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Underwriters for big budget trips

May 17, 2017
One of the worries that many organizations have when they first talk with us is that their donors won’t be able to garner bids on fundraising auction travel packages due to cost. We’ve discussed before why non-profits should generally have more faith in their supporters when it comes to generosity during gala auctions, but we’ve got tools beyond positive thinking to help get once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities into the hands of donors.

If an organization is worried about the price of one of our trips, finding an underwriter for the item is often a possibility. In this scenario, an outside company essentially “advertises” with the item, paying money for the chance to be mentioned alongside the trip in question (along with, of course, the chance to support a worthy cause). Think of public radio, for instance, where commercials are eschewed for underwriters: Businesses mentioned briefly in between stories, often with nods to their relationship with the station identified by phrases like “Funding provided by…” or “Brought to you by…” By getting a trip is sponsored or underwritten by an outside company, an auction organizer can be guaranteed of making money off of a trip, even if its sale price doesn’t bring in big bucks.

Why should non-profits consider underwriters for auction items?

Adding an underwriter for a major auction item, like a trip, gives you another chance to make inroads or strengthen ties to a local business community. For businesses who may not have the employee interest to buy a table or an easy-to-donate good or service, underwriting a trip gives them a chance to be in front of your donors and support a good cause. And it’s another chance for your auction staff to reach out and make contact with companies that could pay off either now or in the future. It also can provide another chance for a charity to reach out to a major donor – many underwriters come from the already-established ranks of supporters, looking for another way to help their favorite cause.

Also, while consignment selling (the model we use at Mitch-Stuart) is by nature “risk free,” having an underwriter in place to add to the bottom line can put some at ease. Instead of worrying about how much the bids are exceeding the cost of the trip, you can relax, knowing that the underwriter has taken care of the base price. In a way, having an underwriter is like having a trip donated; it turns the winning bid into pure profit.

Have questions about the underwriting process? Call or write to one of our Travel Experts today!


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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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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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The Gift of Travel

November 30, 2016
Making a list, checking it twice: For many, the most stressful aspect of the holiday season is gift-giving. Just finding the right gift for each recipient is hard enough; throw in negotiating mall parking lots and waiting for deliveries, and there’s a lot to add to the season’s already-full plate.

We like to help non-profits make their fundraising auctions easy, by offering travel packages on a consignment basis to take some of the guesswork out of galas. But while we’re helping you plan your fundraiser, you can help your supporters by giving them the chance to cross off one name from their shopping lists. Our travel packages make great gifts, and you can make shopping easy on your donors in one of these ways.

There are few presents for which the gift-giver does not know the cost. There aren’t auctions in department store aisles, after all. But your donors can know exactly how much that special travel package will cost if your organization offers them at a “buy-it-now” price. Setting one price for a trip allows your supporters to make their own shopping list for your gala event, while also allowing you to sell more than one package. It adds an element of certainty, allowing your buyers to make sure that they’re not busting their holiday item on one gift.

When some of your donors wake up on Christmas morning, there may be a lottery ticket or two stuffed into a stocking, hanging on the mantle. A tradition in some families, the fun of receiving a “scratcher” for the holiday is the anticipation, the possibility, even the daydreaming of winning the big prize. If your supporters are used to adding a little gambling to their holiday season, why not set up a raffle? Instead of waking up with an infinitesimal chance at winning a big prize, your donors can wake to a much better chance of heading out on a once-in-a-lifetime trip – a chance that has directly helped your non-profit.

Finally, if you want to attract the gift-giving supporter to your fundraising auction, think about auctioning off a travel package that includes a special event. Whether it’s a pair of tickets to the Super Bowl for your sports fans or a night at a star-studded awards show for the celebrity-obsessed, “traveling with a ticket” makes for a great gift, appealing both to a personal interest and the desire to travel. Best of all, several of these “tickets,” like the awards shows, aren’t available to the general public, guaranteeing that your auction-winning supporter’s gift will get the biggest reaction.


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Raffles on the Road

November 16, 2016
We love galas. The pomp, the fancy menus, the gorgeous, decked-out venues, all of it – including, of course, the fun and excitement of a fundraising auction. But we also recognize that it is a ton of work to throw one; when your organization is responsible for everything from set-up to tear-down, it can stretch the resources of even a larger non-profit.

The good news: If you’re looking for a fundraising opportunity without throwing a gala event, or your in-person fundraiser is still months away, we can help.

Mitch-Stuart puts together non-profit fundraising travel packages for events big and small, and ever since we added raffles to our repertoire of tools, you don’t even need your own soiree in order to send a donor on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Need a way to raise money beyond the gala auction?

Join the Arts: If your non-profit is an arts organization, like a theater or ballet company, it’s a no brainer to offer raffle tickets in the lobby and even add a purchase form to your program. If your charity isn’t? Pair with one, and offer to split the proceeds! You’ll both raise money and gain an ally in future efforts.

