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Women’s History, In Person

March 13, 2020
Since 1987, the United States has recognized March as Women’s History Month, a time for Americans to learn about and recognize the contributions that women have made to our country’s founding and growth.

We’re big fans of using travel to educate, as we’ve mentioned before. And Women’s History Month is a great time for your supporters to hit the road and education their children (or grandchildren!) about the famous (and underrecognized) women heroes in this country. In addition, some of our favorite travel destinations lead the way in recognizing women’s contributions, meaning these places can be both educational and fun!

Some of our suggestions:

Of course, for all historical celebrations in America, Washington, D.C. is a must-visit. The nation’s capital is home to the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum and Archives documents and displays the history of the suffrage movement year-round. However, in March, museums and galleries around the city curate and showcase women, both historical and modern. The National Museum of African Art currently has an exhibit devoted to the women of Africa, for instance, and the Atlas Performing Arts Center is performing a play based on the unheralded, but important, work of Mileva Maric, Albert Einstein’s first wife.

Just up the Atlantic coast, Boston was the host city for so much of America’s shared history. It shouldn’t surprise, then, that the first National Women’s Rights Convention was held in nearby Worcester. The 1850 gathering brought so many together that the conventioneers overflowed from the hosting Brinley Hall. The emerging suffragettes returned in 1851 for a second gathering. A great activity, especially for families: Walk the Women’s Heritage Trail to see the historic sights of the city’s through a female lens.

One underrated tribute? Sometimes your donors might spend their money based on causes they want to help – not just at your fundraising auction, but where it buys groceries, maybe, or restaurants that contribute part of their proceeds to non-profits. If that’s the case, how about a trip to Jackson Hole! Why? When Wyoming joined the United States in 1890, it brought with it a state law that allowed women to vote. Even though that law jeopardized Wyoming’s statehood, the territory stood firm, and eventually it made Wyoming the first state to allow women to vote.

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Maximum Spring

March 10, 2020
The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and you’re a little groggy after having lost an hour of sleep for no good reason. It’s almost spring!

As the weather changes, the faces of some of our favorite destinations change, too. Snow melts away, outdoor activities can become more attractive, and public parks are ready to host picnics. In fact, there are some locations that transform so much, they go from a tough sell to a best-seller in the time it takes to recover from St. Patrick’ Day.

If you’re looking to take advantage of spring fever to auction off a non-profit fundraising auction travel package, we’ve got some ideas for destinations that shine in the sun.

Spring Break:
Do we ever really grow out of spring break? When the coats get stashed back in the closets and the sun stays out into the evenings, there’s still no better place to be than the beach. Whether it’s the island sand of Hawaii or any of our destinations in Mexico or the Caribbean, destinations with surf are always eye-catchers, and offering one at your non-profit fundraising auction will certainly draw interest among people coming out of a winter hibernation.

Beat the Heat: The average high temperature in Las Vegas in July is 104 degrees. The average high temperature in Miami on August 8 is 90 degrees – and with oppressive humidity. Some of our favorite warm-weather places on the map may be a little too hot to see during the summer. But these spring days can bring more comfortable temperatures, allowing your donors to fully explore. Go hiking in the hills and mountains outside of Vegas, golfing in Palm Springs, or soak up the sun in Miami without the excess sweat.

The Bloom: There are few indicators of spring more colorful than blooming season. For those who live in colder climes, it can be worth a trip just to see the various hues explode from bushes, trees and vines. In Washington, D.C., that takes the form of the spring Cherry Blossom Festival, which kicks off on March 20. In Southern California it’s the poppies of Antelope Valley (located a short drive from Los Angeles). And in Arizona, two hours or so southwest of Phoenix, the Sonoma Desert gets bright in March; your donors can seek out the Catalina Scenic Highway for a day drive from the floor of the desert to a 9,000-foot elevation.

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Five Reasons Why: San Francisco

February 29, 2020
Bracketed by wine country to its north and Los Angeles to its south, it is sometimes easy to overlook San Francisco as a travel destination in and of itself. It’s hard to say that about a city that’s in the news so often, but it’s true: while San Francisco attracted almost 26 million visitors in 2019, that was only good enough for 17th place in the country, outranked by San Diego (35 million), Los Angeles (50 million), and only barely beating out Anaheim (24.4 million).

What are those who skip to Southern California missing by not visiting San Francisco? Here are at least five reasons to head to the city by the Bay.

The Public Transit: When your donors land at San Francisco, they can still go to the car rental desk, like anywhere else. But life in the city is often best without an automobile. Instead of getting stuck in the traffic, moving at a snail’s pace, they can hop on and off buses, subway cars and, of course, streetcars. The last of those are considered such a part of the city that they show up on alternate versions of the Golden State Warriors’ jerseys.

The Views: If your donors consider a day walking through parks and taking in the scenery a day well spent, San Francisco may be a dream destination. Golden Gate Park and the nearby Golden Gate National Recreation Area give beautiful views of the water, and The Presidio has the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion, which has one of the best sightlines down the Golden Gate Bridge. And nearby Muir Woods is postcard-worthy thanks to its giant Redwood trees.

The Landmarks: The Golden Gate Bridge is iconic, of course, but what often goes unmentioned is how it’s pedestrian friendly. The mile-long connector between the city and Marin County has sidewalks, meaning that someone can get to both sides of Golden Gate National Recreation Area without a drive. And the view from the bridge, looking back at the city, is stunning as well.

The Museums: Along with elevated modern art palaces like San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the de Young Museum, the city has several great options for families. Kids can make a stop-motion video at the Children’s Creativity Museum, walk through a “twisting, turning tactile sculpture” at the Exploratorium, and see the beginnings of a children’s entertainment behemoth at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

The Cultural History: This is the city of the Summer of Love. The streets are where the car chase from the film “Bullitt,” maybe the best in movie history, was shot. The Beat poets met up here in the 1950s, writing works that would forever be associated with San Francisco (City Lights, almost 70 years old now, still stands both as a bookstore and a living monument to the Beat Generation). The city’s counter-cultural history may be unmatched.

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Winter Activity Favorites

February 19, 2020
When it comes to winter vacations, the stereotypical images that come to mind might be goggled skiers, whipping their ways down mountains. Or maybe it’s a snowboarder, getting vertical off a jump or carving big tracks in the show. Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can certainly help your donors fit into those pictures.

But not every person who loves winter loves to go skiing. There are plenty of ways to interact with the season without strapping boards to feet and speeding down a hill. Below are a few ideas for how you can get your supporters in the seasonal spirit without lifts, bindings, and all the accoutrements of a day on the slopes.

Your donors may not get to experience that apres-ski life in New York or Las Vegas, but they can do the next best thing: Grab a drink at an igloo bar! The rooftops of New York are filling up with fake plastic igloos, domes that keep a little bit of the heat in (although 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar still provides bathrobes for some extra warmth). Your supporters can sit inside one and be merry while the snow falls all around. In Las Vegas, minus5 Ice Experience might be the only place in Sin City that requires coats; guests are provided parkas and gloves and taken to a bar where everything – the glasses, the seats, even the walls! – are made of ice.

The next Winter Olympics isn’t until 2022, which means your donors can start their roads to the Games with curling lessons. Yes, the sport that plays like shuffleboard on ice is a hit for TV audiences, but it’s even more fun to play. And any Canadian city bigger than a village likely has a curling club providing drop-in lessons. From the Royal Canadian Curling Club in Toronto to the Vancouver Curling Club (located in the facility that hosted the sport in the 2010 Winter Olympics), clubs across Canada have stones and brooms waiting for your supporters.

While the family’s innertubes may be packed away for the season, the summer favorite gets a snowy makeover in the mountains with snow tubing. It’s a favorite reason for a winter day-trip from Los Angeles; the nearby town of Big Bear Lake features several places to slide down the hill like you would ride down the river. It can be the perfect way for your donors to get their kids interested in the snowy outdoors, a sort of “bridge” activity to skiing or snowboarding.

For everything else – snowmobiling, sledding, winter wildlife tours, even dog sledding – there’s Jackson Hole. The Wyoming resort town is a winter wonderland, and while skiing and snowboarding are well represented at the nearby Grand Targhee Ski Resort, your donors do not have to enjoy either to step out into the crisp air.

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Imagine a Better Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2020
It starts with the gift giving. Then it’s the dinner reservations and the flowers. Pick out the right outfit for the evening. Sit elbow to elbow with other couples in an overcrowded dining room. Swear to never do it again. Until next February 14th, of course.

It’s easy to fall into a routine for Valentine’s Day. Part of that is because it works: everyone likes gifts, flowers are pretty, and having a reason to go out for a good meal is wonderful. But the path of least resistance is rarely the most satisfying.

If you’ve got supporters who would love a romantic adventure – for Valentine’s Day or for any other special time – we can take them beyond the stereotypical and send them on a trip worthy of love.

For instance, falling in love helps release chemicals from the adrenal gland, according to CNN. One of them is adrenaline. That’s not to say that, racing in a plane across the Arizona sky or speeding around a NASCAR track is the same as a first kiss, but science tells us that each activity “turns on” similar receptors in the brain. Does that mean that the couple that skis together stays together? Maybe. But certainly those kind of heart-racing events can make love feel new again.

The Happiest Place on Earth is best known as a family destination, but there are thousands of couples who attend each year without little ones in tow. Heading to Disneyland without kids in tow means doing things like lingering a little longer over a slice of layered chocolate cake at Blue Bayou, or cocktails like the Nectar in the Rye and the Six Tentacles at the Lamplight Lounge. It also means enjoying the fireworks at the end of the day without little ones ready to fall asleep.

Finally, remember those first days of love? How it felt like you could do anything? It’s a feeling that can be hard to replicate – but at an all-inclusive resort, you actually *can* do anything, all without caring about cost. With food, drink, and even excursions all paid for, your donors can feel free – meaning that they can focus on just their loved ones, and try to get back those early feelings of freedom, too.

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Dream Concerts Make Dream Trips!

February 06, 2020
We believe that some of the best travel packages for fundraising auctions combine a Destination of Excellence and a “reason” to go: Tickets for a big sporting event, for instance, or a behind-the-scenes tour of a museum, or ski lift passes. It’s why we have so many event- or activity-centric trips in our catalog.

One of those that allows for maximum customization is our “Any Concert – The Live Music Experiment” travel package. With it, you can choose a show anywhere in the contiguous United States and send your donors there, airfare and hotel included. If you’ve got some music fanatics in your donor base, it’s a great way of connecting your cause to their favorite music – and music certainly helps create emotional bonds.

For 2020, there are a few tours in particular that seem travelworthy:

Classic rock fans who haven’t gotten to see Elton John on his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” going-away tour will have a chance to see him during the spring. For those whose tastes run a little wilder, KISS is on the road, performing with original Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth. And one big name is rumored to be announcing tour dates soon; Bruce Springsteen has talked about potential shows with the E Street Band. Can you imagine sending your donors to New Jersey to see the Boss on his home turf?

These packages make wonderful gifts, as well. If you’ve got donors looking for an experience to give to, say, a student graduating from high school, or as a “sweet 16” adventure, some of the biggest pop acts in the world will be on tour in 2020. Harry Styles, the standout from the British boy band One Direction, takes his Brit-pop tunes out to arenas across the country this year, while Justin Bieber returns for an international tour. Superstar Taylor Swift, meanwhile, is throwing a couple of major festivals this year; her “Lover East” and “Lover West” shows in Boston and Los Angeles, respectively, are expected to feature star-studded lineups, but it means there’ll only be four chances (two in each city) to see her in America this year.

Finally, kids of the 1990s are now at the age where they can be major donors, and two big tours this year are targeting those late Gen Xers/early Millennials specifically. Alanis Morissette is celebrating the 25th anniversary of her star-making album, “Jagged Little Pill.” She’s bringing with her two other acts from the ‘90s alternative scene, Garbage and Liz Phair. For the pop-punk survivors, Green Day embarks on its “Hell Mega” run alongside Weezer and ‘00s inheritors of the throne Fall Out Boy.

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Five Reasons Why: Reykjavik

January 29, 2020
It’s hard to tell when the travel media’s obsession with Reykjavik began. Was it when Travel and Leisure named Iceland the Destination of the Year for 2018? Or maybe when Justin Bieber shot a music video there in 2015?

What we do know is that Iceland’s popularity makes it an eye-catching destination, so offering a trip to Reykjavik can attract a hefty number of bids. But what will your donors do when they get there? Here are five reasons to travel to Iceland’s capital.

The Phenomena: Iceland’s proximity to the North Pole doesn’t mean extra gifts from Santa, but it does mean that the country features unique marvels. Make Reykjavik a “home base” and go further north, away from city light pollution, and the Northern Lights are visible from as early as September to as late as April. Summer travelers, meanwhile, can be treated to the “midnight sun”; from the middle of May through late July, it’s light out 24 hours a day. Golfing at 2 a.m.? Sure!

The New Icelandic Cuisine: The spotlight on the country in the past five-plus years has attracted chefs with the goal of evolving the country’s food past fermented shark and skate. Now, blue mussels (once, for some reason, not seen as a go-to seafood) go with root vegetables, and dulse (red algae) is found in stews and soups. A restaurant like Dill, which specializes in getting as much out of the country’s land as possible, is more than a cultural oddity; it’s a new way of thinking about the products of Iceland.

The Beaches: No, really! Sure, those looking to get a tan and relax should probably still look at a Caribbean trip. But Iceland’s shores have their own interesting features as well. For instance, Reynisfjara, a beach in the town of Vik, is known for its black pebble and massive rock formations. It feels like a beach after the apocalypse, especially when the wind off the ocean is battering the shore, according to some. That black sand also combines with “ice diamonds,” boulder-and-smaller chunks of ice, at Diamond Beach (or Bredamerkursandur).

The Music: From pop music festivals to local folk to the national orchestra (which performs at the stunning Harpa, a concert hall worth checking out even when there’s no show), music seems to come from every corner of the island. This is where Bjork started, along with the band Sigur Ros; either of them would headline most festivals around the world.

…and Elf School! No, it won’t turn you into an elf. It won’t even turn you into Will Farrell from the movie “Elf.” But attending elf school will give your donors a crash course in Icelandic folk tales, including those about the small, supernatural beings (of which, supposedly, a small majority of Iceland’s population believes exists). Whether your supporters go out after and search for Tolkien’s One Ring is up to them.

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Arizona is For Everyone

January 23, 2020
Hot. Cacti. Tumbleweeds. If there was a “Family Feud”-style ranking of the words most associated with the state of Arizona, those three might be at the top. But what should make that list: Sports Experiences. Natural Beauty. Relaxation.

Arizona can be a tremendous destination for many different types of traveler, so we’ve broken down each of the cities and paired activities in the Copper State that appear in our Destinations of Excellence catalog. From the surprising size of Phoenix to the natural wonders of Sedona, the state has a little something for everyone.

Let’s start with Phoenix, the state’s capital and largest city. People on the coast often underestimate Phoenix’s size; the city is the fifth largest in the country, with an estimated 1.6 million residents, and it’s the largest metropolis to also be a state capital. It doesn’t always feel that big, due to a low population density and a large network of suburbs, but when it comes to nightlife, museums, and fun, it rivals any of the country’s biggest cities.

The nearby suburbs provide many of the attractions that appear in our Destinations of Excellence catalog. Avondale, for instance, is the home of Phoenix Raceway, which will host NASCAR’s Championship Weekend late in 2020. That track also is where the Mario Andretti Racing Experience takes place, with visitors able to get behind the wheel of either a NASCAR or Indy-style vehicle for some turns around the track.

On the east side of Phoenix, opposite Avondale, is the city of Mesa, which is home of an aerial experience bar none. Fighter Combat International will get your donors in the air, flying planes and even simulating combat, competing for “Top Gun” honors. Combine that with plane acrobatics (barrel roll to your heart’s content) and even a film-worthy flyby of the flight tower, and anyone looking to let out their Maverick or Goose spirit will leap at the chance to bid on a trip to Mesa.

Scottsdale is practically next door to Mesa, and may be best known for its resorts, its restaurants and its golf. It’s why two of our packages to the city involve gift cards that will cover green fees at major courses like the TPC Scottsdale, host of the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open (considered a fan favorite of a tournament). It’s also a great city for relaxation, with spas, nightlife, and a thriving art scene.

But while the Phoenix area has plenty of different experiences, it’s possible to get away from it all, as well. For a trip into the heart of wellness, consider offering our trip to Sedona. While the city has earned a reputation over the years as a home for new-age philosophies, it’s also a great place for spa pampering and gorgeous sight-seeing against a backdrop of red rocks and blue skies. Your donors can take a jeep tour through the terrain during the day, then relax with a spa trip into the evening.

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Fine Art for Refined Travelers

January 15, 2020
They’re weatherproof, they’re comfortable and they’re year-round: Fine art museums and galleries are not just spontaneous detours during a walk around a new city, but reasons themselves to travel. An art history major can see their studies come alive, and the novice can open themselves up to the masters of the form – which can spark a lifelong passion.

Most of our favorite destinations are widely known for more than one aspect. And for some, the local art scene – modern or otherwise – can be as big a magnet as a landmark, a food culture, or any other travel inspiration. If you’ve got donors looking to look at canvases, sculptures and other fine art around the world, these trips can make both their wanderlust and your non-profit happy.

Let’s start with the obvious: Paris is an art lover’s dream in so many different ways. Our travel packages can take your donors inside the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Centre George Pompidou (home of the Musee National d’Art Moderne). But there’s so much more, including galleries like Modus, Galerie Xippas, and Bugada & Cargnel. The opportunity for unique interaction is plentiful here; the Belleville artists’ studios, for instance, have open house days at the end of each May, where guests can see work and talk with the creators.

If the work of the Renaissance is more your donors’ speed, Florence, Italy is a must-see. The collection of the Medici family alone, with works from Michelangelo, Botticelli and Da Vinci, is worth the long flight; the Uffizi Gallery, the home of that assortment of pieces, is one of the most visited art museums in the world. Florence is also home to Michelangelo’s David, which sits at the Academia Gallery. Of course, like any other great art city rooted in a particular tradition, Florence also has a youthful modern art scene that seeks to deconstruct and rebel against what came before; the Centre for Contemporary Culture at Palazzo Strozzi is much more Al Weiwei than Raphael.

Finally, if you can get someone to stop thinking about Miami’s nearby beaches or amazing restaurant scene, they may at least mention Art Basel. The annual celebration of all things artistic take place in three different cities, with the American version in South Florida and usually held in the winter. But by hosting such an internationally-known event, the city has become a magnet for other artists as well. Art Basel’s presence has led to Miami Art Week, which features Basel alongside several other festivals. But local galleries like Locust Projects and the Bakehouse Art Complex are there year-round to serve art fans.

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Travel Trends for 2020

January 09, 2020
2020 still sounds like a year in the future, doesn’t it? It sounds like a number we were never supposed to reach, one that will always be on the horizon. Yet, last week we made it one-fifth of the way through the 21st century.

The changes in travel over the last two decades have been tremendous, for both the good and the bad. It is easier than ever to book trips, thanks to the internet, but it’s harder to get to the destination, thanks to the added security put in place after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But as we head into 2020, there are more changes coming. Here are a few of the trends that will make the year, and corresponding destinations or trips that will allow you to maximize the potential of your gala fundraising auction.

Motion-Based Travel: Forbes is using this slightly awkward term for one of the trends it sees coming – travel that builds in the chance for walking, hiking and running. When winter turns to spring, some of the best skiing destinations become great hiking cities, and walkable metropolises like New York and Boston allow travelers to stay on two legs throughout the trip.

Go Climate-Neutral: Many of the travel trends for 2020 are as much about how we travel as to where we’re traveling. An example: With companies making it easier to buy carbon offsets, many younger travelers in particular are very conscious of the type of ecological footprint they’re leaving. Combine that with the “staycation” and it might be that younger supporters are interested in bidding on trips close to home – especially if they have a great experiential hook (like game or theater tickets, private tours, etc.).

Ancestral Tourism: Traveling for the sake of discovering the family’s history has been on the rise consistently since home DNA kits started tracing bloodlines back generations. If you’ve got supporters who are constantly talking about their Ancestry.com results, a trip to the Old Country (particularly Ireland or Scotland) might catch their attention.

Family Travel – At All Ages: Parents don’t just travel with their young kids. According to the guidebook experts at Frommer’s, vacations shared between parents and their adult children are on the uptick. Whether its four tickets on a cruise or a villa in the Italian countryside, recreating childhood vacations (now with a lot less fighting and crying, we assume) has become a favorite way of spending time with the family.

Hotel Holidays – According to the Millennial whisperers at PopSugar, a greater number of younger people are heading on the road for holidays, going to resorts and elsewhere rather than having someone (a parent or friend) host. We’ve talked regularly about favorite destinations for certain celebrations – combine the right place with the right accommodations and your youthful supporters might be interested.

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Thank You, 2019!

December 26, 2019
It’s the time of the year for those year-end (and, as a special treat for 2019, decade-end) lists. But while we might not be able to tell you what was the best movie or best album of the decade, we can look back at what the 2010s have meant to us, and what we look forward to in the future.

The world of fundraising has changed a great deal over the course of the decade. The 2010s started in the midst of a questionable economic recovery, which created a need to reach out to smaller donors. The internet helped with crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter, but it was still a tough time in philanthropy.

However, as the economy recovered, so did the giving. Organizations raised more than $425 billion in 2018, up more than 45 percent from the 2010 number. Online giving has seen an increase as well, making it a great place for small donations in particular – the average online gift was $128 in 2017, and 47 percent of Millennials gave through an organization’s website.

As we end our 25th year, we’re proud to look back on this decade, yes, but we’re thankful most of all. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., it has never been about us, but about building a business that does a world of good for all. Together, with our friends in the non-profit world, we’ve raised over a billion dollars for charitable causes all over North America.

As we think about our future endeavors, goals, and direction for 2020, and commit to our resolutions, let’s collectively focus on spreading goodwill and fundraising success all over the world. Thank you for a fantastic 2019, and we wish you and your families a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

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Five Reasons Why: Amsterdam

December 18, 2019
Six years ago, Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, ranked eighth in Europe in terms of popularity among tourists. It was behind some of the most famous cities of the Old World – London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona, for examples.

And while those rankings haven’t changed much, the numbers behind them have. In 2018, almost 17 million tourists came to the city in 2018, a massive amount considering that Amsterdam itself has less than a million residents. And those visitors aren’t just Brits looking for a good time in the city’s “coffee shops.” There’s plenty for those interested in art, culture, and history to see.

Looking to send donors to Amsterdam? Here’s five reasons why they should want to go.

…the Art: It shouldn’t surprise you that the home of the Vincent van Gogh Museum has both tremendous art collections and a host of new artists pushing their mediums forward. Rijksmuseum has a massive archive of works – more than 650,000 pieces! – from creators like Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer. The Van Gogh Museum has the largest inventory of works by the painter in the world. On the more modern side, the Moco Museum has an exhibit of Banksy’s street art, and small galleries throughout the city are wonderful stops along walks.

…the Cycle Culture:
There are more than 320 miles of dedicated cycle lanes in Amsterdam, and more bicycles in the city than people. Visitors would be remiss to not set out on a bike ride to see the city at ground level. Rental bicycle shops are plentiful, and there are even motorized bikes for those who might not have the stamina of a two-wheel regular.

…the Canals: Often considered some of the most beautiful views in the city, the three main canals that form four half-circles in what UNESCO named a World Heritage Site in 2010. Those canals have been a sort of outline along which the city has built for more than 300 years. Plenty of cities have been described as “the Venice of the north” before, but in few of those towns are the waterways as important as they are here.

…the Architecture: The houses along those fantastic canals are often from the 17th and 18th centuries, but there are plenty of interesting buildings throughout in the city. That includes Amstelkring, a “hidden” church in the “red light district,” preserved to look like it did in the 1700s, and Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest church and a Gothic stunner that sits practically next door.

…the Beauty of the Netherlands: With buses and trains able to take visitors around the country, the city makes a great home base for tourists who want to take in all of the sights. From the country’s national parks to the world-famous windmills of Kinderdijk (and, really, all over Holland), beauties both natural and man-made make for wonderful adventures – and jealous friends and family back home.

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On Giving

December 12, 2019
The end-of-the-year fundraising sprint has begun. Non-profits all over the country are sending out email blasts, running raffles, holding galas and doing everything under the sun to get the final donations of the year during what is traditionally America’s most giving year; an estimated 30 percent of donor gifts come in December, much larger than the share of any other month.
But rather than zoom in on what to do to supercharge your fundraising this month, or even look at year-end donation trends as a whole, let’s go back to basics: Why do donors give? And what do their donations mean to us, both in the non-profit sector and as a society as a whole?
For your supporters, there are plenty of reasons to give. For some, especially at this time of year, it might be tax-related, like to offset income somewhere else. While it might not be the most romantic of notions, it certainly helps boost that year-end budget.
But for the vast majority of donors, the biggest reason to give is the cause. The non-profit world in America is indispensable, and one of the reasons is that it does more to zero in on one particular problem, one riddle to solve, better than any government agency or free-market for-profit company. Your supporters want to help right that wrong, to be a part of the solution. And they’ll help through any vehicle they can – direct donation, silent auction bids, raffle tickets, and plenty of others.
Of course, in order to donate, they want to know that yours is the non-profit to which to give. Your track record, your history of success, can be the most eye-catching element of your appeal.
And what do charities do with that money? In 2015, the non-profit sector made up almost a trillion dollars of the U.S. economy (more than five percent of the overall total. More than a trillion dollars of revenue went to the more than 38,000 non-profits in the health sector – what would America’s health care system look like without charity? Three in ten donations went to religious non-profits; if churches could not declare themselves non-profits, how many would be able to stay open?
Of course, charities should be measured less by the money they draw and more by the good they do. Food banks (here and abroad), refugee resettling, water testing, animal protection, and so many more good works are made possible by giving. The world is a better place because of the work done by non-profits around the worlds, filling in the gaps created by neglect in one form or another.
For some, fundraising is a little more of a chore than a joy. But without auction committees, board members reaching out to donors, and every other action taken in pursue of funding, charities couldn’t do their work. Giving – and motivating giving – is where it all starts.

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Why Holiday Travel?

December 04, 2019
When it comes to travel, December is best known for going home. Clichés like “home for the holidays” and “home is where the heart is” get worn out on local news broadcasts, and local bars fill with returning out of-towners for drinks and mingling with faces from the past.

But today, trends are changing. Now, many are seeing the end of the year as a prime opportunity to get out of town to travel somewhere new. And with those trips come fundraising possibilities, by auctioning off one of our no-risk travel packages at your gala event.

The key is coming up with the right one, and this is where talking to big donors before an event is important. Some may already have a destination picked out, which makes your job easy. Others, though, may have a reason to travel, but not a place to travel. For those less decisive, ask them why they want to go on an excursion over the season. We’ve got some suggestions, based on the most common answers.

If your supporters want to travel…

…for culture: No matter the weather, it’s tough to find a time of year during which New York is not an attractive option. Broadway often hits its peak attendance during the holiday season, but our VIP packages for shows like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Hadestown” not only get your donors through the door, but also can let them dine with some of the stars! Stay away from patio seating, though.

…for education: There’s only one day out of the year on which the Smithsonian museums of Washington, D.C. are not open, and it’s December 25. But other than allowing for a Christmas Day break, these institutes welcome guests throughout the season. For families in particular, it’s hard to run out of amazement walking from exhibit to exhibit, building to building, along the National Mall. The kids (and the parents, too!) will learn a lot in an atmosphere that still feels far from school.

…for sun: Miami can be rough on tourists during the summer, with high temperatures and humidity. But by the time December rolls around, the daily temperature averages 76 degrees, and only loses about ten degrees at night. In addition, December is one of the city’s driest months, with only seven days on average featuring rain (compared to 18 days in September). For the sun-starved, it’s an oasis.

…for shopping:
Beverly Hills is synonymous with designer stores, and our trips to the city-within-a-city includes gift cards for one of several favorite shops. During the holiday season, those stores are filled with pre- and post-Christmas sales, meaning those vouchers go a lot further in terms of purchasing power.

…for nature: They’ve got big coats, and they’re not afraid to use them. If you’ve got donors who are the sturdy, outdoorsy types, the winter wonderland of Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies should be on their holiday lists. Skiing and snowboarding are obvious draws, but the tremendous hiking, helicopter tours and gondola rides are breathtaking (and make beautiful backdrops for next year’s holiday cards).

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Taking the Family on the Road

November 27, 2019
Tomorrow, families across America (related by blood or by choice) will settle in for Thanksgiving dinner, enjoying both a copious amount of food and the company of their loved ones. And while the coziness of home can be tough to beat, there’s a good argument to be made that a week of travel with the entire family is as good for the soul as staying put. While there will be 31 million people in airports this week, less than four million will be heading abroad, according to Travel + Leisure.

That means that Thanksgiving week is a good time, for instance, to head to Italy. Our “A Transcendent Taste of Tuscany” package includes a super-sized villa that can host up to ten people. And while the winter in the Tuscany region is known for getting chilly, the average lows tend to stick around 40 degrees – perfect weather for bundling, but not for freezing. And if the outside is too cold, the entire extended family can stay in and enjoy a warm meal prepared in-villa by a master chef.

Want a destination a little warmer? Try Costa Rica! The Central American country features highs in the mid-80s and lows in the low-70s during late November, making it great weather for exploring. And with an eight-person villa through our “Revel in the Wonders of the Rich Coast” package, the entire family can go on a hike, ride bikes together, and even explore volcanos. (For those less adventurous, there’s also relaxing at the beach, or enjoying a meal in the villa, cooked up by a private chef.)

We also love St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, as a full family getaway. If the idea of playing touch football during a snowstorm doesn’t motivate the donors, how about having a catch with the kids (or grandkids) on the white sand beaches of the largest of the Virgin Islands? The eight-person, four-bedroom villa has its own pool, for casual relaxation, and is near several unique experiences, like the Soggy Dollar (where guests have to actually swim to the restaurant – there’s no dock for this island bar) and the reef that nearly surrounds the uninhabited Sandy Split Island.

Finally, if distance is no obstacle during the holiday week, there’s an adventure down under waiting. November is in the build-up to southern hemisphere summer, and in Queenstown, New Zealand that means temps in the mid-60s during the day – perfect for a stroll around neighboring Lake Wakatipu, a tour of a local winery (the region is becoming known for its Pinot Noir), or a round of golf. Back at the three-bedroom villa, there’s a private tennis court and a private lake jetty to enjoy.

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Five Reasons Why: Chicago

November 20, 2019
New York was the most popular travel destination in the United States in 2018, according to the Huffington Post and TripAdvisor. Beaches (Maui at #2, Oahu at #4), gambling (Las Vegas at #3) and Mickey Mouse (Orlando at #5) came next. But sixth on that list was a city without any of those built-in advantages: Chicago, the City of the Big Shoulders, the Windy City.

There’s so much to do here that culling the list to just five entries feels like underselling the city. But we’ve narrowed it down so that you can use these as talking points to sell your donors on big bids for a trip to see all Chicago has to offer.

The Sports: Some of the country’s most iconic sports franchises represent the Windy City, and those teams play in some of the best-known arenas and stadiums, as well. Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, has also become a regular venue for major soccer matches, while the United Center was home to one of the best basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan. But the jewel in the city’s crown is Wrigley Field, the 105-year old mecca to baseball and home to the Chicago Cubs. It’s a bucket list destination for fans who love sports’ histories.

