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Mitch-Stuart Endorses…

November 02, 2016
What feels like the longest election season in history is finally (mercifully?) almost over. Less than a week from now, voters will go to the polls to choose the president, senators, representatives and ballot propositions. During the run-up to any vote, newspapers and other media organizations put forward their choices of the candidates, dating at least back to the New York Times throwing its weight behind, a tall, skinny guy from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.

At Mitch-Stuart, we’re in the business of fundraising and travel, not politics. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to get in on the fun of backing some of our favorite aspects of travelling. Note that this is not an all-inclusive list, of course; to list all of the great qualities of travel would take us through the next presidential race.

So, for 2016, Mitch-Stuart endorses…

Wine Tastings: We heartily endorse wine tastings for several reasons, but the best one may actually come after your donors return from their trip. For the rest of their life, when they see a certain varietal at the store or on a menu, they’ll recall that magical time they had in Napa, or France, or Italy – and they’ll remember the organization that sent them, too. (As a bonus: We also wholly endorse Designated Drivers, which is why many of our wine tours also include private drivers.)

Wallet-Free Vacations:
Whether it’s a cruise to Alaska or relaxation on a Caribbean beach, all-inclusive vacations allow your supporters to enjoy time without worrying about trading currency or calling credit card companies to confirm purchases. There’s a variety of choices for these kinds of trips, from basics included to anything goes, and we endorse all of them.

Award Shows: Want to really “wow” your gala attendees? Offer them access they can’t get from a travel agent. The American Music Awards, the ESPYs, the People’s Choice Awards … by giving your donors a chance to rub shoulders with their favorite athletes or stars, you’re giving them a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that will always get our endorsement.

Getting Outside: No matter the time of year, breaking out of the office and hitting the great outdoors is en vogue. That’s why we endorse fly fishing in Canada with every bit as much gusto as skiing in Colorado or horseback riding in Costa Rica. Some prefer the cold, some prefer the heat, but everybody prefers the sun to those fluorescent lights in the office.

Travel: This will not come as a shock, of course. We believe in travel both as a fundraising tool for non-profit organizations and as an important part of life, as a chance to expand ones horizons, and as an opportunity to take time away from work and relax. We believe that the stats are true: People who travel are healthier, more productive and happier. And we believe that by pairing travel with your organization, you can make positive connections that will last a donor’s lifetime.

Voting:
It’s game day for democracy. So, get out there and vote on November 8.


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Happy Centennial, NPS!

April 20, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

In 2016, the National Park Service turns 100 years young. Formed in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson, the agency has had the mission, as the president said at the time, to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. Thats a big task, but for a century the NPS has done exactly that, preserving some of Americas most scenic lands and making sure that people can enjoy them without harming the surrounding environment.

At Mitch-Stuart, were appreciative of everything the National Park Service has done for travel and travelers in America every day, but especially so during National Park Week, which in 2016 stretches from April 16-23. During this time, entrance to the parks is free, and there are different programs throughout the country, both educational and fun. If youve got a national park near you, youve got a couple more days to go for free, and if youve got donors who love the outdoors, youve got a big selection of trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog that can pique their interest.

The serene setting and outdoor beauty is a major reason that Jackson Hole has been an in-demand destination for decades. Part of that beauty comes from the surrounding national parks: Grand Teton is the closest, with its mountaineering and fishing opportunities, in the shadow of the mountain range of the same name, and Yellowstone, the wilderness that many consider to be the cornerstone of the national park system. Photo opportunities about here, of course, be it Old Faithful Geyser, Snake River or any of the hundreds of species of animals that can be spotted by a patient (and quiet) observer. Our Premier Retreat in the Great American West package can take your donors to two of the jewels of this countrys outdoors.

Not all national parks are far off in the wilderness, though. The National Parks of New York Harbor is the group name to 22 different monuments and ten parks in New York City and the surrounding area.  The most famous of these sights is the Statue of Liberty, but the list also includes the Federal Hall National Memorial (home to the first Congress and Supreme Court), Governors Island National Monument and the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt. And when the concrete jungle gets to be overwhelming, the Gateway National Recreation Area offers beaches, lighthouses and even archery ranges.