A Partner’s Party: Is your non-profit close with a local business – maybe an area law firm, advertising agency or other corporation? See if you can set up a table at their holiday party or summer barbeque! It gives the company a fun attraction for their celebration, and it gives your charity access to potential new donors and a fundraiser that doesn’t need extensive planning.

Nowhere: For that matter, who needs a venue at all? Offer your donors a chance to win a trip to any of our Destinations of Excellence® from anywhere. Raffle tickets can be purchased over the phone, by email or even online, and since your audience isn’t limited by geography or venue, this type of fundraiser can bring in big bucks.


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Staycations: Pro or Con?

November 09, 2016
In an ideal world, we’d all have time. We’d be able to take a leisurely vacation that sends us to a remote part of the world, zipping through flight security, angelic family in tow. The clock on our trip wouldn’t start until we arrived, of course, and we’d get the full amount of pleasure out of our destination without jet lag. And then, refreshed, we’d come back home with a new outlook on life.

This, sadly, is not that world. We’re big proponents of once-in-a-lifetime travel, yes, but we also understand that a multi-flight trip to a land with fewer creature comforts may not fit into everyone’s plans.

And we’re not alone: The “staycation” became a part of the travel lexicon a few years back, when families were looking to take vacations without some of the hassles and costs of major travel. Now, only 35 percent of Americans were planning on traveling more than 50 miles from their homes in 2016, according to AAA.

If you’re organization is based in one of our Destinations of Excellence® locations, could you benefit from offering a “staycation” at one of our partner luxury resorts and hotels? Let’s look at the benefits and the drawbacks.

PROS

Less Travel Means Less Stress: A family with small children may not be interested in anything involving a long flight. An elderly donor may not be able to physically manage a plane ride. A couple may enjoy a quick romantic getaway. And no one, even someone with a passport full of stamps, likes dealing with the airport. Giving your supporters a chance for a luxurious, relaxing experience in their own hometown means getting to avoid long security lines and packing for every possible whim of a fussy toddler.

Get to the Good Stuff: It can feel sometimes like a weeklong vacation is really only five days, with the first and final being lost to planes, trains and automobiles. But if the travel only involves driving across town, those “travel days” end up being “days by the pool,” “days on the beach” or “days on the wine tour.”

Know Your Home: In some of our larger destinations, it can be hard for residents to really know everything. New York is different on seemingly every other block, for instance, and Dorothy Parker supposedly once called Los Angeles “72 suburbs in search of a city.” People return from our travel package destinations with new favorite restaurants, music or activities; when your supporters haven’t left town, they can keep going back to and indulging in those new discoveries – after all, those finds are just a short car ride away.

The Fanciest “Spare Bedroom”: If your donors have family that comes into town over the holidays, then you can help them with their seasonal preparations. Your supporters can give that “staycation” to their kin. It’s a win-win: The travelers get to bask in luxury, while the hosts (your supporters) don’t have to clean out the guestroom.

CONS

The “WOW” Factor: Your auctioneer will have to put some extra elbow grease into convincing your donors of the unique nature of staying in their own town. This is easy to do if the trip package includes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (getting a Los Angelino to bid on a package featuring tickets to the ESPYs or the American Music Awards, for instance), but could be more difficult with a simple hotel stay.

Smaller Bids: With no transportation needed as a part of the package, many of these trips could start from a lower first-bid price, which could translate to a lower winning bid. Again, this is where a professional auctioneer is important; he or she is likely a master in setting a mood and vibe in the room conducive to big money pledges.

Raffle Resistance: To get a donor to buy a raffle ticket is to ask them to gamble, essentially, and if the prize isn’t seen as exceptional, it may be a more difficult ask. The risk-and-reward balance may be different for a staycation than a more traditional, eye-widening choice.

Staycations for Fundraising Auctions: What do you think? Let us know on our Facebook page or on Twitter @MitchStuartInc.


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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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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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Guest Post: Take a Chance on a Raffle!

June 29, 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, Kelly Russell tells us about a recent experience running a raffle using a Mitch-Stuart travel package as the prize. Enjoy!)

A client of mine wanted to offer a Golden Ticket Raffle at their event without losing one of their live auction items. They tried something unique that worked well. They chose eight consignment packages from Mitch-Stuart, Inc. as options, and allowed the winner to select any one of the eight amazing vacations. We had a few great outcomes to our evening.

It expedited our timeline at the top of the auction.

Once we declared the winner of the Golden Ticket Raffle, we did not have to wait for the winner to rifle through the catalog to determine what they wanted to take out of the live auction line-up. They had the entire night to think about which location would make for their dream vacation.

The variety added interest.

With all the options, many people were interested in taking their chance in the raffle. If you won, you were going somewhere great. MSI has a wonderful selection of packages and many include airfare so you get a complete experience. This adds to the interest factor.

Dedicated packages allow for pre-sales on raffle tickets to guests.

