either coasts Magic Kingdom are fun for the whole family. For either, though, Mitch-Stuart can round out the trip with some great options. Our package to Anaheim also includes a trip to Knotts Berry Farm and a dinner at Medieval Times, along with a suite for four as accommodations. If Florida is the choice, trips can include excursions to everything from SeaWorld to Universal Studios.

If neither California nor Florida are in the cards, though, Mitch-Stuart can still help send a donor and his or her family to any of 50 different waterparks in the country. Whether its one of the Great Wolf Lodge waterparks in destinations like Kansas City or the Pocono Mountains, or perhaps CoCo Key Water Resort in the Boston area, there is family-friendly fun in 22 different states and even Ontario, Canada to be had. Each park has its own signature slides and amusements, and each package also includes quad-room accommodations and breakfast buffets.

Of course, the simplest way of bidding adieu to the summer is to find a beach and spend those last days of freedom running through the sand. Weve mentioned our beach trips on this blog before, but one in particular is worth highlighting: The family-friendly confines of an all-inclusive Palace Resort in Cancun. With clubs and lounges for kids, separate pools for youth and even nighttime movie screenings, theres plenty to distract children from the upcoming school year and with swim-up bars and pampering spas, theres plenty to distract parents, too.
Disneyland
Seaworld
Great Wolf Parks
Palace Resort


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Getting Ready for the Fall

August 08, 2014
August is upon us, and the weather across much of the country is helping the month live up to the phrase the dog days of summer. But as heat drives people to the beach (or, at a minimum, to air conditioning), charity auction planners have to start thinking about the fall, to galas and fundraising events. What will be the trips and travel opportunities that will bring in the most revenue for a non-profit?

This time of year is a favorite of ours at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., because we get to help pair non-profits with great charity auction travel packages for the fall season. One of the questions were asked consistently is, whats popular right now? At this time of year, here are some categories to think about when deciding what to offer to donors.

When it comes to fundraising packages, it is hard to go wrong during any season with offering trips to places like New York City, Napa Valley and Las Vegas. The Big Apple is popular at all times of year, to people from around the world (ask anyone who has ever been in Times Square!). Trip packages there include foodie adventures, shopping sprees and even tickets to attend the Tony Awards. For the oenophile, Napa Valley involves wine tours, along with culinary delights. And Las Vegas, the City of Sin, is exactly what one would expect: Bright, flashy, with big-name chefs, live entertainment and even year-round chances for golfers to get in a few swings.

When the fall comes around, families start thinking about places to go for the holidays, as well. Give your donors a chance to include their families with trips to a place like Disneyland, which includes a stay in a hotel suite big enough to give everyone a chance to spread out. For those who might be looking to get the family outside, a trip to Buena Vista, CO could be popular, as well; our package includes a full week for two adults and two kids on a dude ranch, for an all-inclusive adventure involving hot springs pools, hayrides and horseback riding.

Not everyone is a fan of the fall, of course and certainly those in snowy climes may do some dreaming about being beachside as fall gives way to winter. Those planning for a gala later in the fall could do well by offering a sunny giveaway to the Caribbean. Whether its the thrill of a waterside casino in Aruba, a cruise with an ocean-view stateroom or the ease of an all-inclusive resort in St. Thomas, your donors will thank you for giving them the snowbird trip of a lifetime and youll thank them for their generous contribution to your fundraising efforts!
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Memorial Day Getaways

May 20, 2014
The school year is almost over, the temperature is rising and the kids are ready to skip town. Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest travel holidays of the year, thanks to those reasons and so many more.

Bali
Bay Hill Florida
Ritz Laguna Niguel
Fairmont Empress, Vancouver Canada
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we have travel packages for charity auctions that can be used year-round, including during the weekend that is often considered the gateway to the summer. And while an extra day off may not be enough time to send your donors to some of the more far-flung, exotic locales just flying from the United States to Bali would take up most of the time off there are still plenty of fun weekend trips that will allow them to make the most of the bonus 24 hours of vacation.