The Shopping: The Magnificent Mile, a stretch of Michigan Avenue that is home to massive stores and numerous places to shop, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s (our “Chicago’s Shopping or Sensational Entertainment!” package includes the option of a gift card to one of those three retailers). Designer stores like Armani and Burberry sit alongside popular brands like Nike and Apple – and there’s still room for quirky outlets like Tails in the City, a “luxury pet boutique” for dogs and cats. If you can buy it, you can probably buy it on the Magnificent Mile.

The Lake: Lake Michigan, the only of the Great Lakes to be entirely on the United States’ side of the border, is a defining figure of the city’s geography. It’s what provides the otherwise-landlocked Chicago its beaches, the scenery for the wonderful drive along Lake Shore Drive, and the Navy Pier, an entertainment complex along the water. In fact, one could have an exciting, itinerary-filling vacation in the city without ever being more than a couple of blocks from Lake Michigan!

The Blues: Muddy Waters. Howlin’ Wolf. Buddy Guy. Chicago is one of the most important blues cities in the country, and the sound has influenced musicians around the world (The Rolling Stones started thanks to a shared love of artists like Waters, for instance). Music-loving donors can check out some of America’s most-beloved blues venues, take one of many tours that lead visitors to the genre’s historical roots, or dig into the stacks at one of the city’s great record stores.

….and Pizza!
Chicago deep dish pizza is one of the best-known iterations of the Italian dish in the world. But the city has plenty of pizzaiolos making pies from around the world, too. Our “Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago” travel package includes an Original Pizza Tour, which will allow your supporters to get a wide sampling of what Chicago has to offer aficionados. No matter an auction winner’s favorite varietal of pizza, they’ll find a great version of it here.
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End-of-Year Donation Drive? Let Us Help!

November 13, 2019
According to Charity Navigator, a staggering 31 percent of the money donated to non-profits online in 2017 came in the month of December, and 12 percent came in the final three days of the year. Your charity’s end-of-year fundraising could be an important part of next year’s budget. And we can help with that.

Our non-profit fundraising travel packages are perfect for the holiday season and can make both great gifts and enticing warm-weather getaways for your donors. Incorporating them into your final fundraising plans for the year can help supercharge giving during this critical time.

Our trips are likely best known as lots in fundraising auctions, and at the end of the year, their power becomes even more evident. Take an audience in the holiday spirit, add the chance to fulfill a lifelong travel dream, and top it with a partial tax deduction, and the recipe is there for big, big bids. To raise even more money, reach out to some of your big donors in advance and see where they’re thinking about traveling in 2020. Matching the trip you offer with the biggest desires of your supporters means guaranteeing that there’s plenty of action at the gala auction!

Anyone who has received scratch lottery tickets as a gift knows that fun games of chance can make excellent stocking stuffers. But it doesn’t have to be gas station scratchers, either; by holding your own raffle, you can encourage your donors who might be on the lookout for last-minute gifts to give more to your charity. The chance to win a sum of money is great, of course, but the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a dream destination? The chance to meet the stars of a favorite musical, or seats at a big sporting event? Those may be even more fun to think about.

(Please note: Check local and state ordinances on raffles to determine legality.)

No matter which way you use a Mitch-Stuart travel package during the holiday season to turbo boost your fundraising, the time to act is now! Reach out to a Travel Expert today to get started.

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The Holidays, Deconstructed

November 08, 2019
The fake cobwebs have been packed away, the candy has been eaten (and the following sugar rushes have crashed), and the pumpkins have been thrown out or smashed. It is now time for the cold-weather holidays, those associated with the end of the year.

But while many might associate Christmas with snow and Thanksgiving with cuddling up on a couch under several blankets for that tryptophan-induced nap, there are other elements to each holiday that combine to create the whole experience. And as your donors are preparing for their own gatherings, you can offer them travel packages at your non-profit fundraising auction or raffle that will highlight their favorite parts of the upcoming celebrations.

For some, time off at the holidays is the first chance in weeks to decompress. Whether it’s younger people with school finals or end-of-year rushes for professionals, November and December can feel like too little time for too much work. For them, a trip available at auction with a strong spa component might get their attention. So many of the accommodations in our Destinations of Excellence® catalog have on-site spas, but trips like “The Essence and Spirit of Aloha” and “Ultimate Desert Oasis” include gift cards as well. If the goal of taking time off around the holidays is to relax, there are few better places to do so than on a masseuse’s table.

For others, the chance to relax means the chance to watch some sports. The NFL has a monopoly on Thanksgiving, for instance, with three games, while the NBA’s Christmas Day slate has become appointment television for many. And New Year’s Day has long been the traditional date for some of the best of college football’s bowl games. With one of our sports packages, your donors and fanatics can go from the couch to the game, with tickets available for any regular season NFL or NBA game, or admission to any bowl game.

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Five Reasons Why: Austin

October 30, 2019
It’s often joked that Austin is like an island in Texas, and that’s true to some extent. The state’s capital feels completely separate in many ways from the rest of the state.

But whether Austin is representative of the rest of the state, it certainly is a travel destination that attracts attention from around the globe. If you’ve got donors that would like to head to Texas in the future, here are five reasons why Austin should be the top choice.

The Barbecue: Franklin Barbecue. We’ll say more, because we really should, but the brisket at Franklin attracts visitors from around the country, which creates long lines (and absolutely no cutting – the only person ever allowed to step straight to the front was then-President Barack Obama). If you don’t want to wait in the up-to-seven-hour line outside of Franklin, though, there’s still such a tremendous selection, ranging from food trucks to roadside shacks to proper sit-down restaurants. People battle over regional BBQ recipes, but no one can deny that Austin belongs in the conversation of great American barbecue cities.

The Music: Austin has two of the country’s biggest music festivals, with springtime’s South by Southwest and fall’s Austin City Limits, both of which welcome some of music’s biggest stars. But it doesn’t take a three-figure ticket to enjoy the city’s music scene; there are more than 200 venues in Austin, including regular bars, restaurants that employ jazz and blues musicians, and even open park space. Like jazz in New Orleans, there’s a band around every corner in the Texas capital.

The Downtown: If your donors go to Austin for the food, they’re going out on Sixth Street. If they’re going for craft beer? Sixth Street. Music? Sixth Street. Downtown Austin is the focal point of “young” Austin, and it’s a walkable treat, with great restaurants, bars and concert venues. It’s also the home of several festivals throughout the year.

The Outdoors: It might be a state capital, but Austin isn’t too big a city to have paved over all of its outdoor attractions. Lady Bird Lake is downtown-adjacent and a favorite for locals and tourists alike, while Zilker Park is home to attractions like the Zilker Botanical Garden and the public Barton Springs Pool. But the most underrated views of the city sit at the top of Mount Bonnell. A short hike to the top there, combined with a sunset, takes visitors to a postcard-worthy vista.

The … Weird: Austin definitely sits as its own space within Texas. The “Keep Austin Weird” movement still survives, even as the city grows and changes. There’s the Cathedral of Junk, made up of found objects in the creator’s backyard, is still an offbeat favorite, as is the street art at HOPE Outdoor Gallery, which sprang up in the ruins of a failed condo development. And for a Halloween-appropriate treat, see the largest bat colony in the world under the Congress Avenue Bridge (just bring a poncho, to keep the bat guano off of you!).

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Falling into Fundraising

October 23, 2019
From a practical standpoint, the fall is the time of year during which your donors are looking ahead to end of year giving. According to statistics from NonProfit Hub, more than half of all organizations start their end-of-year fundraising asks in October. In order to make the “touches,” or contacts, needed to draw in big donations, it’s better to be reaching out to potential donors before the onslaught of the holiday season.

So, why hold a fundraising auction in the fall?

Not every dollar spent on an auction item can be deducted from a supporter’s taxes, but even if the returns to the donor are minimal, this is the time of year where they’re more likely to give. And if they get a once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity at the same time, then it’s even better.

Also, the fall is often when donors and their families will be sitting down to look at their calendar for the next year. Vacation plans are rarely made a couple of weeks before a trip; especially for families with children, it can take months to make sure calendars line up and work and school schedules allow for an escapade. Offering them the chance to at least lock down the location and duration of a big 2020 vacation now can be a huge bonus to your supporters, one for which some will be willing to pay a premium.

The season also contains some great excuses for gift giving. Maybe your donors aren’t regular travelers, but have relatives that like to see the world? Or maybe your supporters are looking for a special Christmas, Hanukkah or other seasonal gift for friends? Generosity can often feel like it’s peaking in the fall and giving your donors a chance to be generous with the gift of travel is often welcome.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, it’s fun! This is the season of parties, after all, and equating your non-profit with a good time will only help promote loyalty for your cause. With all the holidays in fall, theme options are endless, and even black-tie affairs feel a little bit more formal during the season.

Your fall auction or event won’t “compete” with your end-of-year ask. In fact, if played right, it will remind your donors of why they love your charity in the first place, and just before they start thinking about those last donations for the fiscal year.

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Staying Green on the Road

October 16, 2019
“Ecotourism” is a term thrown around easily among both travel professionals and, increasingly, travelers themselves. While its definition is vague, it tends to be associated with trips to remote locations and natural wonders, stressing sustainable actions and conservation of the local environment.

We offer our fair share of “ecotourism”-like packages in our Destinations of Excellence catalog, but green travel is a passion of ours whether the plan is ziplining in the jungle or touring New York City by subway. There are so many ways for you and your donors to lighten environmental footprints while away from home; with these few suggestions here, we want to inspire your donors and future travelers to take thoughtful, eco-friendly actions while seeing the world.

The first steps in being more eco-friendly while on the road actually take place at home. Before leaving, make sure to turn off all the lights, turn off the thermostat, and recycle any materials used to package your new travel trinkets. In addition, unplug electric items that will sit at home unused; did you know that, according to a 2014 Los Angeles Times article, a cable box uses nearly as much power when it’s turned off as it does when it’s on?

Also, before leaving, try to make sure that your flight only has one takeoff and one landing. This is only so much in a traveler’s control, of course, but the start and end of each flight use the most fuel. Besides, unless a very long layover allows you to explore a new city, wouldn’t you rather just get to your destination faster?

Upon arrival in your vacation destination, ask yourself a simple question: Do I really need to rent a car? If you’re heading to a city with great public transit, like New York, London, or Washington D.C., you may be able to save both money and emissions by taking trains and buses around. And if your donors are traveling on one of our wine country adventures, much of the day-to-day driving is taken care of by personal (designated!) drivers, as well.

Finally, while you and your donors should try to experience as much as your heart desires while on vacation, try some activities that are more sustainable. Hiking and ziplining can be just as exhilarating as an ATV ride, for instance. And when going out into nature, make sure to leave as little a mark as possible, whether that means staying on posted trails (to not disturb the natural habitat) or using the right sunscreen to protect both your skin and the oceans and reefs.

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Fall Crusin’

October 09, 2019
The stereotypical cruise takes its passengers from beach to beach, with plenty of time to soak up the sun and try a fruity cocktail by the ocean. Bu the big reason for that image is that the stereotypical cruise happens during the spring or summer, when the land-bound are captivated by dreams of coastlines, sun and sand.

However, cruise lines don’t shut down on the fir first day of the fall season. In fact, some of the most popular routes start to come alive when the heat and humidity of the summer starts to fade.

At Mitch-Stuart, we love non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that your donors can utilize year-round. And while some cruises and definitions don’t fit that bill, there are others, like those listed below, that may even improve as summer gives way to fall.

In America, New England is synonymous with “gorgeous fall views.” And the easiest way to survey the entire region might be aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise, with our “Voyage Through the Vast Waters of the Atlantic.” With off-boat excursions up and down the coast, your donors can pull out their chunk sweaters and look out from lighthouses, walk through historic cities, and take in the views from their Veranda stateroom. Leaf peeping has never been as easy as it is from the deck of a well-appointed cruise ship.

In Europe, cruise ship tourism starts to peak in September in the Provence region of France. Heading down the Rhone River, your supporters will see the countryside’s vineyards, castles and villages. And the excursions here are fascinating: Take in “Le Pont du Gard,” the famed Roman aqueduct, Avignon and the Palace of the Popes, and even a ranch in Camargue, complete with French cowboys. And considering that the ships taking on the Rhone are so much smaller than the massive luxury liners, it will be impossible for your donors to get lost in the crowd.

Even traditional “summer” cruise routes can make for stunning fall voyages. A trip with our “Savor the Majestic Mediterranean” starts in Rome and heads all the way to Barcelona. With possible stops in France, Croatia and Greece along the way, the southern Mediterranean is well represented, and it’s beautiful at all times of the year. Between the food, the culture and the history available on each excursion, your donors will hardly notice the lack of beach time.

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Falling for Europe

October 02, 2019
Even with the current uncertainties surrounding Brexit, travel to Europe has rarely been more accessible to Americans. There are more budget airlines flying between the United States and the “Old World” than ever before, and the dollar is near historic strength against the Euro. There’s still a tendency, though, to think of Europe as a place to visit over the summer – to sunbathe on Spanish beaches, or to picnic in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

While the weather may be more unpredictable, the fall is a fantastic season to visit the continent. It’s the shoulder season, meaning that crowds are a bit smaller and lines are a bit shorter. The natural beauty on display may peak in the early autumn, too. But the best reason to visit Europe during the fall is that it comes alive with rituals, events, and festivals. If you’ve got donors looking to head across the Atlantic Ocean, you can use some of these fall itinerary possibilities as selling points.

The European soccer season may kick off in mid-August, but it’s the fall when the action starts to really pick up. Being in the stands for a Premiership (England), La Liga (Spain) or Serie A (Italy) match is unlike any experience in sports: the singing, the chanting, the displays, all adding up to an adrenaline-filled afternoon. And some of the biggest games are in some of our favorite destinations, like London, Barcelona, and Rome, meaning that post-game pubs and restaurants are tremendous, as well.
Oktoberfest may have started in Munich, but it’s made its way around the world – and some of Europe’s biggest cities get in on the act. Celebrations in Madrid, Paris, and London are spaced out throughout the fall, so though the “official” party ends in early October, visitors can enjoy German beer and food all the way through November.

Music festivals are thought of as summer occurrences, with major events like Glastonbury, Primavera Sound, and Ultra Europe each falling during the season. But fall has its share, too, including a massive one in a very popular travel destination. Iceland Airwaves takes place in early November in Reykjavik, and it attracts some of the world’s hottest up-and-coming acts, alongside artists who are a part of the city’s fascinating music scene.

But the most famous of Europe’s fall traditions may take place while we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s from the middle of November through December 25 that the continent’s Christmas markets swing into action. These bazaars can be found throughout Europe, and they are both a convenient way to do some holiday shopping and take in local culture. In Paris, for instance, one market alone has more than 300 booths under the Grande Arche de la Defense, while in Madrid, one of Spain’s most famous markets is set up in Plaza Mayor, which is worth a visit on its own.

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Five Reasons Why: Montreal

September 25, 2019
It’s often said that Vancouver, by proximity, feels a lot like Seattle. Toronto is sometimes used by film production companies as a stand-in for New York City. But there may be no American equivalent for the beauty and the culture of Montreal. There’s no match for its bilingual nature, either, nor for “The Main,” which is what locals call Boulevard Saint-Laurent and where Francophile Montreal once met Anglophile Montreal. It’s a beautiful destination to visit, filled with attractions, gorgeous city walks, and great food and drink options.

Want to offer your donors a trip to Montreal? Here are five reasons why they’d be lucky to bid on such a prize.

History: Montreal has a well-earned reputation for feeling like a European city plopped down in North America. Founded in 1642 by French colonists, the occasional cobble-stone streets and the stunning, Old World-esque churches give a feel that is as much Paris as it is Toronto. It was home to the 1967 World Expo and the 1976 Olympics. Combine that with Montreal’s bilingual leanings, and it’s the closest one can come to Europe without leaving the continent.

The Underground City: How can you get your donors to go to a city that might be defined by cold weather? The Underground City is a shopping favorite, but it’s also a great way of getting around the downtown area in the winter. It runs more than 20 miles, including several subway stations and even the Bell Centre, home of the NHL’s Montreal Canadians. When those temperatures dip below 0 degrees Celsius, any visitor can find refuge – and still get around – by going underground.

Festivals: Each year, Montreal hosts scores of street festivals (as many as 90, by some counts). Whether its local art, theater, comedy or music, aficianados of nearly every strip get a weekend or a recurring night to shine somewhere in the city. Some of the biggest include POP Montreal, a five-night music affair that is headlined this year by artist Laurie Anderson and gospel singer Mavis Staples, Montreal Jazz Festival (considered by some to be the biggest jazz fest in the world) and Just for Laughs, a comedy festival that brings in performers from around the world and features a large number of free shows.

Public Art: In terms of Canadian cities, Montreal may be the street art capital. There’s an annual mural festival that brings artists from around the world to the city, but Montreal is open for new art all year, and street artists like D*Face and others come here to take advantage. Walking tours of the city’s major mural spots are easy to find. It’s also become a way of memorializing the city’s greats, like…

Leonard Cohen: The legendary poet, writer and musician was raised here, and many of the city’s sights made their ways into his songs; when he sang about how the sun poured down like honey on the “Lady of the Harbor” in his classic “Suzanne,” he was talking about the angel above Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. He maintained a house here along Boulevard Saint-Laurent, otherwise known as “The Main,” until his death, and was a regular at local bagel shops and delis. And his visage can be seen on the sides of two different buildings in the city. Both before and after his death in 2016, Cohen’s home has had nothing but love for its son.

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Harvest Season

September 18, 2019
The changing colors of the leaves is one of our favorite sites of the fall. But when it comes to travelling during the season, it’s important to think about the other senses – specifically, taste.

Fall’s eye candy may be nice, but farm-to-table restaurants, food festivals, and even wineries show that the taste of fall comes from the harvest. Those crops that have grown throughout the spring and summer are ready to be plucked, picked or otherwise gathered, and in some regions that means celebrations as big as any national holiday.

If your donors want a fall escape, offer them a non-profit fundraising auction travel package to one of these harvest-happy destinations.

Maine should be on all the must-see lists for the fall as it is; the foliage views in the state are spectacular. In addition, though, Portland hosts one of America’s best harvest festivals each year. Harvest on the Harbor takes place each fall, usually in October, just an hour and change away from Boothbay. Kicking off with a chef and farmer harvest dinner, the event includes oysters, spirits, and a ten-course lunch to determine who is the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year. Go hungry!

Harvest on the Harbor is not the only place that offers travelers the opportunity to eat the bounty. A trio of our favorite southern destinations are perfect to do just that, with farm-to-table restaurants leading the way. In Asheville, The Dining Room at the Biltmore Estate not only received a coveted rating of Four Stars from Forbes Travel Guide, but also operates its own field-to-table program, growing vegetables and ranching cattle on site. In Charleston, restaurants like Husk and Fig change menus regularly depending on what’s in season and what can be sourced locally. And in Music City, 5th & Taylor, 2|22 (the restaurant of the Country Music Hall of Fame), and the aptly-named The Farm House bring the food of the farms and fields surrounding Nashville straight to diners’ plates.

And while your donors won’t be able to, say, harvest grapes and immediately drink their alcoholic final forms, harvest season – both here and abroad – is a great time to visit wine country. In Napa Valley, grape picking and stomping let your supports get a hands-and-feet-on experience, while the area’s restaurants are flooded with local produce.  In France, there are harvest festivals throughout the country; it seems like every winery of any size has their own!  Be careful, though, as some wineries are so small as to need all hands picking during September, meaning there’s no one left to pour wine tastings to visitors. If your donors have a particular region in mind, they’ll want to do their homework to see who’s open for business during this very busy season.

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Ditch the Thermometer

September 11, 2019
Before a vacation, there are two websites that become “must check” for travelers: The airline’s home page for travel delays, and a favored weather forecast. Worrying about the weather before hitting the road is a regular feature of travel, and with good reason: Spend a beach week indoors because of rain or a ski vacation at the chalet because there’s no snow, and it’s easy to believe that the trip was a waste.

There are ways, though, of avoiding weather-based anxiety before you travel. Some destinations work year-round, unfazed by atmospheric concerns, for multiple reasons. If you want to save your donors this one type of pre-trip stress, offer them a chance to head to one of these great destinations with one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages.

People connect New York City with the outdoors in two separate ways: Central Park, and the busy city sidewalks. But beyond that, what draws tourists to the Big Apple each year is a full roster of indoor activities. Most theater (aside from Shakespeare in the Park), museums and other artistic spaces don’t suffer from bad weather, and the city’s amazing restaurant scene features few patio meals. And with the omnipresent taxis and ride share vehicles, New York – even in the gloomiest of weather – is navigable. Whether it’s the middle of a muggy Manhattan summer or a snowy winter day, the city is a destination unlike any other.

In other locales, the seasonal weather change can alter the itinerary of a visitor – but for the better. In Telluride, Colorado, and other skiing locations, a winter down the powdery white slopes can turn into a summer of hiking, mountain biking, and camping. Telluride, in particular, displays different sides of beauty throughout the year, with green summers (thanks to the snow runoff), colorful falls and then snowy winters. All of that comes with a low amount of rainfall, too; the ski town only gets 2.7 inches of rain at its heaviest, and June in Telluride might be the most gorgeous month to go; it has an average high temperature of 72 and only four days with precipitation.

Of course, the easiest way to weatherproof a vacation may be to head to a place where the weather doesn’t change. Southern California cities like Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego are relatively consistent year-round: the wine country of Santa Barbara averages 283 sunny days a year, L.A. comes in at 284, and San Diego has 266. Those aren’t the highest totals in the country, but unlike cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, heat rarely gets oppressive in Southern California. These three cities are 365-day outdoor destinations, and they make perfect antidotes for the summertime and wintertime blues.

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Travel-Worthy Rivalries

September 04, 2019
Looking at the schedule, one might reasonably believe that the college football season builds to a crescendo in late December and early January, with the four-team playoff and the national championship game. But to jump forward to the best four teams is to miss the best part – the rivalries.

There may be no more intense set of rivalry games than those involving college teams. With not just students, but alma mater so passionate about their schools, the intensity is unmatched. These are the types of contests for which alumni travel.

Our “The Best of NCAA Games” package can get your donors in to some of the biggest rivalry games in the country. But whether or not they attended one of the schools in question, these five matchups will attract big bids from supporters.

Auburn-Alabama: There may be no better rivalry game in terms of skill level than the Iron Bowl. Nine of the last 11 games played have been one by a team ranked either the second-best or best team in the nation (the others were won by Auburn, ranked fourth for one and sixth for the other). At the ESPYs, the 2013 game was named Best Game of the Year, and its last play (a 109-yard missed field goal return) was named Best Play of the Year.

USC-UCLA: The crosstown rivalry has not been as important in terms of national standings for the past few years, with USC not threatening for a national championship during the decade – and UCLA sometimes struggling to stay above a .500 record. But it’s rare for one city to have two high-profile Division I teams, and it’s even rarer to have important games played in the sunny, late-November weather of Southern California.

Army-Navy: The intra-military game has been contested 119 times, with the first coming 1890 (the Midshipmen among your donor base will be quick to point out that Navy won that affair 24-0). But wins and losses are secondary to most of the country; the yearly celebration is a chance to thank these students for their upcoming service.

Michigan-Ohio State: It’s been one-sided in recent years, with Ohio State winning 15 of the 19 games contested this century, but what is simply known as “The Game” in the upper Midwest still might be college football’s literal biggest rivalry; the teams’ respective home stadiums combine for more than 210,000 seats for spectators.

Harvard-Yale: There are few traditions in college football older than the one between these Ivies. Former presidents have been involved, both on the field and off (most recently, George W. Bush was a cheerleader during his time as a Yalie). The game itself has been one-sided recently, with the Crimson taking 15 of the last 18, but that includes two Yale wins out of the last three games played.

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Five Reasons Why: Washington D.C.

August 28, 2019
The word Washington carries a terrible connotation right now. It’s the hometown of corruption, of division, of what’s wrong with this country.

But for savvy travelers, Washington D.C. is also about what’s right with this country. It’s filled with monuments to difference-makers from history, art of all kinds, protected open space, and even community in the form of live theater.

Want to send your donors to the nation’s capital? Make sure they know at least these five reasons why they should bid on a fundraising auction travel package to Washington D.C.

The Monuments: The National Mall is likely the best-known collection of monuments in the country, but by no way is it the only place in the metro area to pause and to reflex on a life or lives given to service of this country. Across the river in Arlington is the famous U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, depicting the Battle of Iwo Jima, and the African American Civil War Museum and Monument is located almost on top of a Metro stop near Howard University. There are dozens of sculptures, plaques, and other such attractions throughout D.C.

The Museums: There are 17 different Smithsonian museums in the city (including the National Zoo), with 11 centered on the National Mall. The “Castle,” formally named the Smithsonian Institutional Building, is a gorgeous work of architecture along with being the visitor center. The institutions off the Mall are worth seeking out, too, including the Anacostia Community Museum, which covers urban areas, and the National Portrait Gallery. And while it’s not a Smithsonian (which means it does have an entry fee), the International Spy Museum is both fascinating and fun; a gift shop stop here is essential.

The Park: We’ve written about Rock Creek Park before, in our post on urban parks, but it deserves every bit of attention it gets! At twice the size of Central Park in New York, Rock Creek runs from the Maryland border down to the National Zoo. It’s got a little bit of everything: a golf course, a tennis center, a concert space, trails for hiking and biking, and so many picnic areas that a resident could eat outdoors every day for weeks and still not dine at all of them.

The Food: D.C. is a city with great food of every sort. There are big steakhouses, where lobbyists spend big money to buy big influence, sure, but there’s another side to dining here. Because the city attracts people from around the world, the variety of quality dishes is something to behold. Two stand out in particular: D.C. is likely the best place outside of El Salvador to eat pupusas (a flatbread filled with combinations of meats, cheeses and beans), and the Ethiopian restaurants are both authentic and delicious.

The Theater: Ford’s Theatre is a place of solemn history, of course, but it’s also still a working theater space. It’s only one place, though, to take in stage productions in one of the country’s best cities for quality theater. National Theatre tends to produce Broadway touring shows, while Studio Theatre puts up an eclectic mix of new works and Pulitzer-winning classics. One of the city’s best spaces, though, is the experimental Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, which both bring plays from and sends new works to off-Broadway stages regularly.

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Your Regional Labor Day Getaway

August 21, 2019
We’re just a few short days from the final three-day weekend of summer, and it can feel like the last chance to catch a breath before the fall begins. But while that may sound like a good reason to stay home and stumble around the house, instead airlines are expecting record crowds.

Labor Day has grown as a travel holiday over the last few years, but like other long weekends, trips tend to be on the shorter side. And that means that travelers are less likely to want to fly across the country (or across an ocean!) to get to a destination.

The good news: If your donors are looking for a weekend getaway, whether it’s this fall or next year, we’ve got a lot of weekend (or weekend-plus) trips from which to choose. And to make that vacation commute a little shorter, we’ve likely got one in your region of the country, meaning that your supporters will spend less time on the road and more time having fun in one of our great destinations. If they’re looking for ideas, here’s our region-by-region breakdown.


The Big Apple can seem like an overwhelming place to navigate, especially for someone staying in the city for just a long weekend. But having only three days can be beneficial, if your donors plan their itineraries right. By focusing on just one aspect of New York – say, pizza, or delis, or Broadway – your supporters can get a good feeling for what the city has to offer. And when they go home, donors will be able to say, with confidence, where the best slice or sandwich is a city that has perfected both.

MIDWEST: Chicago

Like New York, your supporters could spend a week or longer exploring the big city. But in late August and early September, Chicago shines for an additional great reason: baseball is approaching the playoff race, and that makes for a wonderful time to visit Wrigley Field. Getting some sun while watching the national pastime in one of baseball’s historic stadiums is the epitome of relaxation.

SOUTH: Charleston, South Carolina

If your donors haven’t been to the city that Travel and Leisure has named its top U.S. destination for seven straight years (from 2013 on), late summer is a great time. Yes, it’s still hot, but Charleston has that laid-back southern pace, meaning your supporters can stay cool with a stop at a café, a restaurant or even its beaches. And with another favorite destination, Hilton Head Island, a daytrip away, Charleston is a two-for-one vacation.

ROCKY MOUNTAINS: Telluride, Colorado

It’s known for its snow-related activities (along with its film festival), but Telluride is simply stunning during the late summer and early fall, as well. Topping out at around 70 degrees, the town has perfect weather for hiking, and it’s much easier to get a reservation at Telluride’s top-notch restaurants without the competition from all those skiers.

WEST COAST: Napa Valley, California

It’s the beginning of the peak season in America’s best-known wine region, when the harvest starts to come in. The temperature is still a little high (August and September highs average right around 80 degrees), but when your donors find themselves in a tasting room or a barrel with grapes under their feet, they won’t mind the extra couple of degrees.

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California Dreaming

August 14, 2019
The Mamas and the Papas once sang it loud: “California dreaming, on such a winter’s day.”

But what does that really mean?

California is the third-largest state in America (the second largest in the lower 48), and that means a diverse range of experiences. Want a ‘60s throwback adventure? A beach vacation? A celebrity sighting or two?

If you’ve got supporters who want to take in the Golden State, you want to get them to be more specific. And once they are, you can use this guide to figure out which California destination to offer at your fundraising auction.

Beach Living in San Diego

The California coast is 840 miles long, but some of our favorite beaches are in the San Diego area. It’s a place where each sandy front has its own personality; Mission Beach, for instance, is a little more family-friendly, while Pacific Beach is a great place for younger folks (with an abundance of walkable nightlife options). And with beaches stretching from the U.S.-Mexico border all the way up to Carlsbad within a short drive, your donors will never run out of options.

The Stars Come Out in Los Angeles

The state’s largest city has a lot going for it, but what separates it from the others is its star power. Los Angeles has plenty of ways to see and, in some cases, interact with the celebrities of film, television and music. It’s why so many of our L.A. travel packages focus on awards shows like the Grammys, Emmys, American Music Awards, and even the ESPYs. And with some of your donors’ favorites performing on local theater and comedy stages, they’ll be sure to come back with photos and memories of a lifetime.

Put on Your Ears for Anaheim

There’s plenty to like about Anaheim, sure, but the main reason think of the Orange County city as a tourist destination is Disneyland. The park’s appeal doesn’t lessen with age; big fans of The Mouse can get married on site, too, and there are even special anniversary celebrations. And with the newly opened Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge adventure open, there’s rarely been a more popular time to travel to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Napa, America’s Wine Capital

Get north of San Francisco, and the local economy is seemingly based around wine. Whether it’s Napa or Sonoma, you’re talking about wine country, and traveling to the region means jumping from winery to winery, trying all sorts of different varietals. Make sure to eat beforehand (the amazing restaurants in the region will help with that), and utilize the private drivers offered in many of our area packages.

Seek the Desert Sun in Palm Springs

No city in California screams “winter escape” quite like Palm Springs. With an average January temperature high of 71 degrees, it’s a magnet for people from colder climates who need a week of defrosting. As such, golfers love the city, and Palm Springs has noticed; there are more than 130 golf courses in the general Palm Springs area.

