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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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Stay Fit and Raise Funds

April 19, 2017
For many, travel is the chance to let go, to indulge, to break any sort of diet for a few days and eat and drink like those calories won’t be coming home. But one of the biggest travel trends of 2017 involves people going the other direction, taking time out of the rat race to go somewhere, re-center themselves, and maybe even come back to “real life” with a new routine or way of dealing with the world.

“Wellness travel,” as the industry has come to call it, is not just a passing fad. At Mitch-Stuart, we’ve been created nonprofit fundraising auction travel packages for more than 20 years, and giving donors a chance to rest, recharge and feel well has always been a top priority. What does that look like in 2017? Here are some of the ideas that make up the trend, and how you can capitalize on them.

For those interested in wellness travel, yoga retreats have become a big draw. Taking place in gorgeous destinations around the world, these gatherings give yogis the chance to both deepen their practice and take in stunning views. But your donors can incorporate yoga into their travels without spending an entire vacation on the mat; a trip to Bali can be timed to attend the BaliSpirit Festival, which involves music, dance, and yoga in almost equal parts.

[For more about travel opportunities for yoga practitioners, click here.]


Of course, trips involving spa routines have long been big sellers at nonprofit fundraising auctions. But the market for men’s spa treatments has been expanding over the past few years, as well. According to industry website eHotelier, many male travelers are coupling spa visits with vigorous workouts or other physically-demanding activities. This makes destinations like Jackson Hole a perfect fit; a supporter can go here, spend all day hiking and climbing through the Grand Teton National Park, then get a sports massage (maybe add in a Arnica sore-muscle salve?) to wind down.

The easiest path to wellness while on the road may be less in what a traveler does and more in what a traveler doesn’t. The “digital detox” is becoming a popular way for vacationers to separate themselves from the day-to-day and remember that life doesn’t happen on a small screen. If you’ve got some donors who could use some time away from the Internet, you might offer a more isolated destination; being surrounded by a city often makes it more difficult to fully disconnect. May we suggest a trip to Costa Rica? The underappreciated gem of Central America has every type of terrain, and the birds, land crabs and sloths (yes, sloths!) your donors may encounter are unlikely to be impressed by a big Twitter follower count. And the best part: At the end of each day, your supporters will get to return to luxury accommodations – digital detoxing doesn’t have to mean roughing it.


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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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Peak Vegas

March 22, 2017
There are a number of ways to enjoy a Las Vegas vacation at any time of year. The city’s restaurant portfolio has exploded in the last decade, with celebrity chefs cooking everything from haute cuisine to pizza. There’s a surprising amount of art on display in the city, be it the whimsical signs of yesteryear of the Neon Boneyard or the touring exhibits stopping by the Gallery of Fine Art at the Bellagio.

But to get the full Vegas experience, it may be whom you see it with that is more important than what you see; it’s beneficial to see the city in a crowd. Las Vegas comes alive when people from around the world descend on Sin City. Our non-profit auction travel packages can take your donors to Las Vegas at nearly any time of year, but here are a few times on the calendar that give the city its reputation as “America’s Playground.”

The only state in the U.S. that has fully adopted sports gaming is Nevada, which makes Las Vegas a very popular place to be during sporting events. Sunday afternoons during NFL season are almost as popular as Saturday nights. But the most interesting time to be in town may be during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, or “March Madness” as it’s colloquially known. It’s the perfect intersection of big crowds and good weather; March tends to be when high temperatures start their upward trajectory and the big pools begin to open up after the windy desert winter. And if the sports don’t interest you, that just means you can get better poolside seats by going early in the day.

Some of the biggest draws to the city combines work and play in a very specific way. Almost six million delegates visit Las Vegas for more than 20,000 conventions each year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Some of the biggest, including January’s International Consumer Electronics Show and April’s National Association of Broadcasters show, brings tens of thousands of people to town, each of whom are splitting time between the button-up corporate world and the more relaxed nightlife of the city. The energy when surrounded by people letting loose after work and set free into the neon nights can be infectious.

But not every crowd in Las Vegas needs a specific occasion. For those who want to see the city in its most natural state, just pick a three-day weekend. With a built-in chance for recovery, a vacation to Las Vegas can go from the hurried pace of a 48-hour turnaround to a more leisurely, stop-and-stare-at-the-neon affair. If Monday is the extra day off, the vibe in Vegas on that Sunday night can be hard to beat; the over-the-top revelry is out of everyone’s system, and the city’s fine restaurants and cocktail lounges often become the focus.


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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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(Inter)National Park-Hopping

January 04, 2017
With Yellowstone, Yosemite, Denali and so many other national parks beckoning, it can be easy to become American-centric when planning an outdoor vacation. In a country this size, it feels like there’s always an open space to explore. But to keep the focus so close to home is to ignore some of the most beautiful terrain in the world.

The destinations of Mitch-Stuart’s non-profit fundraising travel packages are chosen for any number of reasons: an amazing local culture, a tie-in with an event of some sort, or massively popular sights. But one of our favorite reasons is natural beauty, letting donors escape the day-to-day and get outside and into the world. And even if they may not be the focus of individual trips, these grand parks in other countries make for great additional selling points to help drive interest during a charity auction.

The phrase “active volcano” can conjure a few negative thoughts: Burning in lava, covered in ash, Vesuvius. The titular attraction of Arsenal Volcano National Park is no threat to the citizens of nearby towns, thankfully, but hikers can still see the consequences up close. It’s far from the only attraction, though; with waterfalls, brave cane (a grass-like covering that grows to be tall enough to make a field maze-like) and a variety of bird species unmatched in Costa Rica all in one place, those looking for an escape into the natural world will have their wishes granted here.

The weather is usually a touch cooler in Alberta, the Canadian providence that is home to Calgary, Edmonton and the remarkable beauty of Banff National Park. A favorite for ice skaters, snowshoeing and ice climbing, Banff is a year-round destination; fans of warmer weather appreciate the hiking and swimming opportunities in the park in July and August, in particular. In addition, traveling to Banff also means being a short drive away from Jasper National Park, the largest in the Canadian Rockies and the home of Pyramid Lake and Marmot Basin ski area. Even the drive between the two, along the Icefields Parkway, is stunning.

For a national park that blends the beauty of wilderness with at least a touch of modernity, Cinque Terre may be the best choice. Located two short hours from Florence (our “Indulge in the Italian Culture and Countryside” package includes car rental, making a visit to the park possible), it was the first “national park” recognized by the Italian government, two years after UNESCO had named it a World Heritage Site. The hilly, seaside landscape of Cinque Terre has been a symbol of societal interaction with nature for decades, thanks to the fishing villages that line the shore, and has accordingly become a leader in sustainable tourism, working to protect the area from erosion and other dangers. Hiking over the foothills and down into Vernazza, with its pastel-hued buildings and restaurant kitchens filled with pasta and the catch of the day, makes for a truly magical combination of nature and community.





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On the Road, In Search of Unique Gifts

December 21, 2016
The pressure is on; with only days until both Hanukkah and Christmas, the malls are loaded with frantic shoppers, and online stores are keeping delivery services busy all the way up to the holidays. But the internet’s reach has meant that it can be difficult to find that one-of-a-kind present, the one that could only come from you and be given to a special someone. Every person everywhere has access to the world’s great stores.