The combination of its family-friendly resorts and great weather make Florida a favorite Memorial Day weekend destination. With more than a dozen different catalog options for a Sunshine State getaway, Mitch-Stuart can make Florida a reality for a donors dreams, no matter what they may be. Disney World? How about a trip with park-hopping passes, pools and arcades? Is golf higher on the agenda? Our package to Bay Hill gives donors two rounds of golf and an hour of private instruction to shake the winter rust off of the swing. Or maybe your donors would like something a little more low key and relaxing? Our Key West trip, complete with complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, can fill the bill.

If Florida is too far out of the way for donors, the other coast is just as inviting. Memorial Day weekend can be the perfect time for one of your donors to visit Southern California, whether its being wrapped in the luxury of the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, taking the tram above Palm Springs for breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley or star-gazing while in a poolside bungalow at a resort in Santa Monica. It seems like beach life is never more than a stones throw away when visiting the Golden State, and spending Memorial Day laying back and relaxing on the sand is a perfect way to welcome the summer months.

Not every vacationer is seeking out the sun come Memorial Day weekend, of course. In many southern parts of the country, it feels like summer has already arrived by the time its the end of May. For those donors or organizations in warmer climes, a trip to a city like Seattle could be a great break before the heat gets too extreme at home. Split that vacation time between the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, near tourist hot spots like Pike Place Market and the Seattle Waterfront, and the Conde Nast Gold List-recognized Fairmont Empress, in stunning Victoria, B.C. With average May highs in the mid-60s during the month of May, Seattle is a great place for one last fling with spring.


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400 Ways (and Counting!) to Delight your Auction Audience

October 22, 2013
When it comes to donating to a favorite cause at a charity fundraiser, people spend with their hearts or palates or adrenalin in mind. Which is a good thing if you are in receipt of the latest Mitch-Stuart Inc. Destinations of Excellence Catalogue. The newest catalogue is a round-the-world compendium of classically fabulous cities and properties combined with once-in-a-lifetime experiences that evoke responses like, The trip of a lifetime!

MetLife Stadium
Ferrari F430 F1
Safari Lions
Sea World Killer Wales and Kids
Emmys
Bloomingdales New York
The savvy event planner can take a look at their crowd and know which exclusive packages to offer in order to achieve the highest WOW factor. To get your paddles up and at em at your next event, here is just a sampling. Read on and get some good ideas.

For the Armchair Athlete and Fervent Fan Would you like to offer your crowd trips to any major sporting event in the U.S.? Mitch-Stuart Inc. offers that. As well, pick and choose some amazing one-time events such as the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Masters at Augusta, the Ryder Cup in Scotland, the Indy 500 in Indianapolis or the 2014 Super Bowl the first one at MetLife stadium played outdoors as real football should be! If your sports fan tends toward a less visceral appreciation of athleticism, theres a package to attend the ESPYS ESPNs annual celebration of all things sport.

For the Walter Mitty in us all On sea, on land and in the air, there is something for those in search of a pulse-racing experience. Whether its spending a hands-on day on the Americas Cup yacht as part of a trip to San Diego, a thrilling and beautiful driving experience in Europe in your very own Porsche, exotic car-racing in Las Vegas (including a heilicoptor tour of the city) or an exhilirating motorcycle tour throughout Arizona and Nevada aboard a Harley Davidson or Triumph Thunderbird, Mitch-Stuart has excellent experiences for the thrill-seeker. Not high energy enough? Try a Top Gun Experience as a fighter pilot for a day in a military aircraft.

For the Fan of the Four-legged a few exciting Destinations of Excellence! There is a breathtaking safari to Kenya that features endless wildlife viewing from the Serengeti to Kenya's Masai Mara. The Westminster Dog Show offers a backstage pass to this wonderful world of purebred dogs and all the grace, pomp and circumstance that goes with it plus its in New York. If your taste runs more to the aquatic, visit San Diego with a package dedicated to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. For equine enthusiasts, two great options come to the Kentucky Derby for a mint julep-filled visit to storied Louisville and the annual heart-pounding race or visit Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo Championship.