Nothing is worse than not being able to attend your childs school auction when you go EVERY year. With a set raffle selection, you are at least offering the opportunity to participate in absentia. Bonus: If you have a limited number of tickets to sell in your raffle, as well as a limited number of attendees at your event, pre-sales broaden your donor base.

Gamble with a new idea and see how it works at your next fundraiser!

Need a great consignment package for your next event? Let the folks at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. know that Kelly Russell at Artisan Auctions sent you!

(Big thanks to Kelly Russell and Artisan Auctions for sharing this with us! For more information about Artisan, go to artisanauctions.com.)


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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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Fundraising Auction Resolutions

January 12, 2016
Were almost two weeks into 2016. How are those resolutions doing?

According to a Harris Interactive poll from two years ago, one in three people who make a New Years resolution has ditched it by the end of January. Whether its shedding a few extra pounds, staying within a budget or even stopping smoking, changes made based on the calendar seem to carry less weight for individuals than those made out of true need. However, for your organization, the New Year may be just the time to supercharge a fundraising auction.

We love helping non-profit organizations raise funds with our gala auction travel packages, but we also want to make sure that each trip offered fetches the maximum bid possible, while also being easy for both the supporters and the staff. What are some changes you can make to guarantee that 2016 is your most successful fundraising year?

  • Get mobile. Pew Research says that almost two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone as of the spring of 2015, and that number certainly is not going to decrease. Using a mobile bidding system like our partner, GiveSmart, allows your gala attendees to place bids from their table and, maybe more importantly, pay from their phones, helping to lessen that end-of-evening payment crush at the auction table. It also simplifies your post-auction process by collecting fulfillment and payment information in one place, meaning less paperwork.
  • Get wide. Yes, most resolutions involve getting more narrow (especially when it comes to waists and guts), but it might be time for your gala auction event to try and reach out to more people. An eye-popping 87 percent of millennials gave to charity in 2013, but for those who are just starting in their chosen career paths, bidding $5,000 on a trip may be impractical. However, by offering a travel package raffle, those same 20- and 30-somethings who may not be able to shell out the big bucks can support your organization while having a chance at winning a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
  • Get big. On the opposite end of the affordability spectrum, never be afraid of offering the kinds of trips that bring in the biggest bids. Offering at least one affordable option is important to get everyone involved, but your biggest donors are willing to buy more than a couple of raffle tickets. Weeklong adventures to Bali, safaris, tickets to the biggest sporting events and award shows each of these can bring in the type of money that turns a fundraising effort into a major success. Give your supporters a real chance to step up to the plate, and you may be surprised by what theyll do.


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Introducing: Mitch-Stuarts Raffle Packages

September 02, 2015
Were excited to introduce a new way to incorporate Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s catalog of once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities into your non-profits fundraising plans. Now, along with adding excitement and the allure of a luxury vacation to your gala charity auctions, or selling multiple trips to the same destination via a buy it now option, we can also help you reach out to donors and supporters of all ages, income levels and even tastes with a raffle using our travel packages as grand prizes!

With a raffle, non-profits can get a larger percentage of their bases to buy in to supporting a cause, whether it is in person at an event, by mail or online. Instead of trying to get big bids out of a subset of your donors, organizations can get everyone to participate.

So, why create a fundraising raffle?

  • It allows supporters who may be able to attend a gala, but not be fiscally able to bid on a silent or live auction item, a chance to participate and give what they can. It can be easy to get caught up in the big ticket, big bid items at a fundraiser, but 100 people giving $20 is the same as one person giving 2,000.
  • It can be done in conjunction with an event, or separate from one. Now, charity auction fundraising doesnt have to happen once a year. Raffle tickets can be purchased by mail, online or in person, and it doesnt need to involve catering and theme decorations.
  • Its FUN! The anticipation, the chance to win, the dreaming of what one could do on a Caribbean cruise or a trip to the Super Bowl a raffle can add excitement to any auction event and get the whole room involved. Raffles help maximize results by getting people engaged while donating to your cause. They can even involve large target audiences like family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, as gala attendees often buy tickets for those not in attendance.
  • Raffles can raise incredible amounts of money for your organization. You can easily raise $10,000 and, when tied to galas and events, you can exceed $25,000 and raise as much as $100,000 or more all at no-risk!
  • Its easy. Give us your price range, and we can give you a list of trips that would be hits with your crowd. You can raffle off one trip or give your winner a choice of three different adventures, which will attract a broader audience and sell more tickets.
There are as many variations of a charity raffle as there are travel opportunities in our catalog to choose as prizes. For more information on this exciting new opportunity, reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!


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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: Dont Get Dumped by Your Donors

March 24, 2015
(Were happy to turn over our blog to Christie King of cKing Benefit Auctions and the Benefit Auction Institute this week. It can take a lot of effort to attract a new supporter, but just a little more work can turn a one-time donation into a long-term relationship. Read on to find out more.)

Many donors only give once. This may be a shocking statement, but its true. One thing almost all nonprofit organizations have in common is the issue of how to keep donors engaged and giving year after year. Here are a few suggestions to help with donor retention.