One of the most underrated getaways in the national park circuit, however, comes in the countrys northeastern corner. Acadia National Park goes from mountains to beaches, all within a short distance from Bar Harbor. Visitors can check out the only fjord on the east coast of the U.S., go biking or hiking on a myriad of trails, and even take a horse out on 45 miles of carriage roads. Our East Coast Escape to Mount Desert Island travel package can set your donors up with all the outdoor adventure and gorgeous vistas they could want.
Grand Teton National Park

Statue of Liberty

Acadia National Park

Bar Harbor


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Traveling the Earth, On Its Day

April 13, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

April 22 is not the Earths birthday, of course. But it is the day weve set aside to celebrate the rounded pebble on which we float through space, the home that provides water to drink, food to eat and gravity to keep us stuck to the ground. Its also a day to think about the planets challenges, the areas that need the most help and support in offsetting human influence, be it deforestation, pollution or other ruination of natural resources.

Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to some of the most beautiful corners of the world, of course, but some of those Destinations of Excellence are also the most fragile areas. On this Earth Day, we spotlight some of those places where preservationists are hard at work and places that could use tourism dollars to aid in conservation efforts.

While the Brazilian rainforests may be the most well-known, there are plenty of other stunning examples a little closer to home. In Costa Rica, for instance, Corcovado National Park has gorgeous views of the last remaining tropical lowland rainforests in the country, while the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve contains more than 2,500 plant species, many of which are visible from one of the reserves hiking trails or ziplines. Belize is another Central American country where rainforests remain; one of the largest remaining populations of the jaguar can be found there along with the howler monkey. And the Reef Bay Trail on the tiny Caribbean island of St. John is one of the most popular attractions there, incorporating both the beauty of the bio-diversity and the history of the island in the form of abandoned sugar estates and the remains of the last plantation.

One doesnt have to leave America to find a bio-diverse environment, of course. In fact, one of the worlds habitats with the most varied collection of native species is the Florida Everglades. Stretching from just south of the Orlando area all the way to outside of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, the marshland is home to more than 350 types of birds, including endangered species such as the wood stork and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Plant life thrives in the humid conditions, as well, and its also home of the Florida panther, of which only an estimated 80 remain, according to the National Wildlife Federation. With all of the parks throughout the wetlands, including Everglades National Park, there are plenty of ways to interact with the area while being respectful of the preservation efforts in place.

If youve got donors interested in a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experience, though, send them to the coral reefs off the coast of Bali. The island is a part of the Coral Triangle, which has been called the Amazon of the Ocean because of its biodiversity; 76 percent of all coral species in the world are within the triangle, along with 37 percent of the worlds reef fish species. Its been the subject of a high-level conservation effort for almost a decade now, called the Coral Triangle Initiative, and that work is partially supported by the $12 billion nature-tourism industry there. Exploring the region from the sea, whether its on boat or scuba diving in the ocean itself, is a must-do for the nature-obsessed.
Costa Rica Rainforest

Rainforest Howler Monkey

Bali Villa

Florida Panthers


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Rock and Travel?

April 06, 2016
In a few days, the attention of the music world will focus on tiny Indio, California. The desert community just outside of Palm Springs will host one of the countrys biggest gatherings of rock, indie, hip-hop and youth culture. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (named after the valley that is home to Indio, Palm Springs and other neighboring cities) draws nearly 200,000 people to inland California over the course of two weekends, all to watch some of the largest names in music. Festivalgoers travel from around the world to camp outside of the Empire Polo Grounds, the host of the concert, or book hotel rooms across the valley.

Like a food festival, a particular sporting event or even a season change (like fall in New England or spring among the cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C.) music can be a great motivator for a traveler. Thankfully, Mitch-Stuarts catalog of fundraising auction travel packages can absolutely be used to send a music aficionado on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure involving some of the great names and places in music history.