For the Celebrity-Struck Awards shows know no bounds in the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence catalogue. Your devotee can see the Emmys, the Grammys, The VMAs, the Peoples Choice Awards and more all in either Los Angeles or New York offered in addition to exclusive fun-filled packages with lots of extras. Country music enthusiasts can also visit Nashville for the Country Music Awards.

For the Fashionable Those with a PhD in the Shopping Arts will be over the moon with one of Mitch-Stuart Inc.s famed shopping packages. The new catalogue features destinations such as Palm Springs for a few days of the
 finest outlet shopping or the always popular New York Shop til You Drop excursion. There is a featured Nordstrom experience that one can obtain in San Francisco, Newport Beach or Chicago. Finally, the shopping is pretty good in Paris and several Italian cities Mitch-Stuart packages as well!

If you arent too overwhelmed by all the fantastic finds in the new catalogue, visit it yourself! This is just a taste.



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Dont Sacrifice Fitness When Youre Traveling!

September 04, 2013
These hotels make it easy

A recent poll shows that 53% of Americans like to stay in shape while on vacation, with about the same percentage opting for the hotel gym as their workout choice. Smart hotels have gotten savvy about what they offer their guests a couple of weights and a treadmill just will not do! This is important for those who organize charity auctions and fundraising events as well, since crafting the perfect travel package is key to success.

There is a trend now to offer health and wellness professional consulting and training including: body composition assessment, personal training, private yoga, nutritional counseling, group exercise and more. Here are some examples of hotels and properties that really do it right for their clientele.
  • Fairmont Hotels & Resorts provides gym clothes and shoes gratis for all members of their President's Club (free to join). Fitness at the Fairmont means Reebok workout apparel and footwear, an MP3 player and a yoga mat with stretch band, all of which can be delivered directly to your room upon request. The service is complimentary for Premier and Platinum members with a small service charge for Club members.
  • Ritz Carlton Washington DC for $15.00 a day guests can visit the Sports Club/LA and full access to 100,000 square feet of fitness machines, basketball courts, squash, a lap pool, boxing area and more than 100 weekly classes. The Ritz-Carlton - Bachelor Gulch - has amazing outdoor activities including a private, guided outdoor adventure in the surrounding White River National Forest, ideal for the mountain enthusiast and other adventures like the Winter Private Snowshoe Adventure, water therapy in the Gulch Signature Copper Tub Soak (for individuals or couples) and the Roaring Rapids (Inspired by white water rafting, this hydrotherapy massage experience includes a choice of detoxifying mustard or relaxing herbal mountain blend and is a wonderful alternative to a hands-on massage.) The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel ultimate beach vacation offers three miles of sandy beach with captivating views of the pacific while exercising in the Fitness Center or taking yoga outside on the bluffs. The Spa emphasizes the Art of Well including balance, energy and vitality. Fitness center - Cardiovascular & Strength Training, Resistance & Weight Training, Personal Training, Wellness Classes - Yoga and Pilates - all situated atop a 150 foot bluff.
  • Hyatt at the Bellevue guests gain complimentary access to the Sporting Club at Bellevue, accessible by an enclosed sky bridge and home to 93,000 square feet of strength and cardio equipment and an indoor running track.
  • Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco Sports Club/LA runs this hotel's on-site, 127,000-square-foot fitness center, which has out-of-the ordinary amenities such as a boxing studio and basketball court. Guests can attend workout classes for free and get advice from personal trainers.
  • Marriott Renaissance Club Sport in Aliso Viejo, California with full access to Renaissance Club Sport, a world-class sports club boasting 75,000 square foot facility offering a 12,000 square foot fitness floor, six group exercise studios, court sports, aquatic center and childcare services. The hotel near Laguna Beach, CA creates a superb suburban spa-style hotel and fitness center while offering many resort-like amenities for their guests. They can also enjoy jogging and fitness trails.
So many choices, so little time! Do your homework and see which offering appeals to you and your organization.