The City by the Bay

If your supporters prefer a more urban experience on vacation, San Francisco may be their spot. The Bay Area’s focal point is much closer to an east coast urban experience than the more sprawling Los Angeles. It’s the most walkable major city in California, and its public transit – including the world-famous cable cars, captured in film and on television too many times to count – makes it navigable for anyone. Find great Golden Gate Bridge views, dine at a tremendous Michelin-starred restaurant, or just walk through the lively streets and explore without an itinerary. With so many options, there is no way to do San Francisco wrong.

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Go Private!

August 08, 2019
The first line, while traveling, is at the airport, waiting to either be dropped off or to park. Then, it’s the security line and the line to board the plane. After the flight, there’s a line to disembark, then a line to rent a car (or to catch a shuttle to public transit), and maybe even a check-in line at the hotel.

By the end of all of it, travelers are done with lines.

That’s just one of the reasons that your donors may want to find a non-profit fundraising auction travel package that goes somewhere without lines, without crowds, and in some cases, without people.

If isolation is what your supporters want, we can help. Some of our favorite travel packages involve privacy in different ways – at attractions, during activities, even at the accommodations. These travel packages “skip the line” in a whole new way.

Whether it’s wineries in Northern California, theaters in New York, or even the Louvre, private tours are great ways to get to know some of the world’s most iconic destinations and attractions, without dealing with the crowds. We’ve got tours of everything from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to Arnold Palmer’s office in Orlando for enthusiasts of every stripe. That means more time with the docent or tour guide to answer questions, more unobstructed photos, and a closer understanding of the environment.

While there usually aren’t “lines” to wade into a river, fewer fishers can often mean more fish. Two of our packages to the Canadian Rockies include private guided fishing experiences. Your donors can spend a half-day out in the water with a local, who will be able to assist both beginners and advanced fisherpeople alike. And if there’s ever a time where privacy or isolation is desired, isn’t it with a fishing rod in hand?

Privacy can extend to the accommodations, as well. In destinations like Belize, Bali, Thailand, and New Zealand, private villas will guarantee that your donors don’t hear any footsteps from above or banging on the wall next door. And since some of these trips also include private chefs preparing meals and/or on-call private drivers, your supporters can spend large swaths of their vacation removed from anything resembling a rat race.

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Five Reasons Why: Australia

July 31, 2019
Every country has its own unique qualities, of course, but there is no place in the world quite like Australia. The extremes are breathtaking; the island nation has some of the most desolate land in the world, alongside cosmopolitan big cities like Sydney. It is mostly a desert, but parts in the winter see snow -- and there are even ski resorts in the southeastern corner of the country. It’s a land of natural beauty, of architecture (the Sydney Opera House has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site) and of friendly people.

Want to offer a trip to the land down under at your fundraising auction? Here are five – of many – reasons why your donors should want to bid on a travel package to Australia.

The Reef: What can be said about one of the world’s greatest natural wonders? The Great Barrier Reef is a coral reef system that’s large enough to be seen from space. It’s a bucket-list item for many travelers, both experienced and novice. And, due to weather conditions and other problems, it’s in danger of being lost forever. That being said, tourists can still visit, snorkel and dive there, as long as they’re responsible: Don’t destroy anything that comes in contact and wear the appropriate sunscreen for diving (some sunscreens are toxic to the coral).

The Views: Ever seen a pink lake? Australia’s got that. The Twelve Apostles are a series of limestone towers found on the beach, right off of Great Ocean Road; it’s a great stop along the scenic road-trip favorite. Australia’s wildlands are some of the most beautiful, interesting, and untouched by people on the planet. Your donors will see things here that they’ll never see elsewhere.

The Serenity: Because of its isolation from the population centers of the world, Australia never feels too crowded. In 2018, the country welcomed 9.2 million visitors; for context, the United Kingdom saw 39.2 million tourists arrive on its shores. Take a trip to one of the island nation’s natural beauties, like King’s Canyon (essentially Australia’s answer to the Grand Canyon), and you’ll be amazed at how few tourists line the perimeter.

The Animals: A quick trip to Kangaroo Island will make any kid (or “adult kid”) happy. Forget zoos; Kangaroo Island is practically a habitat; with so few predators there, it’s possible to see kangaroos (hence the name), koalas, and others here, in the wild. And for those “adult kids,” Kangaroo Island is also the home of 12 different wineries, many of which specialize in Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Harbour: Cliché? Maybe. It’s possible that your donors could trace the outline of the Sydney Harbour skyline from memory, just from seeing it on television, in movies or in photos online. But to be there, in person, and to look upon the Sydney Opera House at sunset? It’s one of the most beautiful tableaus in the world.

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Follow in Their Footsteps

July 24, 2019
There are plenty of ways to create an itinerary while travel. You can follow in the footsteps of the travel journalists who have been there before, seeking out the newest and the most interesting. You can follow in the footsteps of the crowds, seeing the major monuments and tourist areas (they’re usually popular for a reason).

Instead … how about following in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh?

There are some cities that are so synonymous with a local celebrity that the entire town becomes a living shrine. Pubs, cafes and even streets are named after native sons and daughters. Childhood homes are preserved. For the more recent deified, there are photos behind bars or counters of fan interactions.

If you want to see a destination through the eyes of the city’s favorite son or daughter, we’ve got tours built into several of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that allow you to do exactly that.

Barcelona has quite a few different locals worthy of acclaim, be it artists, musicians, or even soccer players (trust that there will someday be a tour called “Lionel Messi’s Barcelona,” based on the local team’s world-class striker). But touring the life of Antoni Gaudi also means getting to see the works of the architect. The biggest proponent of what was known as Catalan Modernism (think gothic revival mixed with medieval styles), Gaudi has seven works that have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Barcelona is ground zero for his buildings.

While Gaudi is very closely associated with Barcelona, Van Gogh counted plenty of cities as home during his life and career. But one has a tremendous walking tour that we’ve included as a part of a travel package. Amsterdam is the home of the Van Gogh museum, and a guided tour following in his footsteps also can take your donors to Nuenen, a town very important to his early career.

There’s one destination, however, that’s built around its most famous resident at any given moment. The Vatican is the home of the Catholic Church, which makes it a living monument to the current Pope and those that came before him. Tours of the Vatican invariably teach visitors not just about the space itself, but its former occupants. Going back to the official creation of the Vatican in 1929, Catholic history has been inexorably tied to this parcel of land, less than 125 acres in size.

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Summer Beach Reading

July 17, 2019
There are plenty of ways to relax on the beach, whether it’s jumping into the ocean, getting in a game of beach volleyball, or simply walking along the tide line. But at least since The New York Times published a “Vacation Reading List” in 1976, the act of reading on the beach has become not just popular, but commercially important. Publishers up and down Manhattan work to make sure they’ve got splashy beach reads timed for release either during the summer or in the near runup to it.

But beach reads, just like films or music, can also inspire. So not only can your donors head to the beach with great entertainment, but certain books can also inspire them to want to travel, based on gorgeous word pictures and descriptions of a locale’s energy.

Here are some of our favorite beach reads in 2019, each one set in one of our favorite destinations.

“The Last Resort,” by Marissa Stapley: Picked by O magazine as one of its “28 Best Beach Reads of 2019,” Stapley’s follow-up to the well-reviewed “Things to Do When It’s Raining” takes place in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera (think Cancun), at a resort for couples trying to save their marriages. It’s a story of secrets, of storms and of a Mexican paradise.

“Park Avenue Summer,” by Renee Rosen: Another book from Oprah’s 2019 list (what can we say – she has good taste!), it’s a semi-fictional version of Helen Gurley Brown’s term as the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Essentially, think of the New York of “Sex in the City,” then turn back the clock and make it even more glamorous. It’ll make you feel like New York is a city of unending possibility.

Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain: It’s been mentioned by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the top summer reads of 2019, and it will make you book a flight to Paris immediately. A group of four near-strangers share a bottle of wine, and the next morning wake up in 1954 with the chance to explore the Paris of Piaf, Brassai, and some of the best jazz bars to ever exist.

“The Golden Hour,” Beatriz Williams: Head to the Bahamas of 1941 with Williams for a tale of a journalist covering the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during World War II. It’s a Good Housekeeping summer book pick, and it’s received good reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Bloomberg.

“Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes: No, it’s not new. But if you’re going to go to Tuscany, there may not be a better appetizer than this story of renovation and rejuvenation in the Italian countryside. And those who might have been spoiled by the movie, know that the film goes a whole different direction than the book.

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Nature in the City

July 10, 2019
Central Park in New York City is technically not the oldest urban park in America; that honor goes to Boston Common, which was established in 1634. But Manhattan’s 800-plus acre oasis is likely the first that comes to mind when thinking about travelworthy city green space.

But while there’s a lot to do within Central Park, it’s not the only urban park that should be going on your donors’ itineraries. In fact, several of our favorite non-profit fundraising auction travel package involve destinations with wonderful open spaces that are attractions on their own. If your supporters want to find a trip where there’s a temporary escape from the concrete jungle, they should consider one of these cities.

The most famous open space in Washington D.C. is likely the National Mall. But while the city is not large geographically, it still features Rock Creek Park, which runs through the center of town and is twice the size of Central Park. It’s the home of the National Zoo, the city’s planetarium, a concert venue, tennis courts that host the Citi Open (previous winners have included Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi, among other superstars) and a variety of hiking trails.

The car-centric culture of Los Angeles would make many assume that every inch of the city is paved over for roads. But then there’s Griffith Park, with its 4,000 acres – much of which are wildlands. A hike through the park can make your donors feel like they’re far away from civilization, until they come across one of Griffith’s attractions; it’s the home of the Griffith Observatory, the Greek Theatre and the Autry Museum of the American West. One of the most interesting attractions, though, isn’t even open for business, per se: The Griffith Park Zoo closed in 1966, but its ruins remain, and it’s become a favorite picnicking spot for Angelenos.

A drive north from L.A., San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is only a quarter of the size of Griffith Park, but it makes up for its smaller stature with a tremendous number of attractions, like the Japanese Tea Garden, the De Young Museum, the city’s botanical garden, a bison paddock, and the National AIDS Memorial Grove. It’s also home to one of the country’s biggest yearly music festivals, Outside Lands, which traditionally takes place in August.

In New Orleans, the city’s aptly named City Park is also home to a travelworthy music event: the yearly New Orleans Jazz Festival at the end of April and the beginning of May. But City Park isn’t alive just for two weekends in the spring. It’s got options for golfers (two full courses and even 36 holes of mini-putt – one of which features a giant pot of gumbo!), art fans (the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden), and plenty for kids, like the Carousal Gardens Amusement Park.

Finally, Vancouver also gets in the act with Stanley Park, which has plenty of natural features. The seawall is the longest uninterrupted waterfront walkway in the world, while hiking trails are abundant. The park has been preserved in its wild state as much as possible throughout the years, so it’s perfect for donors who might prefer interacting with nature as much as possible when escaping city life.

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The Great American Burger

July 03, 2019
The hamburger may not technically be an American invention – it’s lineage is disputed thanks to a lack of detailed historical accounts, and its name very likely has some connection to Hamburg, Germany – but every July 4th, it certainly feels like it’s perfected by the good ol’ US of A.

Foodie supporters will go a long way for a Michelin-starred meal, or a celebrity chef. But they’re also as likely to want to travel for a good brewery, the best slice of pizza, or, yes, the best hamburger they’ve ever had. If you’ve got donors who love to travel for great food, these burger-friendly cities could be memory-making destinations.

New York: When foodie website The Daily Meal ranked the best 101 burgers in America last year, the Big Apple placed three in the top 10 and five in the top 15. And that doesn’t count the legendary burger at Raoul’s: Only 12 are made per night, and if you’re not there when the kitchen fires up for dinner, you’re probably not getting one. It almost feels like cheating to say that New York has some of the top burgers in the country, considering that there are so many options, but the proof is in the patty.

Chicago: Like any other major metro area, the Second City has its share of hamburgers with interesting ingredients, secret recipes, and the highest of high-end meat. But Chi-Town also has some of the great diner burgers of the country. This includes the one at Billy Goat Tavern; the restaurant was the inspiration for the classic Saturday Night Live “Cheeseburger” sketch.

New Orleans: The Crescent City is another place where the burgers don’t have to be fancy to be tasty. Neighborhood joints like GB’s Patio Bar & Grill are mentioned in the same breath as fancier establishments. But The Company Burger has been one of the talks of the town since the eatery opened almost a decade ago. It’s mix of Angus beef and homemade buns elevated what looks like a simple diner burger into what food website Serious Eats called a “game-changing cheeseburger.”

Los Angeles: When chefs started to re-examine the burger in the late 1990s, refocusing their efforts on making the best version possible, L.A. and New York were at the forefront. In Los Angeles, chef Sang Yoon’s Office Burger, served from his restaurant/bar Father’s Office, was one of the first “great” burgers to get national press, and it is still beloved today (just don’t ask for modifications – none are allowed). Of course, both before and after the burger renaissance, Southern California is also the home of In-N-Out Burger, which is so popular with visitors that one of the store’s busiest locations is just blocks from Los Angeles International Airport.

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Five Reasons Why: Orlando

June 26, 2019
Orlando is known for one big attraction, and with pretty good reason: Disney World welcomes more than 50 million visitors per year, thought to be the biggest average yearly draw in the world.

But to reduce the city to just its mouse-based adventures is to miss out on several other reasons that Orlando is a worthwhile destination. We’ve got five of them here – offer a trip to this Florida jewel, and your donors can do all of this and more.

The Amusement Parks:
Yes, that’s plural. While the city is maybe best known for Disney World, and you could certainly spend a week exploring it and all of its sister parks (Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, and more), there’s also Universal Orlando Resort (which hosts The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida Resort. It’s a perfect place for both children and adults’ “inner children.”

The Golf: There’s a plethora of courses available for everyone from the golf-obsessed to the golf-curious. The highlight is the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, the host course of the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational (depending on which of our travel packages you offer, your donors can either play the course or watch the Invitational). But Orlando and the nearby suburbs have so many courses available that the dedicated hacker can fill a week with tee times. It’s especially popular for golfers over the winter months; the average high temperature in January, the city’s coldest month, is 71 degrees, which is balmy for a donor looking to escape the snow.

The Food:
Donors better travel to Orlando hungry; the city is consistently considered one of the best spots for foodies in the country. This year alone, Southern Living magazine named it the best in the South, while it consistently finishes high in WalletHub’s best foodie city rankings (including topping the list in 2016).

The Nature: Ziplining through forests, swimming in natural springs, hang-gliding and even airboat rides all add up to an itinerary-filling lineup of outdoor activities. Take an airboat to the Florida Everglades, starting in Kissimmee (a short drive from Disney World). Or start in downtown Orlando and take a hike on the Cady Way Trail, which is both fun and family friendly.

The Center of It All: Going to Orlando makes many of the state’s best attractions only a short drive away. The Space Coast is an hour east by car, as is spring break favorite Daytona Beach. Tampa is about 90 minutes to the west. The Everglades and Miami are each less than a morning’s drive. This can be especially useful for donors who want to go to Orlando during baseball’s Spring Training; draw a line of best fit from Cape Canaveral to Tampa and there will be seven stadiums along the path.

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The Longest Day

June 19, 2019
The summer solstice is upon us, and with it comes a little more of something most travelers love – sunshine. It’s the longest day of the year and the technical beginning of what might be America’s favorite season for travel.

In some of our favorite Destinations of Excellence, the solstice is also an attraction all on its own. With the night sky only making a cameo appearance – if at all! – those looking for a Vitamin D-heavy trip can seek out daylong sun to celebrate the summer.

One of the most northern destinations in our catalog is Anchorage, and it really shines in the summer. It shines, in fact, nearly all day; 2019 estimates are that the biggest city in the 49th state will get 19 hours and 21 minutes of light.  With dawn and dusk included, that number jumps up to 24 hours – there’s literally no “night sky.” Go ahead and make those 11 p.m. tee times – you’ll still be able to get in eighteen holes. Just make sure to pack an eye mask for sleep.

For the destination in our catalog that has the longest day, though, your donors will have to head over the Atlantic Ocean to Reykjavik, Iceland. The island capital gets more than 21 hours of direct sunlight and, combined with dawn and dusk, zero darkness. It and Alaska both experience what is called “midnight sun,” where the sun can be spotted at the literal end of the day.

Some countries in the northern parts of Europe might not get midnight sun, but they certainly get their share of light. In Dublin, Ireland, the day lasts 17 hours, while Amsterdam falls just 12 minutes short.

Nothing in the continental U.S. can match those numbers, but Seattle is a place to go for those chasing sunlight. At just a minute less than 16 hours, the view from the Space Needle will extend from the coast to Mount Rainier that much longer. And just up the coast in Canada, Vancouver gets 15 more minutes of sunshine.

Finally, there’s New York and Las Vegas. Do they have particularly long days? Not really – although more than 15 hours and 14 hours, respectively, is nothing to sneeze at. But if days are measured by when people go to bed, both cities have 24-hour days all year – and when spending time in a casino or a Broadway theater, your donors won’t be thinking about that blazing orb in the sky.

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See the Coast by Car

June 12, 2019
Starting with the traffic-jammed Memorial Day, the summer season is a favorite for many to go on road trips. There’s something about the windows down and wide-open road that calls to Americans to get out on the highways.

We’re big fans of road trips ourselves, with a twist: We love sending donors to places where driving is a sight-filled treasure. Someone in Chicago might not want to drive all the way to California for a view, but give them the chance to win a travel package at your non-profit fundraising auction to Los Angeles or San Francisco, and they can rent a car and take an oceanside route without any hassle. Some of the best coastal road trips in America can easily be accessed by setting up a supporter with one of our trips.

The state of California alone represents more than 800 miles of coastline, and the Pacific Coast Highway takes drivers near some of the most beautiful seaside views. Your donors can start anywhere from San Francisco to Santa Monica and get on the PCH and see state beaches, rolling countryside and dramatic cliffs. To the north, Carmel-By-The-Sea and Monterey are definitely stops worth taking, while those coming from Los Angeles might find the trip along the coast to Santa Barbara and its wineries to be a perfect day.

On the southern end of the east coast, meanwhile, it’s hard to get more “by the sea” than the Overseas Highway, which runs through the Florida Keys. Long after hurricanes and other storms washed away parts of the railroad that ran the route, the state would take the rail’s right-of-way and turn it into a two-lane (and now, in some parts, four-lane) freeway to connect to the mainland. It’s a favorite journey of visitors to the Keys and South Florida, including Miami.

“Long road trips” probably don’t spring to mind when you think about Hawaii, but there’s a path on the island of Maui of more than 50 miles that has made it to bucket lists for many travelers. The Road to Hana has it all: windy roads, cliff views of the ocean and even a waterfall or two. It can take longer than one thinks, thanks to Hawaii’s famous “relaxed” culture, which translates to slower drivers, but it’s worth a full day of stopping and sightseeing along the way.

The northeast has some travel-worthy drives, as well. First among equals might be the road that runs through Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Route One is an adventure that alternates between sea-side views and travel-worthy oddities; look for the massive orange dinosaur at the Route 1 Miniature Golf and Dairy Castle, or stop in at Kowloon, sometimes described as the country’s largest pan-Asian food court, under the neon triangle in Saugus.

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A Summer of Seafood

June 05, 2019
According to a 2016 story in trade publication Travel Weekly, nearly 70 percent of tourists are “food and cuisine driven travelers.” And a near-unanimous 95 percent of travelers want to have some sort of unique food experience when they hit the road. And with millennials (who are slightly more likely to pick a trip based on its cuisine) spending more on travel each year, this is not a trend as much as a way of the business.

One of those “unique food experiences,” especially for those who don’t live on a coast, can be the freshest of fish, found in harbor towns up and down each coast. With different local emphases and cooking traditions, seafood dishes in one community may look nothing like those in another.

If a few of your donors are sea-crazy when it comes to the dining room table, here are a few suggestions of destinations from our catalog that have different takes on, but the upmost respect for, fish, shrimp, oysters and everything else seafood-related.

The most famous tourist attraction in Seattle is the Space Needle, of course. But second place is likely Pike Place Market, where fish are literally tossed around to customers, and a bevy of eateries serve the freshest of the sea to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year (the outdoor rooftop views from Place Pigalle is a favorite). This is a city that’s in love with its fish, but it’s also one of the country’s favorite homes for oysters; the state of Washington is, according to SeattleMet magazine, maybe one of the only places in the world that’s home to all five edible oyster varieties.

On the southern edge of the Pacific Coast, there’s San Diego and its greatest contribution to cuisine: the fish taco. It’s a staple of fast casual restaurants in the border city, and it’s the subject of several foodie tours. The fish taco began just south in Baja California, but it made its way up the coast; local eatery Las Olas claims to have “pioneered” the favorite, but its lineage in the States is still up in the air.

Where the mighty Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico meet, your donors will find another seafood haven – even if the city is best known for its drinks than its food. New Orleans is not only a great place for fresh fish, but when seafood is combined with Cajun cooking, your supporters will get a culinary experience that can’t be duplicated. Look for gumbo, crawfish etouffee and shrimp po’ boys to get that Crescent City flavor.

The northeast is not to be ignored when it comes to seafood options, as well. While coastal towns in Maine (lobster!) and elsewhere may be the sources for much of the daily catch, Boston is where those fish and crustaceans find their ways into a wide selection of dishes. It’s the place, unsurprisingly, for New England Clam Chowder, but make sure your donors grab a Lobster Roll (or several!) before skipping town.

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Five Reasons Why: Los Angeles

May 29, 2019
More than 50 million people visited Los Angeles last year, according to the city’s convention and visitor bureau. That’s 50 million trips to the beach, walks along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and meals at In-n-Out Burger (at least!). But L.A. has much more to offer the traveler than crowded tourist traps. For your donors whose most recent interaction with the city was watching Steve Martin’s satirical “L.A. Story,” here are five reasons why today’s Los Angeles is a top travel destination.

The Weather: Yes, it really is that nice in Los Angeles. Highs in the winter are in the high 60s, with average summer highs never topping 85 degrees. It’s consistent enough that much of what people do in the city is outdoors, whether it’s the dozens of farmers markets, the outdoor malls, and even outdoor movie screenings at places like the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The Stars: Of course, the center of the film universe is where to go to spot celebrities, at famous haunts like The Ivy restaurant or the hottest nightclubs. But it’s also a place where the stars can be seen doing what they love in smaller spaces; the Largo, a comedy club and performance space, is famous for having celebrities drop in as “special guests” for their shows to either do stand-up or music. And with the Grammys, the Emmys, the Oscars – even the ESPYs! –held either every year or, at least, often in Los Angeles, even out-of-town superstars find their way to the City of Angels.

The Food: Don’t look now, but modern-day L.A. can stand toe-to-toe with any other city in America when it comes to culinary scenes. Superstar chefs have restaurants here, and the sheer volume of international cuisine on offer is astounding (Asian food in the neighboring San Gabriel Valley might be the best this side of the continent itself). It’s also a scene that prides itself on the best of more common fare, as well; stop at any taco stand or burger joint for the type of quick-and-easy meals that are both inexpensive and satisfying.

The Beaches: From the packed sands of Santa Monica up to the more secluded dunes of Malibu, there’s a Los Angeles area beach for every donor. Public transit can now take visitors right to the Santa Monica Pier, with its iconic Ferris wheel and great views from local restaurants. A walk south takes supporters to the slightly more bohemian Venice Beach – your donors can even work out on Muscle Beach, the famed spot where a young Arnold Schwarzenegger used to pump iron.

The Architecture: Yes, Los Angeles used to have a reputation for tearing down its history (leading to the sarcastic line in the aforementioned “L.A. Story”: “Some of these buildings are over 20 years old.” But thanks to the work of local conservationists, the Art Deco and Beaux Arts history of downtown Los Angeles is more accessible than ever, and the remaining Googie buildings are being saved.

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Race Through Memorial Day

May 22, 2019
There are any number of ways to celebrate Memorial Day. For some, it’s the first weekend of the summer and therefore is best spent at the beach. For others, it’s a solemn occasion worthy of a trip to pay respects. But Memorial Day is also one of the busiest days on a runner’s calendar, with fun runs, 5Ks, and even marathons taking place across the country.

We love Memorial Day races several reasons, but the biggest one might be their support of causes. For most of these competitions, either the entrants fundraise themselves or the organizers set aside the proceeds for worthy non-profits, especially those dealing with veterans’ issues. If you want to make your Memorial Day count for those in need, and you’ve got a set both of good knees and good lungs, consider traveling to one of these cities and taking on a challenge.

Chicago celebrates the start of summer (and the end of what can be an unpredictable spring) with the Soldier Field 10 Mile, which starts and ends at the titular stadium. Runners take off down the Lake Front Trail, essentially turn around and come back, finishing on the 50-yard line of the home of the Chicago Bears. Like the other events listed below, the fun might actually start after crossing the finish line; the post-race party takes place just outside the stadium with live music, concessions and a free “recovery beer” for each participant.

Not every race has to be road exclusive. In Austin, the Cap Tex Triathlon starts with a swim through Lady Bird Lake, bordering on downtown Austin, then switches to a bike course that heads straight through the Texas capital. Finally, the running shoes go on for a jog (or sprint) to and through Butler Park, ending on Vic Mathias Shores, along the banks of the Colorado River. If that sounds like a lot, there are three different races to try and accommodate everyone looking to try: The International competition is at standard triathlon distances of .93 miles of swimming, 25 miles of biking and 6.2 miles of running, while the SuperSprint cuts those down to a quarter-mile swim, 6.3 mile bike ride and a 3.1 mile run.

If your donors want a huge challenge, however, point them towards Maine. There, about an hour inland from Boothbay Harbor, is the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival. Your supporter can take those running shoes off the hard concrete and race through the gorgeous hills of New England. Saturday features 5Ks, 10Ks and even a 5K “Canicross” run, where participants bring the dogs. But on Sunday, the effort goes through the roof, with three options – 25K, 50K and a 50-mile run that will test even your fittest donors. At those distances, there’s no doubt they’ll have earned their post-race barbecue and beer.

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Summer Golfing

May 15, 2019
Golf is often thought of as a summer sport, one that can be played by cutting out of work early and taking advantage of the late-day sunshine only afforded during the season. But many of golf’s most hallowed destinations in America, places where there are as many courses as residents (think Palm Springs, Hilton Head, or several Florida cities), will test a player’s anti-perspirant as much as any swing in June, July, or August.

If you’ve got donors who want a golf-centric vacation but also want to keep the temperature cool, there are options. Some of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take supporters to courses where summer might be the optimal time to play – or even the only option.

One place that combines stunning views with temperate summers is Monterey, California, which is just south of San Francisco. Our “Spectacular Coastal Golf Experience” package sends your auction winner to play the Del Monte Golf Course, which is not only beautiful, but also the oldest course still running west of the Mississippi River. In 2017, GolfAdvisor.com rated it third in the country for best off-course amenities, too, so if the golf gods aren’t being kind to a supporter’s game that day, there’s plenty else to do.

Quebec City averages in the 70s throughout the summer months and has plenty to offer everyone. But with our “Quebec’s Peaceful Soul and Picturesque Wonderland” package, it’s a city just up the coast that delivers the fix that golf fans need. Tre trip includes a stay at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in Charlevoix, along the St. Lawrence River, and the home course there features 27 holes of world-class golf. The three nine-hole courses run along the river, meaning scenic views for those walks in between strokes. And of course, summer is the best season to play it – because it’s nearly the only season on offer (unless snowshoes are the favored footwear).

But if there’s one summer golf “bucket list” trip, it’s to St. Andrews, Scotland. The town is often referred to as the “home of golf,” thanks to the historic Old Course at St. Andrews, thought to be the oldest one on the planet. The average high temperature there only breaks 60 degrees during the summer months, so even in July, it tends to boast perfect golfing weather. And our “Home of Golf” travel package will give donors the chance to play two different courses along the St. Andrews Bay. The trip also comes with an element of chance: the Old Course has a daily drawing for tee times. If your donor gets lucky, he or she could play what might be golf’s iconic links.
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Traveling With Mom

May 08, 2019
Flowers die, chocolates get eaten, and knick-knacks end up in the backs of closets. So, what does your (and your donors’) mother want for Mother’s Day? It’s likely quality time. A 2018 survey taken by Peanut, a mom matching app, indicated that the plurality of mothers would like a “break from the mama routine,” with “a cool experience” coming in second.
Unless you’ve got some very wealthy children in your donor pool, the break may be less necessary by this point – most of your donors aren’t waking up in the middle of the night and yelling for mom to make the monster under the bed go away. But the cool experience? Your donors can give that to their mothers with a travel package they win at your gala fundraising auction. The gift of travel together is one of quality time and of memory making.
An international trip can be a wonderful bonding adventure for a mother and an adult child. And with so much history on display and Europe, your donors will have plenty to discuss along the way. See the sights of London, taste the wines of France, or savor the foods of Italy. And don’t forget other destinations, like Vienna or Budapest; once in Europe, all of the continent is on offer thanks to networks of trains crisscrossing the Old World.
Want your donors to be able to make the trip as stress-free as possible for mom? Think about offering an all-inclusive trip, like some of our adventures in Mexico. There’s no arguing about splitting the bill at an all-inclusive resort, because there is no bill; food is factored in to the auction price. Many activities are included too, so if mom wants that jet ski ride, she can do it.
Finally, cruises take the all-inclusive model and makes it mobile, taking passengers on all kinds of trips. As we mentioned last week, there are plenty of different destination options; if mom wants a truly relaxing experience, a Caribbean cruise might be the trip. If mom wants to take in some culture, your donors can take her through the southern Mediterranean. And if mom marvels at the wilderness, the scenic trip to Alaska has some of the most gorgeous scenery available. Mom can also go at her own pace; cruise ships themselves are delightful, so if one more excursion seems exhausting, there’s plenty to do on board.

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Cruising for Culture

May 01, 2019
Bring up a cruise to a regular traveler, and the images are clear: Sunny skies, sunbathing on deck and wandering beaches on Caribbean islands.  But while the cloudless sky and poolside lay-outs can happen on any ship, it should be noted there are plenty of boat tours that don’t involve a beach, routes that take tourists to a variety of cities and even countries on a more cultural path.

We love both types of cruise at Mitch-Stuart, and if your donors are devoted beach-seekers, we’ve got plenty to options to satisfy them. But we’re equally infatuated with our options, both domestic and international, to send supporters to some of the world’s most interesting cultural sites via the luxury of a ship.

Just like several of our Caribbean cruises, we have offerings that stop in different countries throughout the old world. Our “Savor the Majestic Mediterranean” trip takes donors on a tour of Europe through its southern ports, stopping at places like Barcelona, Rome, and Monaco. In fact, the itinerary sometimes extends to countries like Croatia and Greece, as well! Between the top-notch accommodations and creature comforts of a Royal Caribbean International ship and the amazing works of architecture, art and natural beauty on offer during off-ship excursions, any passenger will find their schedules packed.

If the sights in France are calling your donors the loudest, there’s a cruise that will take them from city to city without ever leaving the country. France’s Rhone River is the setting for our “Luxury Cruising in Heavenly Provence and Camargue” package, which takes passengers to where Vincent Van Gogh painted 300 canvases in 1888, to Le Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct, and even to the cowboys of Camargue. Seeing as it’s a trip in France, there is also an expedition to a wine cellar on the schedule. Your supporters can even take a bike ride through Aramon, a literal ride through the French countryside.