At Mitch-Stuart, we believe that our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages make great gifts, of course. But for those looking to check off an even longer list of present recipients, we love the idea of travelling to a different locale in search of unique items, the ones not sold in department stores or on websites. Thankfully, even in this age of megamarts, there are still cities with great local markets, the types of places where artisans, antique dealers and craftspeople get together and sell their wares. And it’s at these exchanges that some of the most interesting gifts can be found.

If your donors are fortunate to find themselves in Provence, France on a Saturday morning, thanks to winning one of our non-profit fundraising travel packages, tell them to get up early. The market scene in the region gets going around 8 a.m., and it’s both a shopping and social destination. Vendors of all sorts can be found under awnings or in stalls in seemingly any village in the region, selling clothing, art, antiques and food to locals and tourists alike. Bring cash to the markets – and maybe extra luggage on the trip to get everything home.

With options around the corner from nearly every Tube stop, London has managed to maintain its market culture     through the years. Markets like Spitalfields can trace their history back centuries    , and many are in areas of general interest as well; a trip to Piccadilly Market, with its antiques and collectibles, can be folded into a day at the nearby Circus or an evening at a West End theater. Some of the markets are marvels themselves, like Covent Garden and its neo-classical architecture. To wander London’s bazaars and talk with the sellers is to live like a local, even if it’s just in between tourist stops.

Not all great bazaars are a trans-Atlantic flight away. Santa Fe’s open-air markets are so plentiful that Travel and Leisure once wrote that the city “feels more like it belongs in Europe or Latin America.” Whether it’s the once-yearly International Folk Art Market, the nearly-year-round Santa Fe Artists Market or the Railyard Artisan Market, open every Sunday, there’s plenty of chances to browse the works of local artisans. Everything from paintings to leatherworks, sculpture to hot sauces can be purchased here and brought home to give to an appreciative recipient.


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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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Five Great All-Inclusive Perks

October 19, 2016
All-inclusive is an easy enough term to understand; it simply means everything is included in a trips price. But when our non-profit partners offer a fundraising auction travel package that includes a stay at an all-inclusive resort, or on a similar cruise, theres a question always asked: What does all-inclusive actually mean? What is the everything that comes with the package price?

If you want to help your donors understand just how great a deal all-inclusive travel can be, we can help. Here are five of our favorite perks that come with the package price at some of our destinations.

  1. Food: When one thinks of meals being included in a purchase price, its easy to remember the last disappointing, cold Continental breakfast in a chain hotels lobby. But whether its the 24-hour room service of a Celebrity Cruise journey though the Caribbean or the nightly lobster course at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the cuisine already figured in to the trips package price is leagues beyond stale bagels and soggy bacon.
  2. Equipment: Many of our favorite all-inclusive resorts are in gorgeous locations with plenty of outdoor activity options. So being able to borrow snorkeling gear in Costa Rica or a kayak in Bolongo Bay allows visitors to take advantage of the beautiful scenery without having to pack a ridiculous amount of gear.
  3. Entertainment: Get a taste of the culture of the destination at a resort like Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Jamaica; a stay there may include an international dance show, a street music revue or even a steel band playing the night away. Theres never a cover, and your room is only a short walk away (although far enough to be able to retire in peace).
  4. Classes: Want to learn how to scuba dive? Its included in the price when you go to Bolongo Bay. How about a class on making sushi? The Westin Playa Conchal Resort and Spa in Costa Rica has you covered. Heading to an all-inclusive resort can sometimes mean bringing home a new skill or obsession.
  5. Kids Activities: Not every all-inclusive resort is kid-friendly, but those that are do a wonderful job of keeping the young ones entertained. Moon Palace in Cancun, for instance, features game rooms with playgrounds, mini-movie theaters and a fully equipped arcade, among other attractions. And with the resorts staff supervising the children, the parents can sneak off and get in some golf, a spa treatment or just some quiet time walking along the beach.

Thinking about offering your donors an all-inclusive vacation? Talk to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!

Bolongo Bay


Playa Conchal Costa Rica


Playa Conchal Resort


Moon Palace Resort


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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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The Food of Napa Valley

September 07, 2016
Calvin and Hobbes. Tailgating and barbecue. The Chicago Cubs and well get em next season. Some pairings just make sense. The art of matching gets taken to a whole new level in wine-centric destinations; sommeliers have made whole careers out of perfecting suggestions for pairing wine with food.

Napa Valley is one of our most popular Destinations of Excellence, and the first reason that springs to mind is, of course, the areas wineries. Some of the best American vinos are made here, and a visitor can spend multiple trips to Napa and still not run out of new tasting rooms to visit. But those in the know also understand that the wine capital of America has a thriving culinary scene, one to match the highs of its bottled treats and that very clearly holds up its end in any food and wine pairing.

With the prevalence of alcohol in the Napa culture, it should be no surprise that there are plenty of ways to get around the valley sans auto. And while walking and bicycling around is a fun way to see everything up close, theres a major drawback: Its hard to eat while walking, and nearly impossible to do so while on a bike. Thats where the Napa Valley Wine Train comes in, and with it a three-course gourmet meal. Enjoy roasted beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin or even a catch of the day fish entre en route to the Grgich Hills Estates, for a private tour and tasting. Theres even a dessert course for the ride home, for those whom have worked up an appetite seeing the Grgich grounds.

Just down the road at Saint Helena, the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is the home of chef Timothy Mosblech, recognized by California Home and Design magazine as one of wine countrys best kept secrets. His Chefs Table (a component of our Napa Valleys Perfect Blend of Indulgences package) lunch includes a plethora of farm-to-table dishes Long Meadow Ranch is one of a handful of wineries that also grow their own grub paired with their flavor profile wine siblings. And as recognized as Long Meadow is for its wine, dont miss out on its award-winning olive oil, also available.

Unfortunately, Chef Mosblech wont fit in your donors carry-on luggage, which means your supporter will have to leave behind the cuisine of Napa Valley upon departure. But they can learn how to recreate some of Northern Californias magic at home with the Raise Your Glass and Say Cheers to Napa trip. Donors can choose to take a class from an expert chef, including seasonal ingredients, expert cooking techniques and, crucially, what wines to pair with their new recipes. Its a perfect way to make sure that your supporters return from their trip with something to share because getting them to give up one of their new bottles of wine might be difficult.




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Travel with a Ticket

August 31, 2016
Almost 50 percent of Americans did not use any of their vacation days in 2014. Its easy to understand why, on one hand: If one feels overworked, taking a week off might seem like setting up a work avalanche upon returning to the job. And its not like that dream beach or ski resort is going anywhere, right? But aside from the well-documented health benefits of vacations, getting out of the office means getting the chance to see some pretty special events, the type of once-in-a-lifetime occurrences that wont be there waiting during that mythical down time at the job.

Mitch-Stuart sends donors to dream destinations regularly with its fundraising auction travel packages. But as amazing as it sounds, it can sometimes be tough to get supporters to actually take a vacation. One of the easiest ways to fix that: Give your bidders a chance to win a trip that is not just to a place, but an event, one that only occurs once a year. In addition to the appeal of leaving work behind, these trips also speak to supporters who need a date certain on the calendar for which to plan a getaway.

The most prestigious film festival in America is Sundance, which takes place every year in the winter wonderland of Park City, Utah. The most prestigious film festival in the rest of the world is Cannes, which takes place in its namesake, a sunny, summery destination on the southern coast of France. And Mitch-Stuart has your donors ticket to either one. Whether the dream itinerary involves American indie films and skiing, or international movies and time on the beach, supporters can be the first to see the films about which everyone will be talking within the year. And the parties at each festival are legendary.