For music fans, there are few cities more accommodating than New Orleans. Beyond every caf and bar in the French Quarter with a jazz combo playing in the back corner, the city is home to some of the countrys best music festivals. The New Orleans Jazz Festival brings in some of the worlds brightest lights in its titular genre, along with soul, R&B and even rock acts (Pearl Jam and Stevie Wonder are headlining in 2016). The Essence Festival, traditionally held during the summer, may be Americas biggest celebration of African-American culture, including music headliners, guest speakers and others. And Voodoo Music and Arts Experience combines great tunes with interactive art in a way that draws fans of both.

For those who prefer music of a different era, a trip to visit one of the countrys museums dedicated to the art may be a great bidding motivator. Whether its the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland or even a smaller tribute (the Stax Museum in Memphis, for instance, dedicated to the classic soul label), a trip with a built-in musical attraction like one of these destinations can turn heads at a fundraising auction. These excursions can be bonus features to an already-existing package (a country fan bidding on our CMA Awards, Country Music's Biggest Night! item, for instance) or reasons to utilize one of Mitch-Stuarts Choose Your Own Adventure packages, making them versatile selling points.

And if your supporters want to combine the energy of music with the star power of awards shows, weve got trips to two different nights filled with statuettes, live performances and surprises galore. As mentioned before, the CMA Awards, Country Musics Biggest Night! takes donors to Nashville this November to watch the 50th annual Country Music Awards. And while the show itself is the centerpiece, fans will find plenty to do during the rest of the time; theres a reason Nashville earned the nickname Music City, after all. And no city does glitz and glamor quite like Los Angeles, meaning that the 2016 American Music Awards, also held in November, attracts a whos-who of the pop charts. The 2015 edition featured Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, One Direction and Coldplay and the 2016 show could feature your supporters (in the audience, at least) with the Rock On at the American Music Awards! package.
Louis Armstrong Statue

New Orleans Jazz Band

Taylor Swift

Coldplay Concert


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April Foolish Travel

March 30, 2016
April Fools Day is Friday. Do not believe anything.

There may be no holiday more custom-built for the Internet than April Fools Day. Between joke articles on websites, the yearly Google product announcement video and the constant silliness of social media, the web goes all out for April Fools Day like Boston does for St. Patricks Day.

If youve got donors who go all-in on April 1, who push for your charity to send out fake fundraising letters or posts faux sonograms on their social media feeds, they may also be the type of person who would love to travel to one of comedys meccas, one of the cities responsible for the development and production of humor. There are several Mitch-Stuart fundraising auction travel packages that can put your supporters within a stones throw of comedy history.

Despite its reputation for being teeming with tear-jerking dramas, Broadway has shown its ability to be fall-down funny over the past 15 years in particular. Shows like The Book of Mormon, Spamalot and Avenue Q combine stage theatrics with big laughs, whether its social satire or pure silliness. Mormon is still on Broadway to this day, while Avenue Q has moved to an off-Broadway house. Of course, the rest of the city has deep roots in comedy, as well; Carolines on Broadway and Gotham Comedy Club are two of the most famous stand-up stages in the country, and incubators like The Pit NYC and Upright Citizens Brigade feature the next generation of funny people first.

For those interested in the recent history of comedy, Chicago is an interesting choice for a vacation. It was here that Second City, the improv troupe and school that gave the world everyone from Alan Arkin and Fred Willard to Tina Fey and Chris Farley. Stretching back to the 1950s, when the comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May were seen on stage at a Second City predecessor, the city of Chicago gave talented funny people room to create comic personas without the glare of Hollywood or New Yorks bright lights. Its also the home city of two classic comedies of the 1980s, The Blues Brothers and Ferris Buellers Day Off.

For the best in comedy today, though, Los Angeles may be the destination. Improv theaters like The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade have been the primary farm systems for Saturday Night Live cast members for decades now, and everywhere from the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard to the Whole Foods in Pasadena (no, really!) now hosts stand-ups. One of our favorites is the Largo at the Coronet, a 280-seat theater near the Beverly Center shopping mall that hosts the best in alternative comics stars like Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman are regulars there in an artist-friendly environment (no cell phones and no talking in the theater). Bonus: Its next door to one of the best cocktail lounges in the city, the Roger Room, making for a quintessentially L.A. one-two punch.
Monty Python's Spamalot NY

Chicago

Los Angeles


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Break for Spring

March 23, 2016
Maybe schools have it right, after all.