Not all culture comes from Europe, though. With our “Alaska’s Majestic Frontier” cruise, your donors can explore the fishing villages along the Canadian coast, the dance halls of the gold-rush town of Skagway, and the history of Tlingit tribe in its ancestral home of Ketchikan. Add in the mix of cultural sights in Seattle or Vancouver, two of the most common embark ports, and there’s plenty to learn along the coasts of the Pacific Northwest (and points north).

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Five Reasons Why: Las Vegas

April 24, 2019
Las Vegas is a favorite of our non-profit fundraising auction travel package destinations for some of our partner organizations, and it’s easy to see why: With its reputation as “American’s Playground” and the sheer number of activities on offer, it’s an easy sell. Coming up with five reasons why your donors would want to travel to the Nevada desert is easy. But, as you’ll see below, the Las Vegas Strip, while awe-inspiring on its own, isn’t the only game in town. Here’s a look at five reasons why your supports should want to head to Sin City – including some you may not know.

The Spectacle: It’s what makes Las Vegas famous, after all. There are the greatest hits of world monuments (Statue of Liberty! The pyramids! The Eiffel Tower!), all replicated along the Strip and lit up at night. There’s the Fremont Street Experience, a 1,500-foot long screen made of 12.5 million LED lights. And there’s the High Roller, the mid-Strip observation wheel that takes visitors more than 500 feet above it all.

The Food and Drinks: It’s no longer a secret that Las Vegas has a tremendous culinary scene, ranging from the Strip’s superstar cook-led eateries (look for big names like Gordon Ramsey and Giada De Laurentiis, for instance) to one of America’s best Chinatowns for Chinese cuisine. White tablecloths? Sure, but you can also get an award-winning slice of pizza. We’re long past the era of the questionable 99-cent shrimp cocktail.

The History: Sin City isn’t exactly Europe when it comes to its age, but Las Vegas’ founding and culture has created both stories and artifacts worth exploring. At the Mob Museum, exhibits on everything from Prohibition to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre tell the story of the mafia’s influence in southern Nevada. Down the road at the Neon Museum, the history of Las Vegas is told through its distinctive signage, and a light show brings these artifacts back to life.

The Shopping: Outlet malls sit right across the street from Fendi stores in Las Vegas – shopping may be the leading sin in Sin City. Donors who bring an empty suitcase can fill it with clothes from world-renowned designers, stunning jewelry, and even desert knick-knacks from the local creators at the Downtown Container Park, an outdoor mall with stores in shipping containers (and, since it’s Las Vegas, a little spectacle – a giant fire-breathing mantis sculpture out front).

The Pools: It makes sense that a city which sometimes reaches high temperatures of 120 degrees during the summer would live by its pool scene. But there’s a manmade body of water for everyone on the Strip, whether it’s the family friendly MGM Grand Pool or the wild party of Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Grab a poolside drink, get some reading done in a cabana, or splash around with people from all over the world.

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Tax Refund Travel

April 17, 2019

Tax season (for most of us) is in the rear-view window. Now, avoiding the temptation to sprint to the mailbox each day to look for your tax return is the task (if you’ve got one coming, it’ll be there soon!). However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan for what to do with that return now. And if your donors are looking at getting back some money from the government, they might be ready to go on vacation – and help their favorite charity at the same time!

Tax refund travel is popular as a way of utilizing what some see as “bonus money” towards an experience that your donors may never forget. And even those who get smaller refunds can find a great getaway in our Destinations of Excellence® catalog.

Offer one (or more!) of these trip ideas at your upcoming gala auction, and you could send your supporters on an unforgettable adventure – with refund money.

For those of your supporters who plan their taxes out to minimize their payments during the year, refunds can seem too small to go anywhere beyond the local mall. But our “Outstanding Resorts in Mexico” travel package is set up exactly for those who want to support their favorite non-profit but may not have the vast resources to do so. The package can start as low as $499, with four nights at a four- or five-star resort; it’s a perfect way to reserve a home base for a trip at a price that can’t be beat.

Those who get slightly larger refunds might think about using that for some boat time. Partly because of tax refunds and partly because of the season, cruises are big this time of year. Whether it’s the southern Caribbean, the Mediterranean Sea or even the waters of Alaska, cruises can combine the best of creature comforts with sight seeing in multiple countries. It can be a relaxing trip, or a sampler platter with which to explore future vacation ideas. With so many customizable options, your donors can take control of the itinerary, all for the cost of this year’s tax refund.

Do your donors want the feeling of going abroad on a domestic budget? Consider some of our favorite Canadian destinations. A trip to Montreal (like our “Canadian Luxury on the St. Lawrence” package) feels very close to a trip to France, with its Francophile culture and Old World architecture. Meanwhile, though it has the nickname “The Canadian Rockies,” the area around Baniff makes you feel like you’re in the Swiss Alps as much as possible (without taking a very, very long flight).

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Stretch Your Donor’s Dollar

April 10, 2019
We want your donors to feel as free as possible to bid big when one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages comes up for bids at your gala auction. But we also want to help you offer your supporters trips to stunning locales with luxurious touches.

The good news: There are plenty of ways to help your donors stretch their dollars without compromising how much you raise. It’s not about offering “inexpensive” or “budget” vacations as much as it is where the bids are going; your donors would rather have that money flowing directly to you, to help you in your worthy cause. And one of the ways of assisting with that goal is to offer trips with savings opportunities at the destination.

For example, now is the time for Americans to head abroad, if exchange rates are the metric. The U.S. dollar is especially strong currently against the Euro, with one dollar fetching .89 Euro, which is one of the best rates since 2003. This makes trips that can be costly on the ground (think expensive cities like Paris) pack a little less of a sticker shock when your supporters arrive in a European country. Strong exchange rates against the British Pound and the Canadian Dollar also open possibilities in cities like London, Toronto and Vancouver.

Also, some destinations have a winder variety of free activities and sights on offer. Cities like New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are famous for this; it costs nothing to wander Times Square or walk under the LED show at Vegas’ Fremont Street Experience. But searching for free entertainment doesn’t mean having to stay in an urban area; in Costa Rica, for instance, all of the national parks offer free entrance, giving visitors a chance to explore the wonders of the rainforests there without pulling out a wallet first.

Finally, one way that donors who don’t want to lay out too much more money at a destination can keep their wallets closed is by paying up front, via an all-inclusive package. We’ve written about these kinds of trips before, but a quick summary: All-inclusive travel packages roll the cost of food, drinks and other amenities all into the original price. Whether or not it actually saves a supporter money, the freedom of not worrying about paying for the day-to-day life on the road often feels like a better value.

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The Luxe of the Luxe

April 03, 2019
Luxury can be tough to define. The cut-off line between a four- and five-star hotel is murky, and with the word bandied about in advertising at a constant rate, “luxury” isn’t an easily definable concept – most of the time.

But there are some properties, some activities, and even some cities for which the word seems to have been invented. Offer one of these destinations or accommodations at your next big event, and you don’t even have to use the word “luxury” to describe it.

No community in Southern California says luxury quite like Beverly Hills. The city, surrounded by Los Angeles and West Hollywood on all sides, features the world-famous Rodeo Drive, with shops like Burberry, Fendi and Gucci, among many others. And with $1,000 in shopping spree money from our travel package to the 90210, your donors are on their way to even bringing some of that luxury home – if they can fit it all in the overhead compartment. Some of the Los Angeles area’s best restaurants are here as well, like Mastro’s Steakhouse and CUT by Wolfgang Puck.

For accommodations, there’s been one name burned in American’s heads when it comes to luxury: The Plaza. The five-start New York landmark opened in 1907, and it’s been one of the city’s most desirable stays ever since. It’s been an official National Historic Landmark since 1986, and one step inside shows why; with so many of the original details preserved, it’s like walking directly into “The Great Gatsby” (no coincidence, of course: the hotel is a character within F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece).

An ocean away, the Brits have their own revered hotel: The Savoy. After a 100-million-pound renovation at the beginning of the decade, the five-star head turner is back to its former glory, which dates all the way to 1889. Afternoon tea is a luxurious must here, both for the event itself and the gorgeous view of the Thames River in the appropriately-named Thames Foyer. And being located less than 10 miles from the Theatre District means dinner at the Savoy can easy transition to box seats for a theatrical experience unlike any other.

If your donors’ view of luxury doesn’t involve this many people, though, we’ve got the perfect trip: How about a weeklong stay on a private island off the coast of Belize? A 3,000-square foot villa waits for your supporters, with its own private chef and sommelier. But when not in service, the team leaves the isle, and your donors can be enjoying a luxurious stay, as far from the city life as possible. (For those who want at least a little interaction, the island is a short boat ride away from Placencia Village, with restaurants, bars and a casino.)

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Five Reasons Why: Italy

March 27, 2019
On some level, a standout destination like Italy can almost be easy to overlook. The boot-shaped country is so well known, so closely associated with vacations, and such a part of our cultural fabric that it gets overshadowed on occasion by newer, trendier places to visit.

However, with so many landmarks to see, Italy has something many destinations do not: repeatability. It would take a huge number of trips to see it all. For some people, it practically becomes a second home, the type of country where families (and maybe some of your donors?) take yearly vacations.

There are countless reasons to visit Italy – we’ve tried to narrow it to five.

The Food: Yes, the pasta. Yes, the pizza. But Italy is home to several different cuisines, including the seafood-forward food of the south. Tuscany’s ribolitta, a root-vegetable-laden soup, is a must have. And this is not a place for those on a diet; any trip that doesn’t involve the decadent tiramisu missed on something truly special.

The Wine: Italy produces more wine than any other country in the world, which is why so many of our travel packages to the nation involve either tours of or meals at a winery. With a vast variety of blends and varietals on offer throughout the country, it would take a lifetime of visits to try them all, but Italian grapes like Sangiovese and Canaoilo come to the top of the mind.

The Heritage Sites: Italy has more UNESCO Heritage Sites than almost any other country in the world, including almost 70 that are considered culturally important (as opposed to being about nature). Historic gardens, town squares, churches and even entire cities (hi, Verona!) are represented, with another 42 being considered. That means there are sights to see for multiple trips to The Boot.

The Vatican: Technically it’s not Italy, but the independent nation of Vatican City is culturally of the Italian people. It’s also home to some of the most interesting museums in the world, not to mention the Sistine Chapel. With a guided tour of The Vatican, your supporters can not only take in all the artwork, but also learn about the history and story of individual piece.

The Soccer: Calcio, as it’s known in Italian, is the nation’s passion. Italy’s national team is one of the most decorated squads at the World Cup, with four victories, just one behind leader Brazil. At the professional level, Serie A (Italy’s top division) is considered by many to be one of the best in the world; its top teams, like Inter Milan and Juventus, often advance to the later rounds of the Champions League, the world’s most prestigious tournaments. And the gameday atmosphere from the local fans has to be seen – and heard – to be believed.

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Blooming Season!

March 20, 2019
Flowers taking bloom are quintessential signs of the rise of spring. Each year, everything from television weather reports to social media feeds are filled with splashes of color in the desert, valleys, or even mountain peaks.

While so many of our non-profit fundraising auction travel destinations offer monuments or attractions that can be seen throughout the year, a few of these places can be experienced in a different manner during these first few weeks of spring. Think of it as a new spin on some urban locales – a tribute to the wildlife just off of the concrete jungle paths.

Let’s start with the destination that might be the most famous for seasonal blooms: Every spring, thousands descend upon Washington, DC, for the Cherry Blossom Festival, which starts today. The city’s trees were sent by Japan in 1912 as a gift of friendship, a gift that has lasted more than a century along the Tidal Basin. It makes for an interesting view both of the trees and the monuments; the basin is surrounded by the Roosevelt, Jefferson, and King memorials. Combine an early-morning walk through the basin with a night tour of the monuments (available as a part of some of our travel packages to the capital) for peak DC sightseeing.

Los Angeles is supposed to be the home for stars shining, not necessarily flowers blooming. But a short drive from the city is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, and it is jumping this time of year. Visitors from all over the state make the trek to Lancaster to see the rolling hills of poppies in bloom – on weekends during peak season, there are lines of cars waiting to get in! But it’s that way at different places throughout the L.A.-adjacent desert; Anzo-Borrego Desert, Malibu Creek, and Point Mugu State Parks all get quite colorful during this part of the calendar.

It’s a desert city, sure, but Marrakesh, Morocco still has a colorful spring. It’s not hard to see why: there are more than 50 public gardens in the city and surrounding area, meaning that the well-manicured flowers are ready each spring to show off. Outside Marrakesh, Atlas Mountain and the surrounding valleys also get the chance to shine while flower blooms are out – and with our “Discover Marrakesh’s Mesmerizing Medieval Marvels” package, you’ll get plenty of chance to explore that open space, with a guided day trip.

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The Spirit(s) of Traveling

March 13, 2019
St. Patrick’s Day is our chance to celebrate all things Ireland, and to do that many will lift a pint of beer over the course of March 17th (our “Dublin is Eclectic and Delightful” travel package caters to that, too, with the Guinness Storefront represented). But for those who don’t care for beer, there are plenty of other “spirited” options for destinations, spiritual homes for certain types of drinks, that can make for a bucket-list experience for an aficionado.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take your donors around the world in search of their favorite tipple. If your supporters are interested in any of the following spirits, give them the chance to bid on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with one of these trips.

There are versions of whiskey made all over the world, but only the spirit coming out of Kentucky gets to call itself bourbon. With our “Tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Then Batter Up!” package, your donors will get to help design their own seven-hour tasting tour, based on their preferences. Some of the country’s most well-known distilleries are a part of the trail, including names like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. (And don’t worry – the tour comes with a chauffeur, so that your supporters can drink responsibly.)

Like bourbon can only be produced in Kentucky, scotch can only be made in Scotland.  And our “Explore Scotland’s Heroes, Castles and Historical Highlights” trip is both educational (learning about the different types of whiskey created, based on the region of Scotland) and fun (tasting the scotch!). Your donors will test their sensory perception as they “nose” (or smell) a brand-new batch of the “water of life,” and they’ll even get a three-course meal at the end of the class.

Wine is technically not a “spirit,” but it too often gets overlooked on March 17. The good news: It certainly isn’t overlooked in our Destinations of Excellence catalog. Whether it’s champagne or pinot noir, Italian or Californian, if your supporters have a specific wine region they love, we can likely send them there. That’s true for the go-to destinations for wine and some lesser-known (New Zealand? Ston?) oenophile spots, too.

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Planning the Perfect Spring Gala

March 06, 2019
Maybe it’s the sun, peeking out from behind winter’s curtains of white clouds. Or maybe it’s wildflower blooms, or even baseball scores showing up in the paper. The signs are starting to show that spring is on its way. For some of you, that might mean that planning for a springtime gala is heating up.

We enjoy helping non-profits reach their fundraising potential with our auction travel packages at any time of year, but we’ve also picked up an idea or two over the course of 25 years of working on galas with organizations. If your big yearly event happens in the spring and you’d like to infuse it with the spirit of the season, here are some ways to bring that freshness, that sense of renewal, to your night.

Spring can be a choice for any decision at a gala. American diets get lighter as the seasons get warmer, so maybe your food options include fish and aren’t as steak-heavy. Or maybe it’s as simple as getting good seasonal, blooming flowers for the tables. Spring, thanks in part to Easter, is also often associated with pastel colors, rather than those shades that may be a bit more “dramatic.” The season can touch so many different small decisions (down to the garnish of a cocktail) that it’s worth keeping in front of mind throughout the planning process.

The rising temperatures can make it tempting to hold your springtime gala outside. After all, there are so many cute themes that are best created under the stars. But that beautiful weather can turn on a dime, especially in those early months of the season. Any outdoor event should always have a weather plan, in case of rain (or snow, depending on where you are), but one in spring is essential. As much as we love the season, its downsides must be taken into account.

As far as what fundraising auction travel packages to offer at your auction, the data and responses you get from your biggest donors should still be guiding your choices. But, if there aren’t clear preferences, consider that most winners might not be able to drop everything at a moment’s notice to leave on vacation. For spring galas, that might mean offering destinations that are popular during the summer – ones that don’t get too hot, or are best navigable during June and July, rather than November and December.

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Five Reasons Why: New Orleans

February 27, 2019
Next week, Mardi Gras is unleashed on the streets of New Orleans, with its special blend of ridiculousness and costumes. It’s the biggest such party in the country, and the city does it up every year.

But there are 364 other days on a calendar, as well, and New Orleans certainly never closes for tourism. Whether your supporters want the dinner of their lives, a bucket-list music experience, or just a day wandering the streets and admiring the buildings, one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take them to a city where all of that and more seems possible.

Here are just five of many reasons to offer your donors the chance to go to New Orleans:
The Music: The city speaks a few languages, depending on where you are, but music may be the most universal. The Crescent City is home to some of the best jazz shows and clubs in America, many of them centered on Frenchmen Street. It’s hard to find a bar in some quarters without a jazz combo playing; it’s easy to end up with more new CDs than drinks after a bar crawl. And even the bigger venues, like Tipitina’s, have so much music history to them that they act both as venues and museum spaces of their own.

The Food: Creole, Cajun, seafood and soul food – New Orleans has an eclectic, delicious food scene that makes it one of America’s foodie capitals. Check out high-end eateries like Commander’s Palace and Mr. B’s Bistro, grab a beignet from Café Du Monde or go hunting for the best seafood in the city. It’s possible you’ll find your new favorite dish coming from one of the kitchens once occupied by great chefs like Emeril Lagasse.

The Museums: New Orleans is a city that celebrates its history, with museums and historic home tours throughout the city, ranging from the expected (The New Orleans Museum of Art) to the otherwise (The Museum of the American Cocktail). From military tributes to plantation tours, learn about the city’s past through its museum collection.

The Architecture: Spend a day walking the Garden District, and you’ll be exposed to gorgeous examples of American townhouses. Head uptown, and it’s Southern mansions. Thanks to the city’s eclectic mix of residencies, there’s everything from shotgun homes to Victorian houses throughout the city. One can get a full lesson in the history of American architecture within a short walking distance.

The Parties: Yes, Mardi Gras is an incredible draw, and for fans of mayhem, it has to be experienced at least once. But Shrove Tuesday is hardly the only party in town. Music fans likely have their eyes set on New Orleans Jazz Festival, or perhaps Voodoo Festival in the fall. The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is an annual foodie draw. And every night is a party along Bourbon or Frenchmen Streets.

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The Splashiest Destinations

February 20, 2019
We love our hidden gems in our Destinations of Excellence catalog, those locations that your donors don’t know as well, but are perfect places to see. But sometimes, supporters want to take the big trips, the ones with the name recognition. They want to be able to get recommendations from friends who have already been there, they want to be able to watch travel television shows to get ready, and they want an experience where they know at least a little of what they’re getting into.

We can help with that, too.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take your donors to some of the most popular spots in the world. And as we leave the Polar Vortex (hopefully?) behind, those top destinations are going to look a lot like beaches. Here are three examples from our catalog of where we can send your supporters – and on what beaches they should be resting or playing when they arrive.

When it comes to postcard-worthy beaches, Hawaii may lead the league. Pick an island, any island, and you’ll find gorgeous sand, blue waters and a laid-back atmosphere that makes for a relaxing vacation. On Kauai, seek out the north side of the island, where locals and a few visitors relax and wind down. But there is energy to be found on the islands, too; Waikiki Beach on O’ahu is known for its surrounding nightlife and, therefore, is a favorite of the younger age brackets.

While it may be too sizzling during the heights of summer, beaches in Miami and the Florida Keys are some of the nicest in the continental 48 states. South Beach gets lots of attention due to its adjacent nightlife, but the North Shore Open Space Park Beach is every bit the stunner as its more famous sibling. On the Keys, the Sandspur beach is gorgeous, but out of the way enough to keep crowds small. If energy and crowds are desired, Smathers Beach may be just the spot.

Looking to send your donors to an international destination? The sands of Monaco are calling. Larvotto Beach, sometimes referred to as the most glamorous beach in the world, is within the province itself, but Monaco is just steps from some of the most beautiful oceanfronts in France, as well. The Billionaire Bay is a stunning collision of forest and sand, accessible by a small hiking trail, while Mala Beach is incredibly popular stop. Bring sunscreen and your best bathing suit!
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Romance on the Road

February 13, 2019
Travel, on its own, is incredibly romantic. Going on vacation with a special someone can strengthen bonds, can reinvigorate a life worn down by the daily grind, and can even remind each other why they fell in love in the first place. Heading on the road on Valentine’s Day? It’s hard not to be shot by Cupid’s arrow in that case.

Mitch-Stuart offers trips to romantic destinations both close by and far flung as non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. For tomorrow’s holiday, we picked three of our favorites and created romantic itineraries for the day. The best news: None of these are Valentine’s-specific – your donors can follow these tips year-round!

Paris: It’s hard to put together a non-romantic itinerary for the City of Light, but we’re got some favorites. Start at the Wall of Love, which features tiles with the phrase “I love you” in 250 languages. (It’s neighborhood, Montmarte, was a big favorite of artists during the Belle Epoque; it’s worth a wander, as well.) From there, take a sunset cruise down the Seine River (we love it so much that it’s ended up in two of our trips) and, if there’s no dinner aboard the boat, head to the Hôtel Plaza Athénée for one of Paris’ greatest meals at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée. A post-meal cocktail at Verjus Bar a Vins puts a perfect bow on top of a Valentine’s Day in, arguably, the world’s capital of love.

New York: First, if your donors have a chance to stay at The Plaza New York (like with our “A Suite Taste of the Big Apple” trip), they should do it. There’s no more romantic place to rest one’s head than the hotel that’s welcomed countless celebrities and appeared in everything from “The Great Gatsby” to “Almost Famous.” From there, if the weather is aggregable, take in one of the city’s many park attractions (we’re partial to the Bow Bridge in Central Park or the High Line). If a show is in your donors’ plans (and it’s Broadway – a show SHOULD be in their plans), then a pre-show meal at Joe Allen is a great choice. It’s proximity to the theaters means that your supporters will only be a short walk away from their production of choice, and its brick interior and strong martinis give it a New York feel that’s hard to duplicate outside the five boroughs. At the end of the evening, luxuriate in the lights of Times Square. It’s a tourist trap by day (and still busy at night!), but in the late evening visitors have a little elbow room and can move at a slower pace.

San Francisco: On the nose? Perhaps. But the Cupid’s Span sculpture along the Embarcadero is a beautiful way to kick off a romantic day in the city by the bay. From there, it’s a short walk to Ghirardelli Square; the actual chocolate factory is not operational, but the company’s flagship store is there, along with other boutiques. Grab a pre-dinner beverage at Top of the Mark, which sits high above the city and boasts the best 360 view of San Francisco available. It’s less than a mile – and downhill – to Bix, a restaurant that serves up both American-French fare and nightly jazz music.

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The Sporting Season

February 06, 2019
Next week, the pitchers and catchers of the Oakland A’s report to the team’s spring training in Mesa, Arizona. Yes, despite how it has felt across much of the country, spring is coming – and it brings one of the most crowded sports calendars of the year.

Between now and June, there are huge sporting events each month, and Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that can send your supporters to see them in person. If you’ve got donors who are nightly “SportsCenter” viewers, you’ll have a big audience for these upcoming trips.

If some of your supporters are sports fans and you ask them what comes after March, they might say “Madness” instead of “April.” The NCAA basketball tournaments are some of the most popular sporting events in the country, running for three weekends and drawing enough viewers on its weekdays that CNBC estimated the tournament cost companies $4 billion in lost revenue during the 2016 outing – just for the opening weekend. We can take them to a weekend of the tournament, all the way through the Final Four.

For other sporting donors, they’ll know April comes next because it’s the month of the Masters. The tournament is the first of golf’s four yearly major tournaments, and it’s the most prestigious; the green jacket awarded to the winner is one of the most iconic awards in sports. Golf fans around the world follow along at home – but your supporters can walk through the galleries and check out the views from ground level.

Showers in April (hopefully not on Masters’ weekend!) bring May flowers, but the sporting world will keep their eyes on the track at Churchill Downs, thank you very much. The Kentucky Derby is colorful both in its infield and in the stands, with pastel colors and large hats being themes every year. Clubhouse seats will put your donors as close to the action as anyone but the jockeys, and the traditions of the day will leave lasting memories.

Finally, if your donors’ appetites for football weren’t satiated by this past weekend’s Super Bowl, they can watch the first steps of next season take place – in one of our favorite destinations! The NFL Draft takes place in late April in Nashville, and we can send a pair of your supporters to see the best and brightest of the college football ranks find out where they’ll be plying their trade for the next few years. It’s a great trip for the pigskin diehards, but everyone will enjoy setting up shop for the weekend in Music City, with its history and vibrance.

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Five Reasons Why: Portugal

January 30, 2019
For those of us on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal may not be the first destination that comes to mind when Europe is the topic. After all, this is the continent of wine in France, of the sunny southern coast of Italy, of the history of England.

But ask a European, and you’ll find out that many on the continent love heading to Portugal for “holiday.” What is it that they’ve seen, and we haven’t (en masse, at least)? We’ve got five reasons that your donors should consider a trip to one of Europe’s favorite vacation spots.

1. The Old World: Everywhere you turn in Lisbon, there’s a classical structure to admire. Portugal became a country in 1143 and has generally kept its borders in place since, meaning that almost a millennium of history can be found in town squares, villages and elsewhere. If a visitor needs something new to spark the imagination, they can find it in something old.

2. The Port: Portugal has an intriguing wine scene, but it is best known for being the home of port, the sweet dessert wine often served with cheese. It’s such a part of the culture that when we created our “Portugal: Grand and Glorious” trip, we had to include a wine tour while in Porto. Between port and the country’s excellent coffee, there’s no reason to ever rush through the end of a meal – sit back, relax, and enjoy one last drink before heading home.

3. The Food: Thanks to its coastline, Portugal is big on seafood. Traditional dishes like bacalhau (dried and salted cod) and ameijoas a bulhao pato (clams) rely heavily on the sea. But there’s also a tremendous number of meals that revolve round meat (especially different stews) – it’s a hearty kitchen! Save space for the arroz doce (rice pudding with cinnamon).

4. The Sunshine: According to MSN, Lisbon is one of the sunniest cities in Europe. Even in the depths of winter, clouds are the exception and not the norm; one source has the number of sunlight hours in Lisbon as more than 3,000 over the course of the year. Partially because of this, Portugal makes for a great all-season destination; even in February, Lisbon has an average temperature of 61 degrees.

5. …and Those Sunsets: With the majority of Portugal’s beaches on its west coast, watching the sun set is practically a national pastime. Take in the colors from the Castelo do Queijo, a castle just outside of Porto, or perhaps grab a drink at the Miradouro de Santa Catarina in Lisbon for views over the Tagus River.

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When Spring Springs…

January 23, 2019
We’re nearing the middle of the winter, and the season is dragging. Big snow storms in colder locations, lots of rain in warmer ones (Los Angeles had four straight days of rain last week – a massive storm, for the area): It would seem like, by this time, only the hardiest of winter fans are looking to hold on to the cold.

That applies to your non-profit’s donors as well. So, even though it may be a little dark and a lot chilly outside, it’s time to think about springtime destinations.
We love all the destinations covered by our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, but there are certainly some that are better than others when it comes to a particular season. For the spring, here are some questions to ask yourself when thinking about what kinds of destinations your supporters may want to visit.

Is this destination “too hot” in the summer? “Too cold” in the winter?

The spring catches Miami just before its heat becomes all-consuming. If you’ve got supporters who would love to check out the art, the restaurants and the nightlife of the city, spring may be the perfect time – in fact, March and April are both considered to be peak season for tourism along South Beach. And while New York is fun any time of year, it’s a little less so when the wind is whipping through Manhattan and every street corner has a massive slush puddle.

Are there major events on which to piggyback?

For a certain demographic, each spring comes with the promise of Coachella, the annual three-day music festival in the California desert. And with hotel rates through the roof there, buying a stay via a charity auction may be a smart investment. It’s also the beginning of baseball season, so those trips to cities with legendary stadiums – looking at you, Chicago and Boston – could be more popular.

Are your supporters with families looking for a spring break destination?

Got families looking to get away during their kids’ spring break? Orlando and Anaheim are each popular year-round, but they experience a rush during the spring, as children get some time off and parents use the opportunity to get out of town and visit Mickey Mouse. It’s the same for Los Angeles and San Diego, with their respective parks. Help your donors out by giving them a destination that their kids will enjoy.

What have my donors said?

Remember, even though there are some trips that just make more sense to take in the spring, you should be doing your due diligence and checking in with previous big bidders and see where’s on their mind. There may be some who are looking for that last blast of snow, or some who want to skip straight to summer’s heat. There may be some who don’t care about weather at all. Your data from surveys and phone calls should, whenever possible, be a guiding force in your auction item acquisition strategy.

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Winter Adventures

January 16, 2019
There are those, of course, who would huddle up in the face of a snowstorm. And there are those who would go outside and play.

If your donors largely consist of that second type, then they’ll have a type of winter getaway in mind when they attend your gala event. With our help, you can offer a trip that will scratch their itch for adrenaline, exercise, and the beauty of the outdoors during the season of snow.

First, there are the reliables. If you’ve got a donor pool of a larger size, there will be at least a few that trade their wingtips for ski boots come wintertime. Along with an assortment of destinations (we love Telluride, Lake Tahoe and Whistler/Vancouver, among others), think about supercharging these by pairing them with some new technology – maybe a small camera to record the runs, or a pair of heated gloves – and making an auction lot appeal to both hardcore skiers and tech dabblers.

While ice skating is a year-round endeavor, taking the blades outside is a particular winter treat. There is the iconic Rink at Rockefeller Center in New York, which shows up in so many holiday-themed episodes of television shows and movies (it stays open into the spring, however). In Chicago, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is one of the latest-running, staying open well into March. And it’s not restricted to cold-weather cities, either: In Los Angeles, the Pershing Square Holiday Ice Rink stays open until late January. There’s something romantic about skating under the stars, then huddling together with a hot chocolate afterwards.

Sno-ga? It may need help with its name, but snow yoga has become a way to enjoy both the serenity and the trappings of the season for some yogis. Often reserved for specific retreats, but making its way onto amenity lists at resorts, snow yoga is exactly what it sounds like: A flow session out on (and, in some poses, in) the snow. It runs counter to what many imagine the practice to need, namely a warm-to-hot room to allow muscles to relax but stretching in colder temperatures can also be a tremendous help for the average skier, snowboarder or snowshoer, loosening them up for their runs.

For those who don’t think skiing or snowboarding is extreme enough, heli-skiing might be an option. Especially popular in a place like Whistler, the skiing hybrid is all about the terrain; participants are dropped off via helicopter in the mountains, with the goal being to find a place with no trail at all, then they carve their way down the untamed slope. Heli-skiing is a great way to combine true wilderness with adrenaline.

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Travel Trends for 2019

January 09, 2019
At Mitch-Stuart, we all love and stand behind every trip in our Destinations of Excellence® catalog, of course, be it a weekend in Vegas or a week in Italy. But some trips, for one reason or another, just get “hot” at a certain moment. Sometimes, it’s a response to an outside stimulus, like when international trips start selling more because of a strong dollar. Other times, it’s about a generational shift, like recently as Millennials have hit their “Eat, Pray, Love” years and discovered Bali en masse.