After each event, print the list of donors who attended, then pick up the phone and call them. Do not go this alone. Divide the list among your board members and have them assist in making these calls I already know what youre thinking Were going to get our board members to do this? Yes! As leaders of your organization it is critical that they make these calls. And their part is easy, rewarding and fun. All they need to do is thank your donors for their support. If the donor does not answer the phone, they can simply leave a message of thanks. Ideally these phone calls should take place within 24 hours of your event, but no longer than 48 hours afterward.

This simple gesture conveys to your donors that they are appreciated and that they matter. This is critical because nonprofits are often competing for the same dollars, causing donors to become more strategic in their giving.

Keeping donors engaged and informed is also important in donor retention. I suggest you reach out to them via a special email every quarter sharing progress of various activities their money has supported. This tells your donors that you respect their investment enough to share its impact over time. And, of course, time builds trustcritical to building long-term donors.

Develop a Donor Retention Plan and follow it. Dont leave this very important step to chance.

Thanks for the tips, Christie! To find out more about cKing Benefit Auctions, find it on the web at ckingbenefits.com. For the Institute, head to benefitauctioninstitute.com.


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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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Choosing a Theme for Your Gala

September 24, 2014
Its possible that your non-profit or charity is so connected to its donors and to the public that all you have to do is swing open the doors, plate some appetizers, and ask for cash. Its possible but unlikely (not to mention way less fun).

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has a variety of charity auction travel packages available for non-profits to offer (always risk-free, of course), but its even easier to work with groups that have picked a strong theme for their event. Here are some tips on how to come up with that perfect atmosphere and setting for your soiree, in order to give your donors the fondest memories possible:

Dress to Impress (Or to Not Impress): The day-to-day grind is often about finding comfort: People seek comfortable modes of transportation, comfortable temperatures and, certainly, comfortable clothing. But pushing donors out of their comfort zone can be all it takes to transport them from the daily routine and into a new world. The easiest way to accomplish that? Dress codes. Making a party a black tie affair works, but experiment with other ideas, too: Costume or masquerade balls are popular, as are white parties (everyone dressed in the palest of pales) and even beach attire soirees (sunscreen is optional).

How to Play: Once everyone is dressed to the nines (or roaming around in flip-flops, depending on the theme), its time to get them mingling. Introducing donors to each other (and to your non-profits enthusiastic volunteers) helps them forge new connections, share experiences related to your charitys mission and generally makes for a livelier, lighter atmosphere (the type of feeling that can help boost auction returns). Try putting people together through games; talking with fellow faux-gamblers around a roulette wheel or bean bag tossers can be easier for the shy, and theme-dependent games contribute mightily to the mood of the room.

From the Floor to the Block: Finally, a theme can help focus your auction item procurement efforts. Of all of the different no-cost, no-risk consignment travel package options available, wouldnt it be easier if there was a linking idea, a mood to set or a locale to match? For instance, a theme like Casino Night is begging for a trip to Monte Carlo or Las Vegas. Taking your donors to a faux-beach? How about a trip to the Caribbean or a seaside picnic package? So much of the process of putting together a charity auction becomes easier when the planner can focus on one idea.

Combine a dress code, games and selected auction items, and youve got a theme. Black tie, roulette and craps tables and trips to Monte Carlo add up to Casino Night. All-white dress, horseshoes or croquet and a trip to New York gives you A Hamptons Summertime. Beach gear, beanbag or Frisbee tossing and trips to Florida or Southern California? Welcome to Beach Night. In each situation, youre giving your donors a curated, thought-out party experience that will give them a chance to interact with you and your cause in a fun, light-hearted manner, all while supporting your good works.

Got your own gala theme ideas? Share them with us on Twitter @MitchStuartInc and at our Facebook page.


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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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Big Tickets, Big Cash

March 18, 2014
It can be intimidating for any non-profit organization, no matter the size, to ask for larger donations. Smaller and mid-sized organizations in particular can feel intimidated to try and add zeroes to the end of donation checks. But there is only one way to get bigger donations: Ask for bigger donations.

Since we pair with organizations all the time to offer vacation auction packages sold on consignment, we hear the objections all the time, the thinking from some groups that their donors dont have the money to be able to bid on a trip. Our response is fairly straight-forward: Give your donors a chance. Just ask!