For those who want even more of a red-carpet experience, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to one of several spectacular awards shows. We wrote earlier this year about the different ways that your supporters can rub shoulders with the superstars of sports, music and stage; the chance to center a trip on such a glamorous event is one at which supporters will leap. In addition, the cities involved in these award show packages places like Los Angeles and Nashville are Destinations of Excellence on their own, meaning that theres plenty to see when not hobnobbing with celebrities.

If your donors want to have a say in the event ticket that goes with their travel package, let them choose their own adventure! Our Any Live Concert or Theater Production Experience trip allows your winning supporter to pick a show to attend anywhere in America. The biggest Broadway productions? Sure! That arena-sized concert? Absolutely! Even passes to a multi-day festival are in play here. Whether its for themselves or for a family member (thanks to the personalization, it makes a great gift item), donors love the chance to control their itinerary with this trip.






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On the Road Again

August 24, 2016
Theres so much to do in some of our Destinations of Excellence packages that it can be hard to fit everything into an itinerary. Throw in time to relax in luxury accommodations, and finding time to even sleep seems difficult.

But an underrated use of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is as home bases, places where a supporter can start a trip, but then head off to other nearby communities. Having a nice suite or villa to which to come back can simplify a road trip, giving the traveler less reason to worry and more space to have fun on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Some of our favorite home bases:

Less than six hours separates the three biggest cities of the Pacific Northwest, making the triumvirate of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver prime road trip fodder. Starting in British Columbia, check out the gorgeous sites of Vancouver (and neighboring Whistler) before heading across the border to Seattle and its iconic skyline not to mention its great coffee! From there, the Rose City is just three hours to the south, with its lively street food and microbrew scenes.

The Kentucky Derby is one of our favorite sporting events, and weve got a couple of travel packages that can take horse racing fans to the jewel of the Triple Crown. But once the horses have retired to their stables and the crazy hats are back in their boxes, it might be time to hit the Bourbon Trail. The distilleries of favorite big-name bourbons like Evan Williams, Jim Beam and Bulleit are all in the city itself, but there are several more (including Makers Mark and Four Roses) within a short driving distance. The trail is made up of nine distilleries in all, and the thirsty traveler who visits each one gets a free t-shirt.

Of course, Northern California has its own share of boozy tourism, and the Anderson Valley wine trail is one its lesser-known treasures. About 100 miles north of Napa, the trail may be just ten miles or so long, but its home to 25 different wineries. Its also the home to several major events each year, including a Pinot Noir festival and a barrel tasting weekend that involves almost every different vino producer in the area. (Obviously, for both this one and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, bringing a designated driver is a must).

But one of the most underrated home bases for great road trips is the City of Sin itself, Las Vegas. Sure, the town has its fair share of diversions, too, but its also a half-day or less drive from the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Death Valley National Park, Zion National Park and, if ones willing to spend just a little while longer in the car, Yosemite National Park. For a city best known for its neon signs, the natural sights within a short distance of Las Vegas may be even more impressive.

Vancouver

Kentucky Derby

Napa Valley

Grand Canyon


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What I Did During Summer Vacation

August 17, 2016
For families across the country, August means heat waves, last-minute trips and the return of school. And along with the beginning of the educational year, the sons and daughters of your supporters will each be asked one simple question, whether its in the form of a written report or playground small talk:

For families across the country, August means heat waves, last-minute trips and the return of school. And along with the beginning of the educational year, the sons and daughters of your supporters will each be asked one simple question, whether its in the form of a written report or playground small talk:

What did you do during summer vacation?

The good news: You can help your supporters make sure that their kids have a good answer.

Mitch-Stuart offers non-profit fundraising auction travel packages for all sorts of occasions, whether its a bucket-list cruise or a honeymoon villa on a tantalizing island. We also can help gets kids ready to answer that first question of the school year with stories, photos and mementos that will make them the talk of their classes.

That final trip before the school year begins can be used to help the kids warm up their brains before heading back into academia, and there may be no place that combines history and modern fun better than Washington, DC. With monuments and museums scattered all around the city, the District of Columbia is a perfect place for youngsters to learn about history while also seeing some of the worlds most recognizable sights. Our Celebrate the Heart of the Red, White and Blue trip includes an Old Town trolley tour with more than 100 points of interest, and the Smithsonian museums have always strived to make learning fun for all ages (the Air and Space Museums ride simulators give kids the chance to feel the thrill of space flight or air combat, for instance).

There are plenty of souvenirs of summer, but there are few that look better in a homeward-bound carry-on bag than leis and sea shells. Yes, the charms of Hawaii make for a great send-off to summer, and our Captivating Island Culture package includes a suite stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani on the island of Maui. With the beach just steps away, kids can spend their last days of freedom running through the surf, building sand castles and searching for the perfect sea shell to show off at home. Your donors can bring home an excellent memento, as well; the resort offers complementary photo sessions to capture the whole family in one of the worlds most beautiful environments.

If your donors really want to give their kids an experience that will make the youngsters the talk of the class, though, theres Disney. Whether in Southern California or Florida, Mickey Mouses theme parks are so beloved, in part, because of the number of only-in-Disney experiences and sights available. Even better: Mitch-Stuarts trips to each park also include experiences at other, nearby attractions; Happiest Place on Earth takes supporters to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm (and even includes dinner at Medieval Times!), while the The Most Magical Place on Earth package includes passes to Universal Studios (with its The Wizarding World of Harry Potter parks) along with Orlandos Disney World. Coming back to school wearing those instantly-recognizable mouse ears will earn a donors son or daughter instant cool points during recess.

Washington DC

The Smithsonian

The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

Disneyland


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Ever heard of

August 09, 2016
People love to be in the know. Whether its the secret pop-up restaurant, the speakeasy with an entrance through a barber shop or the newest underground music act, theres a thrill that comes with experiencing something different, something that your peer group hasnt discovered yet.

We love our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to places like New York, Las Vegas and Hawaii, of course. But not every trip needs to be to one of the capitals of tourism. If your supporters are looking for that hidden gem of a vacation, the one that none of their friends have taken, these options may be for you.

Have your donors thought about traveling to

Asheville? The North Carolina retreat is a cultural oasis in western North Carolina; theres nearly as much live music here as there is in a city like Nashville, and even though the population has been booming as of late, it still maintains the feel of a small town. Theres also the historic charm of the Biltmore House & Gardens, a winery tour and even a chocolate tasting included in our travel package for the city.

Boothbay Harbor? Small town living never seemed as picturesque as in this Maine destination. Go whale-watching on one of the ships that works the harbor, or spot the historic lighthouses that dot the rocky shores. Ditch the rental car and walk through the charming town itself, stopping in at the various antique and curio shops. Or charter your own yacht and set sail for a day on the water. One summertime trip to Boothbay Harbor can make the town the little secret that one of your donors loves to talk about!

Charleston? The southern charm of South Carolinas second-largest city has been recognized by others; Travel + Leisure magazine named it Americas Most Friendly City in 2011, and Conde Nast Traveler has called its people insanely nice. But the hospitality of strangers is only one reason to visit this underappreciated jewel; walking along cobblestone streets and admiring the gorgeous, preserved old homes will work up an appetite, and the booming restaurant scene in the city will fill your donors back up.

