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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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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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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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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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Dont Skimp!

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

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

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

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

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


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Fall-Infused Galas

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

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

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

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

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


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Dont Forget the Where

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Recycle Your Gala

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

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

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

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

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


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More Vendors, Less Work

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Supporting Without Attending

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Guest Post: On Consignment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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 shes 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 thats where I started using [Mitch-Stuart].

Mitch-Stuart has provided auction-ready travel experiences for the Thomas Foundations 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. Theyve 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.

Ill have people call and say, Do you have any trips this year? Because I would like to go to...and if Im going to go there anyway, Id 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 countys must-attend social event, meaning big funds for an incredibly important cause.


Its really nice to know that every year, no matter what our other items are, were always able to go and pick out whatever I want from anywhere in the world out of Mitch-Stuarts 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 evenings 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 organizations 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 GiveSmarts silent auction technology and Mitch-Stuarts 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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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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Get Creative! Fundraiser Locations You Havent Thought Of

June 04, 2013
Been there, done that.

The last thing you want your guests to say when you are hosting a non profit auction! And it all starts with the location. Here are some outside-of-the-hotel-ballroom options you might want to consider when hosting your next charity event.

That trendy place youve been meaning to go Why not raise money in a fun and low-key, natural atmosphere? If your donors and attendees are comfortable they may be inclined to spend a little more money than they planned, which isnt a bad thing! Consider a hot club, restaurant or bar. Be sure to factor in the following:
  • Serve any signature dishes the restaurant might be famous for
  • If a bar has been around for a significant amount of time jump on its rich history, or if its known for serving a particular drink, it could be fun to let your attendees know about it
  • For a club, see if theres a famous DJ or if this venue hosts a special jazz night or other genre of music-themed night
This can be a win-win situation for your fundraiser and the owner of any of these establishments. Explain to the owner that this could be a great PR opportunity for their business and the possibility of returning patrons is too good to pass up.

Lights! Camera! Action! Similar to hosting your fundraiser at a restaurant/bar/club, a local movie or legitimate theater will also benefit from a great PR opportunity. However, the additional benefit of holding something at a theater is the venues ability to advertise the event and sell tickets. Let your guests explore a stage where great plays have unfolded -- it never hurts to be in a place of grandeur.

Go Old School No, youre not having your donors relive their senior year of college. Contact a local campus group that supports your organizations cause. Coordinate with them to seek out an interesting on-campus location and give them a chance to also support the cause. This also encourages the next generation of philanthropists.

Wheres the most creative place youve ever been for a charity auction?


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Why People Bid (Dont Let Your Money Walk Out The Door)

April 02, 2013
Youre holding your next nonprofit auction, you have your announcer, your items for auction, the crowd of people, and you made sure to do plenty of publicity about your auction beforehand. Now, how do you ensure that your items actually get a bid? Two things to always consider before planning are the time of the auction (not so late that you risk losing some of your crowd) and use of a professional benefit auctioneer or a known personality with lots of pizazz.
Here are some other top tips from Mitch-Stuart, Inc.:
The opening bid is reasonable If bidders find that the opening bid on a travel package is reasonably priced or lower than what they had expected, people are likely to bid on that item.
The item is popular Seeing lots of other people bidding on a specific package will attract others to that package. If an item is popular among others at the auction, people will tend to feel that they too want the item.
The item is unique. . .The WOW Factor Offering exceptional trips that an individual cannot purchase from going to a travel agent or website, is a great way to generate interest. If bidders cannot get this specific package or trip from anywhere else, then the package is worth more.

Added bonuses
Anyone can offer a trip to Paris or a trip to Disney World, having those extra bonuses in with your package, makes your trip different. These include trips to spas at the place of your vacation, dinners at high-end restaurants, tours of the city, etc.
The trip is personal Maybe the bidder went there for their honeymoon, or studied abroad in that country, or used to go to the place as a child, whatever the reason, this person would love to win the bid and get to travel to this place once again!
The chance to hobnob with boldface names! Everyone has that one celebrity that they would pay any amount of money to meet, and here is their chance! Mitch-Stuart offers opportunities to attend the Grammy's with the after party, The Prime Time Emmys, Country Music Awards and the ESPYS (Sports Awards) and many other events where value-added can mean a start-studded affair!
What have you found helps your item get a bid at an auction?

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