Our crystal ball is still on back order, but we’ve got some ideas on what travel trends will be big in 2019. And big travel trends can translate directly to big dollars, if you offer the right corresponding trips at your non-profit fundraising auction.

The Caribbean is Open for Business – Hurricane Maria and other storms ran roughshod over islands in the Caribbean in 2017. But now, according to Forbes, those countries are opening their arms to tourists in a serious way. In addition, there are more flights coming out of America and landing on the islands than ever before, and many being added in markets outside of New York or Florida, meaning that more of the country has direct access to places like Jamaica is easier from some major cities.

Explore – Get outside! Another segment of travel that’s on an upswing is “exploratory” travel, trips taken by tourists for whom the guide book is a starting point, not a bible. That works in a couple of ways: There’s those who are looking for natural adventures, like those found in the rain forests of Costa Rica, and others who are looking for more of a “cultural” adventure, exploring unfamiliar cities, cuisine, spirits and entertainment. That means that trips with great local itineraries – winery tours, or foodie adventures – may be even more appealing to supporters this year.

The Bucket List: For your “Baby Boomer” donors, AARP has a suggestion; the non-profit with the aim of assisting seniors says that, in 2019, the Boomer generation will be focusing more on “bucket list” travel. According to the organization, Boomers were most likely than any generation surveyed to say that they wanted to check items off a bucket list, while Gen Xers and Millennials were more likely to be interested in other types of travel. For your older donors, that means trips to the Italian countryside, or maybe for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (like dining with cast members of a Broadway play, or going to the Super Bowl), might catch a little extra attention.

Bleisure: We’ve written about the combination of business and leisure travel before, and it’s continued to heat up. According to AARP, nearly 50 percent of Millennials will be looking to take an extra couple of days of vacation at the end of a business trip. For these “work hard, play hard” types, weekend trips are often great options; A weekday trip to Las Vegas for a convention can easily become a weekend trip with shows, dinners and other attractions – and instead of having to plan out their extra couple of days, why not give them a chance to support their favorite charity and set the weekend up all at once?

DNA Travel: DNA test kits have become ubiquitous, and they are spawning their fair share of overseas itineraries, according to Lonely Planet. If a donor has just found out that he or she is 50 percent Irish, maybe a trip to a castle in Ireland has an even greater interest. For those who want to trace multiple ancestries on one vacation, a voyage to Paris or Barcelona also means a connection to easy European travel between countries and the ability to trace multiple identities as far back as is possible.

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Say Thanks!

January 02, 2019
It’s one of the first bits of manners our parents teach us as children; when someone else does something nice, you say “thank you.” And it’s one of the first lessons that any non-profit learns when it starts fundraising in earnest. Donors like to be thanked, and you like to remind them of that good feeling they got when they donated to your cause last time.

But is your organization thanking people in the best ways possible? And what are the best practices for saying “thank you”?

The first “myth” that Kathy Kingston of Kingston Auctions and our own Michael Upp debunked during their Mythbusters V seminar was the idea that saying thank you is enough. A form letter a couple of weeks later or, even worse, a pat on the back as the donor is leaving not only feels like an afterthought, but it does little to set your non-profit up to ask for more donations later on.

So, if those thank yous aren’t enough, how can you up your gratitude game?

First, it’s important to get thank-you notes out as soon as possible. The goal should be personalized notes, in the mail in 48 hours. This may take a lot of post-event hustle, but it’s exactly that effort that makes donors feel recognized and appreciated.

Also, pick up the phone! No matter what size a gift a supporter has left, a phone call is in order. Write up simple scripts for your board members to work with, then give them a list of names, numbers and amounts. Opening up this kind of dialogue not only establishes the donor as important, but also sets precedent if the board member ever needs to call again in the future to ask for a donation or to invite the supporter to a future event.

In fact, this being the beginning of 2019, it might be a good time to set up what could be described as a “gratitude plan” for the year. In this plan, make notes of when you’ll be sending out thanks, time periods to make phone calls, and who will be responsible for each. This way, the post-event work is more organized, leaving les of a chance that a supporter will be forgotten in all of the clean-up and stock-taking.

Showing gratitude to your supporters is more than a kindness. It’s also the type of relationship-building work that will reap rewards for your non-profit into the future. And it will make your parents proud, too.

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Resolutions for 2019

December 26, 2018
The last of the holidays during the “holiday season,” New Year’s Eve is portrayed as the big blowout evening, the big party celebrating the latest rotation around the sun. But as importantly, it’s also the day on which people set some good intentions and goals for the next 365 days.

Yes, I’m sure we’ll all go to the gym, and eat healthier, and not yell in traffic, or whatever resolutions we’ve all made. But here are three promises for the new year that you can keep while helping out your non-profit, too.

+ Learn: We’re never done learning, thankfully. Industries evolve, new ones are created, and there’s always ways for us to keep up with these changes. Whether it’s a seminar, a conference or a good reading list, learning new skills will not only help sharpen the mind, but also it can also become a more effective supporter for your cause. For instance, start by downloading the replay of Kathy Kingston and our own Michael Upp’s webinar, Mythbusters V, right here. (But hurry – it only stays live until January 1.)

+ Help (and encourage others to help): If you’re reading this blog, then you likely already one of the people that Mr. Rodgers called “the helpers,” the ones people look to in a tough time. To be called to service via a non-profit means you are serving a community of some sort. We’re excited to be able to help you do exactly that. What happens this year if you draw just three more people into service? And if they draw three people?

+ Travel: It promotes physical activity (which in turn promotes heart health). It introduces new experiences and expands the mind (helping that organ stay sharp). It relieves stress. And it often connects you to people from around the world, changing your perspective. There may be no more healthy way to live than to make sure you’re using all of those vacation days to hit the road for a trip. It’s one of the reasons that we love what we do: Travel should be a part of life for everyone, including your donors.

From our family to yours, have a wonderful holiday season, and we’ll see you in 2019 with more ways to help your charity or non-profit achieve its mission.

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Around the World at Christmas

December 19, 2018
There are plenty of places in America to explore in search of Christmas spirit. The Rockefeller Center ice rink in New York City, the lights of the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C. – there’s even a town in Indiana named Santa Claus! – all guarantee that no one in this country should have to go too far for a shot of that holiday feeling.

But what if your donors want to go far for the holiday? What if they want to take advantage of their remaining vacation days, for instance, or their kids’ school holidays?

Mitch-Stuart loves offering non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that can be used around the year, and one of our favorite times of year is the December holidays. It’s a time to be with family, of course, but there’s nothing that says that the family has to be at home, right? If you’ve got donors who are looking to hit the road for the holidays, these are a few of the places around the world they can go and still get that dose of cheer.

For those who believe – and can get tickets – there’s Midnight Mass at the Vatican, with the Pope presiding over the celebration. But for those who can’t get in the door, St. Peter’s Square broadcasts the service on massive screens in the open air. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the season while standing shoulder to shoulder with your fellow man and woman. But the mass isn’t the only reason to arrive in Rome in late December; there are Christmas markets, Nativity scenes and more to explore. The spirit of Christmas can be found all over Italy, but Rome might be its epicenter.

Looking for an adventurous Christmas? How about a holiday morning swim in the waters of Ireland, jumping off a rock into the cold waters with a bunch of others dressed as Santa? They are hearty folks, those Dubliners, and they take their celebratory dives seriously. All around the city, meanwhile, there are markets and ice skating rinks. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a favorite for its carolers, as well – get to town early enough for the Gloria Christmas Concert, which usually happens in the days before the holiday.

If your donors love the season but hate the seasonal weather, it’s good to remember that December doesn’t have to mean winter. In Sydney, Australia, carols are sung at the country’s largest annual free concert, Carols in the Domain. There are Christmas song concerts throughout the city, as well. And each year the city’s Martin Place has an elaborate lighting ceremony – often paired with fireworks. If your donors spend a week in Sydney around the holidays, they may no longer associate snow with the spirit of the season!

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Five Reasons Why: Miami and the Florida Keys

December 12, 2018
When it comes to warm winter destinations, California can soak up a lot of the attention. Between the desert of Palm Springs, the stars of Hollywood and the beaches of San Diego, there are a lot of attractions to distract the eye.

But the east coast can go toe-to-toe with Southern California when it comes to winter getaways, particularly one area: Miami and the Florida Keys. The dynamic duo has its most hospitable weather in months like December and January, and the beaches (and beachside restaurants) are open and calling to residents of cold-weather cities at this time of year.

Why should your donors go to Miami and/or the Florida Keys? Here are five reasons.

The Nightlife – South Beach is one of the most famous streets in the world when it comes to nightlife. Younger travelers can dance their nights away at clubs like LIV or Nikki Beach, while everyone can wander and do some of the best people watching in the city. Key Largo combines nightlife with beachlife in unique ways; the Caribbean Club, where Humphrey Bogart once shot the movie “Key Largo,” is a special link to the area’s history.

The Beaches – The aforementioned South Beach, as the name would indicate, has a stunning sandy view of the Atlantic Ocean amidst its beautiful people, but there’s hardly a bad oceanfront or gulf view to be found in Miami or the Keys. Smathers Beach in Key West is a favorite, with crowds to match, while Calusa and Sandspur Beaches are both great for the entire family. Even dogs get some sand, at Key West Dog Beach.

The Dining –
Whether it’s a Cuban restaurant on a random street corner or a flashy, upscale hotel restaurant, Miami and the Florida Keys have your dining options covered. It’s also the home of several restaurants developed by celebrity chefs, including French cooking master Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Matador Room and at The Bazaar by Jose Andres and Bazaar Mar (the latter coming with an emphasis on seafood), both outposts of the Andres empire.

The Art – One of the world’s three Art Basel markets takes place in Miami each year, making the city a temporary capital of the art world during those weeks. But there’s a great art scene in Miami throughout the year. Galleries like Fredric Snitzer, Avant and David Castillo give South Florida a year-round relevance to artists and collectors. And late in 2019, the Rubell Family Collection, one of the largest privately-owned modern art collections in the world, gets its own 100,000-square foot museum.

The Key Lime Pie! –
Every year, Key West hosts the Key Lime Festival, with pie eating contests, a rum sampling and distillery tour, and the right to tell the story of going to Key West every time you or a donor eat Key Lime Pie with someone for the rest of your (or your donor’s) life. What could be better than those kinds of bragging rights?

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Mythbusters 5!

December 05, 2018
Do you feel lost when someone says “fundraising auction”? Are you a veteran planner with that nagging feeling that you could be raising more money at your galas?

On December 18th, our own Senior Vice President Michael Upp will again partner with Kathy Kingston of Kingston Auction Company for the fifth installment of their seminar series, Mythbusters. It’s a free tele-conference where the dynamic fundraising duo lays out some of the “conventional wisdom” of the billion-dollar industry and tells the real story.

Need some examples? Here are a couple of myths they’ve busted in the past.

More is More: Your donors will remember a well-curated auction better than one with a longer list of items. This requires a little more work, in a way; you have to know your audience well enough to know what it’s looking for, you have to expand your horizons in terms of what’s possible, you have to mix up the cost of each item, to make sure to reach everyone, and you have to offer at least one “once in a lifetime” lot, one that will build excitement throughout the evening. But the rewards will be more funds raised and a more memorable night.

Free Auctioneers Save Money: It seems so easy to grab your fastest-talking board member and have them act as auctioneer. It’ll save money too, right? But an auctioneer is so much more than someone to take bids. There’s only one line on your gala budget that, on its own, raises more funds than it costs, and that’s the professional auctioneer. They know when to try and goose the audience for bigger bids, and when to hang back. They know how to present your items in the most appealing way, to get the most money. And they’ve got the kind of public speaking skill to make sure your organization’s story is front and center.

Our Donors Can’t Afford It: A lot of money walks out of the room when you limit your items to only what you think your audience can afford. Give them a chance to surprise you; if you offer them the chance at a once-in-a-lifetime vacation package, for instance, they might be so moved both by the cause and the amazing trip that they’ll dig a little deeper. (And if you use a Mitch-Stuart trip, for instance, then you’re offering it on consignment anyway, meaning you don’t pay for it until a bidder buys it!)

How many of these did you believe? And what else may you be able to improve at your auction? Sign up for Mythbusters 5 and then call in to find out!

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Five Reasons Why: San Diego

November 28, 2018
Days are reaching their shortest lengths and temperatures are approaching their yearly lows. In many parts of the country, this is the perfect time for a non-profit to use one of our fundraising auction travel packages to send a supporter to San Diego, one of America’s sunniest and most temperate major cities. But nice weather isn’t the only reason for your donors to consider Southern California as a destination.

Want to spice up your auction? Here are five reasons to give your supporters as to why they should be looking at San Diego as a travel destination.

The Animals – San Diego is a city that loves its lions, tigers and bears. Of course, there’s the world-famous San Diego Zoo, with its sister site Safari Park, which attracts tourists from around the world each year. But there’s also Butterfly Farms, which features a 2,000-square foot vivarium (the largest in Southern California) filed with the beauties. And for families, the Children’s Nature Retreat in neighboring Alpine is a ranch-style sanctuary that lets kids explore and view the animals in an unstructured fashion.

The Beaches – San Diego has several neighborhoods named after their nearest beaches, and the atmosphere in each is slightly different. The party is on Pacific Beach, especially for those in and recently out of college, while Ocean Beach is home to some great breweries and restaurants. Mission Beach, meanwhile, is a great destination for young families with Belmont Park and The Wave House leading the way.

The History – One of the city’s most popular neighborhoods is Old Town San Diego, said to date back to the area’s first European settlers. Today, it’s a reminder of both the town’s Mexican heritage and how the city was originally built. People come today to visit the State Historic Park area or, surrounding that, some of the best-known Mexican restaurants in San Diego.

The Adrenaline – The regularly-perfect weather allows San Diegans to get outside and get the heart pumping. One of our trips to the city allows your supporters to ride – and even pilot! – an America’s Cup race yacht. Surfing may be the most popular pastime of residents, and if your donors don’t know how, there’s plenty of schools and teachers. And there’s plenty of chances to go kayaking, rock climbing and even zip-lining over the natural beauty of Southern California.

The Beer – San Diego is regularly competing with cities like Portland for the title of America’s Beer Capital, and one brewery tour will tell you why. According to the San Diego Brewers Guild, there are 126 breweries in the area, from 13 Point Brewing Company to Wild Barrel Brewing. Some of the more famous ones include Stone Brewing, Modern Times Beer and Karl Strauss Brewing Company, but when there’s a new brew seemingly every block, your donors can make up their own minds as to the best.
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Where to Go for Thanksgiving – and Why

November 21, 2018
More than 54 million travelers will hit the road or the skies for Thanksgiving this year, the most since 2005, according to AAA. Many will be heading home to their families for the break, but others will be using the days off from work to go somewhere new. And some will do both, with spread-out families converging on one vacation locale.

It’s a great season for donors to use one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. The key is, which one? Thanksgiving is often seen as a family holiday, but what that means depends on each different household.

Since there’s no one-size-fits-all travel package that will satisfy everyone on the day of thanks, we prefer to think about the choice in terms of some questions. Ask these to your big-money donors in advance of your gala auction to get an idea of what destinations are on – or should be on! – their minds.

Question number one for supporters looking at a Thanksgiving getaway: Warm or Cold? There’s something to be said for touch football in the snow with the family, or a cozy, roaring fireplace. But if your donors live in a cold climate, there’s also something to getting a break from the winter chill. Skiing in Telluride, Colo. or lounging on the beach in the Caribbean?

Once you find the right climate, think about the right accommodations. How much space is needed? Thanksgiving is traditionally a time during which families gather; with a villa, like the five-bedroom one in our “A Transcendent Taste of Tuscany” package, even the extended relatives can experience a holiday to remember. Our trips to destinations like Bali, Italy, certain Caribbean islands and even Australia have these kinds of housing – and for those who prefer the colder weather, our Telluride adventure can accommodate a family of four, as well.

Finally, what kind of holiday celebrators are your supporters? Do they love Thanksgiving itself, or is it about the ritual? Either way, there are packages that can be big sellers. Any New York trip, for instance, can put your supporters in the biggest celebration of the holiday that the country has to offer: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! In 2018 it is celebrating its 92nd edition and draws in people from around the world for its floats and balloons. In addition, football has, in many families, become as associated with Thanksgiving as stuffing or turkey. Each year, the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions hosts opponents, with a third pair of combatants rotating among the rest of the league. If you’ve got donors who are fans of one of the six teams, we can send them to enjoy the contest in person!

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Travel Like a Royal

November 14, 2018
Donors have many different reasons for bidding on one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. Maybe it’s a destination with nostalgia attached, maybe it’s a chance to bring the entire family together under one roof, maybe it’s to attend a major event.

One that we hear on a regular basis is to visit the same places at which the British royal family vacations.

That shouldn’t be too big a surprise; more than 29 million Americans watched the wedding between Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle. Interest in the monarchy always runs hot, and especially when a prince or princess visits the states.

If you’ve got donors who want to follow in the royal footsteps, and if you want to capitalize on Royal Madness, here are some destinations to keep in mind.

Some of the biggest moments in recent royal family history have come while on the road. It was at the northern slope of Mount Kenya where Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton, in 2010. Go sixty years back, to 1958, and Kenya was also the country where Princess Elizabeth found out about her father’s death – and became queen in the process.

For warmer weather, a cruise through the Caribbean has been a favorite for some royals through the years. For instance, it was the honeymoon for Princess Margaret and her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones. The couple enjoyed it so much, they made a special trip back to Bahamas a few years later for a vacation.

On the other side of the temperature coin, the royal family spends a great deal of time in the Alps when winter comes around. It was the first holiday for Prince William and Kate after the arrival of Princess Charlotte, for instance – and the photos of the foursome (including Charlotte’s older brother, Prince George) became viral sensations online.

But it would be Balmoral Castle in Scotland that would become a favorite of Queen Elizabeth. It’s the royal family’s “vacation home,” and a particular favorite of the queen, who visits at the end of almost every summer. It’s a 50,000-acre estate that features a total of 150 different buildings and, with Elizabeth’s fondess for the home, every living royal has spent some time in Scotland.

The castle doesn’t have to be real to attract a literal princess, though. In 1993, Princess Diana took young William and Harry to Disney World in Orlando. Reportedly getting around the park through secret underground tunnels, Diana was spotted all around the Magical Kingdom with the kids in tow. She rented out the entire 10th floor of the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to make it happen.

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What’s New at Mitch-Stuart

November 07, 2018
Throughout the year, we are constantly on the lookout for new travel opportunities and places to add to our Destinations of Excellence® catalog. We recently added a group of new trips to our offerings, featuring cities all over the world and events that your supporters may not be able to access themselves.

Here’s a survey of the newest non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, straight from our latest catalog.

Foodies: For your donors motivated to travel by their taste palate, Mitch-Stuart has a couple of new trips that supporters will love. They can dine at the chef’s table at Long Meadow Ranch, a favorite of Napa Valley. If something a little less formal strikes their fancy, there’s an awesome walking food tour of Austin, where the city’s world-famous barbecue is on offer.

Sun Seekers:
Vitamin D is on offer year-round in San Diego, and our trips there feature activities that will get your donors out in the sun, like racing an America’s Cup yacht, taking a gondola cruise, dining on a cruise ship and a tour of a local favorite, the Lions, Tigers and Bears Sanctuary. Oh, and there’s a beach or two worth checking out, too.

European Adventurers: Do you have supporters who want to explore western Europe? If so, Mitch-Stuart now offers trips Portugal for wine tasting, to Barcelona for flamenco dancing, and to Paris for skip-the-line access to the Eiffel Tower. These adventures are not only wonderful for donors, but make great gifts for recent college graduates, as well; who wants to backpack when you could stay in luxurious accommodations instead?

Travelers with a Ticket: There are few more classically “New York” experiences than seeing a show at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center; with one of our three new trips to the Big Apple, your donors can not only be in the audience, but also behind the scenes with a private tour. Sports fans, meanwhile, can head to the Orlando area with tickets for the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard.

Luxury or Energy: Europe doesn’t have a monopoly on great destinations, of course. In the new catalog, we’ve added trips to two amazing locales, with two very different vibes. Your supporters can head to Thailand for paradise-like luxury in a five-bedroom villa – space for the whole family! – and have meals whipped up by a private chef. For those looking for more energy, there’s Marrakech, with its history, its sights and its bazaars.

Interested in offering any of these new trips at your gala auction or as the prize for a raffle? Reach out to Mitch-Stuart today!

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Halloween on the Road

October 31, 2018
Holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving spring to mind when thoughts turn to travel. Same with Memorial and Labor Days. July 4th, thanks to its placement in what feels like the middle of the summer, always feels busy at airports and on roadways.

Halloween, though? Isn’t that for wandering your neighborhood, searching for candy? Or staying in for the inevitable “The Twilight Zone” marathon?

We love holidays here at Mitch-Stuart, and we think that any celebration is a chance to travel. Whether it’s a parade in New York, an amusement park in Southern California, or any other spooky experience available, Halloween travel can be a fun way to see a destination in a whole new light.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take your donors around the world in search of frights. But as we love to provide a well-rounded itinerary for our travelers, we also love to help them get the most out of their trips – and that includes these tips as to how to celebrate Halloween when in an unfamiliar place.

Have a Makeup-Heavy Costume: Obviously, this is not the year to break out the massive cardboard costume. Keeping your ensemble mostly make-up based is an easy way to celebrate without having to lug around Halloween paraphernalia in your luggage. Think basic: many of the go-to costume ideas come down to makeup, ears of some sort, and a body suit that can be rolled up in your bag for the trip home.

Got Kids? Take Them to an Event: When you’re out of your hometown, you may not know where to take the kids trick-or-treating. Instead of looking for safety information online (where it can seem every neighborhood is unsafe in one way or another), find a nice event to which to take the children. Most cities of even a small size will have some sort of celebration in a central park, or at a local school or public library. There may not be huge amounts of candy in it for the young ones, but they’ll still likely find their sugar rush.

Talk: Halloween is, above all, a pretty friendly holiday. No matter where you find yourself, and especially if you find yourself there alone (a business trip, for instance), there’ll be people celebrating – and with all of the work that some people can put into Halloween costumes, you’re sure to have something to talk about. It’s a chance to get to know a new city in a whole new way, and nothing will make you feel more at home somewhere than making new friends.

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Five Reasons Why: New York

October 24, 2018
Keeping a list of reasons to head to New York to just five points is nearly impossible. It feels like one of America’s most exciting cities – and one of its most heavily visited – could fill a book with the diversions and attractions that make it one of our favorite Destinations of Excellence.

If you’re looking for a non-profit fundraising auction travel package for your gala event or raffle, New York should be one of the destinations at the front of the mind. Here are just five reasons why.

The Theater: Broadway is where musicals become obsessions. This is where “Hamilton” went from being a quirky show about a “founding father” to a worldwide success. It’s where crowds would camp out to see “Rent,” or “Phantom of the Opera” upon their premieres. Even those who may not appreciate musical theater will be stunned by the set pieces and practical magic that a fully functioning show on the Great White Way can produce.

The Food: What kind of food do you want? Authentic Italian, including that great New York pizza? Or are you looking for top-name celebrity chefs? How about those amazing Manhattan delis, with their towering pastrami sandwiches? If your donors hunger for it, it’s available in New York … and it’s probably being done better than nearly anywhere else. They can pick a different cuisine every night, or go on one of the city’s popular food tours, sampling dishes at every stop.

The Green Space:
Go to the concrete jungle to see trees? It might not be the first idea to spring to mind, but New York has a tremendous collection of parks – and we’re not just talking about the Central one. Take a leisurely stroll on Chelsea’s High Line, for instance, or head to Brooklyn to picnic in Prospect Park – on the weekend, you’ll have plenty of company.

The Sports: Two of the country’s most famous sporting venues are here, meaning that a trip either to Yankee Stadium in the summer or Madison Square Garden in the winter will be on the itinerary of any sports fan. There are eight professional teams in the New York area (not counting the two Major League Soccer franchises), so there’s always something going on to attract those weekend warrior types.

The Energy: Even those adamant about never wanting to live in New York understand that city energy, that feeling that follows you through the streets of Manhattan and, increasingly, out into the boroughs. There’s no city that feels the way New York feels, and it’s a feeling that can’t quite be replicated by movies, music, or even your donors’ local New York-style pizzeria.

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Pasta Around the World

October 17, 2018
If one listens to the internet, every day is a holiday. There’s International Cat Day, National Siblings Day, National Mutt Day, and even National Video Game Day.

While we have nothing against any of those celebrations, we prefer the ones that we can taste. And that’s why today, we want to talk about October 17th, or National Pasta Day.

Some of our favorite non-profit fundraising auction travel packages take your donors to destinations well-known for their pasta prowess. Whether your supporters love red or white sauce, a fantastic wine paring or a beer, they can get their fill of noodles in one of these places.

Italy is well-represented in our Destinations of Excellence catalog with more than a dozen trips to the country on offer; when talking pasta, there’s no other place to start. The type of noodle in the homeland can differ wildly by region; the ruffled edges of gigli in Tuscany may not be available in Sicily, where ziti is a favorite. But whatever shape the dish takes, your winning donors will be thrilled to be eating it in its birthplace (and extra credit to those who find their way to Roma Sparita, the home of a pepper-and-cheese pasta that Anthony Bourdain swore by). Depending on the trip your supporters win, they might even learn how to best make it, right in their accommodations!

Of course, one of the largest concentrations of Italians outside of Italy resides in New York City, and there are plenty of great pasta joints in the metropolis. Restaurants like Carbone, Rao’s and Del Posto are all big names, but if your donors stop at one of many Little Italy eateries, they’ll find great Italian cuisine. If your supporters are real fiends for the dish, they can set their sights on the Festival of San Gennaro, the large street fair that happens every September, to get samples of pasta from dozens of different vendors.

Not all great pasta come with that traditional red sauce. A trip to Northern California will give your donors license to explore the quality of a good white clam sauce, as well. With the quantity of clams available from a fishing town like San Francisco, there are variations on clam spaghetti and linguine with clams on menus throughout the region (including several of our favorite restaurants in Napa Valley). Some of the area’s versions of the dish have even become famous; Wall Street Journal highlighted the linguine and clams of Charter Oak in neighboring St. Helena, where it’s a seasonal dish, earlier in 2018.
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What to Drink Après-Ski

October 10, 2018
Your donors have the skis, the helmets, and, with your help, the tickets and accommodations, via one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages.

But do they have the drinks?

In our ongoing quest to make your donors as happy with their auction win as possible, we’ve put together a guide to the après-ski drink. It’s a tradition worth engaging in; an underrated part of the resort experience is hanging out around the fireplace or pit at the end of the day, talking with other skiers and having a drink or two.

Here’s are guide to a few of the options – and a few of the optimal places in which to drink them.

Hot chocolate is a go-to after school drink for kids coming home from winter classes. But just because it connected so closely to the everyday doesn’t mean it can’t be whipped up for this occasion, too! Just put a better spin on it: Try infusing the drink with some peppermint, for instance (maybe those ever-present candy canes?) or Mandarin orange. Perhaps you can even steal some of Starbucks’ thunder and add a little pumpkin spice to make a drink worthy of capping off a wonderful day on the slopes. This may be the “coziest” of our options, so it’s the perfect cup to have in a colder location – like Banff, in the Canadian Rockies, for instance.

Of course, some people prefer something with a little … kick after racing down the mountain. The Hot Toddy mixes hot water (or tea), spices, sugar and whisky, creating a warming feeling needed after spending all day in the snow. Along the same lines, there’s the classic Irish Coffee, with the titular joe mixed with a splash of whiskey and topped with some whipped cream. they would be perfect drinks to order while skiing in Colorado; the state has had its share of whiskey distilleries open recently, and that mountain water is as clean as can be.

Not ready for a shot of whiskey when coming off the slopes? Take it easier with an Italian favorite, the Aperol Spritz. The low ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktail is a favorite around Italian fireplaces after skiers spend the day speeding downhill. A mix of prosecco (an Italian sparkling wine), soda water and the titular aperitif, the Spritz is refreshing, flavorful and, thanks to the bubbles, fun. It’s maybe best consumed under the sunny skies of British Columbia, a destination that combines winter fun with more than 300 days of sunshine per year.
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The Last Escape

October 03, 2018
We love the holiday season at Mitch-Stuart: families gathering, dinners cooking, laughter ringing out. It’s why we always love it when one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is used for travel during the season, like to villas in Italy or Bali.

But we also acknowledge a big truth about the holidays: They can be stressful. Hustling to finish gift lists, prettying up the home for visitors, and dealing with family dynamics adds to that rushed, out-of-breath feel that so often sets in on January 2nd.

The good news is that we’ve got more than a month now before Thanksgiving. That’s plenty of time to fit in a pre-holiday trip, one that is stress-free and will help “set the table,” so to speak, for the stressful gauntlet of November and December holidays to come. If your donors could you some relaxation before figuring out how to cook that turkey, here are some traits for which to look in a great pre-celebration voyage.

No Worries

Vacations can be stressful, too, so it’s important to find a trip that won’t pile on to the upcoming holiday pressure. The type of coordination that it takes to bring a family to Europe, for instance, might add as much anxiety as it relieves. Think instead of offering your donors the opportunity to go to an all-inclusive resort, where all the details are taken care of in advance. If the most difficult choice of the day is at which of the property’s delicious on-site restaurants to dine, that’s a day that has certainly released, rather than created, stress.

“Adult” Fun

For families of two, or friends looking to hit the road, two great cities for pre-holiday holidays are Las Vegas and New Orleans. Each have their own version of “adult playgrounds” (the Strip for the former, the French Quarter for the latter), but they also have world class dining, top-notch entertainment and a tourist-welcoming vibe that makes sure your donors will feel as at home as one can among, say, replicas of the Eiffel Tower, Manhattan and the great pyramids.


Thanksgiving and the December holidays take place during some rather chilly months – there’s a reason that Christmas, for instance, is all about sleigh bells and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” That makes finding a beach a good priority for your supporters – and both Southern California and Florida have all the sand a donor could desire. One last gasp of beach attire before going back to that parka might be all the stress relief needed before entering the holiday season.

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Five Reasons Why: Boston

September 26, 2018
The fall is when the Northeast shines, thanks to those hyper-photogenic leaves turning colors, that perfect light jacket weather, and baseball’s playoff race heating up for the region’s home team. A city like Boston, though, has plenty of reasons to visit year-round.  Let’s take a look at five (of many!) reasons why Boston should be on your donors’ wish lists, and why we consider it a prime destination for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages.

The Season: The Northeast is simply gorgeous at this time of year and getting to Boston means getting to see those bright and bold colors on the trees. At their peak, the leaves draw thousands of visitors to the region, and with Boston the unofficial capital of the area, the city makes for a great home base for those day-trips into the woods.

The Stadium: Fenway Park is one of America’s most beloved ball parks; first opened in 1912, it’s seen a historic championship drought, multiple moments that have gone down in baseball lore, and, over the last 20 years or so, massive success for the Boston Red Sox. The Green Monster, the nickname for the more-than-35 feet tall left field wall, is one of the most recognizable stadium features in the country.

The Seafood: With the city’s proximity to Maine, Boston is lobster lover’s paradise. Whether it’s the old-fashioned lobster shack feel of Yankee Lobster Company or the upscale Island Creek Oyster Bar, there’ll be an atmosphere to fit any diner, and a dish to satisfy every appetite. And don’t ignore the bivalves of a spot like B&G Oysters, either.