Riviera Maya? The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is an incredibly scenic area, with beaches and jungle to complement the almost-mandatory trek to the ruins of Chichen Itza, one of UNESCOs World Heritage Sites. Combine that with the luxury found at the Fairmont Mayakoba, and you get a vacation that will appeal to a wide cross-section of your supporters.

The Biltmore

The Nonantum Resort

Charleston

Fairmont Mayakoba


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Travel Obsessions

August 03, 2016
This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will face off against the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game. Its the first exhibition game of the season, one in which star players like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck will likely play for the first quarter, if even that long. And yet it will still be a ratings bonanza for ESPN, as millions of football-starved fans tune in. If baseball is the national pastime, then football has become the national obsession. But Americas not the only country with a major infatuation.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take your donors almost anywhere in America and to any NFL or college football game, as well! but they can also be used to check out the obsessions of other countries around the world. For those who want to find and enjoy those local passions, here are a few options.

Staying in the sports realm, the English Premier League is known around the world as one of the top levels of play in soccer. And within the country itself, the words of a former Liverpool manager ring true: Some people think footballs a matter of life or death. I assure you, its much more important than that. Theres nothing quite like walking into Old Trafford in Manchester, Anfield in Liverpool or Stamford Bridge in London to witness the passion, the pageantry and the colors of a Premier League match in person.

With grape-growing regions throughout the country and more than eight billion bottles produced each year, France is a world capital of wine. But its not just one of the countrys top exports; the French take their wine seriously, and study it closely. Theres even the Cite du Vin, a new museum dedicated to wine in Bordeaux, thats been informally named the Disneyland of Wine, with more than 14,000 bottles from more than 80 countries. For anyone who cares deeply about wine, theyll find doppelganger obsessives in France.

For a closer sojourn, there are few countries that can legitimately claim to be the spiritual home of a genre of music. But Jamaica has always had a sort of claim to reggae that few other nations hold on one style or rhythm; an artist gets immediate credibility in reggae just by having Jamaican ancestry, much less being from the island itself. Any trip to the country would be incomplete without stops at places like the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. And if the travel plans line up, Reggae Summerfest in Montego Bay is the worlds biggest and best festival for the genre.


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This or That?

July 26, 2016
Some of the Destinations of Excellence in the Mitch-Stuart catalog are synonymous with an interest, an attraction or even a climate. Oenophiles know to go to Napa Valley or on one of our adventures in France. Want beaches? Thats why weve got trips and cruises that go throughout the Caribbean. But sometimes, a traveling pair may differ on what each wants. Cityscapes or nature? Warm weather or sweaters and fireplaces?

For those donors who cant decide on the type of vacation they want, we can still help. Many of our charity fundraising auction travel packages appeal to not just different interests, but even direct opposite ones. If youve got supporters who dont know what they want to do, but do know that they want to get out of town, one of these trips could raise big bids.

Do your donors want

Nature or Luxury?: For some, vacation perfection is a tent, a campfire and smores. For others, its infinity pools and relaxing spa treatments. The island of Praslin in Seychelles combines both with Raffles and its 86 villas, restaurants featuring cuisine ranging from Creole to sushi, beachside spa and two infinity pools staring down the Indian Ocean. Beyond the resort, there are ample chances to explore nature, with hiking, ziplining and even rock climbing available in the nearby forests.

Hot or Cool?: Summers in Telluride, Colorado feature a little something for everyone in terms of climate. The average high temperature in the city in the month of July almost hits 80 degrees, warm enough for t-shirts and shorts while hiking or mountain biking through the Rocky Mountains. In the evening, though, bring a coat: The average low temperature dips hovers around 40 degrees, which is great bonfire weather. For those who like either sunscreen or sweaters, summertime in Colorado is perfect and with golf courses and private outdoor hot tubs, our Colorado at Its Absolute Best trip will let your donors experience both.

Fast-Paced or Relaxed?: Southern California has a little something for everyone. Visitors can even ski in the morning and watch the sunset over the beach in the evening, if they like. But with the opening of the citys newest light rail line, Los Angeles has made it easier than ever to go from the bustling atmosphere of Hollywood or the hip downtown district to the laid-back, beachside vibes of Santa Monica or Venice. If your donors want to see the sights of the City of Angels while also getting in a surf session in the morning or a beachside picnic dinner in the evening, this might be the best time to do so.

Raffles Praslin


Raffles Praslin


Telluride


Santa Monica


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Geek Out On the Road

July 20, 2016
Tonight, thousands of costume-clad fans of pop culture will flood the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con, the largest gathering of fans of comic books and comic-adjacent entertainment in the country. Between July 20 and 24, more than 130,000 attendees will look for rare issues of comics, watch new trailers for forthcoming movies and flood the restaurants and bars of the host citys lively Gaslamp District.

Your donors may not be into cosplay (dressing up like favorite fictional characters), or willing to stand in long, snaking lines for free posters, but we guarantee theyre something that theyre equally as geeky about. And whether its a genre of music, a type of wine or even cooking from world-famous chefs, Mitch-Stuart quite likely has a non-profit fundraising auction trip that can send your donors to the home base of any passion.

Music lovers can be incredibly dedicated to their favorite genres, and some cities are inexorably tied to the styles of song that have made a home within city limits. Two in particular stand out at great destinations for great tunes: Nashville is, in many ways, the spiritual home of country music, and with either of our travel packages that can take your supporters to the Country Music Awards, donors can rub elbows with the shining lights of the genre as well. A few miles south, jazz music is such a part of the blood of New Orleans that its jazz festival is one of the worlds greatest. Go to any bar around town, and a combo is likely to be playing in one corner. Or better, let your jazz-obsessed winner go to Preservation Hall, dedicated to preserving the citys musical heritage (and home of the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band).

Some call themselves oenophiles. Others are fine with winos. Whether fancy or simple, wine lovers are motivated to travel to taste their favorite varietals. A quick word search of our catalog reveals more than 30 different trips that involve the spirit in one way or another. Your supporters can tour wineries closer to home, in Napa Valley or the Williamette Valley of Oregon. If they want to go bigger: How about adventures to Italy, Spain or France? There are chances for wine fans to fly all around the world in search of that perfect label, that rare bottle or just the opportunity to geek out with fellow connoisseurs.

Of course, those destinations are already on the lips of fans of music or wine. But did you know that one of the biggest gathering of chefs and wineries each year AND the one of the biggest art shows take place in the same city? And that its not New York or Los Angeles? Each year, thousands of foodies and art fans flock to Miami for (during different weeks, of course) a chance to surround themselves with like-minded aficionados at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival and Art Basel Miami Beach, both in the sunny city of Miami.  The conventioneer website BizBash named each event the top in the country in their respective categories, meaning that, besides the world-class entertainment and gorgeous beaches, theres yet another reason that a supporter might want to take the chance to support your cause while also heading to Florida.

New Orleans


B Cellars Vineyards And Winery


Chateau Angelus


South Beach Food & Wine Festival


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Travel in a Time of Brexit

July 06, 2016
The news of Great Britain leaving the E.U., known as Brexit, has left the world in shock. The vote sent waves through every international market, and while stocks have mostly evened out and in some cases gained back the losses they suffered one important economic marker has yet to fully recover.