In order to do so confidently, it can help to remember these three factors that any organization has in its favor:
  • These people like you. A charity auction at a gala or other fundraising event is a celebration of like minds, brought together by a single passion or outlook on life. It is your organization, your passion, which is driving that room. These are not strangers, they are not people on the other ends of cold calls, but your non-profits friends. If you cant ask your friends for help, who can you ask?
  • Shopping lists can line up with auction lists. Unlike a straight donation, a charity auction comes with its own tangible reward. Beyond the satisfaction of helping a group do good, donors can also win memorabilia, dinners and even the trip of a lifetime. Maybe its a proud parent who was looking for a graduation gift for a daughter or son. Maybe its an anniversary surprise. No matter what the reason, your donors may be in the market for a vacation and surely theyd like to help your non-profit at the same time.
  • All it takes is an excuse. Its impossible to force someone to donate money. Strong-arming someone into opening his or her wallet is not charity. But, it can be easier for a person to donate more money if theres a secondary reason behind it, or an incentive as big as a ticket to the Grammys, a ski weekend in the Canadian Rockies or just a much-needed vacation. Giving people another impetus to donate can loosen up pockets.
The biggest plus about consignment selling is that there is no risk to the organization. If a trip doesnt sell, it doesnt sell. But like the oddly-philosophical Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100 percent of the shots that you dont take.


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Engaging More Auction Donors: 3 Keys to Your Most Successful Benefit Auction Ever

January 07, 2014
This weeks guest blogger and fundraising auctioneer extraordinaire, Kathy Kingston, updates us about ways to tap into key giving trends at charity auctions.

According to Kathys extensive benefit auction industry know-how, benefit auctions are booming across the United States. In fact, many of her clients broke all-time fundraising records this year.

Americans are incredibly philanthropic. 75% of Americans give to Charity, according to Sharon Danosky, fundraising consultant and president of Danosky & Associates. Over 16.3 billion dollars are raised annually at fundraising auctions in the United States according to the National Auctioneers Association.

Kathy encourages nonprofits, schools, and event planners to tap into some of the reasons why people give, often the secret to increasing donor participation at benefit auctions. This advice can help you best select travel packages and other live and silent auction items as well as better planning of all elements to ensure your most successful auction ever.

Kathy created this acronym, MSL to illustrate how she sees auction guests giving at fundraising auctions: meaningfully, locally, and strategically. Here is how it applies to the ways donors are giving.

Meaningfully. Todays donors give to causes that are near and dear to their hearts, either via personal experience or when someone close to them asks them to become involved. How can you translate this meaning to your event? Kathy strongly suggests making sure the events mission is central in the conversation. Not just as the beginning and end of the night, but threaded throughout, visually, conversationally and any other creative way you can think of. Make sure that your auction guests understand the impact of their gift.

Locally. Think globally, act locally is more than just a lovely thought. It is the mantra of many of todays charitable givers. It is up to fundraising auction and event organizers to demonstrate how donor dollars benefit local causes and strengthen communities. Whether the cause is kids, animals, neighborhood beautification or something else very directly applicable to your audience, Kathy says Demonstrate the cause and effect for your attendees, make it live and palpable through special guests, video, live demonstrations etc. Clearly show how an auction donors participation will impact your local community.

Strategically.
Given the changing demographics and buying preferences of auction audiences, Kathy sees a trend towards generous giving during the fund-a-need special appeal. Kathy sees the fund-a-need special appeals as a powerful strategic vehicle for giving at charity auctions. In fact Kathys experience over the last several years shows that revenue from fund-a-need is actually outpacing silent and live auction revenue. All donors want their dollars to work especially hard. In many cases guests prefer to give to the cause and not necessarily purchase an auction item.

Think about MLS as you begin planning your 2014 events!

What trends are you seeing for donor engagement at your auction? What are your ideas? Contact Kathy at Kathy@kingstonauction.com or visit her website at http://www.kingstonauction.com.


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Saratoga Hospital: A Fundraising Success Story

December 18, 2013
With more than 450 physicians and other medical professionals on staff, Saratoga Hospital offers care in a broad range of medical specialties. For more than a century, it has been Saratogas community hospital.

Ann M. Carroll of the Development department of the Saratoga Hospital Foundation is responsible for fundraising and has worked successfully with Mitch-Stuart, Inc. for the past four years on their annual summer gala benefit auction.

Luxury vacation packages provided by Mitch-Stuart are among the most popular items at our auction, says Carroll. The company provides a no-risk way to enhance our auction with unique packages you can offer your donors without putting yourself at risk if they do not sell. But that isnt a problem since 95% of all trips sell!

She goes on to say that the she works through the comprehensive company catalog and offers a combination of tried and true audience favorites and newer trips and experiences. Often she matches trips with the gala theme for that year. Last year, our theme was Party Animals and we offered the African Safari as one of our top five items and it sold extremely well.

Carroll sums up by saying, Working with Mitch-Stuart, Inc. enriches our auction overall because of the access to well packaged and well organized vacations that are easy to execute for the traveler. We are always pleased to refer them to other non-profits.

Ann Carroll offers up these tips to add to your auctions success:
  • Package power If your organization has secured a gift that can be packaged with a trip from Mitch-Stuart or any provider, bundle the offerings to strengthen its appeal to donors
  • Relationships count Establish a relationship with a specific salesperson at any of the entities you work with, the personal touch enhances the working relationship for you and the donor taking the trip - like having your own concierge
  • Always make donors a priority Much like the way Carroll described Mitch-Stuarts customer service as rapid response and solution-oriented, non-profits need to provide the same
  • Solicit and listen to feedback Query your donors about the trips they have taken to see which trips to offer again and again and which to tweak. Use this feedback to help plan
  • Volunteers know best Meet with your volunteers to gain ideas for travel packages. Carroll says, After all, our volunteers mirror our attendees.
May this advice help you with your next fundraiser!