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Autumn in Nevada

August 20, 2013
Ok, its not April in Paris, but there are some lovely advantages to offering vacation packages to the delightful desert oasis of Las Vegas especially when the temperature dips below 100 degrees as part of your charity auctions or fundraising events.
Las Vegas Strip
Exotic Car Racing
Cirque de Sole Beatles Love
Las Vegas Rodeo
Blue Man Group
Grand Canyon
Mitch-Stuart Inc. offers a decidedly different take on the Las Vegas experience combining luxury hotel ambience with extreme thrills of exotic auto racing and aerobatic flight simulation, helicopter rides, to unique entertainment options such as attending a rodeo.

If a different customer take on Vegas is what your organization is looking for, here are some examples of whats new under the (Las Vegas) sun!
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas with Economy Class Air, Including an Exotic Car Racing Experience
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at the Wynn Las Vegas with Economy Class Air, Including an Aerobatic Flight Simulator Experience
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at The All-Suite Venetian Resort Hotel Casino with Economy Class Air, Including Round Trip Airport Transfers, Tickets to Your Choice of Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles or Mystre, and an Evening Helicopter Ride over the Strip
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Three Days & Two Nights at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Hotel, Marriott Autograph Collection with Economy Class Air, Including Show Tickets
  • A Trip for Two to The National Finals Rodeo Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada for Three Days & Two Nights at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Including Two Tickets to Your Choice of Any Session with Plaza Level Seating (December 2013) (Land Only)
And if you want still more adventuresome Vegas, there is no shortage of interesting day trips. The world famous Hoover Dam lies about an hour from Las Vegas. Right outside of the city is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon that offers plenty of either easy or more strenuous hiking and mountain biking trails and for a more extensive day trip, you can even visit the Grand Canyon. Closer to the strip but still a world away, visit the Mob Museum which showcases both sides of the notorious battle between organized crime and law enforcement, or the Neon Museum which is loaded with the huge signs that once beckoned you into casinos like the Silver Slipper, Stardust, and El Cortez. A trek to Lake Mead is beautiful as well.

But if all you really want to do is gamble, shop and then eat well dine like the locals at these palate-pleasers:
Anything we missed? Let us know your favorite Vegas visitor spots.



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True Blue American Causes

July 02, 2013
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is regarded and celebrated as the birth of American independence. Typical festivities range from fireworks, parades and concerts to barbecues. However, we must remember that Americas independence didnt come easy. Americans had to fight battles and wars, as well as endure hardships in order to obtain the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we all have today.

American Flag
Statue of Liberty Fireworks
U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
One way Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has showed its appreciation for our nations independence has been to partner up with charities such as The Sentinels of Freedom, USO Cares and Wounded Warriors.

Sentinels of Freedom provides life-changing opportunities for men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have suffered severe injuries and need the support of grateful communities to realize their dreams.

The organization offers up to four year "life scholarships" to help vets become self- sufficient. Mitch-Stuart, which is known for offering unique, auction-worthy items, provided the auction travel packages for this organization. The Sentinels of Freedom were able to choose luxurious trips and fundraising packages and sell some of them multiple times.

Mitch-Stuart created the USO Cares with American Airlines program. They have created a program in which care packages are sent to service members all over the world. For $25, a package was sent to a person in the military anywhere in the world. In return for the donation, the person who sent the package received 150 AAdvantage miles.