After a winter of tough weather, indoor activities and heavy coats, people are ready to get outside and run around at the first sight of the sun. Schools have long accepted this fact, giving kids a week off to go and burn off that pent-up energy. Starting with the Colgate swimming team heading south to Florida in 1935, the modern Spring Break is often wrapped up in parties, alcohol and an ever-increasing amount of corporate sponsorship (see: Most Florida beaches throughout the month of March).

But just because one leaves academia behind doesnt mean that a Spring Break becomes unnecessary. After a full winter of going from home to car to office building and then back, getting into the outdoors for a few days can do wonders for the spirit. At Mitch-Stuart, we offer fundraising auction travel packages for all times of year, but many of our trips can help melt away the winter doldrums and serve as a spring break for the post-graduation set. Want some ideas for adventures to offer for auction at a spring-flavored gala? How about

On the Links: Months off due to weather can leave a golf swing pretty rusty. And one way to get that Vitamin D infusion is by walking 18 pristine holes somewhere in the southern half of the country. Resort towns like Hilton Head, South Carolina and Scottsdale, Arizona feature numerous course options for the semi-pro player all the way down to the weekend hacker. Meanwhile, desert towns like Palm Springs and Indian Wells are still temperate enough in the spring to play all day; those triple-digit mid-day temps dont start showing up consistently until June.

Hit the Beach: Yes, plenty of college kids will be heading to cities in Florida, Texas or Southern California to celebrate the season (and we can send your donors to those places as well, if they want to join the revelry). But for those who prefer their beverages in containers other than red Solo cups, the Caribbean makes for a great getaway. Whether its five days in Aruba, Bermuda or Jamaica, theres no place to get reacquainted with sunshine than on a beach chair, listening to the waves roll in. And for those with a limited vacation window, the Caribbean is a closer journey than you might think; take off from Manhattan in the morning, and youll be in Aruba in time for happy hour, for instance.

Head to the Islands: For students, hopping a flight to Hawaii usually is out of the question; between the travel time and the expense, the 50th state does not attract the kind of collegiate crowd one would expect based on its stunning beaches and warm climate. But for those who are just looking to miss that last cold snap at home and defrost under the springtime sun, there may be no more scenic place in America to do it than Hawaii. And with ten different trips to the islands, encompassing stays on four different islands, all the views of the state are available.


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Travel with a Ticket

February 04, 2014
Masters
Indianapolis 500
Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby
 
On February 6, the pitchers and catchers of the Arizona Diamondbacks will report to training camp in Scottsdale, AZ. Theyll be the first players to open pre-season workouts, and the first athletes to send the thoughts of sports fans racing to the spring months. But the return of baseball is far from the only sporting event to think about when the snow starts to melt and the days get longer; the calendar is loaded in the months of March, April and May with major events and championships in several sports that your donors might care about. Why not couple a charity auction travel opportunity with a ticket to a major spring sporting event? Mitch-Stuart has you covered, with trips revolving around everything from one of Americas oldest sporting events to one of the countrys most prestigious golf tournaments.

Since 1934, the Masters Tournament has held a special place in the hearts of golf fans. Traditionally the first of the PGA Tours four major tournaments each year, it takes place in Augusta, GA. every April, a time of year when the temperature averages in the 70s and there is little precipitation. Its a perfect setting for a vacation, too, with Hickory Knob Resort State Park and the cities of Savannah and Atlanta all within reasonable driving distance.

Not every sports fan craves the tranquility of the links, though. For those who like their competition to be a bit louder, consider heading to the capital of Indiana for the Indianapolis 500. More than 250,000 fans cram into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over Memorial Day weekend to see their favorite drivers race while enjoying experiences ranging from infield tailgating to, as Mitch-Stuart has arraigned for charity auction winners, seats in the Penthouse Tower. Its a holiday weekend away at one of the most prestigious race events in the world.