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Harness the Power of the Creative Brainstorm

December 10, 2013
For philanthropic organizations looking for fresh ideas for fundraising events and auctions or overall business improvements, brainstorming is a natural way to gather thoughts for consideration. But does your organization brainstorm strategically, with a real end goal in mind? All the creative ideas in the world don't add up to results unless they link to an overall strategic direction, set by the brainstorm leader, whose job is also to fire up the group! Some teams dread brainstorming, seeing it as a waste of time or as a cause for performance anxiety. It neednt be! Here are some pointers that work for Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

The judgment-free zone. The atmosphere should be welcoming, positive and all-inclusive, with the promise that every idea will be considered. This way, the participants wont be hesitant to share their ideas for fear of ridicule.

Dont go in cold. Brainstorms work best when the participants are prepared. This can mean anything from preparing a detailed creative brief describing the situation and the goals as well as providing suggested websites to visit for more background.

Start by setting the objectives. Do you want a slew of creative ideas to break an existing event out of the doldrums? Are you seeking to create a draw for a new audience segment? A helpful way to start is to discuss some trends in the category s well as what the competition is up to. Non-profits must also keep in mind the serious nature of the cause they represent/raise money for. This doesn't mean you can't be creative, just keep ideas within certain bounds.

Let the fun begin. Once people start shouting out suggestions or solutions, write them down all of them. Even though some ideas wont make sense at the time, they may lead to other things. The best ideas often come from a simple phrase. My donors love exotic travel for instance, can open the doors for bringing in expert partners such as Mitch-Stuart, Inc. to do the heavy lifting.

Avoid diminishing returns. During any given brainstorm, there is typically a time where the initial excitement dulls and everybody falls into an awkward silence. Sometimes rewording the initial objective or goal is all you need to do to get the juices flowing again. People just need to see it in a different light. Or else bring out the candy!

Never stop brainstorming. Even when the meeting is over and everyone has returned to their desks, create an email chain, or a running word document with the top ideas, fleshed out to give the team something more to build on. A creative team leader can help further the concepts by adding greater detail and graphics to ensure the best result.
 
If traditional creative brainstorming isnt working for you, check out speedstorming a combination of brainstorming and speed-dating or brainstorming on steroids.


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Avoid these Six Fundraising Faux Pas

December 03, 2013
Even the best event organizers can use a refresher course on ways to perfect their next fundraiser! Take a look at these potential planning hiccups and make sure to take steps to overcome or correct them.

1. Not knowing your audience As you plan your fundraising auction and, ask yourself who your attendees are. This will help establish everything from the dcor to the dining as well as the all-important (most important) auction items you are presenting. Work with your board and consult a travel expert like Mitch-Stuart Inc. to select packages that are a win for your audience based on age, average income, level of sophistication, geography and other factors.

2. Bad timing A business associate recently scheduled a big event without consulting an important organization calendar and were sure you know the rest his event now collides with something else of interest to his audience. First rule of event planning, check all possible conflicts before securing a date. This goes for potential event conflicts as well as holidays, potential bad weather dates, even TV moments like season finales of mega-popular shows! It also pays to see what similar events come right before and after yours. Check them out for theme and location, etc. to make sure to avoid the dreaded event redundancy. Meticulous, thorough planning at the very beginning ensures a most successful event.

3. Poor communication with donors and prospects
When encouraging attendance to your fundraiser, how many reminders are mandatory? How many are too much? There is no perfect number, but you do want to plan according to some variation of this formula.
  • Save the date (pre-sell)
  • Printed, mailed invitation
  • Email reminder (or 2)
  • Day of email (particularly for those who cannot attend but might like to bid virtually!)
  • Post-event email (if your event is able to sell items afterwards; if not then as a Thank You)
4. Not taking advantage of current technology If you are having a silent auction, consider using mobile bidding with companies like GiveSmart, a national customer service company engaged in using technology to create an approach to fundraising that raises more money, streamlines the process and delivers an enhanced donor experience. With today's mobile bidding technology, you can bring efficiency and excitement to your silent auctions.

5. Not growing your donor base or allowing attrition Avoid this by scheduling ways to keep your current donors engaged and increasingly invested. Do so via direct mail, email blasts, newsletters, interesting events to attend and other ways to generate ongoing enthusiasm and anticipation. Work with your auction provider to get all the news on exciting new experiences and destination to whet donor appetites.

6. AVOID "auction sale" attitudes
Always treat your events as opportunities for donors to give of themselves for the causes they believe in, not as a way to get bargain deals. Make each auction item description deluxe and exclusive and remind attendees where their donations are going!