The History:
Boston, both in the city and in the fields surrounding it, was one of the biggest battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War, and the modern-day metropolis remembers that history well. There are tours throughout the city (and as a part of one of our travel packages, in the form of the Go Boston card) to see everything from battlefields to Boston Harbor, the site of the original Tea Party.

The Schools:
There are more than 50 colleges in the Boston area, and some of them are eminently travel-worthy. Take a day strolling around Harvard Square, stopping in at the university’s impressive library or the outside-the-gates coffee shops. Or maybe a trip overlaps with a concert at the Berklee School of Music, one of America’s most prestigious university for musicians.

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The Whens, Wheres and Whys of Fall Travel

September 19, 2018
There are plenty of general reasons for your donors to use a Mitch-Stuart non-profit fundraising auction travel package in the fall. The weather can be beautiful. Crowds are often smaller than during the dog days of summer. With kids going back to school, some destinations can feel a little quieter and more relaxing.

But some of your supporters may be looking for specific reasons to fly away this fall. To that end, we’ve put together a small list of events occurring in the next three months that can tempt your donors to make that last, winning bid. Think of these as talking points to pair with one of our travel packages in order to get the maximum fundraising potential out of your gala event.

Leaf Peeping: Donors can use one of our Boston travel packages as a home base for adventures throughout New England, and there may be no more quintessentially fall event in the United States than the changing colors on the trees of the Northeast. Book trips to the region in late September or early October for peak color.

Foodie Festivals: There are plenty of fall food celebrations, spread out across the United States. One of our favorites: the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, which runs this year between October 6 and 28, is a collection of events spotlighting not only the food of the islands, but twists on other cuisines. This is no street fair; events include white-cloth dinners and adventures in wine and food pairing on three different islands.

Mingle with the Stars: Los Angeles isn’t known for its fall splendor (or really any seasonal delights), but it does throw a great party. And with both the People’s Choice Awards (on November 11) and the American Music Awards (October 9) both taking place in the city’s downtown, donors will get to see the stars – even if it still feels a bit like summer.

Halloween: Let your donors rediscover their inner children by sending them on a Halloween spooktacular. Several of our favorite destinations love the holiday, but New Orleans’ Krewe of Boo parade once again proves that few do processions like the Crescent City (as anyone who’s been to Mardi Gras there can testify). Add on a ghost tour of the French Quarter, and the Big Easy makes for a great Halloween destination.

Thanksgiving: There are as many travel options for the November holiday as there are reasons. Donors in areas with colder winters might appreciate the chance to head to San Diego, Miami, or another warmer climate for one final sun-soaked trip before December, January and February show up. For families, renting a villa in Napa Valley can be a way of getting everyone together in one place. And sports fans might love the chance to check out one of the traditional football games in Dallas or Detroit.

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The Babymoon

September 12, 2018
It’s simple in concept: A couple, expecting a child (usually their first), gets away for a few days to celebrate and rest up for a lifetime of parenthood coming. But the babymoon is still a newish idea; the word is credited to author Shelia Kitzinger, from its usage in her 1996 book “The Year After Childbirth.”
In the span of the last decade, though, the babymoon has gone from a trendy fad to something more established – maybe not a mandatory rite of passage, but certainly a goal for many expecting couples. It’s a compelling idea, especially for those worried about what a baby will do to schedules and sleep patterns.
Mitch-Stuart’s non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can be used for any reason – and often are! – but if you’re looking to offer the perfect babymoon travel package at your event, consider these criteria.
First, look for locations where relaxation is the selling point. For instance, any travel package that involves massages or spa time, like our trip to Scottsdale, Arizona (which comes with a $400 spa gift card), could be popular with parents-to-be. It’s the same for trips that involve private beaches or islands, where the most-common activity can be done with a chaise lounge and a good book. Give the expecting couple the chance to bid on peace, quiet, and some restorative time before the whirlwind of parenthood begins.
Also, try to find a location not known for its pregnancy-adverse activities. New Orleans and Las Vegas are two of our favorite destinations, but there isn’t a lot for an expecting mother on Bourbon Street or the Las Vegas Strip. And with many types of fish off-limits, this may not be the time to check out the sea- based diet of some of our island trips. There’ll be plenty of time for the family to visit these destinations even with a little one in tow.
Finally, focus on luxury. All-inclusive getaways are great for this; letting someone else make so many of the decisions will be a nice memory in a couple of years when one must make all the decisions for this other being, as well. Being pampered isn’t in the cards for most new parents, so getting some extra care while sitting poolside somewhere will likely be welcome. Trips that focus on luxury can make beautiful memories for anyone, but maybe more so for a couple who will be knee-deep in diapers soon enough.

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Travel with a Song

September 05, 2018
There is a lot to associate with September – seasons changing, meals getting hardier, days getting shorter. Here’s another one: It may be the month of the year most closely associated with a song. Can the calendar hit September 1st – or, more specifically, September 21st – without thinking of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September”?

It’s easy to laugh about, but songs are some of the most direct stimuli for emotions, memories, and even senses. They can remind someone of home, of a loved one, or of a memory. And they can also inspire action – including travel.

So, to kick off the month, we wanted to run through our catalog and find the theme songs to some of our favorite destinations. If you want to sell some nonprofit fundraising auction travel packages, maybe start with a playlist including these ditties.
“Danke Schoen” – There are thousands of songs about New York that could go here – your boomer donors might prefer “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra, while younger supporters could go for “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z – but recalling Central Park in fall will never go out of style.

“California Dreaming” – The Golden State is appealing at all times of year, but this the Mama and the Papas song highlights not just what’s great about the state, but when it’s great as a destination: “California dreaming, on such a winter’s day…”

“Rocky Mountain High” – John Denver’s ode to the night skies above Colorado has been the state’s unofficial theme song for decades both on its more populous eastern slope cities like Denver or Boulder, or its mountain towns like one of our favorites, Telluride.

“San Francisco” – There may be no better time than now to break out this ‘60s favorite, with 2018 being the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Assuredly there have been countless visitors to The City inspired by Scott MacKenzie’s advice to “wear flowers in your hair.”

“Sweet Home Chicago” – Be it Robert Johnson’s original (with it’s confusing lines, “Back to the land of California/Sweet Home Chicago”) or the Blues Brothers’ rendition, the Windy City anthem is as tied to Chicago as deep-dish pizza and the Chicago Cubs.

“Kokomo” – No, the titular island of the Beach Boys’ song doesn’t actually exist (though a resort did name its private island “Kokomo” after the song came out, for publicity’s sake). But the chorus lists off a few of our Caribbean favorites – Jamaica, Bahamas – along with Key West and Bermuda. Close enough for most beachgoers!

“Viva Las Vegas” – Sure, it’s an outdated view of Sin City; today’s vice of choice, thanks to a major influx of world-class restaurants, is likely gluttony. But Elvis’ tribute to Lady Luck (and ladies in general) is still heard up and down the Strip.

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Reliving College

August 29, 2018
Across the country, parents are dropping kids off at colleges this week, getting them set for the semester ahead and maybe sneaking in a tour of the campus, as well. It can be an emotional time for both sides of the equation. But at any other time of the year, college campuses can make for tremendous attractions, with their landscaping, architecture and student life.

Throughout our non-profit fundraising auction travel package catalog, there are destinations that list colleges among their attractions. It’s where some architectural gems are hidden, where great performance spaces are enjoyed, and where a spirit exists that can take any donor back to their glory days “on campus.” Want to help a supporter scratch that nostalgic itch? Here’s are some of our favorite cities with picturesque institutes of higher learning.

Boston is one of our favorite destinations, and along with the history and the great restaurant scene, it’s also a stunner thanks to the local colleges. Of course, Harvard Yard is a well-known attraction, but your donors shouldn’t do a visit to Cambridge without seeing Annenberg Hall, which one would swear is straight out of “Harry Potter.” And in the suburbs, College of Holy Cross has an admissions building that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Both are on Conde Nast Traveler’s list of most beautiful campuses for a reason.

Amid the wonderful architecture of London, the sights to see at King’s College and University College stand out. The Wilkins Building at the latter stands out as picture-worthy; it hosts the main library, the dome and the Cloisters, and is Grade 1 listed (the equivalent of a historic designation in America). At King’s College, the Strand Campus in central London is home of the appropriately-named King’s Building, with lobby sculptures and other historic elements on display.

In Los Angeles, the big college rivalry is between University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, but both have their visit-worthy charms. UCLA is set in the picturesque Westwood neighborhood, and its Royce Hall is a favorite for concerts (it’s one of the homes of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra). Across town, USC is the spot for Olympics fans; the Los Angeles Coliseum is on campus and was the host stadium of the 1984 Olympiad, and now is the temporary home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

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Five Reasons Why: Paris

August 22, 2018
Paris is not a destination hurting for press. Travel guides consistently rate it as one of the top cities in the world for tourists. The Eiffel Tower is iconic. We love the city.

For our inaugural Five Reasons Why, we wanted to break down some – just some – of the things we love about the French capital, with some numbers, odd facts and bullet points that could help you sell your donors on a trip to the City of Light (not the City of Lights – more on that below).
  1. The Food: It’s rare that a cuisine is added to the UNESCO list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage,” but that’s how respected French food and chefs are around the world. The Michelin Guide, the world’s most well-respected handbook for restaurant ranking a description, could set up shop in Paris and never need content from anywhere else; there are ten eateries in the city which have achieved the honor of a three-star maximum rating (second only to Tokyo in the world).
  2. The Arts: The Louvre, the Musse d’Orsay … Paris is known for its iconic museums, and a newcomer would be wrong to skip over them. But art is Paris, be it painting, theater, music or something else, seems to spring from every crack in the ground. See a band, catch a show, or simply gaze at the architecture, and you’re connecting to a rich city-wide tradition.
  3. The Wine: Being the largest city in France means that Paris becomes the epicenter of the country’s wine production. Along with its own wineries, the best of the vineyards from around the world peddle their wares here, meaning that the wine lists at bars and restaurants tend to be epic in scope. (If you’ve got a specific favorite French varietal, we probably have a trip to its home region, as well – just ask!)
  4. The Sites: According to the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, there are an astounding 2,185 monuments in the city. So, if you (or your donor) have seen the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe already, congrats! There’s only 2,183 remaining. It’s impossible to exhaust Paris’ supply of sights, and these structures are spread out across the city, meaning you’re never too far from a good photo opportunity.
  5. The Light: Believe it or not, the nickname “City of Light” doesn’t come from illumination of the visual variety. It’s a tribute to the city’s intellectual heft. But there’s still a lot of beautiful light shows throughout the city, with the most famous being the 20,000 bulbs of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a city that somehow gets more beautiful as the sun goes down.

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Last Getaways

August 15, 2018
It can be seen in the kids’ eyes, that sneaking feeling, that their summer freedom is almost over. The “back to school” ads are all over the television. Summer reading lists are frantically being finished. And even in the middle of August, club and school sports teams are gearing up for practice.

There’s still time, though, to get away.

We think that all times of year are appropriate for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, but there are some that work best as those last hurrahs, those summer sendoffs before school (and all of the responsibility that entails) resumes. When your donors need that quick, last-minute vacation as August concludes, these are some of our favorite options.

Late August fun can be tough to obtain outdoors, thanks to stifling heat. But one place that always stays cool is the water park, and Mitch-Stuart has a trip custom-made for slide and splash pad enthusiasts. Your donors can pick which destination they’d like to visit and receive both accommodations and three days’ worth of passes to the local water park – and with more than 50 such cities from which to choose, your supporters are bound to find a place that makes a perfect adieu to summer.

If the kids are sports fans, August is also a great time to go to one of baseball’s great stadiums. Our “Go to Any Regular Season Game or PGA Tournament” package allows your donors to check out a game at some of the most stories fields in the majors; Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Park and Dodger Stadium are all on offer. Couple that with a kid-friendly activity on the non-game day of the weekend (think children’s museums, perhaps, or that last beach adventure), and your supporters will have a brand-new set of vacation memories meant to last through the upcoming school year.

Finally, while attention this time of year tends to focus on Disneyland in Anaheim (and yes, we can take your donors there as well), a quick trip down I-5 from the Magic Kingdom can be a great end-of-summer celebration. San Diego has plenty for the family to do as well; the city’s zoo is legendary, of course, and Legoland has done nothing but grow in popularity thanks to the latest series of movies focused in on the block toys. Combine that with a temperate – even in August! – climate, and the southernmost California metropolis is a jewel of a vacation to squeeze in before the fall.

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Fall In Love With Fall

August 08, 2018
While we at Mitch-Stuart love all of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, there are certain trips that just make more sense during particular seasons. If your donors love skiing, for instance, an adventure in the Canadian Rockies might be better suited to the winter, rather than the summer. Meanwhile, Palm Springs has attractions all year round, but most choose to avoid the 110-plus degree heat of July.

Even if it doesn’t boast of the obvious extremes of summer and winter, fall has its own particular feel, as well. There are certain destinations, activities and even trip lengths that make a little more sense as the leaves are changing, and the weather is cooling (but not necessarily cold). If you’re planning ahead and looking for travel packages that might be popular with your donors for a fall auction gala, think about these criteria.

First, look for destinations that vary wildly in climate between summer and winter. New York, for one, can be scorching in August and frozen in February. Spring in New York can be beautiful, but is inconsistent; one day it may snow, and the next it could be sunny and 70 degrees. The wider the discrepancy between winter and summer, the more likely that the fall season will be popular with your donors.

In addition, supporters generally (and supporters with families specifically) may be looking at shorter, weekend getaway-style trips for the fall. It’s often easier to take more time off during the summer, and with the kids out of school, there’s no homework to be missed. In the winter, the holiday season will often be the focal point of travel for your donors, and with a weeklong Thanksgiving break or the two-week “winter break” depending on the school system or place of employment, longer trips are often in vogue. The fall is the perfect time of year for a three-day excursion to see the leaves change color in New England, or to catch the last gasps of warm weather in Southern Florida.

Finally, the fall may be the busiest time of the year on the sports calendar. The NFL and college football are both in full swing, the NBA and NHL are starting, and baseball is reaching its climax. NASCAR and the PGA Tour are both building to their final events of the year, as well. If you’ve got donors who are sports fans, this might be the best season for them to take to the road and see their favorite team in action, especially in some travel-worthy destinations (taking in a ballgame at Fenway Park, for instance, or visiting the Dallas Cowboys’ massive stadium in Texas).

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August 01, 2018
It started with Club Med, on Majorca, when a Belgian entrepreneur decided to package food, activities and shows together at his resorts for one price. Ideally, the tourist would not need to use their wallets while on the grounds. And from there, the “all-inclusive” vacation was born.

Mitch-Stuart has several of these “all-inclusive” vacations in its catalog of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, some on land and some on the sea. Whether your donors want to sail to the Caribbean or live it up on a Colorado dude ranch, there are plenty of possibilities to take care of a bunch of your vacation plans in advance.

First, its important to know the difference between “all-inclusive” at a resort and on a cruise ship. On a boat, “all inclusive” may not include off-ship excursions or, in some cases, certain drinks (alcohol isn’t always included, for instance). Of course, if you want to know more specifics to tell your donors, you can always reach out to us to clarify. On the shore, meanwhile, resorts tend to include much more into the price, including activities at the property, drinks, and more. However, unlike many cruises, the evening entertainment tends to be less about shows and more about dancing.

If that is what resorts mean when they say “all-inclusive,” then what’s the advantage? For donors, they get to take care of all their essential needs before stepping on an airplane. Instead of having to call ahead for reservations or give out their credit card numbers over the phone to reserve that scuba adventure, they can travel with the peace of mind that comes from knowing they’ll be taken of at the resort. For the non-profit, it’s a little bit of extra funds raised; that food and those scuba lessons are factored into the trip’s price, meaning that when your supporters pay up front, you’re getting a cut. In addition, just the words “all inclusive” are tremendous tools for sales. Your donors will love the idea, and be willing to spend a little bit more knowing they won’t have to spend as much on the vacation itself.

A final question which we are often asked: What about tips? The good news: With every all-inclusive travel package that Mitch-Stuart sells, all gratuities are included. Your donors don’t have to worry about always having a few dollar bills on hand or figuring out the local customs.

Interested in finding out more about all-inclusive travel packages? Reach out!

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School on the Road

July 25, 2018
It’s the middle of summer, and your supporters’ school-aged children are far away from the academic world. Whether it’s summer camp, a job, or just hanging out, the kids are definitely in summer mode, and their brains aren’t engaged at the same level.

But mid-summer also means being halfway through the season, and the start of school always arrives faster than one may think. Thankfully, we can help get those kids back into the academic mind state while still having a great time, with one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. They can get a first-person chance to see American (and European) history, adding a little more color to those social studies textbooks.

Here are just a few of our destinations that can help turn a child’s brain back on.

It can be tough for some students to follow along with Civil War history, thanks both to a 150-year time gap and a lack of familiarity with the terrain itself. But with our “History Comes Alive at the Gettysburg Battlefield” travel package, the family can take a two-hour tour of Gettsyburg’s battlefields, while also absorbing a stop at the Gettysburg Heritage Center and Museum, with it three-dimensional photographs, artifacts and interactive displays. Even the accommodations have a historic bend to them; the Battlefield Bed and Breakfast served both as a general’s headquarters and a hospital during the Civil War.

If your donors want to dip back a little further in time, we can send them all the way to ancient Rome, with our “Roman History, Cuisine and Enotecas” trip. Nothing is off limits here – tour the underground portions of the Colosseum and stay at a hotel close to sites like the Forum, the Teatro Marcello and the seventh-century church of San Giorgio al Velabro. Even your supporters’ dining experiences will be influenced by Roman history; after a cooking class, you’ll enjoy your meal in a 17th-century dining room at a historical apartment in the city.

Meanwhile, Washington, D.C. is in some ways the unofficial “center” of American history. This is where the Smithsonian hosts one of the largest collections in the country and where monuments to Lincoln, Washington, and so many others stand proudly. With our “Discover DC in Capital Style” travel package, supporters can take one of the most majestic tours in the country: Seeing the monuments lit up so beautifully at night. Combine that with the free admission at the various Smithsonian museums, and your donors will get a master course in America’s past.

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Hey Now, You’re (With) the All-Stars

July 18, 2018
The slowest day of the sports year was once thought to be the one directly after baseball’s All-Star Game. There are no games that day, as the best baseball players are making their ways back to their teams, the other three major leagues are in their off-seasons, and even Wimbledon has just ended.

So maybe that’s why ESPN, faced with almost nothing to cover, decided that the day post-All-Star Game would be perfect for a new awards show, one honoring the year in sports, called the ESPYs. It’s grown since its inception in 1993 into a star-studded affair, and tonight is its night to shine.

We’ve got a non-profit fundraising auction travel package that can take your donors to next year’s ESPYs, but that’s not the only trip in our collection that can have your supporters rubbing shoulders with big name stars. Here are a few other ideas if your auction crowd is looking to see celebrities (and, in some cases, meet them!) in the flesh.

There are few places with more stars than New York City, and our VIP trips to Broadway include a unique way of meeting them: over a meal. Several of our travel packages to see a musical or show include brunch or dinner with two of the production’s stars. Imagine how your “Hamilton” fans will react having brunch with, say, Hamilton and Burr, or maybe a “Wicked” fan might break bread with Elphaba. It’s a chance to chat with some of the most talented singers and actors on the planet, and to do so in theater’s world capital.

The ESPYs aren’t the only awards shows in our catalog. We can take your supporters to see the stars of both stage and screen as they accept awards in Los Angeles or Nashville, too. Whether it’s the Grammys, the Emmys, and the American Music awards in L.A. or the Country Music Awards in the Tennessee capital, they’ll get to see some faces from television and hear some voices from the radio in person. And with after-party passes included in some itineraries, they make meet a star, too – who knows what will happen after the curtain comes down!

If your donors would prefer to spot celebrities “in the wild” rather than on stage, there’s a secretly star-studded sporting event which they can attend: The Kentucky Derby. Spotted here in 2018 were Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, figure skaters (and Olympic commentators) Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, and actors Blair Underwood and Anthony Anderson, among many others. And yes, they use the same betting kiosks and frequent the same bars at Churchill Downs as the rest of us, meaning there’s even the possibility of a chance meeting.

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For the Adrenaline

July 11, 2018
For some, an appealing vacation involves something simple: Some sand with a gorgeous view, a frozen beverage, maybe some summer reading. For others, though, the perfect vacation means flying over Arizona, doing aerial aerobics in a world-class aircraft. Or maybe it’s tearing through the ocean on a former America’s Cup-winning yacht? It might even be racing around the track at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, trying to break records on a solo drive!

At Mitch-Stuart, we pride ourselves in having non-profit fundraising auction travel packages for everyone, whether it’s a donor looking to rub elbows with Broadway stars, set out on a cruise around the Caribbean, or learn how to cook with master chefs. For your adrenaline junkie supporters, we’ve got plenty of options that will get their heart racing.

When your donors win the “All-Access, Ultimate NASCAR” package, they get tickets to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, sure. But the trip’s highlight has to be taking to the racetrack and getting behind the wheel of a NASCAR-style stock car. Your supporters start off with some training and technical instruction, then set off for a timed session, driving around the Charlotte Motor Speedway (home of the Coca-Cola 600, one of NASCAR’s biggest races) with just themselves behind the wheel – and their nerves riding shotgun!

Whether it’s in San Diego, San Francisco or Newport, Rhode Island, we can set your donors up with an unparalleled high seas adventure. In an afternoon, your supporters can turn into experienced sea hands, as they take an America’s Cup-contending or winning yacht out for a spin. Led by experienced captains, the “crew members” will get a taste of the work, the speed and the spirit of the ship – this is no leisurely trek (though, if your donors tire, they can relax on the deck and watch the waters crash against the hull – just hold on!).

But the ultimate adventure for the adrenaline seeker may be our “Top Gun” package. It takes your donor to Mesa, Arizona, for a day in the skies above the desert in a two-person monoplane (one wing). There’ll be an instructional warmup, then realistic air combat, practice doing aerobatics and a final low-altitude pass (yes, just like in “Top Gun”). Your supporter will love the hands-on experience, and his or her family will love the in-cockpit video as they see what the effect of g-force has on a person’s face.

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Celebrating American Travel

July 04, 2018
Today, Americans across the country are traveling many miles – the most ever, says AAA – and putting aside any differences they may have to celebrate the birth of this country. There’ll be fireworks (in non-fire-risk areas), there’ll be barbecuing and there’ll be families reuniting and friends bonding over it all.
We love our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to destinations around the world. But on this holiday, it feels right to lay out the case for traveling within the United States, a land so large and diverse that a seasoned tourist could spend a lifetime exploring it.
The American Road Trip: A favorite since the birth of the Interstate Highway System, the road trip is a symbol of the country’s freedom, driving through its wide-open spaces and, unlike other modes of travel, the ability to stop anywhere along the way to sightsee. Whether it’s gazing at the beauty of the Gateway to the West in St. Louis or the absurdity of the second-largest ball of twine in Kansas, there’s something to see along every one of America’s crisscrossing freeways.
Traveling for Food: Barbecue in Texas. Cajun in New Orleans. Pizza in New York (and – yes, we hear you – Chicago). There’s a style of food to experience in every corner of this country, from the heavy Italian in Boston’s North End to the laid-back, light fare simply called “California cuisine.” Pick a destination in the states, and you’ll get experience lunches and dinners that the region has perfected.
Traveling for Pride: National symbols survive for a reason and being able to visit them in person can be an emotional experience. Maybe it’s touring the Statue of Liberty in New York, or walking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Maybe it’s the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C., or it’s Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. These are each links to America’s past and present, and they can be moving for many.
Choose Your Climate: Miami has beaches for miles. Jackson Hole has all the skiing and wintery outdoor activity a visitor could want. Telluride has that crisp, cool Colorado air, and Los Angeles is … well … Los Angeles – sunny and 72 degrees for so much of the year. There isn’t a climate around the world that isn’t represented over the fifty states, so both summer getaways and winter adventures can be had at home.

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Where to Go in Mexico

June 27, 2018
For many Americans, there’s a safety in familiarity – not necessarily in a bodily harm way as much as a satisfaction one. When we hear the words “New York” or “Los Angeles” or “Jackson Hole,” we have an idea of the kind of experience waiting for us, since these cities and towns are portrayed in our media every day.

But when it comes to Mexico, there can be some confusion. Which town has the most beautiful beaches? (Spoiler: All of them.) Is Cancun fast-paced or more laid-back? If I want to golf, where do I go? Which city is the right one for your donors?

This week, we wanted to help for a moment by trying to demystify the selection process. Each destination in Mexico is different in one way or another, and we want to show you those differences so that you can pick the right travel package for your non-profit fundraising auction. Make no mistake: What follows doesn’t mean that there’s no golf in Cancun, or that you should go to Puerto Vallarta for its old city, but hopefully this guide can point you in the right direction.

We start with Cabo San Lucas, and according to Golf Digest, this might be the best place to play the sport in the entire country (just be ready to spend time in sand traps). The top four courses in the magazine’s ratings are here, as well as six of the top 10. It’s also a great place for younger donors looking for nightlife, especially in its El Centro neighborhood, and it’s also a top-rated fishing destination, according to Sport Fishing magazine.

A little slower, a little quieter, Puerto Vallarta is a different experience for travelers who may be used to the bustle of Cabo San Lucas or Cancun. Recent development in the area have increased the number of residents, but there’s still the spirit of its village days here, especially on the cobblestone streets of Old Vallarta.

A well-established hub of Mexican tourism, Cancun has plenty to do for people of all ages. It’s very developed as a city, meaning lots of high-end resorts, restaurants and shopping, but for those lovers of natural beauty, there’s always the Gulf of the Gulf of Mexico at which to stare. IT’s also the closest town on this list to the historic Chichen Itza.

Off its coast, Isla Mujeres is a gem as well, and it includes Playa Norte, a beloved beach that is often mentioned in conversations about the best beach in the world. Cozumel is a more developed version of an off-shore island: Larger, but with some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the country. The former is for people looking for a truly laid-back vacation (Isla Mujeres is too small for cars), while the latter is for those who could spend an entire weekend snorkeling or scuba diving.

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Welcome to … Winter?

June 20, 2018
Mitch-Stuart offers all sorts of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that take advantage of the summer sun, and after a long winter in much of the country, that heat is often greatly appreciated. But some of our favorite destinations during the summer months are in their winters.

The coldest season at our destinations in the Southern Hemisphere doesn’t much resemble the snowy peaks of the Canadian Rockies, of course. But it might be the best time to visit, with temperate climates and plenty of activities to do.

When is the best summer destination a winter one? Perhaps when it’s one of these locations.

With its proximity to the equator, Bali’s winter tends to look a lot like its summer. Average temperatures over June, July and August is in the low 80s, while in December and January, those peaks go just to the high 80s. In fact, the easier way of thinking about the island paradise may be though two seasons: High and Low. The winter, as it is, makes up Bali’s High Season, when demand is greater, and that’s with good reason; June, July and August are three of the island’s driest months. And there’s plenty to do no matter the season – your clothes will just stay drier during the country’s “winter.”

May, June, July and August are the only months of the year in Johannesburg, South Africa when the average temperature stays below 70 degrees. If that’s as “cold” as it gets, then the photo safari that comes with our “South African National Geographic Adventure” package is a comfortable way to see the natural beauty and range of animal life of the South African bush. And when combined with a wine tour in Cape Town, the trip shows off South Africa at its winter best.

Unlike many of our other Southern Hemisphere destinations, Queenstown, New Zealand does have a winter hue during our summer months. Average temperatures don’t quite hit 60 degrees in June, July or August, and skiing is a possibility for the season; local favorite Coronet Peak is a highlight, with its stunning views of the basin. For those who don’t do downhill speed well, go for an uphill hike on Bob’s Peak for a gorgeous vista of Queenstown – or take the gondola to the top and go on a luge (more of a modified sled) run on one of the mountain’s two tracks.

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Gifts (That Aren’t Ties) for Dad

June 13, 2018
Holiday shopping can always be difficult, and it’s easy to slip into cliché with our gift choices: Mom gets flowers, dad gets grill stuff. We’ve talked before about the gift of travel as an option for Mother’s Day, so now it’s time to talk about dear old dad, and where he may want to go.
Using our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, your supporters can take care of their holiday shopping while also supporting their favorite charity. Your donors may have an idea of the types of destinations in which their fathers want to head, but if not, we have some suggestions.
Do your donors have dads that love the golf course? Have those supporters bought their fathers every type of driver or rangefinder on the market? Maybe it’s time for a bigger gesture, like a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina (where more than one million rounds are played each year, on 24 on-island courses) or Palm Springs, California (which is said to be the highest concentration of golf courses in the world). There are more than 20 options in our catalog directly tied to golfing, meaning there are plenty of destinations to provide scenic greenside backdrops.
If watching golf (or other sports) is more of dad’s speed, your donors can send Pops on the road with a ticket to one of the world’s greatest sporting events. That might be walking the course at Augusta National Golf Club during Masters weekend, being in the stadium for Super Bowl LIII, or sitting either Grandstand or Clubhouse seats for the Kentucky Derby. And if dad is a fan of a team from far away, we can grab tickets to any regular season NFL, NBA, NHL, baseball or even MLS game in the country, too.
The culinary arts are represented in our catalog as well, and if dad’s always in the kitchen, your donors can help him up his game with private lessons in some of the world’s most scenic locations. He can learn about Italian cuisine in Tuscany, how to make that perfect dish to pair with his favorite wine in Napa, or from a master of French cooking in Paris. Those old cookbooks will come alive again when dad discovers how to alter and update recipes, or precise knifework to make prep easier. Plus, he’ll be able to reward his thoughtful son or daughter with a great meal; it’s a trip that has something for everyone.

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Take a Hike!

June 07, 2018
Hiking is now the most popular activity for so-called “adventure travelers," according to Travel + Leisure. And even the more sedentary tourist can enjoy a walk to get to a stunning vista.
Some of our favorite destinations, though, are just too hot during the summer for hiking. Places like Palm Springs and Las Vegas have beautiful trails, but with temperatures often in the triple-digits, to explore may be to invite heat stroke.
So what does the outdoors-y type do when the calendar turns to June? Thanks to our catalog of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, you can always find a great trip for your supporters who hike that provides both awe-inspiring scenery and reasonable temperatures.
The mountains where skiers tread all weekend often make great summertime hiking destinations. Telluride is certainly one of those; the southwestern Colorado town tops out at a 77-degree average for the month of July, and the forests surrounding the village make for great shade, as well. The Wasatch Trail is a big attraction, with its large looped path heading out around its namesake mountain, while Bear Creek Falls is an easier hike that yields views of both the town and a spectacular waterfall. Also, watch for wildflower season; July is a peak bloom period for all sorts of flowers along the trails and elsewhere.
With an average high temperature topping out at 73 degrees in the month of July, the summer may be the best time to visit Banff for people who don’t care for skiing and snowboarding. And the number of trails available means that there will be opportunities for both the veteran hiker (Cory Pass is a particular favorite, its 13-kilometer trail leading to a striking view of nearby Mt. Louis) and the rookie (the Moraine Lake Shoreline path shows off a string of 10,000-foot summits in the distance, and only requires 3 kilometers of work). And that’s without mentioning the trails that pass by or start at the stunning Lake Louise, with its emerald-colored waters and wide portfolio of summer-friendly outdoor activities.
South of the equator, of course, winter is the season about to kick off, but that might be the time to take advantage of the charms of Port Douglas. June and July are the only two months of the year during which the average temperature dips below 80 degrees (79 in June, 78 in July). Those two months are also dryer, on average, than Australia’s summer (our winter) months. And between sweeping views of the ocean and the nearby Daintree Rainforest, the region’s beauty is on full display during June, July and August.