Cars at the Indy 500 can boast of more than 600 horsepower, but in Kentucky, the most important race is between combatants that dont need engines at all. The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of horse racings Triple Crown, and is not just a sporting event, but a way of life for residents and expatriates of the Bluegrass State. The Mitch-Stuart travel package takes winners to both the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks race on the day prior, while even taking care of souvenirs. Bring your own big hats, though.


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What is Consignment?

May 21, 2013
Google consignment and you will find the definition is a trading arrangement in which a seller sends goods to a buyer or reseller who pays the seller only as and when the goods are sold."

And today, consignment is hot!

The market for consignment has blossomed thanks to value-conscious consumers and recent research that states that the overall category sees revenues of over $13 billion. While anything can be sold on consignment, people generally think of designer goods such as clothes, bags and shoes. Another faction covets art, sporting goods and musical instruments.

The truly savvy though, know that incredible experiences can be purchased on consignment to benefit charitable organizations and incent employees. We are talking about the exciting, no-risk travel packages we create and offer to clients who use them in a variety of ways. Who are the winners here? Everyone involved!

Charitable organizations who work with our company know that they are taking no risks when offering exciting, eclectic travel packages for sale at their auctions. Now they can offer greater, more exotic packages, appealing to a larger audience than they might be able to otherwise obtain. No purchases are made until the packages are sold. And in the unlikely event that an offering doesnt sell, there is no obligation to pay for the package. It is actually far more common that more than one package will sell, raising even more money for the cause.

Auction attendees benefit from the array of vacation packages and once-in-a-lifetime experiences (Fighter Pilot for a Day, Shop 'Til You Drop!) that we supply and can modify for the purchaser. Our unlimited supply of inventory means we can add packages to an event on the spot.

Employers and their employees benefit from consignment travel packages as well. For the employer, they can offer a unique, sometimes "one-of-a-kind" travel incentive travel package to a worthy employee, often providing more value than the actual cost. Additionally, the employer doesn't have to pay for the package until the employee earns or selects it. For the employee, it's a winning proposition as well. He or she knows they are receiving something special of great value. It's the proverbial "win-win" for everyone!!

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If You Think the World of Your Employees, Give it to Them!

December 04, 2012
Okay, maybe not the world, but certainly a well-deserved glimpse of it. Corporate incentive travel programs are a powerful way to tell an employee, Job well done even in this uncertain economy. According to a recent survey by MeetingsNet.com, although one-fifth of respondents are expecting cuts in their incentive travel budgets, 48% expect them to remain the same and 31% expect a slight increase.

So, what are some of the best ways to design and implement a successful incentive travel program? We asked Mitch-Stuart Inc. SVP, Business Development Michael Upp to share his top tips.
  1. Identify your goals Incentive travel can be used to motivate employees, reward current customers or attract new ones as well as increase sales of a product or service. It is crucial to decide at the outset what your desired outcome is so you can plan and select a package accordingly.
  2. Create a plan and budget Determine who is eligible, how you are going to communicate your offering, the duration of the program and give it a working title to help get the creative juices flowing. Budget will dictate the types of rewards you can offer, but rest assured there is a corporate travel package to fit any budget. A good rule of thumb for an overall budget is as follows:

          Rewards 80%
          Promotion and Communications 10%
          Administration 5%
          Training and Research 5%
  3. Select the rewards Companies such as Mitch-Stuart offer everything from a lavish Hawaiian of European vacation to a sports, shopping or sightseeing-themed package. You can scale back to simply domestic airfare or go the other way with a deluxe Kenyan safari or Top Gun experience.
  4. Promote! Maximize your results by getting the word out with all the tools at your disposal - use direct mail, email, newsletters, mobile marketing and more to stay in touch with your target.
  5. Measure the results Put measurement tactics in place to gauge the effectiveness of your program. Was the target audience motivated? Did you see a measurable increase in employee satisfaction? In customer loyalty? Measurement will help you determine what worked and what can be improved for the next time.
If you have some examples of successful corporate incentive programs, please share them in our comments section.

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