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Event Best Practices: A Few Holiday Thoughts

October 02, 2013
Event Best Practices: A Few Holiday Thoughts

The holiday season is an important time for charitable giving and the end of the year is the most popular time for organizations to host fundraisers. Roughly a third of all annual donations are made in December. Fundraising is all about generating income for a good cause and a successful event allows for fun and rewarding ways to generate donations. Best success is achieved with careful and strategic planning.

The holidays are simply the best time to fundraise! So start early with a few event must-dos:

Thoughts on Themes


Dont be afraid to be creativeas long as its in keeping with the interests and status of your target audience andin some wayrelevant to the equity and ethos of your organization. Keep your auction event fun with a theme that will excite your donors. Black tie galas and winter wonderland themes are always nice but a fun, pop culture pleaser like a holiday movie theme can rev up your guest list (a visit to Middle Earth courtesy of Decembers Hobbit release perhaps?) Come up with a few creative ideasand test out the best with a few key board members or regular contributors to get their input and tacit approval. Once they sign on, RUN WITH IT!

The Art of the Holiday Basket

Baskets are a solid way of enticing higher levels of givingplus they can make excellent raffle prizes. Again, dont be afraid of getting creative with the contents. Go green with sustainable foods and even cooking lessons or other hot trends such as pet gift baskets, premium cigar baskets and art gift baskets. Everyone loves a basket full of goodies. Theyre great for re-gifting too!

Getaway Gifts

Consider travel packages. People love to travel, according to Travel & Leisure magazine, Of course, one thing in travel remains constant year after year: the quest for new horizons. You can offer a range of these from warm, exotic destinations to one-of-a-kind experiential trips! Look for places and packages that capture the imagination. What could be more fun at the holidays than knowing youve just won or purchased an exciting trip for yourself or your family! And doing it for a worthy cause is a win-win for everyone involved. A complete, all-inclusive package to the 2014 Super Bowl or a deluxe holiday shopping spree in NY? Surfing and scuba lessons in Maui? See these and more in our sample trips.

Keep your donors merry and be creative for your next holiday event.


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Event Best Practices: Hire a Professional Auctioneer

September 24, 2013
Many non-profit organizations watching their expenses think that anyone with an exciting and engaging personality can master the art of auctioneering at their next fundraiser or charity auction. Not the case.

Often times we see organizations hiring celebrities or local talent to steer the live auction but the truth is that hiring an experienced auctioneer is the most effective way to raise maximum funds for your benefit.

Hiring a licensed professional such as a Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) over a fun personality can be the difference between big profits and not so much. A polished professional who sweats the details can interest, inspire and influence a restless crowd! As an added plus, they will assist with making sure your organization procures hot auction items including both donated and on consignment, that keep driving excitement and bids items that fulfill fantasies such as dream vacations and experiences. Professional auctioneers will help you take your auction to the next level!

Here are some tips for selecting the right auctioneer:
  1. Ask for a written proposal: Make sure the auctioneer wants the job and really understands the parameters of the event. Have proposers include fee, out-of-pocket expenses and an outline of how they see the event going. Look for creative flourishes that may set them apart.
  2. Credentials: Ask your potential auctioneers about their credentials and their experience. Be sure to look for auctioneers who have professional certification from the National Auctioneers Association. Youll want to know how long they have been certified along with any other accolades they may hold.
  3. Key Questions: Like any interview process, be sure to ask for a list of previous clients that they have worked for. Referrals are often the best way to get a sense of the type of auctioneer youre dealing with and if they will be a good fit for your organizations event. Ask for the video! Seeing them in action will also tell you how good they are at the job.
Your bottom line is at stake. Make the wise decision and choose a real auctioneer for your next event.


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Mistakes

June 11, 2013
By Tom Harrison

Its been said that good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. Theres a lot we can learn from some of the really bad decisions that have been madeso that we can make better ones. Or at least we can make our own mistakes rather than simply repeating these whoppers.

Here are 13 mistakes we all wish we had known about without having to actually make them!

Mistake 1: Cutting acquisition quantity to improve fundraising ratios, but destroying your future revenue stream in the process. If you cut back on acquisition, youll have fewer current donors to cultivate next year and will start a downward revenue spiral thats difficult to reverse.

Mistake 2: Hiring the wrong major gift leader. You dont want a major gift leader who meddles with your successful direct response program instead of visiting with donors. Or one who tries to restrict direct response (DR) communication with donors based on how much theyve given rather than based on who can actually be personally cultivated. Major gift officers should generate major gifts.

Mistake 3: Letting brand dictate fundraising messages instead of mandating that brand reinforce fundraising messages.

Mistake 4: Getting seduced by a consultant who claims to be able to acquire higher value donors and ending up getting too few donors to sustain your organization. The lesson is that you need a program that acquires those higher value donors plus all the other donors.