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Who’s Right for Which Island?

May 30, 2018
When one thinks of Hawaii, the first thoughts usually turn towards the beaches, sand running into the waves of an impossibly blue ocean. Even with a volcano disrupting a small amount of travel on the big island, the water still beckons. But while it’s possible to spend every day of a weeklong Hawaiian adventure relaxing on those ocean fronts, getting caught up on reading, at some point the average visitor will want more. The good news? Hawaii has a diversity of experiences that appeal to all types of people.

Mitch-Stuart offers non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that cover four of Hawaii’s islands, and each one has its own strengths to offer your donors. If you’re thinking about what your supporters may want to see during your auction or raffle, think about pairing personality types with destinations, using this guide.

For the Eclectic: On the “big island,” visitors can hike to ruins, wander among artists and still be done in time to hit the beach. As one might expect of the state’s biggest island, Hawaii has the most diverse slate of offerings; if your donors want to go to Hawaii but don’t quite know why, this is a great option. Its also the center of transportation options within the state, making it a great home base if island-hopping is a consideration.

For the Romantic: Maui is the King of the Destination Wedding. The island is constantly written up in magazines and on websites as one of the best places to go to get married. That feature trickles down to the rest of Maui as well; cocktail cruises, beautiful road trips and horseback tours are perfect activities for couples.

For the Socialite: Oahu welcomed the most tourists to its shores in 2017, and one estimate puts the number of visitors specifically to Waikiki Beach at more than four million annually. Oahu might have the best confluence of island life and nightlife available in the state, with great restaurants and bars, almost all featuring gorgeous views of the ocean. During the day, there’s plenty of history to observe, too, including the monuments at Pearl Harbor.

For the Wanderer: Every island on Hawaii has natural beauty, but Kauai might have the best combination of scenery and solitude. Every island is popular, of course, but Kauai doesn’t have the frenzy of a Waikiki Beach or the energy of the big island. Instead, it’s a little easier to get lost on the beaches of Princeville or the greenery of one of the island’s forest reserves (Kauai has earned its nickname of “Garden Isle”).

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From the Catalog: Door-to-Beach

May 23, 2018
The unofficial kickoff to summer is closing in; Memorial Day is the first major holiday of the year when travelers – including your donors – dream of setting bare feet in the sand and watching the waves roll in.

As your supporters start to look towards beachside vacations, we wanted to spotlight some of the trips from our catalog that feature resorts not just in coastal towns, but where the sand is just steps from the hotel room (or private residence!) door. If your donors want to stay in flip-flops as much as possible, here are five places to start.

Bermuda: The “Old-World Splendor, British Flavor, Exotic Flair” involves as stay at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and Beach Club, and as the title would indicate, the resort is steps from the isle’s blue water and pink sand. Your supporters can take advantage of everything from jet ski tours to a new public art program throughout the resort with works by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, among others.

Florida: There’s plenty to do along Space Coast in Florida, but when the beach is calling, it’s hard to resist, you know? Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront is steps from the water, and features on-site surf lessons, bike rentals, and even a beachside Tiki bar and restaurant. And considering that the “Blast Off to Florida’s Space Coast” package also includes lunch with an astronaut and admission to the Kennedy Space Center, your supporters will never lack for activities.

What if the “resort” was actually a picture-perfect full home rental? Donors who win our “Central America's Snorkeling and Diving Mecca” will stay at a home that opens directly onto the beach, with three bedrooms and three bathrooms, making it great for families or a group traveling together. And once your supporters have settled in, they’ll have plenty of chances to make best use of that oceanfront property, with a 400-foot dock leading visitors to a swim-length distance from the Mesoamerican coral reef system – the second-largest in the world (behind the Great Barrier Reef)!

Bali: This wellness capital has become a magnet for tourists over the past few years, and beachside resorts like the all-suites Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali are one reason why. Your donors can enjoy a beachside retreat, with an uninterrupted 5 km-long footpath that runs along the coast, or grab a meal at the Nyala Beach Club and Grill, situated with just a luxury pool between the coastal waters and your supporters’ chairs.

Santa Barbara: Combine great wine with beautiful beaches at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort and our “An Oasis Between the Ocean and the Foothills” package. Get a good look at the beach from most common areas in the resort (even the fitness center!), and especially from the picnic-worthy grass between the Hilton and the shoreline. And enjoy a great local wine selection at The Set, a bar directly off the lobby with firepits and, again, that sandy view.

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Summer Travel Trends

May 16, 2018
From school days through life, summer is the season most associated with travel. In a USA Today list of the ten busiest travel days in the year, summer (or what we associate with summer – hi, Memorial Day weekend!) claims four spots, including the catch-all “Fridays in Summer.” Even if your donors don’t have kids (and therefore could conceivably travel during any season of the year), there’s still something special about that summer vacation.

Mitch-Stuart stays abreast of travel plans so that we can keep our partners up-to-date with what their donors might desire for a summer jaunt. For the upcoming summer of 2018, there are a few ideas for trips that have been popping up repeatedly, and we offer non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that can satiate any of these cravings.

What’s popular for this summer? Here’s a brief list:

Wine – Every season’s a good season for a foodie-based adventure. For the summer, though, wine is quickly becoming the star; those winery tours are a lot easier to take during good weather. On Pinterest, searches or “wine tour” are up more than 200 percent.

Active Retreats – Wellness retreats have been the stars of travel over the past few years, but in 2018, it’s their active relatives in the spotlight. Bali, for instance, is a yoga haven, but many travelers are opting for surfing in southeast Asia as much as they are for downward-facing dog. Coastal destinations where travelers can learn a new sport or activity have become very attractive.

Bleisure – We’ve written about this combination of business and leisure travel before, but with many offices giving employees the occasional Friday off during the season, starting a trip in the office and ending it on a beach is more practical during the summer than any other time.

Orlando – A survey by Allianz cited the home of Disney World as the top summer destination, and it’s easy to see why: Bringing the kids on vacation for longer than a weekend could require a lot to keep them busy, and Disney World is nothing if not “a lot.” But Orlando has more beyond the Mouse to offer, like a burgeoning wine scene. (New York and Las Vegas were second and third on Allianz’s list, for the record.)

Near and Far – According to AAA, plans for the summer are split between staying in-state, staying in the region (around 30 percent each) traveling across the country and international travel (around 20 percent each). With each of these categories polling so close together, it might be better for your non-profit to reach out to supporters and find out where they’re thinking about traveling.

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Holiday Shopping … at Your Auction!

May 09, 2018
Mother’s Day is this Sunday – we’re hoping we didn’t just induce panic – and it’s around this time that many start to think about gifts. The “last-minute presents” stories are being written, and florists are making a killing. But with a little forward thinking, your supporters can be sending their mothers on an adventure of a holiday instead.

Mitch-Stuart creates non-profit fundraising auction travel packages for all purposes, and one that’s popular is gift-giving. Do your donors have some people in their lives that are tough to shop for? Our trips can make great presents on all sorts of holidays. Birthdays and Christmas are obvious ones, of course, but there are plenty of other times of year that can be brightened by the gift of travel.

Does mom have a soft spot for the Louvre? Does dad want to learn how to cook from world-class chefs in New York? Mother’s and Father’s Days can be the home of cliché gifts, like ties and flowers, but instead how about indulging a parent’s interest and sending them on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure? Or maybe give the gift of a family reunion in a travel-worthy destination; our “Villas and Residences” packages make room for more people, and multigenerational travel has become a popular gift on its own. Your donors can skip the usual and go for the spectacular present that they know will send the biggest “thank you” to mom and/or dad.

Your donors with kids may be in the market for a big graduation gift, as well, and travel is a favorite. Instead of the college graduate going backpacking across Europe, parents can make sure their offspring have a roof over their head along their travels. And they can see a lot, too; if a supporter’s kid is looking for that memory-making jaunt on the Old Continent to places like France, Spain, Italy and even the Czech Republic, the parent can make it happen.

Another gift-giving opportunity where a travel package might be welcome is a wedding. If your donors have family members getting married, buying them a trip to Bali, Italy or another far-flung destination can be a wonderful gesture. It may be important to check in with the bride and groom first, and early, too: Your purchase could take the place of their honeymoon, and the couple may not have time to take two long trips in their first year. But a little forethought can take a big planning load off the pair’s shoulders, and that might be as big a gift as the actual travel!

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How To Do Derby Day

May 02, 2018
One of our favorite sports-related trips in our catalog takes donors to the Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race in America. It’s one of the biggest events of the sports year on its own, with people from coast to coast throwing their own Derby parties, and the added prize of the winner going for the Triple Crown (winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes) makes it that much more exciting.

You can send your supporters to the race with a couple of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, and with the 2018 edition just days away, we wanted to talk about what makes the race so special – the traditions. It’s one of the oldest sporting events in the country, dating back to 1875, and over that time it’s built up an interesting collection of rituals that set it apart. If you’ve got donors interested in the Kentucky Derby, here’s what they should know before your gala auction.

First, and the most visually-striking tradition, is the big hats. The Kentucky Derby took inspiration from a similar horse race in England, the Epsom Derby, and with race itself came this tradition, as Ronnie Dreistadt told U.S. News and World Report. It was also conceived as a way to help attract women to the track. Today, the hats are costume-like in nature, an important add-on for any attendee. It makes for great photos at the event, and if a donor wins one of our Derby packages, he or she can even buy and keep their own special headwear as a souvenir.

Where the National Anthem would usually be played before a sporting event, the Derby has its own. “My Old Kentucky Home” started its life as an anti-slavery song, created in the 1850s by acclaimed musician Stephen Foster (“Oh! Susanna” and “Camptown Races” are just two other of his compositions). By the 1930s, it had become a staple of the pre-race pageantry, performed by the University of Louisville marching band. If your donors are at the race, they should study the lyrics beforehand; it usually becomes a sing-a-long in the audience.

And finally, there’s no more traditional drink on the day of the Derby than the mint julep. It is so popular at Churchill Downs that in the 1930s, the racecourse started pouring them in souvenir cups, just because their regular ones were “disappearing” on race day. It’s a must-have at the track, and a must-make at home: Just combine mint simple syrup, bourbon and a splash of water. It’s great throughout the year, but it takes on a different feel while singing “My Old Kentucky Home” pre-race at the Downs.

Want to send your donor to next year’s Kentucky Derby? Let us show you how; reach out to talk with us about this or hundreds of other fundraising travel auctions.

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Auctioneer Love

April 27, 2018
From the fundraising planning committee to the staff cleaning up after an event, every person in the process of throwing a gala auction or other event for a non-profit is important in his or her own way.
But this week, we want to turn our attention toward the auctioneers, those who keep the party going while making sure that you get the most out of your auction items. They’re also informal advisors, with years of knowledge in terms of what makes gala events work. And they’re great at working a room, as well, making everyone comfortable and encouraging big bids.
April 30 through May 5 is National Auctioneers Week, and to prep you for this celebration, we wanted to try to summarize all that the auctioneer does for you and your fundraising auction.
First, there’s the pre-auction planning. If you’re running a fundraising auction for the first time, reach out early in the process to an auctioneer for help. They’ve seen it all and can help guide your gala event towards its most profitable conclusion. And for those fundraising veterans, you’ve got a source with which to discuss what has worked for you in the past and what hasn’t, tweaking those small details that can be the difference between a good even and a great one.
Then, there’s the auction night itself. The auctioneer can have several different duties on the evening of the event; some may mingle in the audience, others may be better at storytelling from the stage, in either case talking up your cause to the assembled. A well-prepared auctioneer can be one of your organization’s most effective ambassadors.
Of course, next comes the main event. We mentioned before why auctioneers are essential hires, and this is when we see the full tool kit come out. Keeping the auction running smoothly, while driving up bids on auction lots, entertaining the audience and still pushing your non-profit’s message, simultaneously, is as much an art as a craft. That’s why it’s so important to bring a pro auctioneer into your planning as soon as possible; no matter how well-meaning the amateur, nothing really replaces the skills that a professional auctioneer has honed over years.
If possible, it can be a good idea to retain your auctioneer for a post-mortem, as well: What went well? What could improve for next year? An outside figure can be helpful in dispassionately critiquing your event and making sure that the next gala auction Is your best ever.
So thank you, auctioneers, for all that you do for non-profits and charities around the world!

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Oh (My), Canada!

April 18, 2018
Canada is having a moment in the travel press. Whether it’s the beautiful spring weather, the strength of the American dollar against its Canadian counterpart, or its proximity to the states (meaning shorter flights), our neighbors to the north are hot right now. That means this might be the best season to offer one of our Canadian non-profit fundraising auction travel packages at your gala or raffle.

The good news: The Canadian adventures in our catalog run the gamut of reasons for travel. Great food in the midst of the coastal beauty of Vancouver? We’ve got that. The wide-open skies of Alberta? That one too. The history of Montreal? Absolutely.

Our trips to Canada can be broken down into three categories, defining what types of travel experiences your donors will find on the ground.

The Adventurer: Alberta

When the mountains are calling, there are few better destinations than the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park. The natural beauty of the area shines throughout the year, whether it’s winter skiing or summer fishing and hiking. And the drive along the Trans-Canada Highway is one of the most gorgeous available in North America If your donors like to be active during their travels, this might be the best option.

The Urbanite: Quebec

Museums, historic chapels, a live music scene that birthed such superstar acts like Arcade Fire, a sprawling “underground city” to get visitors around downtown during the colder winter months, and so much more: Montreal packs a lot into its borders. It’s a city that adores its local heroes (look for the two building-sized Leonard Cohen murals) with a civic pride not always found in major metropolises, but also champions its upstarts, especially in its culinary scene. For donors who prefer to explore a city rather than the outdoors, Montreal will satisfy that particular wanderlust.

Half-and-Half: British Colombia

With the bustling Vancouver and the stunning beauty of Whistler just miles apart, one of our travel packages to British Columbia, on Canada’s western shore, will satisfy both the city-dweller and the outdoorsperson in each of us. Come for the skiing in Whistler, stay for the world-class arts of Vancouver and the charm of neighboring Victoria. The Canadian part of the Pacific Northwest contains a little bit of everything for your donors to do.

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The VIP Experience

April 11, 2018
We love putting together fundraising auction non-profit travel packages for your organization’s gala event or raffle. And we have ideas to pair with any theme, want or need. But some of our favorite trips fall under a brand-new category in the catalog: VIP Experiences. Here, we combine wonderful destinations with one-of-a-kind experiences, like meet-and-greets (and even shared meals) with cast members of Broadway shows.

We’re adding more of these charity fundraising travel packages regularly, but the trips in the category share some of the same benefits to both your donors and your organization.

First, traveling for an experience, rather than needing to figure out a full itinerary from scratch, can take some stress away from the pre-trip planning. Getting a vacation set up, with all the reservations booked and tickets purchased, is enough work for a supposedly peaceful event. Having to track down the best experiences in the city just adds more to your donor’s plate. Instead, if they travel around a central idea, like a meal with some Broadway stars and tickets to see one of the Great White Way’s hottest shows, they know that the “main event,” so to speak, is already on the docket.

Secondly, with so many of these trips involving sold-out tickets or unavailable-to-the-public experiences, even those who love to have a heavy hand in planning can’t put together packages with some perks. Super Bowl tickets are a tough get in the best of conditions – and that’s before having to worry about possible frauds and ratcheted-up scalper costs. Other goodies, like post-show meet-and-greets, aren’t available to the average traveler. Sometimes, a VIP Experience travel package is simply the only way to get the access that your donors may want.

Finally, what if every time your supporters put on the “Hamilton” soundtrack, they thought of your non-profit? The donors interested in these VIP Experiences trips are likely big fans of the central show or event, meaning that they’ll hold on to memories from their vacation forever. And every time they think about their favorite musical, or any time they look at the autographed poster on the wall (cast posters are included in several of the packages), they’ll think of the charity that sent them on their adventures.

Interested in finding out more about our new VIP Experience packages? Reach out to us to get started!

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Where’s My Wine?

April 04, 2018
Of all the classes of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that we offer, one in particular stands out; donors really, really love trips that involve wineries.

It makes sense, too. Finding out more about a favorite wine (or discovering a new one) is like a lifetime souvenir from a trip. And it’s good for the non-profit, as well; every time that donor enjoys a sip of that “souvenir,” the memory will include the charity that helped set it up.

We love all the wine region trips in the catalog, but we understand that associating the region with the wine can be confusing. So, we’re taking a look at five destinations and talking about which vino is most associated with each area.

Napa Valley, one of the most popular destinations in our catalog, is likely the epicenter for American wine (even though places like Santa Barbara and the Willamette Valley may protest). And within that epicenter, the cabernet sauvignon grape may be king. Though the valley’s diversity in varietals is strong, the “cab sav” accounts for 40 percent of total production and 55 percent of crop value, according to the Napa Valley Welcome Center.

Some regions are so intertwined with their local wine that the latter takes the name of the former. So it is in the Champagne appellation of France, where the titular wine varietal has become a must-have celebration accoutrement around the world. Primarily made from a blend of three different grapes (pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay), champagne can only be made from grapes grown in this home area – if you’ve bought a “champagne” from another country, it is technically a sparkling wine.

In the Bordeaux region of France, winemakers have perfected the art of the blend. With some notable exceptions, the wines that come from Bordeaux tend to have a mix of grapes involved, depending on the winery. Those in the Left Bank (west of the Gironde estuary) tend to feature cabernet sauvignon, while those on the Right Bank love merlot and cabernet franc. If your donors can’t come up with one particular favorite varietal, then this might be the best region for them.

For pinot noir, there may be no better place on the planet than France’s Burgundy region. With an output tiny when compared to Bordeaux, these wines are often a bit more expensive, but the best expressions of the challenging, fragile grape are likely found here. Any bottle marked “Grand Cru” from here is likely to be both pricy and delicious.

The sangiovese grapes that help create chianti wine come from Tuscany. The region has its own “zone” within the larger Tuscan region, and it’s the largest of all the varietals. Maybe best known for being “that wine that comes in a wicker basket,” chianti is one of the most popular wines in America, meaning that your donors have likely paired one with great Italian food.

These wine regions are some of the most popular in our entire catalog. If you want to talk to us about how to incorporate a travel package into your non-profit fundraising auction, reach out to us.

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From the Catalog: Amusement Parks

March 28, 2018
Spring break may or may not be upon you and your donors, depending on your local school’s schedules. Either way, coming up with activities and plans to keep kids occupied during that week can be tough. It a reason that so many of the nation’s amusement parks get busy around the middle of March; what better time for a family to travel than during a week off from school for the children?

Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that can take your donors around the world, but when that final bell rings on the Friday before a spring break week, the idea of heading to a place with pre-programmed fun sounds appealing. If you’ve got donors with kids, they might appreciate some of the trips in our catalog that include rollercoasters, face-painting and those weird huge turkey legs.

Some of our favorites:

Disneyland: That Southern California sunshine combined with a Hollywood-influenced list of attractions (including several zones dedicated to one of Disney’s most recent acquisitions, Star Wars) makes Disneyland a favorite for families from around the country. And with the gorgeous beaches of Orange County just a short drive away, Anaheim can provide family experiences of several types.

Disney World: Going to the east coast hub for all things Mickey Mouse-adjacent will give your donors chances to not only explore Epcot Center and scream through the descent on Splash Mountain, but also to ride the attractions of Universal Studios, SeaWorld and Islands of Adventure. Orlando is to amusement parks as Hollywood is to movies – a one-stop shop loaded with different experiences and opportunities.

Water Parks: If splashpads are more the speed of your family donors, we’ve got a choose-your-own adventure package that can attract huge bids. We’ve got three-day packages to destinations like Niagara Falls, Branson, Washington D.C., Orlando, and so many more, each of which come with passes to get soaked at a local water park. If a family’s looking for a brief jaunt, and especially one that keeps them close to home (22 different states are represented on the list of potential destinations), this is a great option.

Legoland: In a region flush with family-friendly attractions (Disneyland and Universal Studios to the north, San Diego Zoo to the south), Legoland is unique in the number of interactive exhibits available. Kids are able to go from roller coasters to driving oversized LEGO cars in just steps, and the signature blocks are everywhere. Legoland also features the Imagination Zone, where children can build LEGO robots and play in the WB Games Family Gamespace.

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Winter’s Last Hurrah

March 21, 2018
Welcome to spring! For many, today is the day when the countdown starts to sunny skies, warm temperatures and putting those bulky coats into storage. However, for some it is the beginning of the end for their favorite season, one that features snow, cuddle-worthy temperatures and apres-ski fun.

Yes, some of your donors might be of the type who truly love winter and mourn its passing every March. If that’s so, however, we can help them extend the season for a small time with one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. While most of the country is moving toward warmth, your supporters can be enjoying one more ski run, one more trip around the outdoor rink, and even one more trek across an unblemished field of snow. Want to send a donor on one last winter fling? Here are a few suggestions on where to send them.

Colorado weather is unpredictable in the spring, but at 8,750 feet above sea level, Telluride usually maintains snow pack until April or May – especially up at the ski resort. The average lows still get below freezing, so the powder doesn’t get as much of a chance to melt, and at the local ski resort, there’s enough of the white stuff to stay open well into April, usually. And for those not looking for skiing opportunities, there’s plenty of snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice skating to be done.

If your donors are going to take a chance on seeing winter weather in the spring, they may as well do it from the base of the Alps. Montreux, Switzerland is both lakeside and mountainside, with the Lake Geneva shoreline essentially forming a border on one side. There are plenty of skiing opportunities within a short distance, and after heading down the mountain, your supporters can wander the town, checking out some of its cultural history (thanks to the Montreux Jazz Festival, it’s been a popular haven for musicians like David Bowie and Deep Purple).

Of course, with a name like Iceland, one would expect that winter weather can linger into the spring. Reykjavik may be in the southern half of the state, but the northern ski resorts are only a morning’s drive away, and they feature some only-in-Iceland incentives, like skiing alongside an ocean. The slopes’ peak season last all the way through May. And the gorgeous Northern Lights, while most likely to appear in the winter, can still be regularly seen in the early spring – and even from the life chairs of some of those ski slopes!

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How to Cruise

March 14, 2018
Trips aboard cruise ships are some of our most popular non-profit fundraising travel packages. The carefree time aboard, with meals, drinks, and a pool deck just steps away from the stateroom, can give the impression that anything goes out on the open seas. But being aboard a ship with thousands of others, sometimes in small quarters and long lines, creates a certain type of etiquette in order to make the experience a fun one for everybody.

Here are some rules for your donors to follow after they win a cruise at your fundraising auction or raffle:

Pack Your Patience: There can be lines to board the ship, lines to debark for off-ship activities, and lines at the buffet. The pool chairs could have a waiting list. Even on the open seas, patience is a virtue. Your donors should know this in advance and be ready to face delays with a smile – it will help everyone around them.

Adults Only Means Adults Only: Whether it’s a “quiet” pool, a cocktail hour or something else, many ships will have a select number of “adults only” options over the course of the trip. For some parents, this might be their big chance to be away with the kids for one evening during the journey, so your supporters shouldn’t try to force your own children into the space. Instead, they should check in advance of the vacation as to whether the ship will have on-board babysitters, and make sure to book them as soon as they know they’ll be taking advantage of a grown-ups only outing.

Respect Differences: Unlike many other modes of travel, a cruise ship brings people together from many different cultures. It’s likely that your donors will run into fellow cruisers from around the globe, so a healthy respect for their customs and traditions can guarantee that everyone on board is comfortable.

Dress for the Room:
No one wants to wear a proper coat and tails or a long, flowing dress every day aboard a ship. But wearing cargo shorts to a nice meal or show, while everyone else went through the effort of packing the additional nicer clothes required, can really hamper the atmosphere. Donors should check before packing for the trip to see the general dress code – and the specific one for some of the restaurants they’d like to try – and allocate suitcase room accordingly.

Watch Your Space: Whether it’s swinging luggage down a tight hallway, attempting to monopolize a deck chair for a whole day (though you’ll only be there for a part of the time) or “saving” seats at a show, travelers should understand the space restrictions that come with a ship. Doing one’s level-headed best to not inconvenience other passengers goes a long way, and basic spatial awareness is one of the easiest ways of doing that.

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Country Vacationing

March 07, 2018
The cliché “I need a vacation from my vacation” can ring true for some travelers. Destinations like New York, London and Los Angeles are filled with sights to see and activities to do, but the frenzied pace of city life can wear someone down, especially if said tourist fights traffic and deals with public transit delays everyday while at home. There’s a reason, in a constantly-connected world, that some would rather get away from the urban jungle and find relief under a starry (smog-free!) sky.

Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages for every type of wanderlust, but some of our favorites are ones that can take your donor far away from city life. Let your supporters bid on the gift of distance and destressing with one of these trips to isolated resorts.

Jackson Hole: The Wyoming small town has become a vacation staple for cowboys- and cowgirls-to-be, with its open spaces and easy access to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Outdoor activities are the biggest attractions here, with hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing on the agendas of many travelers. And when your donors are in the mountains, or horseback riding across a Wyoming range, they’ll be almost as far away from it all as one can get.

Alberta isn’t the least-populated of the Canadian provinces (it’s the fifth most-densely populated, out of ten), but when your donors get to Banff National Park, they simply won’t care. Your supporters will have a wonderful time exploring the “Castle in the Rockies,” the Fairmont Banff. But when they want to get away, they’ve got the expansive beauty of a UNESCO World Heritage site at their doorstep. Beautiful sights like the Lower Consolation Lake and the Peyto Glacier yield the types of pictures that your donors will want to print out and share with their friends.

Not every country getaway is a winter wonderland, though. There are fewer than 25,000 people in the Italian city of Cortona, and even with that, your supporter won’t see many of them from their private pool in the back of their villa. In fact, they’ll do as much hosting people as bumping into strangers; several of our trips there include a private cooking class from the comfort of the villa’s kitchen. Even grabbing a sip or two of the local vino will be a bit more private, thanks to the package’s access to two exclusive wineries. It’s a great way to get away from the stresses of the day-to-day, without feeling overly isolated.

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Travel on the Silver Screen

February 28, 2018
Film has the ability to transport the viewer to places never seen or imagined in a unique manner. Sitting in a darkened theater, we give ourselves over to this idea, to being taken on an adventure in a new setting. In many ways, movies are their own kind of travel.

Of course, we prefer the physical type, and we love to send your donors on adventures with our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. But we enjoy the cinematic version as well, the best of which will be represented this Sunday at the Academy Awards. In fact, some of our favorite films are ones that teach us important values when it comes to travel, whether the movie is a serious drama or over-the-top comedy.

Want to learn about how to travel? Here are some films with which to start.

“Lost in Translation”

The Oscar winner from Sophia Coppola beautifully captures the feeling of isolation a traveler can experience while in a strange land, surrounded by people speaking a foreign language. The way out for Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray? Jumping into that world head-first.

The Lesson: Never be afraid to immerse yourself in a new culture.

 “Paris, je t’aime”

A compilation of short films shot in different Parisian neighborhoods, “Paris je t’aime” features 18 different casts of characters, including vampires and the ghost of Oscar Wilde.

The Lesson: Even when you think you know a destination, there’s always something new to learn or explore.

“Before Sunrise”

A film that taught many in Generation X the meaning of romance, the first of the “Before” film trilogy features Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy meeting on a train and exploring the beautiful world of Vienna for a day.

The Lesson:
Whether it’s a bartender, a tour guide, or a beautiful someone on public transit, talk to the locals. They’ll know where to go and what to do.

“Planes, Trains & Automobiles”

Not every travel experience is positive. Steve Martin and John Candy spend an excruciating Thanksgiving week dealing with bad weather, transportation problems and each other in this hilarious ‘80s classic, written and directed by John Hughes.

The Lesson: Do your best to be nice when you face unexpected hiccups in your itinerary.

“Under the Tuscany Sun”

A recent divorcee buys a villa in Cortona, Tuscany (the destination for several of our Italy travel packages!), in an attempt to change her life and rediscover romance.

The Lesson: Go to Tuscany. Seriously.

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Developing an Audience

February 21, 2018
When it comes time to organize a fundraising auction, the first committee to be formed might in charged of item procurement. And it’s true: It is easier to raise money with better auction lots than worse ones. But more important that what’s for sale might be who’s doing the buying. Are the right people in the audience to make sure your non-profit is getting full value out of its items?

Mitch-Stuart has helped facilitate the sale of more than $1 billion in fundraising auction travel packages over more than 20 years of experience. In that time, we’ve seen plenty of different committees and all sorts of organizational structures. But one that is near-mandatory is an audience development committee, dedicated to making sure the right supporters are there and primed to bid.

In an age of divided media channels, when it might be hard to pick places to advertise and reach a large audience, contacting your supporters with the audience development committee may be the best marketing available. There’s nothing as motivating as a personal invitation, and that’s where your board can make a big difference, more than individual paper invitations or other ideas. That human contact allows you and other “recruiters” to not only gage interest, but also gain insight into what is working and what isn’t in the eyes of its donor base.

By engaging meaningfully with your supporters – especially your biggest donors – in the run-up to a fundraising auction, you can get an idea on what they’d love to see on that item list. Maybe one is looking for a romantic trip for an upcoming anniversary. Maybe another wants to find a beach paradise. By getting a cross-section of what supporters want, you can give them the chance to support your cause and check an item off a shopping list at the same time. This makes the job of the item procurement committee easier in two ways: Not only do they know on what to focus, but also it can lead to the acquisition of small, but still treasured, items for the auction, the type that might be easier to get.

On the night of the event, the job of the audience development committee isn’t over. Making sure donors are engaged and enjoying themselves will make sure that they come back next year, too. That could mean acting as table hosts, talking with sponsors and supporters, or even working the silent auction tables. The best way to attract donors to a gala event is making sure that those same people had a good time at the last one.

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Romantic Restaurants

February 14, 2018
If it was good for nothing else, Valentine’s Day would be valuable as an excuse to make reservations at that restaurant you’ve been eyeing. Dinner dates on the holiday are almost as de rigueur as chocolate and flowers. They are wonderful ways for a couple to reconnect outside of the flow of the ever-cacophonous daily life.
With our non-profit fundraising travel packages, though, your donors don’t have to wait for one day in February for a romantic meal. In fact, our catalog is loaded with possible eateries in destinations that will make the heart flutter.
A (small!) few of our favorites:
In Asheville, The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate was named one of 2017’s most romantic restaurants in America by reservation service OpenTable. Your donors can get dressed up and sample from the eatery’s long wine list or jump right in to the farm-to-table cuisine that has garnered The Dining Room so many accolades since its opening.
If a couple’s romance is less sportscoats and dresses and more flip-flops, our “California Dreamin’” package gives donors a gift card good for dining options steps off the beach in Santa Monica. It can be used on the Santa Monica Pier at a seafood restaurant like The Albright, which features some of the best sunset views in the Los Angeles area, looking right over the sand. Or, your supporters can stroll from the beach to downtown Santa Monica to grab a meal at the intimate Mercado, with its upscale Mexican cuisine.
For a different sort of Valentine’s Day, the restaurants of Las Vegas combine elegant settings with star power. World famous chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Nobu Matsuhisa have set up shop here, bringing their respective Cajun and Japanese cuisines to hungry Strip tourists. Nobu Restaurant Las Vegas, in the Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace, is the largest of the Nobu eateries, measuring more than 10,000 square feet, while Emeril's New Orleans Fish House at MGM Grand features a sea-inspired design that will have your donors taking pictures of the beauty both on the plates and in the space.
Not every romantic meal has to happen under the cover of darkness. At 58 Tour Eiffel, lunch may be the best meal of the day; the restaurant’s elevated view means diners seeing a large chunk of Paris, and during the afternoon hours the detail is stunning. In New York, Tavern on the Green has enough outdoor seating that it may be, depending on the time of year, much more comfortable to eat while the sun is still in the sky. Either are romantic restaurants that can awaken those stomach butterflies from a couple’s early dates.