Check out these patriotic getaways from Mitch Stuart, Inc. this Independence Day:
  • Ellis Island. Stay at The Ritz-Carlton New York, located in Battery Park. This package offers an exceptional cosmopolitan experience. Hop on a three-hour Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, which gets you up close to Lady Liberty! Marvel at the famous Statue of Liberty and remember the millions of immigrants that found their own independence once reaching Ellis Island.
  • Washington, D.C. Experience our nations capital like never before. View some of our nations most famous monuments on the Gray Line sightseeing tour or the Old Town Trolley Tour. The Gray Line tour will take you past famous landmarks including the new World War II Memorial, the FBI Building, Federal Triangle, Ellipse, Tidal Basin, National Archives, Washington Monument, House and Senate Office Buildings, U.S. Botanical Gardens, National Gallery of Art, U.S. Navy Memorial and the Grant Memorial. The Old Town Trolley Tour will guide you to landmarks such as the Capitol Building, Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and the Museum of Natural History.
  • Philadelphia. Nothing says red, white and blue like Philadelphia. Home to the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia is filled with so much historical significance that it will leave you wanting to explore even more. Your trolley tour will take you past some of the most popular and historic attractions. The National Constitution Center is Americas most interactive museum, and is solely devoted to the U.S. Constitution.
  • Gettysburg. Mitch-Stuart is currently creating a once in a lifetime experience for Civil War buffs to visit Gettysburg beginning this fall. Stay tuned!

How will you show your patriotism this Fourth of July?


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3 simple marketing tips to boost the sale of trips at your charity auction

May 15, 2013
By Sherry Truhlar

Your committee is thrilled. You've got a FAB-U-LOUS trip for your charity auction the kind everyone wants. It's a great destination for your crowd.

This could be the highest selling item in your charity auction ... if you don't screw up the marketing.

Auctions are complex ecosystems, with one auction element linking to countless others. Case in point, item acquisition is one (big) process. Operations which includes marketing is a different (big) process. To complicate matters, different volunteers on your committee probably oversee each one. Ugh!

Just because you've got a desirable trip from your acquisitions chair sell doesn't necessarily mean your marketing volunteer will do it justice. And on the flip side, sometimes you'll see rather unattractive trips sell for big money.

Knowing HOW to present that trip i.e. marketing makes the difference.

When I teach marketing to my clients, we look at it in terms of timing: before the auction, onsite at the event, and after the gala.

In this post, let's narrow the scope to three simple ways to market your trip onsite.

1. Visually attractive displays

Humans are stimulated by images. More than any other sense, we rely on sight. So if you've got a trip, you need photos to showcase it. Lots of photos.

Here are some ideas from recent auctions I've worked.
  • A 3-ring binder stuffed with full-page color photos showed a Northern Australian home and surrounding activities. It pushed the sale of this one-week vacation to a record $6000.
  • Area guide books and state maps (the kind collected at a visitors bureau or AAA) helped support the sale of a remote cabin in Maine to $2100.
  • At a school auction, a Kiawah, SC home sold at $8000 twice its value with help from a 36" posterboard in the silent auction. On it was plastered 8.5" X 11"color photos of the home and water views.
  • A traditional coffee table book filled with fabulous photos of France helped sell a remote villa in Burgundy. There were only three pages in that entire book showing photos of the countryside near the villa, but that was enough to inspire dreams of a French vacation! It sold for $4500.
2. Accurate descriptions

As part of your display, include a detailed description. Most committees remember to include basics like the number of bedrooms and baths, but ignore other important information, such as
  • Getting there: Does the property owner recommend flying into a specific airport? Renting a car? Using a car transport service?
  • Extra fees: Any extra costs should be mentioned, whether it's for activities, food, or housekeeping.
  • Date restrictions: Properties available over holidays or spring breaks are especially desirable. Mention that.
  • Activities: Is a sought-after golf course nearby? What about kids attractions or "must experience" events?
3. Urgent announcements

Your auctioneer or emcee should promote the trip verbally onsite during the reception. Whether you plan on selling the excursion in the silent or live auction, announcements garner guests' attention, either getting them to bid on it right then or (in the case of a live auction) getting them to start thinking about bidding.

In short, don't shortchange your charity auction by procuring great items, and then failing to market them. Acquisitions are merely the first step in the process. Great marketing supports the sale.

Sherry Truhlar, CMP, BAS, CAI
Red Apple Auctions
Mobile: 703-577-7807 | Sherry@RedAppleAuctions.com | www.RedAppleAuctions.com


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