The American dollar has not been as strong against the British pound in recent memory, with one pound now fetching around $1.33 US. This is in comparison to around $1.46 in the run-up to the Brexit vote, and more than $2 per pound in October of 2007.

Mitch-Stuarts fundraising auction travel packages can take your supporters to Destinations of Excellence around the world, but there may be no better time than now to offer your donors a chance to head to London, where the dollar currently goes further than it almost ever has before. How does this translate on the ground? Your auction winner can:

Catch a game: The Premier League is one of the worlds most popular sports associations, with soccer fans around the globe tuning in on a weekly basis to watch teams like Manchester City, Liverpool and 2015-16 champion Leicester City. The drop in the pound also means that ticket prices have fallen, as well; Arsenals league-topping cost of 97 pounds on average for a single match ticket now comes in at just under $130, as opposed to almost $142, while Leicesters 22 pounds price sure to go up after winning last seasons title has fallen from $32 to under $30, a steal for championship-caliber soccer anywhere.

See a show: Londons West End is a favorite destination for theater-lovers from around the world, a close second maybe to only Broadway for the peak of the art form. Accordingly, admission prices are higher here than in most theater districts around the world; an average high-end ticket cost almost 100 pounds in 2014. The current dip translates to a $13 dip enough for a post-show pint at a nearby pub after the show.

Grab a meal: The English capital city has some of the worlds most inventive chefs working, but getting a table at Sketch or The Grill at The Dorchester may cause a bit of sticker shock. Those prices are a little less shocking now, though; The Grills summer prix fixe menu gets a small haircut (now under $75), while the Michelin-starred Sketch can now come in under triple digits.

Theres never really a bad time to help a donor visit London, but theres almost never been a time during which the dollar has gone further than today. Want to set up your supporters with a chance to visit the United Kingdom? Reach out to one of our Travel Experts!


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The Summer of Cool

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

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

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

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

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

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino


Bar Harbor Maine


Acadia National Park


Vancouver


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Picnicking In Paradise!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Santa Barbara Beach


Eiffel Tower


Central Park


Central Park


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Do You REALLY Make Money from the Highest Bidder?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maverick Helicopters Las Vegas

The Wynn

Grand Canyon


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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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Travel With Your Pack

January 06, 2016
Multiple times every year, we gather together our travel experts and put together new trips for our Destinations of Excellence catalog. These fundraising auction travel packages can be sold at galas or via raffles, and are sold on consignment, meaning theres no upfront cost to the charitable organization.

Our last catalog update included the expansion of our Villas and Residencies section, featuring trips with accommodations for up to ten people, in housing beyond the normal hotel room. From private residences to water-side villas, these vacations can not only bring in bigger bids, but can appeal to very specific types of bidders. If any of these motivations for shopping at your charity auction sounds familiar, weve got just the trip to make your supporters happy, all while raising funds for your important cause.

As some parents may have discovered over the last month, buying gifts for kids especially college-aged or grown kids can be tough. But experiences never go out of style, and globe-trotting with friends is even better. If youve got supporters who have kids that are ready for traveling with their peer group, offer them the chance to bid on trips like our This is Your Balinese Paradise or Balis Breathtaking Beauty packages. These type of international adventures can spark a lifelong love of travel in a recent grad, and in most cases will be otherwise out of reach financially for the gifts recipient. Theyll also get a great chance to bond with their friends, classmates or new coworkers in a way that transcends the connections forged at, say, happy hour.

For your donors who might have formed their own social clubs, be they ski, wine or golf-centric, the prospect of getting the whole group out to explore its passion can bring in big money. For the golfers, the Colorado at Its Absolute Best trip takes up to eight people or two foursomes to Telluride, with discounted green fees and access to the Telluride Golf Clubs Members Club. Oenophiles will love heading to Sonoma, California with up to six people staying in a private residence. And skiers can head out on the slopes in Deer Valley or Telluride, with up to eight people. Meeting at the local wine bar or playing the nearby 18 may never feel the same.

But the most common and trendiest reason for travelers to need extra room in their accommodations is multi-generational trips. Getting the entire family together and getting out on the road can lead to the creation of lifelong memories, the type that are rehashed at holiday dinners for years to come. Any of the trips in our catalog are capable of creating those once-in-a-lifetime moments, but our trips to Italy may be the best at offering fun for the whole family. The Under the Tuscan Sun package allows a donor to bring nine more people to Tuscany, and includes an in-villa gourmet meal for the entire family, either an artisanal cheese or olive-picking experience and, for the grown-ups (or grown kids), a full-day wine tour.
Bali
 
Villas at Tristant
 
Sonoma
 
Tuscany Villa


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What to Auction in 2016

December 30, 2015
We at Mitch-Stuart are many things, including purveyors of great non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. What we are not are soothsayers. Just like we didnt predict the poor-dancing Left Shark from the Super Bowl or that NASA would discover water on Mars, we cant tell you what will dominate the pop culture landscape in 2016.

However, when it comes to auctioning off travel packages, we can see the future.

Looking at some of the trends that professional travel agents, journalists and others have predicted for the new year, along with information from 2015, we can figure out some of the trips that will bring in big cash for non-profits in 2016. Some ideas for your upcoming galas:

Hawaii: Of course, trips to Hawaii make for great auction items any year, but 2016 is already looking to be a busy one. Advance bookings are up over those leading into 2015, and with plenty of attraction openings (including an outpost of the world-famous Blue Note Jazz Club on Waikiki Beach), our trips like Captivating Island Culture and Hawaii is a Lovers Paradise are likely to garner big bids. In addition, 2016 will mark a somber, special anniversary for any of your supporters who happen to be veterans of the Armed Forces: December 7 will be the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Europe and Canada: Theres plenty of reasons to head overseas, from the culture to the food, but one current one is the conversion rates. Weve written about this in this space before, but the Euro is currently at a ten-year low against the American dollar. But when looking to make that (American) dollar last longer, do not ignore our northern neighbors, either. One American dollar currently fetches almost $1.40 in Canadian cash, meaning that exploring Vancouver (Vancouvers Gateway to the Pacific) or Victoria (Escape to Victorias Elegance and Grandeur) is even easier.

National Parks: There will be celebrations at national parks throughout the country in honor of the National Park Services 100th anniversary, starting with the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Years Day. There are parks near many of our destinations, but one of our favorites is the Grand Teton National Park, where your donors can float along the Snake River, hike on more than 200 miles of trails and, with our Premier Retreat in the Great American West package, go on a safari-style adventure.

Cruises: 24 million people are expected to hit the seas in 2016, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. Its another year-to-year increase for one of travels growth industries; Just 15 million travelers opted for a cruise in 2006, and 2015s final tally is estimated to be 23 million passengers. This could mean even more interest in one of our cruise packages, ranging from the chilly (Alaskas Majestic Frontier) to the sun-soaked (Sail the Southern Caribbean Seas).

Multi-Generational Travel: Its less about a single destination and more about how people want to travel, but the experts at Frommers saw a 20 percent jump in multi-generational travel (families, from grandparents to grandkids, traveling together) in 2015, and that number is likely to continue to grow. Bigger parties traveling, though, means bigger rooms needed for accommodations and thats where we can come in, with our expanded Villas and Residencies catalog. Whether its in a ten-person villa in Bali (Pampering Balinese Sanctuary) or a six-person setup in Tuscany, Italy (Villas, Views and the Valdichiana), the entire family can relax and enjoy some of the most beautiful destinations in the world.
Hawaii

Banff Canada

Grand Teton National Park

Cruise

Italian Villa


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Sparking Nostalgia with Travel

November 11, 2015
Nostalgia was once considered to be a disease. Once thought an illness of the immigrant class, the feeling of longing for a previous time was originally labeled by a Swiss physician as a condition that caused both mental and physical maladies, according to the New York Times. Today, however, we understand that its a natural part of life, and one that can give us comfort; studies have shown it to counteract loneliness, anxiety and even boredom.


