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Case Study – Robert F. Thomas Foundation

April 30, 2014
Robert F. Thomas, a doctor in Sevier County, Tennessee, is said to have made as many as 1,000 house calls in a single year. He was a doctor, a minister and, maybe most crucially, a member of his community, one concerned with making sure that everyone, rich and poor, had access to healthcare.

Since his passing in 1980, the Robert F. Thomas Foundation has continued to build on Thomas’ concern, raising money to help provide health services to everyone. The organization has had help from, among others, Thomas’ most famous patient; he was the doctor who helped deliver one Dolly Parton into the world, and she has repaid him for the service by helping to raise funds and keep his dream alive.

But not even Dolly can do it alone.

“Dolly Parton is a huge part of what we do, but she’s not the sole person who funds us,” said Amy Woods of the Thomas Foundation. “We have a lot to bring in, a lot to do. Our biggest fundraiser that we do is the ‘Evening of Elegance,’ and that’s where I started using [Mitch-Stuart].”

Mitch-Stuart has provided auction-ready travel experiences for the Thomas Foundation’s major and smaller fundraising events. Donors have gone to Canada and the Caribbean, New York and Napa Valley, and everywhere in between. While the experiences have varied wildly, Woods said that the experience working with Mitch-Stuart has remained the same.

“I love the fact that I call and can ask, ‘what should I be looking at this year?’” she said. “They’ve never let me down.”

After a few times working with Mitch-Stuart, providing trips to vacations spots nearby and far-flung, Woods has started to see donors even requesting the availability of certain destination packages for upcoming auctions; trips involving culinary tours are popular, as are excursions to New York City.

“I’ll have people call and say, ‘Do you have any trips this year? Because I would like to go to...and if I’m going to go there anyway, I’d rather buy it from you and help the foundation,’” she said.

Those trip packages, which have attracted a fan base that includes a local mayor, have combined with other auction items like cars and, at one special event, even an Egyptian Arabian stallion to make the “Evening of Elegance” the county’s must-attend social event, meaning big funds for an incredibly important cause.


“It’s really nice to know that every year, no matter what our other items are, we’re always able to go and pick out whatever I want from anywhere in the world out of Mitch-Stuart’s catalog,” Woods said.

Thanks to Amy Woods of the Robert F. Thomas Foundation for taking the time to speak with us! For more information on the organization and its important work, visit it on the web and on Facebook.


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Case Study – Scottsdale Cultural Society

March 26, 2014
One donor is heading to Bali. Another is off to Maui, staying at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. And yet another fulfilled a self-described “bucket list” item by attending the Grammys in Los Angeles in January of 2014.

When the Scottsdale Cultural Council needed to add an extra element of “WOW!” to its ARTrageous fundraising gala, it turned to Mitch-Stuart for help. And one unforgettable night later, the organization has raised a tremendous amount of money and offered its biggest backers once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The Council, which can be found on the web at sccarts.org, offers the citizens of Scottsdale and visitors chances to be a part of world-class art while also fostering younger or newer artistic voices. That can mean anything from concerts and performances at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art and even public works seen throughout the city.

All of that, of course, takes funding, a portion of which is brought in every year at the ARTrageous gala. This year, Natalie Cole was the special guest, and the evening’s theme was “An Unforgettable Evening.” As a part of that, the SCC worked with Mitch-Stuart (and our technology partner, GiveSmart) to offer “Unforgettable Travel Packages,” including our show-stopping trip to the 2014 Grammy Awards.

“We wanted to try something new and the trips were fun and exciting,” according to the organization’s Director of Donor Relations Eileen Wilson. “Our event committee members thought that by offering the trips it elevated the level of our silent auction and caused a buzz at the event.”

Utilizing GiveSmart’s silent auction technology and Mitch-Stuart’s expertise in travel arraignment, SCC was able to cause that buzz and add to an already “unforgettable” evening.

“The experience was very easy,” Wilson added via email. “And [the] customer service was excellent.  I was actually surprised that we sold multiple trips.”


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A Fundraising Success Story

January 22, 2013
Open Avenues empowers people with disabilities, age 16 and over, to reach their full potential. They offer job training and a life skills program to help these adults become self-sufficient.
 
This organization, with the help of Allison McElroy, Foundation Director, would like to share some of their secrets to fundraising success.
 
Open Avenues has worked with Mitch-Stuart Inc. for the past six years on their Spring Fling event. Prior to partnering with Mitch-Stuart, Open Avenues relied mainly on local merchants to donate auction items. Since working with Mitch-Stuart, this reliance on local merchants (and the inherent “donor burnout”) has disappeared producing more successful and lucrative auction events.
 
“Deluxe vacation packages provided by Mitch-Stuart are the most popular items at our auction,” says McElroy. “The Mitch Stuart model works so well for us since we don’t have to pay for anything that is not sold.”
 
She goes on to say that the company helps her plan each year by recommending “hot” and popular destinations. McElroy then reviews what her audience has selected in the past and what she knows about their likes and dislikes to create a potent and popular mix of experiences.
 
The best news? Open Avenues credits the addition of Mitch-Stuart trips with a consistent increase in donations year over year.
 
Want to emulate Open Avenues’ auction success? McElroy offers some tips:
  • Tap fundraiser guests who have taken a particular trip to act as roaming ambassadors, or “PR people” to talk about their positive experiences and help influence others to bid on them.
  • Creatively package trips at live auction — McElroy offered a “Bros on the Go” trip using Mitch-Stuart’s attractive offer of tickets to any major pro sporting event. By combining two of these trips, the organization made a great way for four friends to go. She then followed that up with a “Girl’s Weekend” version as well, packaging two trips to New York City for an expansive girlfriend weekend.
  • Tantalize your guests in advance with sneak peeks at the Mitch-Stuart catalogue to whet appetites and get people pre-planning what they want to bid on.
  • Keep up with your audience’s changing taste, adjust which packages you offer accordingly.
  • Time your event previews and vacation package “sneak peeks” to when people receive tax refunds or bonuses to help them fantasize about how they might spend such funds.
May this advice help you with your next auction!

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