Mistake 5: Setting a target for your capital campaign but forgetting to include two years of operating budget in the total. The new building or new programs always cost more to operate than your current budget. By raising two years of operating costs up front, it gives you time to increase your revenue stream to meet the new operating budget.

Mistake 6: Cutting revenue-producing programs to address a budget shortfall. A wise accountant serving as a new board member addressed a nonprofits $100,000 budget shortfall. He suggested actually spending more money on revenue-producing activities. He correctly noted that the DR program raised $3 for every $1 spent. Increasing the DR budget by $50,000 raises $150,000with a net of $100,000 to solve the revenue shortfall.

Mistake 7: Accepting Watchdog standards. Dont brag about your stars. Instead, teach donors to judge you by the impact of your programs, not by arbitrary and often misleading cost ratios.

Mistake 8: Chasing blindly after the next big thing. The fear of being left behind can cause us to leap before we look. Protect your core revenue streams, and budget separately for R&D with dollars you can afford to lose.

Mistake 9: Making it look too easy. If people take your fundraising programs for granted, theyll be tempted to water them down by mistakenly cutting frequency or insisting on more stories of success and less emphasis on need and urgency. Worse still, when the resulting fundraising efforts fail they will it will be blamed on the channel or the donors or your department, rather than on the dilution of the strategy.

Mistake 10: Forgetting to test. Why would anyone abandon a control for something new without testing? Maybe theyre afraid to be proven wrong, or because testing is difficult, or testing costs more, or maybe they just cant imagine that their idea could fail. Always test.

Mistake 11: Believing that you are the target audience. Meet the donors where they are, rather than where you wish they were. Make it easy for donors to financially support programs that they are passionate about, not programs that you (or your program people) wish donors were passionate about.

Mistake 12: Being so afraid of being called a micro-manager that you dont manage enough. Its irresponsible to stand by and watch your people make mistakes that you know, from experience, will damage your organization. Sure, you sometimes need to allow them to learn from their own mistakeson the small stuff. But on important matters, you owe it to your organization, your people and yourself to teach your staff the right things to do and the right way to do them. If theres one thing experience teaches us the hard way, its that not all ideas are of equal value.

Mistake 13: Being afraid to fire someone. If someone is not succeeding in his position, he is hurting the cause you represent and likely demoralizing other employees. Your organization deserves top-performing employees. If someone isnt cutting it, even after youve worked to help her improve, let her go. It will allow you to hire someone better, and will allow the exiting employee to find a position where shell contribute more and be more highly valued.

There may only be seven deadly sins, but there are myriad marketing missteps. If you have others to add, wed love to hear from you!

Tom Harrison, CEO
Russ Reed
russreid.com


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SOLD! Ten 10 Steps to Your Most Successful Auction Ever

November 05, 2012
Going, going, gone! Paddles up, neck and neck, in exciting competitionnothing thrills quite like the emotion of bidding for something highly desirable. That emotion (and thus the bidding) is heightened when attendees embrace the cause behind the auction. Smart organizations can create a perfect storm at fundraising events, guaranteed to make guests feel good about themselves and the cause, resulting in huge gains.

Welcome to the Mitch-Stuart Blog. As the leading provider of no-risk travel packages for charitable fundraising, it is our goal to give you easy-to-use advice and cutting edge point-of-view on topics of interest to your industry. Thus, our first blog post will focus on how following the advice of expert auctioneer, Kathy Kingston, of the renowned Kingston Auction Company, can ensure your non-profit auction meets and exceeds its fundraising goal!

Kathy Kingstons Cardinal Rules for Record Breaking Benefit Auctions
  1. Focus on Fundraising
    Show how guests can make a difference. Using compelling video, speakers and other communications, envelop your audience in the cause and how their contribution matters.
  2. Fill Your Audience with the Right People
    Audience development is #1. Take the time to research and cultivate lists of likely bidders.
  3. Find the Right Match
    Solicit auction items that fit your guests. Know your crowd! Do they respond to rich and varied experiences while traveling or are they more about relaxation? Do the homework.
  4. Add Consignment Auction Items
    Complement your donated items and add excitement.
  5. I Can Hear You Now
    Invest in a professional sound system. Your guests will respond best when they are made to feel appreciated in all ways, every detail counts.
  6. No BS - No Boring Speeches
    Enough said.
  7. Stories not Stats
    Success stories inspire generosity appeal emotionally and it will pay off in the bidding.
  8. Dont Leave Money in the Room
    Ignite giving with a Fund A Need Special Appeal where a passionate, involved speaker does the ask to build emotional and financial support.
  9. Add Fun!
    Add profit-making revenue activities to keep those bid cards waving! Make sure your organization procures hot auction items that keep driving excitement and interest items that fulfill fantasies and dream vacations and experiences.
  10. Invest in a professional
    Retain an experienced professional benefit auctioneer who can interest, inspire and influence a restless crowd!
    In business and in our blog, we will continue to partner with experts in the field to give your organization and your event all the tools for success, but we want to hear from you too. Please add any of your expert advice in the comments section below.

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