There are as many triggers for nostalgia as there are memories themselves, but one of the most common is a destination. To see a news report about a faraway island, for instance, can trigger a longing to go back there, or a film set in the Caribbean could be a strong reminder of a honeymoon.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we know that people travel for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, its to explore brave new worlds, to head to locations not before seen. But often, we leave the comfort of our home to remember, to feel closer to a time past, and to share in a memory with loved ones. For those nostalgic travelers, we have several places in our Destinations of Excellence that can trigger those sepia-tones feelings.

Theres a sense of wonder that comes from the first time standing on the streets of Manhattan, looking up at the skyscrapers and feeling the energy that comes from New York City. That initial experience of the metropolis is hard to replicate, but one of our several non-profit auction travel packages to the Big Apple can give a donor a chance to, at least, catch up with the City that Never Sleeps. Whether its a horse-and-carriage tour through Central Park or a Broadway show, we can send supporters on the type of big city adventure that will bring back memories.

The locks of love that were once attached to the Pont des Arts Bridge have been removed, so if any of your donors had once left a memento of their affection there, thats one less memory to revisit. But there are plenty of landmarks in the City of Lights that can spark nostalgia for visitors. The sight of the Eiffel Tower, a walking tour of the Louvre, or even a champagne cruise down the River Seine are each such indelible moments for a tourist that returning to them at a later date can be powerful.

Sights can, of course, bring back memories, but they seem to become even more powerful when paired with distinctive smells. For those who live in landlocked regions, standing on a beach and smelling the ocean air can bring back memories of sandcastles, family vacations and even bonfires. Sending supporters back in time via a trip to the coast is as easy as picking the destination, with sandside vistas available on either American coast, on several Caribbean islands and even facing the Mediterranean Sea.
New York
 
The Plaza, New York
 
Eiffel Tower Paris
 
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell at Chinese Theater


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Auction Synergy

October 14, 2015
In this space we have talked about pairing trips with auction themes, with the season of the year and even with food menus. There are plenty of ways to tie a Mitch-Stuart non-profit charity auction package into a gala event, but the most meaningful for your biggest supporters may be to offer a trip that dovetails with your organizations goals, one that deepens their commitment to your cause or helps celebrate it.

This, of course, isnt easy, and it might not work for every organization. Few want to spend a tremendous amount of money on a trip that doubles as a lecture, and some charities dont lend themselves easily to travel-related celebrations. But for others, offering a cause-related once-in-a-lifetime experience will keep your efforts and work in the front of a donors mind, even as they enjoy the fruits of their generous bid.

Conservancy groups, for instance, have a great wealth of opportunities to send supporters on trips that pair well with their cause. This could take the form of a visit to an underexplored corner of this country, a place where outdoor activities are front and center; Jackson Hole comes to mind. But sending a donor to the Masai Mara Nature Reserve in Kenya, one of the worlds great animal sanctuaries, will bring into stark relief the important work that conservancy organizations do. Our Explore Kenyas Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife package will send your supporters to Masai Mara in style, with seven nights at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, a favorite of international travelers.

Educational charities have plenty of options when it comes to trips; almost every destination has a great museum, university or even historic library to see. But only Washington, D.C. has all of those in the kind of numbers that could fill an entire itinerary. The Exciting Downtown Washington, D.C. Experience trip pairs a three-day, two-night stay with an Old Town Trolley tour, which stops at places like the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and the myriad of museum options along the National Mall. Its the kind of trip that can ignite a love of learning in anyone, young or old.

Childhood obesity has been a cause in the spotlight over the last seven years, as Michelle Obama has spearheaded reform efforts. One of those programs that the First Lady has pushed is Lets Move, an initiative that helps convince kids to get outside and run around. Thats not bad advice for adults, either, and its hard to imagine a more beautiful place to do so than Colorado, on one of our trips (such as Breathtaking Allure of a Rugged Winter Wonderland or Mountain Village Enclave). The state has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country, and its system of trails, mountain bike paths and ski runs is one of the reasons why. Nothing reinforces the importance of physical activity quite like getting into the outdoors and trying it for oneself, and when your donors look at vacation photos taken from the top of Colorados breathtaking trails, theyll remember your cause, too.
Fairmont Mara Safari
 
Washington Monument
 
Lincoln Memorial
 
Little Nell


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Saving Summer

October 07, 2015
The transition between the summer and the fall comes with all sorts of lifestyle changes: The grill may get packed up for the season, windows that have been open since mid-May might finally get closed, and equipment from summer activities may get put into the far back reaches of the garage for their winter hibernation. Your organization, however, can help your supporters take those bikes out for one last spin, those clubs out for one last round or even those surfboards out for one last wave.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we help non-profit organizations raise money with consignment fundraising auction travel packages to all corner of the world and for all times of the year. One of the ways that charities and other groups can sell big-ticket travel at galas is by helping donors defeat the calendar and find parts of the country where their favorite summertime activities are year-round affairs.

For much of the country, golf is not possible for months out of the year; hitting a white golf ball into a snowbank certainly makes it difficult to find for the second shot. But the weather in Hilton Head is amenable to hacking through 18 holes at any time of year. The average high temperature there per month never gets below 60 degrees, and though it may get a little wet in the winter that certainly doesnt stop many golf diehards. If youve got donors who will play a round in rain, sleet, snow or any other weather, one of our trips to Hilton Head could be the excuse they need to donate big to your cause.

Of course, when the winter comes, mountain biking becomes much more difficult. But two-wheel enthusiasts can still find thrills, even if they dont come in the snow-covered Rockies or Cascades. Arizona may not be the first place that comes to mind when it comes to big peaks, but Sedona is one of the top destinations for downhill biking in the country. The West Sedona Tour is a local favorite, a 13-mile loop that joins together eight different trails and has tremendous views of places like Bear Mountain. And when Colorado and Wyoming are still snowed in during the late winter, the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival in March features bike demonstrations, live music and great riding.

One of these summer activities can actually improve in the wintertime. Surf towns are often overrun in June, July and August, but during the off-season, theres more room to maneuver. Spots like Southern California (especially in the San Diego area) and Hawaii (where the winter is more about rain than cold temperatures) go from being tourist magnets to having manageable crowds, which is better time for spent in the ocean and on the land. In fact, when Coastal Living named its top five winter surfing spots, places like Oceanside (in between San Diego and Los Angeles) and Kauai took up the top three spots.

Got some active donors who long to chase the sun in the winter months? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert about offering a trip to one of these destinations at your next auction or gala!
Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head
 
Sedona Mountain Biking
 
Huntington Beach, CA
 
Hawaii


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Summers in Europe

May 06, 2015
Weve written before in this space about the relative weakness of the Euro against the dollar, but it bears repeating: Your money has not gone further on the European continent than it does right now. Depending on the expenses, some voyages to countries like France, Spain or Italy will likely be hundreds of dollars cheaper this summer than last, just because of the fluctuation of the currency exchanges.

How can your donors take advantage? Glad you asked.

France
Plaza Puerta del Sol in Spain
Sistine Chapel
Cooking in Italy
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. puts together once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for non-profit auctions, the types of items that bring the wow factor to any gala and send supporters to all corners of the globe for all sorts of memory-making activities. Right now, some of our most popular itineraries take advantage of the exchange rate and the upcoming summer season to send supporters to gorgeous European destinations, like

France: Non-profits and charities can send their donors to several different parts of France with a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel package. Trips like A Decadent and Delicious Parisian Experience couple city exploration with cooking class and a champagne cruise, while art lovers can see the Louvre, Musee dOrsay and Centre George Pompidou with the Paris as an Art History Destination Magnifique! package. Those looking for a coastal experience instead can head to Cannes for the world-famous film festival and some much-needed beach time.

Spain: Whether its a flamenco show in Barcelona or the gardens of Madrid, theres plenty to see on a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. excursion to Spain. The country may be best explored through its cuisine, with tapas and wine tours in Barcelona. And with accommodations in Madrid near so many of the citys famed landmarks everything from Puerta del Sol to Teatro Espanol within walking distance! donors can see it all at their own pace.

Italy: There may be no more popular European destination in our catalog, however, than Italy. Mitch-Stuart offers more than a dozen trips to the Mediterranean jewel, with activities like cooking classes, wine tasting, museum tours and more. The Discover Romes Eternal Charm package may be the highlight for those who enjoy interacting with history while on vacation, thanks to tours of the Sistine Chapel and the Roman Forum, while oenophiles will love the Roman History, Cuisine and Enotecas itinerary, which includes a private, secret wine bar tour. Under the Tuscan Sun is also a favorite: The trip includes seven nights in a five-bedroom villa, with one private villa feast prepared by an Italian Master Chef.






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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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Footloose and Fancy Car-Free

November 05, 2014
See a city by car, and youll get introduced to its traffic patterns, its street signs and its preferred obscene gestures. See that same city by foot, and youll get introduced to its people, its places, its sounds and smells.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors all around the world via our charity auction travel packages, each one tailored to fit a specific destination. In cities like Los Angeles or in more rural locales, that might mean setting up a rental car or shuttle services for a traveler. But for those looking to leave the automobile behind, these trips can also take people to cities and attractions best seen on foot.

New York
London
Napa Valley
When one thinks of exploring a city on two legs rather than four wheels, its hard not to start in New York. The Big Apple may have the most thorough public transit system in America, with local subway lines snaking through the boroughs and dropping tourists off at landmarks everywhere. In fact, some of its best vistas like Central Park, the parks that line the East River with magnificent views of Manhattan, and even the High Line are either off-limits or severely restricted to automobiles. Ferry rides are also popular ways to get unique angles on landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. Let the cabbies do the (insane!) driving on the isle of Manhattan and take the train.

International travel can often become more complicated when factoring in car rental, which is just one reason why a trip to London can be so appealing. The citys Underground system has more than 250 stations and stretches throughout the city and out into neighboring counties. Well over a billion people take the Underground each year. The system also connects to Eurostar rail, which can take passengers to Paris or Brussels and, from there, to the rest of Europe, all by train.

But traveling by foot isnt just the best option in sprawling metropolises. In Napa Valley, the combination of alcohol-based tourism and relatively open roads has led to people avoiding their cars and the development of a thriving bicycle culture. Tourists can rent bikes by the day or week, and some enterprising tour companies offer Napa-by-bicycle tours, as well. Shuttles are also often available to and from wineries, as the proprietors of the establishments want everyone to get home safely as much as the patrons do. In addition, the train trip to Grgich Hills Winery must be experienced to be believed; a gourmet three-course meal is served on board en route to the winery, with desert served on the homeward leg of the trip.


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Go Euro

October 07, 2014
There are plenty of reasons to head to Europe: The culture, the beaches, the history. For the first time in years, though, we can add an economic one, as the dollar is currently stronger against the Euro now than it has been in the last twenty three months. For American travelers, that means their money goes further now than almost ever before.

Paris
Paris
Paris
As of October 1, the American dollar is worth .79 Euros, while one Euro fetches $1.26 American. Those figures havent been this promising for American currency holders since November of 2012. The trend in 2014 has been promising, as well; the dollar has gained almost .05 Euros since the beginning of the year, with the growth being fairly steady since May.

How do these small numbers practically affect travelers? Even a .05 difference in Euro rates, when multiplied by a trips expenses, can pay off big. Take, for example, a trip to Paris. For a couple, lets assume a 5,000 Euro budget. On October 1, that converts to around $6,300. Just one month earlier, those same 5,000 Euros would cost $6,560, and in March it could have been as much as $6,960. Over the course of the last six months, the cost of an identical vacation has dropped by $660 thats nearly 10 percent!

Do those numbers seem out of line? Light lunch at that gorgeous caf you walked past on the way to the Eiffel Tower likely runs around 20 Euros. Dinner with a view? Le Jules Verne will seat you inside the Tower itself for a five-course dinner at 185 Euros per diner. A trip through the Louvre: another 16 Euros per person. Thats more than 200 Euros spent in one day by one person. Double that for a couple, multiply it by five days, then consider that hotels dont tend to be free (the Hotel Plaza Athenee, which just reopened in August, can run up to 1,000 Euro per night!). Its easy to see how two people can hit 5,000 Euros in costs for five days in the City of Light.

What could saving an extra $660 get you while on vacation? In Paris, that could be two tickets in fantastic seats to see Paris Saint-Germain, one of Europes great soccer teams, live (with money left over for concessions). It could be two Eurail passes to head to Spain for a vacation-within-a-vacation. It could even be a shopping trip through the Faubourg Saint-Honore district, with its streets lined with designer shops.

Currency conversion rates arent always the most entertaining of reasons to head out of the country, but in addition to all of the fun and relaxation of vacationing in Europe, getting a good deal is a solid rationale to head over the Atlantic Ocean in the near future.


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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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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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Keeping Memories in Focus

July 30, 2014
It can seem like modern digital cameras make it hard to take a bad photo, especially when compared to the removable-lens film cameras of the past, or even the point-and-click consumer models popular just a few years back. But that doesnt mean that travelers should settle for okay or acceptable images. Transcend merely not bad efforts and take photos that accurately reflect their once-in-a-lifetime settings and preserve lifelong memories by utilizing these travel photography tips on your next trip.
Icescating at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Icescating at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Landscape Mode: There are two orientations, or ways to position the camera. One is to hold it vertically, in whats called portrait mode, and another is to hold it horizontally, in what is called landscape mode. Obviously, choosing one over the other will depend on the subject of the photo, but in most cases, landscape will capture more of the surroundings. Especially when taking photos of family members or travel companions, choosing landscape will allow the photographer to get the subjects and the background more effectively.

Apps: The top-end smartphones have on-board cameras that can take great images. But to turn them into great photographs, think about downloading and utilizing a photo app. While some, like the ever-popular Instagram, are built more for sharing pictures, others like Camera+ and Hipstamatic give the shooter a great deal of control over the final product. Pre-programmed filters can remove glare, fix minor (and sometimes major) lighting concerns and even make the images more film-like by playing with focus and adding film grain. Being able to effectively use one of these apps can turn a smartphone into a high-end consumer camera.

Practice: Travelers shouldnt wait until standing on the shores of Bali or staring at the Eiffel Tower in person to figure out how to use a camera. If one is heading to the beach, try taking photos in the brightest conditions available midday, perhaps. If the City of Lights is the destination, experiment with some evening photography involving man-made lights, even if it is just the marquee of the local supermarket. The best photographers are experienced photographers.
Shoot to Scale: A fun tip for those travelers exploring huge landmarks or wide open spaces: Try to get a human being in the frame somewhere, while still capturing the entire object or space in question. The presence of a person in the shot will allow viewers to have an idea of the scale of the photos object, whether its a huge waterfall or a downtown art sculpture.

Turn Off the Flash: In most circumstances, the light generated from the flash on your camera wont illuminate the object of your photos. The maximum range for many on-camera flashes is 15 feet, and the tiny light on a smartphone usually travels an even shorter distance. If youre taking photos of a still object at a relatively close distance in low light (like family members posing in front of a monument at night), flash works. Otherwise, it may be better to take a slightly darker shot and then lighten it later using an app or a computer program.

For more of these tips, check out Fodors excellent guide to travel photography.


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Fundraisers and Non-Profits Step Up Your Tech in 2014

January 15, 2014
Mitch-Stuart Inc. (MSI), has entered into strategic partnership with breakthrough bidding technology services leader GiveSmart US, Inc. (GiveSmart). The initiative between the two firms will introduce Mitch-Stuarts clients to user-friendly technology and services that will make auction fundraising easier and potentially raise more revenue for nonprofits. Similarly, GiveSmart will introduce its clients to Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

GiveSmart provides the following:
  • Easy-to-use bidding technology which allows auction attendees and guests to bid on items via their own mobile devices and/or through GiveSmarts onsite concierge bidders.
  • Technology that allows for expanded participation, more competitive bidding, streamlined tracking and collectionand greater non-profit fundraising.
  • Exemplary personal service, assisting you from beginning to end in using their technology.

GiveSmart considers its company an adherent of the adaptive philanthropy movement which espouses and embraces change at all levels to continue helping non-profits reach their goals. Part of that philosophy can be described as taking thoughtful risk.

According to GiveSmart, this means leaders who are investing in an area where much is unknown, should have a clear learning agenda and plan to experiment so that they can come down the learning curve as quickly as possible. Such a plan will define assumptions to test and important external factors that will require strategy adjustment.

To that end, Mitch-Stuart Inc. advises that non-profits research new ideas and products that can take your fundraising and kick it up a notch or two.

Were excited to partner with GiveSmart and introduce our clients to their breakthrough technology related Stuart Paskow, CEO of Mitch-Stuart, Inc. Weve helped more than 10,000 nonprofits raise a collective $1 billion+ through the yearsand with this potential added resource, our clients will benefit even more.


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2014 Crystal Ball: Travel Trends for Fundraisers

December 31, 2013
As you begin planning for your most successful 2014 auctions, raffles and other fundraising events using travel packages and experiences, take a look into Mitch-Stuart Inc.s crystal ball for some travel trends of note.

Whether youre 20-something or 60-something. Travel preferences are changing and decision-makers need to cater to the differences. Millennials are showing a preference for urban destinations and are more likely to travel in groups. They also demonstrate great interest in seeking out destinations which dovetail with their daily pursuits and preferred activities.

Seniors, who comprise 1.3 billion to 1.6 billion people worldwide, are unstoppable when it comes to travel. Their often vast travel experience coupled with tremendous disposable income also tends to make them the most demanding travelers. Those who cater to this cohort will be wise to choose amenity-rich packages with incredible customer service.

Have you tried creative tourism? Creative tourism can be defined as tourism that offers visitors a creative pursuit (including arts, crafts and cookery workshops), with the opportunity to stay in high quality accommodation, and to connect with local people in a distinctive destination. Research indicates that people want more time, space and energy, and a greater sense of wellbeing. They are demonstrating a growing desire to connect with each other and feel more in touch with local communities. You will see this trend reflected in several Mitch-Stuart packages involving cooking lessons and other pursuits within local communities.

Trends in Multi-Generational Travel. The popularity of resorts and destinations catering to the every whim of kids, tweens, parents and grandparents shows no sign of slowing down. The older the boomers get the more family travel we will see, from more African safaris to unusual cruises for the adventurous family.

What is new though is the rise of the PANK! Professional Aunts, No Kids who collectively spend billions lavishing nieces and nephews with meaningful travel experiences and other goodies. Savvy Auntie, a U.S.based website community for aunts and godmothers, estimates there are 23 million PANKs in the U.S. who spend a whopping $9 billion annually on children.

Cooking Class in France
Hikers at Lake Louise, Canada
Alaska Cruise
Pink Jeep Tour in Sedona Arizona
As far as the economic outlook for travel spending, the U.S. Travel Association is predicting 5.1% growth in travel expenditures. What do you predict?

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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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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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Common Things People Forget When Traveling in the Summer

July 23, 2013
With August fast approaching, everyone is trying to fit in a vacation before the Labor Day holiday and back-to-school. While youre sure to remember to book the essentials, like a flight and hotel, you may forget to pack some key items. According to Michelle Cohen, President of Mitch-Stuart, Inc., Choosing the right travel package is the most important part of ones travel plans. While your destination is of great importance, use this checklist to make sure youre never without these travel items!
  • Chargers and batteries. Whether theyre for your smartphone, tablet, e-reader, or camera, you need your chargers and batteries. Batteries may come cheap, but chargers for smartphones and tablets dont. Make this one of the first items you pack.
  • Adapters for different electrical currents. If youre traveling internationally, you need to check out the different voltages in different countries. Pick up an adapter for your devices before you board the plane, this way you can plug in your camera or camcorder while you unpack for an extra charge.
  • Copies of your passport and documents. While the original is always the best form of any document, having a copy is a good backup. Accidents happen, so making copies of your passport, ticket and other important documents can come in handy. In the unfortunate scenario where you are robbed, having copies of these documents stored in your hotel safe doesnt hurt either. If applicable, download your boarding pass to your phone. Many airlines have apps that store your ticket on your phone.
  • Maps & Directions. Its always best to write down the information for the hotel you are staying at just in case you get lost and arent near your destination. You can store this information on a piece of paper or in your phone. If you have a smartphone, download a GPS app; however, a physical map is still the way to go just in case your cell phone dies or youre in an area without cell reception.
  • Photos of your belongings. Take pictures of your suitcase, expensive possessions, and anything else that you value should it become lost or stolen. Pictures provide proof and make negotiating with foreign police or airport staff easier.
  • A memory of your passwords. You may have to use a public computer when you travel, so the luxury of auto-memorized passwords doesnt apply here. Before leaving, make sure you know all your passwords. This will save you a lot of time, hassle and money.
  • An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. If your sunglasses break, you buy another pair. If your glasses break or you lose a contact lens, youre in serious trouble. You may not be able to replace the broken or lost pair until you get home, so a spare will be essential for your holiday.
  • Duct Tape. This particular tape can fix and repair almost anything. You never know when a zipper on your suitcase might break.
  • Bonus: Call your credit card company and tell them youre traveling.
What items have you forgotten to pack when traveling? Leave a comment below!


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

May 15, 2013
By Sherry Truhlar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Visually attractive displays

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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 dont 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-Stuarts 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 Girls 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 audiences 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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