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Where to Catch the Olympic Spirit

February 07, 2018
We’re two days away from the opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics, taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea. If your donors are getting into the Olympic spirit, this might be a fun time to offer one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to send supporters to one of the Games’ previous homes.

Of Olympics held from 2000 to today, we’ve got trips that can take your donors to or near five different Games’ hosts – and that number increases quickly going back to 1980, as well. Here are a few of the destinations where your supporters can chase the ghosts of Olympics past – and the attractions at which to start within each.

Vancouver has shown what can be made out of Games infrastructure with the refurbishing of the Olympic Village. Locals now live in the same rooms where the athletes stayed in 2010, but the street level of the buildings now features restaurants like Tap and Barrel, the first of the mini-chain, which has gorgeous views both from its patio and its balcony. Porto Café is another local favorite for its coffee and breakfast sandwiches. After some early funding snafus, it’s become its own desirable neighborhood, one that your donors may want to check out.

In Montreal, where the 1976 Olympics took place, stop by the DOMO Café in the hip neighborhood of Mile-Ex. Your donors can grab a latte while looking at – and maybe buying as a souvenir – mementos from both the ’76 Winter Games and the 1967 World Expo. There are official posters on the wall and mugs and pins (among other items) on the shelves. Also, supporters can look at the shop’s design and subway collections for that piece of the world’s second-largest French-speaking city that will look good back home.

America has had its own hosting adventures, of course, and the 1996 Sumer Games in Atlanta may be the best place to catch the Olympic spirit. Visitors can drive by the Olympic Torch Tower along Interstate 75; a similarly torch-based sculpture can be found in Savannah, along the coast. Some of the large venues used during the Games are still in operation, as well, like the former Turner Field (which hosted the opening ceremonies), which has been redesigned and now hosts college football. But the main attraction may be Centennial Olympic Park, right in the heart of Atlanta, which now hosts free concerts and civic events.
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The Trip Around the Event

January 31, 2018
You got them! You got tickets to the big event – the Super Bowl, the Masters, the American Music Awards. Those could be big earners at your upcoming gala auction.

The emphasis, though, is on “could.”

We’ve talked before about how to maximize the potential of great fundraising travel packages. There’s another way, however, of making sure that you’re getting the full value, specifically of a trip to a major event, and that is to make sure that it’s the center of a great itinerary.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages often come pre-packaged with both tickets to the big event and other activities. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t add your own ideas to the lot. Here are some ways to make sure that your once-in-a-lifetime event tickets bring in as much money as possible.

The big event may only appeal to one-half of a traveling couple. One person may be a big football fan, for instance. Maybe one is a big music fan and is looking forward to an awards show. In these situations, thinking of “counter-programming” may be helpful. If the big event is the Super Bowl, a gift card for spa services or a dinner cruise of some sort might work. Going to an awards show? Couple it with a great dress-down activity, maybe something involving the outdoors. A weekend away, even one centered around a singular event, is plenty of time to appeal to every traveler’s desires.

Any excuse to go to a nice restaurant is a good one; we are a culture, after all, that made “dinner and a movie” into a thing, even when the cost of the food far outpaces the tickets for the film. Having reservations at one of the hottest eateries in town for a nice meal before the main event is a great way of turning a moment into an evening. Great food can often be found near venues, as restauranteurs know that they’ve got a massive nearby audience, looking for a pre- or post-outing plate.

Finally, these events can be tiring. Super Bowl LI in 2017 took almost four hours from opening kick to the final play – and that doesn’t include the time it took to get into and out of the stadium. Awards shows are notorious for running long. And some other sporting events, like The Masters, involve a full day of walking. Making sure the accommodations are comfortable and high-quality is vital; it’s why we insist on luxury hotels for each of our trips to big happenings.

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From the Catalog: In the Ocean

January 24, 2018
Whether it’s snowbirds looking for a break from the winter doldrums or donors looking for summer vacation plans, our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that feature beaches always get great reactions. But while the sand is a draw all its own, there’s plenty to do beyond the surf’s break line. Giving your donors a chance to not only relax by the beach, but also play in the ocean itself can elevate a trip and give your supporters stories to tell when they get home.

Many of our travel packages that take place at beach destinations also feature some sort of ocean activity, whether it’s in the water or just slightly above it. Some of our favorites include:

It can be a bit intimidating at first to consider a scuba diving outing, considering the training that has to go into the activity. Thankfully, our travel packages like “Bali’s Exotic Indonesian Escape” involve scuba lessons, meaning that anyone can explore the depths of the ocean. Supporters can also check out a fascinating World War II artifact; The wreckage of a U.S. Army transport, torpedoed by the Japanese, lies on the ocean floor off the coast of the fishing village of Tulamben.

Getting out on the open seas while behind the steering wheel of a yacht can be an unparalleled rush. With our “An America’s Cup Yacht Experience” package, your donors can have an interactive sailing adventure in San Diego Bay, with views of both dramatic natural coastline and the city itself. If a different “bay” destination is desired, there’s the “Skipper an America’s Cup Yacht in the Bay,” which takes trip winners to San Francisco. And on the other side of the country, the “Anchor’s Away” package brings supporters to Newport, Rhode Island to ride on an America’s Cup yacht when not exploring the summer oasis of a town.

Dinner cruises: Of course, staying on the water rather than in it can be enticing, as well. With our “Get Jazzy in the Big Easy” package, your donors can take a jazz cruise and get a gorgeous view of the city while also listening to some of the Crescent City’s best musicians. Meanwhile the “San Diego’s Enchanting Coastal Chic” trip includes a dinner cruise around the city’s harbor, one that sometimes features a beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

The clear blue waters of Hawaii make for a great snorkeling adventure; floating on the surface of the ocean means needing that clarity of sight to get the most out of a trip. Our “Aquatic Adventure at Hawaii’s Magic Isle” trip takes your donors to Maui and sets them up with a guided reef tour and a stop at Molokini, a partially-submerged volcanic crater.

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Adventures in a Winter Wonderland, Ski-Free

January 17, 2018
It’s been said that there’s no such thing as cold weather, just inappropriate clothing. And while that’s tough for us Southern Californians to remember at times, it’s true: Some snow and cold temperatures don’t have to put a damper on your winter vacations.

As the popularity of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to cold-weather destinations would attest, there are plenty of people (including some of your donors, likely) who love getting out into the snow. But those packages don’t just sell to skiers; there’s a diverse range of wintertime outdoor activities that can get even the most cold-adverse person out of the hotel and into the powder.

What else is there to do other than speed down the mountains on skis (or even snowboards)? Here are some ideas to pass along to your donors.

The thrill of speed and the challenge of keeping balance can be found on sheets of ice as well as slopes of snow. Ice skating can get the reticent out of the house and into the weather (in the case of an outdoor rink) or, at least, into a cold building (for indoor facilities). Most resort towns will have a rink somewhere nearby, but Vancouver might be the most interesting; there are outdoor and indoor facilities across the city, as many as golf courses in most major cities, and they include Trout Lake Rink, a venue built for the 2010 Olympics.

For those who need a little more heat to draw them outdoors in the winter, there’s always the day-ending bonfire. There are few experiences quite like making s’mores, huddled under a blanket on a clear winter night. These can happen anywhere, of course, but Telluride, Colo. might be the best place; the cold there, when it’s not snowing, is dry enough to feel a touch warmer. Also, the city has hosted major bonfires before; in 2015, Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson hosted a massive one in Telluride as a sacrifice to the snow gods. It worked: The town got 29 inches of powder the following weekends, according to Curbed.

Interesting in fishing? You don’t have to put away the rod and the reel when the temperature dips. Instead, a destination like Banff is ready for you to camp out on the smooth ice of a lake in the Canadian Rockies. Get ready to see some of the most spectacular winter sights and catch lunch or dinner at the same time. The best news: Many guides will help you set up huts to protect you a bit from the conditions, should the often-sunny skies give way to precipitation.

Finally, snow shouldn’t stop you from taking part in some activities more associated with warmer weather months. Hiking trails through the colder states take on a different look with a dusting of snow, and those widescreen vistas we so often seek can take on an otherworldly feel in the winter. And thankfully, almost any place with colder winters has examples of coat-worthy trails; head outside of Boston for walk on Noon Hill, for instance, or Carrickgollogan, a hill in the south of Dublin with the “best winter views” in Dublin, according to the Independent.

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How Great Items Sell

January 10, 2018
One of the biggest mistakes we see organizations make when it comes to our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is thinking that simply offering the once-in-a-lifetime trip is enough. While there will be bidders in the room, that doesn’t mean that just offering travel to a great destination will be ready to open their wallet. There’s a lot that goes into setting fundraising records, especially before an event.

First, maximizing the fundraising potential of a great item means coming up with and following a great marketing plan. More people in the room means more bidders, which can mean both more competition (driving up prices) and more energy (especially if you’ve got the right auctioneer). Make sure that everyone you need to drive up bids knows about your gala event.

That list of people needed to help drive up bids should include a fair share of “connectors” as well. What’s a connector? It’s someone who can connect your great cause and non-profit organization to people who are ready to offer their support. Is one of your supporters plugged into the larger non-profit world? Does someone on your donor list know executives and other big-wigs at local corporations? You don’t have to know everyone in your city on your own, if you make sure that your supporters are doing some of the lifting for you by talking your cause up by the watercooler or at the country club.

Once you’ve identified your biggest donors (and biggest potential ones, too), there’s no reason not to ask them what they’d like to see at your auction. If your supporters prefer beach vacations and you offer a trip to Jackson Hole, it’s going to be rough sledding trying to get maximum value. At Mitch-Stuart, we’ve got trips for every type of traveler; whether your donors want a snowy wonderland, a beach escape, an urban adventure or rural serenity, we can help. But to do that right, you need to know what your supporters want.

Finally, for the night of the gala auction, it’s important to promote the item as much as possible in the room. That means making a highly visual display (lots and lots of photos!), announcements throughout the night (“the auction’s coming up, featuring our bucket-list-worthy trip to Bali!”) and one-on-one mentions when your board members roam the room chatting with supporters. Like any big-time event, there’s an amount of hype needed to make sure that everyone is eagerly looking forward to either bidding on this great item or seeing who will win it.

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Hidden Snowbird Paradises

January 03, 2018
Much of the country is just beginning to come out of a rough cold snap. It snowed more than four feet over the holidays in parts of Pennsylvania. And remember, this is less than three weeks into winter. Your donors may want to see the sun. And soon.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages are made to be used at all times of year, but there’s something about the winter months that inspires some of your top bidders to pursue sunshine and beaches. It’s why trips to places like the Caribbean and Southern California are so popular. But those looking to escape winter’s chill have more options available than beach cruises. If your supporters want to chase the sun during the winter, here are some options about which they may not have thought.

Belize: The Central American jewel may not get the attention that its Caribbean neighbors receive, but its beaches are just as beautiful. In addition, your donors can avoid the crowds completely; some of our trips to Belize feature accommodations on a private island, with a private chef, butler and even sommelier to cater to your supporters’ every need.

New Orleans: Of course, Crescent City demands its share of attention on at least one winter day, when Mardi Gras takes over the city and turns the French Quarter into the world’s biggest party. However, New Orleans in winter isn’t just beads and drinks; the city’s jazz scene is year-round, and the food never goes out of season. Combine that with high temperatures in the sixties on average in January and February, and New Orleans’ best, most hospitable season may be the winter.

Palm Springs: It’s neighbors Los Angeles and Las Vegas get much of the acclaim, but this California desert community features almost picture-perfect winter weather (just watch for the occasional desert winds) and plenty of activities. The winter, while being a peak time of year for visitors, still doesn’t feature the music festivals that can overrun the city (nearby Indio hosts three consecutive weekends of festivals in April), meaning there’s plenty of room to spread out next to the pool or get a tee time on one of the scores of local golf courses.

Seychelles: The Indian Ocean island nation is in its summer months while we’re in the midst of winter, but it doesn’t alter the temperature much; the hottest month of the year is February, with an average high of 82 degrees, while the coldest is July, where the average high dips all the way to … 78 degrees. It’s true that our winter months do coincide with their “rainy” season, but February and March each still only average 11 days with precipitation – and with the temperature as consistently perfect as it is, the rain is almost always warm and soothing.

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Travel Trends for 2018

December 27, 2017
Whether 2017 was filled with good times and perfect vacations, or existential dread and airport delays, it’s time to put the year in the rear view and take a look at the next 365 days. No year is more promising than when you’re booking your travel for it: Wide open schedules, endless possibilities, and big, big dreams.

For 2018, certain trends in travel are already starting to make themselves known. If you want to know the types of trips about which your donors might be thinking, you may think about it through the lens of one of these inclinations we’re seeing for the new year.

Relaxation and Rejuvenation

The AARP puts together its own list of travel trends each year, taking into account the whole range of travelers, but focusing on seniors. For 2018, the organization says that more of its members will be traveling for relaxation (49 percent) than in 2017. Similarly, “get away from everyday life” also saw a bump in percentages, with 47 percent of respondents mentioning it as a reason for hitting the road.

Heading Abroad

American Express’s travel unit is reporting a 44 spike in international booking for the first quarter of 2018, according to a company press release. A potential reason: More and more travelers (72 percent, in this survey) say that they enjoy learning about different cultures while on vacation, and 25 percent say that learning about history, art and culture is the most important travel goal for 2018.

Multigenerational Travel

Families traveling together will still be popular in 2018, and its joys aren’t limited to the grandparents. Pop culture website PopSugar, which aims at teens and twentysomethings, put together its own top 10 travel trends list, and multigenerational travel took the second spot. Trips like cruises or accommodations like villas make for great family reunion staging points – there’s something for everyone, and enough room for everyone to have some privacy, too.

American Cities, for the Locals

Those not interested in traveling abroad are seeking out American cities, but not just for the major attractions, according to the Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler. Instead, vacationers are looking for those locals-only secrets: the hole-in-the-wall restaurant with gnocchi to die for, or that speakeasy with the secret entrance. It gives the visitor to meet locals and chat, learning about a new place through its people and not just its buildings.

Culinary Travel

Hitting the road for the perfect slice of pizza or an amazing wine is not going out of style in 2018. According to Rezdy, an app that works with tour providers, winery tours made the top ten of tour categories for 2017, and with the increasing importance of food culture, 2018 may be a banner year for those brewery crawls, restaurant tours and even dinner cruises.

We’ve got non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to take advantage of each one of these trends. Reach out in the new year to find out how!

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Racing Down the Slopes

December 20, 2017

In less than two months, the nation will watch as America’s top skiers compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Every four years, the sport takes a prominent position not just in the sports landscape, but that of pop culture, as well; television ratings spike as year-round sports fans and novice viewers alike cheer on the United States through the television.


To coincide with the Olympics, this might be the right time to offer a skiing travel package at your next non-profit fundraising auction. Want to send your donors down the slopes? Here are some of the places where we can help send them:


Telluride, Colo.: This small mountain town may not get the attention of glitzier neighbors like Aspen and Vail, but its bucolic nature has its own charm. The gondola that takes visitors from the Mountain Village to the town itself is the only one of its kind in the country, for instance. But you’re hear for the skiing, and that is plentiful; Telluride Ski Resort has more than 2,000 acres of runs for amateurs and experienced skiers alike.


British Columbia, CA: Whistler might be best known as the home of many of the skiing events of the 2010 Winter Olympics, but hosting the games is not the only honor that’s been bestowed upon the resort. Whistler Blackcomb in consistently ranked as one of the top ski resorts in North America, and with our trip, you have ski-in, ski-out access.


Lake Tahoe, Nev.: It would be hard for any skier to run out of powder in the Sierra Nevadas, thanks to multiple resorts within just miles of the front door. Last winter, Tahoe ski resorts got more than 500 inches of snow, meaning there was always a fresh layer upon which to ski.



Stowe, Maine: The state is Maine, but at the Trapp Family Lodge, there’s more than a taste of Austria. It was the home where the real-life Trapp family settled in 1950, and after a fire thirty years later, the lodge was rebuilt into a 96-room stunner. Backcountry and cross-country skiing are the kings of winter activities, but there’s plenty of room for snowshoeing and hiking within its 2,500 acres.

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Use Them!

December 13, 2017
Almost half of Americans reported that they did not use all of their vacation days in 2016, according to a survey done by Project Time Off. Last year, that translated to more than 660 million days left unused. Even worse, 206 million of those days could not be “banked” or converted into money at the end of the year. Those hours were forfeited completely, meaning that the American workforce essentially “gave up” $66.4 billion worth of compensation.

We’re biased, of course; our work here is to partner with non-profits to offer fundraising travel packages for auctions and raffles, and if your donors are staying in the office all year, that means fewer bidders. But there are plenty of other reasons to make sure that you encourage your donors to (and that you yourself!) take their vacations as seriously as they take their work.

First, there’s the health benefits. They may be the most often-discussed positives to vacations, but they’re worth emphasizing: Getting away from work, even for a short period, decreases stress, decreases the risk of heart disease, and improve sleep patterns. That’s before factoring in mental health benefits, too. It’s not the proverbial apple that keeps the doctor away, but that feeling of wellness that often comes after a break isn’t all in your head.

Vacation days can also be used as a point of contention during contract negotiations. The easiest way to make it appear that you need that extra week of vacation time is to have actually used your days off in the previous years. If you don’t, bosses may want to trim them back, under the idea that you’re not using them anyway.

Ever get the best idea for solving a challenge at work while in the shower? Or at post-work happy hour? The rest and recharge of a vacation can often help you be more effective upon returning to the job, as well. A 2014 study says that “cognitive flexibility” increased in a sample of workers after returning from a break. That distance from the day-to-day grind, the emails and meetings of office life, can relax the mind and free it up to make associations and connections it might not make while stressed.

Finally, human beings just need rest. Study after study shows that workers are more productive after returning from a vacation, especially one that is stress-free (like our turn-key trips). “"If people are overworked, they're surfing the Internet," author Christine Louise Hohlbaum tells CNN. "They're not contributing to the bottom line." If guilt of not helping the company is why your donors are trudging along in the office, point out that they might be doing more harm than good to the business.

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Award-Winning Travel

December 06, 2017

Somehow, beyond all reason, it’s already December, making 2018 just around the corner. With the end of the year comes a barrage of top 10 lists, awards, and other forms of rankings.


We could never rank the non-profit fundraising travel auctions in our Destinations of Excellence catalog, but we do love awards. They make for easy selling points for an auctioneer, a bullet point on a lot listing, and one more reason for your donors to want to go from watching to bidder.


We’ve picked out three different awards to give you a taste of what others are saying about these terrific destinations, while also hopefully giving you a chance to add another bullet point to the lists of each city’s charms.


Charleston: This southern charmer is a big hit over at the offices of venerated travel magazine Travel and Leisure. The editors released their Worlds Best list of 15 cities earlier this year and not only was Charleston the only American destination in the top 10, but it finished second overall. It’s easy to see why: Between the great food, the beautiful downtown district and its temperate climate through the winter, the city has a lot going for it.


Las Vegas: The World Travel Awards have been promoting the tops in the travel industry for more than 20 years, and while there are seemingly enough categories to recognize every city in North America, one name kept popping up. According to the awards, the leading tourist attraction in 2017 for the region was the Las Vegas Strip, while the city itself also won as the leading destination, as well. There’s a reason that the city saw more than 42 million visitors in 2016, a record high according to the Las Vegas Sun.


Chicago: Not every travel-worthy award has to be directly tied to travel, of course. The James Beard Foundation recognizes the best bars, restaurants and chefs throughout the country each year. In 2017, Chicago’s Topolobampo took the crown with its Rick Bayless-led Mexican food (Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde also took home the prize for Top Chef of the Great Lakes region). It’s not a fluke; Chicago is an underrated foodie paradise which deserves to be known for much more than pizza (though we love its pizza, too!). If you’ve got donors who are big fans of the newest and greatest restaurants, mentioning the Beard Awards is a sure-fire conversation starter.

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Catalog Spotlight: Tours

November 29, 2017
Your donors who bid on our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages at your gala event likely have a loose itinerary in their mind for their trip. Maybe it’s a soccer fan, going to Barcelona to experience a game in the world-famous Camp Nou, or maybe it’s a jazz aficionado looking forward to a night out on Frenchman Street in New Orleans.

But it’s a rare traveler who has every moment of their vacations planned out. So to add to our trips, we’ve got tours.

One of our favorite add-ons to any travel package is a local tour, one that allows a visitor to see all that for which a city is famous. Our Destinations of Excellence catalog is filled with expert-led expeditions into the heart of what makes a place special – and that often includes a meal, a drink or another memory-making, multi-sensory experience.

Some of our favorites:

Barcelona: Tapas are perfect tour food; you can have a small plate at each establishment, and not feel stuffed by the end of the walk. It’s why our “Ensconce Yourself in Spanish Exclusivity” package comes with a gourmet tapas tour, to tempt tastebuds – and it even ends with a flamenco show!

We’ve already told you why Charleston makes a great winter destination, but our packages to the South Carolina gem include a bonus: A horse-drawn carriage tour through the city’s downtown district, focusing on history and the charm of Charleston’s mansions and gardens.

Chicago or New York: Deep dish or thin slice? Depending on your donors’ preferences, you can send them either on an Original Chicago Pizza Tour (with our “Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago” package) or explore Greenwich Village on a pizza and beer tour.  Fun idea: Have the crowd vote on which pizza is better by email before the event, then sell the corresponding trip!

Champagne, France:
We’ve got tours of wineries in many of the world’s top vino-producing locales, but this one may be the most specialized. If your donor’s favorite part of any gala is a champagne toast, this might be the trip that moves him or her to bid big, thanks to tours of three different wineries in the varietal’s titular region.

Lexington, Kentucky: Your supporters can go behind the scenes at Churchill Downs, the home track of the Kentucky Derby, with a tour of an area horse farm. It’s a great way to catch up with the race’s history, while also perhaps seeing its future.

New Orleans: Jazz and Sazeracs reign supreme in the Big Easy, but for a different sort of fun, take the ghost and spirits walking tour included in our “Along the Mighty and Mysterious Mississippi” package. Going through the French Quarter, the tour is a fascinating change of pace for visitors both new and frequent.

Want more information on tours that come with our travel packages? Reach out to a consultant today!

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Giving Tuesday is (Almost) Here!

November 22, 2017
In 2016, Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact processed more than $47 million in donations on Giving Tuesday. That’s a 20 percent increase from 2015. And the cut of that revenue going towards small and midsized organizations has increased year-over-year as well, meaning that more groups are getting involved in the unofficial charity holiday.

If you’re not raising money on Giving Tuesday, you may be leaving money on the table. It might be a little late to launch a full-fledged campaign for the 2017 edition, which is November 28, but there are still some ways to be involved.

First, and this should go without saying, reach out to donors. The holiday season gets busy, and even your most dedicated donors may not have your cause at the front of their minds. An event like this should be a part of your messaging leading up to the day. Just being open on Giving Tuesday won’t bring in anything.

Be specific. Asking generally for money on a specific day can feel a little hollow; what makes Giving Tuesday different, then? But if you look to garner donations for a specific reason – think fund-a-needs at galas, for instance – you can focus your donor’s attention and let them know exactly where the money is heading.

Be social. Every store on the planet seems to take out multiple advertisements for their Black Friday sales. Your cause is competing for eyeballs with that, and you don’t have the print budget to stuff a circular in every mailbox. So instead, reach out to influencers and supporters who are active on social media and see if they can boost your message through their networks.

Throwing a gala auction to match up with Giving Tuesday might be difficult (although we fully approve of holiday-season events, as we’ve mentioned before). But that doesn’t mean that your supporters can’t also win. Holding a raffle with the drawing happening on Giving Tuesday (maybe even streamed on your Facebook site?) can help grow interest, and doesn’t take the work of a full auction.

Finally, a big ask: This is a great date for which to try and get corporate matching funds. See if a major corporation would be willing to match donations dollar-for-dollar (even if it’s only to a certain limit). Knowing that their giving might be doubled can be a great motivator for supporters.

No matter how you approach Giving Tuesday, we hope that you hit all your fundraising goals as we round into this busy holiday season!

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A Holiday Fundraiser? The Pros and Cons

November 15, 2017
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as the carol says. We’re heading straight into the holiday season, when families gather, kids (and adults!) tear the wrapping paper off presents, and we gorge on massive meals.

But is it also a good time for your cause to throw a major gala fundraiser?

Having been in the business of selling non-profit fundraising auction travel packages on consignment for more than 20 years, we’ve worked with events that have taken place at any point on the calendar. If you’re considering having yours during this busy period, we’ve got some reasons why it could be the most wonderful time of the year for your non-profit, too.

Donors are in the mood to party!

November and December are often filled with invites to dinner parties, after-work get-togethers and gift exchanges. It’s a time of year that welcomes large gatherings, and throwing your fundraiser during this time period can tap into that energy. Your fundraiser can even be a time for supporters to bring together family members or friends, all in the sake of raising money for your cause, like a party inside a party!

December galas line up with year-end giving.

A 2014 study showed that almost a full 20 percent of giving happens in the month of December, and more than a third of it happens in the year’s last three months. Getting to see your donors face-to-face during that time can help garner bigger contributions (and auction bids). And using that factoid can help convince donors to “do their part” during a December fundraiser; those donations can come alongside auction bids for one record-setting evening.

Fundraising auction lots make great gifts.

Items like non-profit fundraising auction travel packages are highly “gift-able.” You can capitalize on the season of giving by offering items that your big-budget donors would like to give to family members or friends, and they’ll appreciate the opportunity to finish their holiday shopping by supporting an important cause. And with our Destinations of Excellence catalog offering trips around the world and tickets to major events, you can make sure that your biggest supporters have the perfect travel package as a present.

In the end, there’s no one prescription for when everyone should throw a gala fundraiser. But keeping in mind the pluses and pitfalls of the holiday season, and applying those thoughts directly to your audience of donors, can be the difference between a successful outing and one that raises less than the goal amount. And remember – there’s always spring, too!

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Fly South For the Winter

November 08, 2017
Off-season travel can be a great way to get more out of a vacation. The crowds are thinner, reservations are easier to obtain, and unless the main activity is seasonal (think skiing in Colorado), there’s just as much to do.

One of our favorite off-season destinations is the American South, which technically is at its tourism low in the winter. But it can be hard to figure why; with moderate temperatures and the same great range of attractions, we think our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages only get better when utilized during the off-season.

Some examples:

Hilton Head - Your donors already likely associate this South Carolina island with golf. If you’re in a colder winter climate, you can help them associate it with the word “escape” as well; the average high temperature by month here never falls out of the 60s, and with less rain in November and December than almost any other month of the year, golfers can get out on the course during the months that their clubs usually reside in deep storage. Of course, the islands restaurant scene never closes, so those not into the “gorgeous walk, spoiled” will enjoy their time here, as well.

Charleston – January is the only month of the year during which the average high temperature of Charleston dips out of the 60s. With an average high pushing 90 degrees in the summer months, the city opens up in the winter; walking around and seeing the historic mansions doesn’t have to end with you drenched in sweat. And it’s also a perfect time to visit the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens – according to Conde Nast Traveler, there are up to 20,000 camellia blooms during this time in the oldest public garden in the United States.

New Orleans –
With an average high of 55 degrees, Crescent City can feel a little chilly in the winter, comparatively. However, the secret reason for heading to New Orleans during the winter is the precipitation; rain peaks in the summer here, and while October and November technically have the least number of rainy days, December and January (an average of 10 days of precipitation) are still much dryer than, say, July (15 days). Being able to stay dry – even if you have to wear a coat – makes the walkable streets and neighborhoods of New Orleans much easier to navigate. This is doubly so with our travel packages, many of which include walking tours or river cruises.

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Holiday Travel Survival Guide

November 01, 2017
November is here, and that means that the holiday season is at hand. AAA says that 103 million people were expected to travel during the year-end holiday season last year, and another 48 million were set for the road on Thanksgiving. Odds are good that you or someone you know will be braving the roads or the skies at some point over the next two months.

Our non-profit fundraising travel auctions can be used throughout the year, but we’ve got a special place in our hearts for holiday travel. If you or your donors are thinking about getting on the road for the season, take these tips to heart to make sure and get the most out of your itinerary.

Give Yourself Time:
Going from the parking lot to the terminal. Getting through security. Everything seems to take just a little bit longer in the winter when it comes to travel. It might not make the kids happy, but giving yourself the full recommended two-hour buffer between arrival at the airport and takeoff can be the difference between catching and missing that flight. And if you’re driving anywhere, it’s needless to say that traffic can be a beast during the holiday season – build in some extra time.

Enjoy the Airport: Mechanical delays? Weather warnings? A quick layover in an airport can turn into a protracted visit in a hurry. The good news is that airport planners have taken steps to make your stay tolerable, if not downright fun. In Portland, that means a movie theater showing short films. In San Francisco, the “Wag Brigade” is a fleet of animals – mostly dogs, with LiLou the pig thrown in – for some pet therapy. And at many airports, local breweries and restauranteurs have taken the place of the formerly-ubiquitous McDonald’s and Starbucks outlets. If you’re stuck somewhere, the least you can be is full at the same time.

Watch the Weather:
Are you driving? According to American Automobile Association, more than 93 million people traveled via automobile during the December holiday season in 2016. If you want to be one of that number, remember that the luxury of car travel is flexibility; you’re not tied in to leaving on a certain date. So when that winter storm rolls in on your planned departure day, there’s nothing wrong with waiting it out. You’ll be safer waiting until after the snowplows have hit the highway.

Smile: This may be the toughest part. Travel can be extremely stressful and frustrating, especially with the complications that the holiday season brings. But keeping good humor about you will not only keep you sane, it can help your travels move faster; anyone who works in customer service will appreciate seeing a friendly face during a travel nightmare.

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The Horror! Five Big Auction Mistakes

October 25, 2017
Horror movies are based on bad decisions, like asking the wrong person for help after a car breakdown or running toward the haunted house. It’s these moments when the protagonist’s fate is often sealed.

In a similar (if less graphic) manner, there are mistakes that an auction planner can make that seal a gala event’s fundraising fate, too. And while very few of them involve hockey-masked madmen or knife-gloved, wisecracking demons, they’re still worth avoiding in order to make sure that you raise as much money for your charitable cause as possible.

Thinking Small – It can be a bit scary to offer a big-ticket item, like a week-long travel package or luxury goods. What happens if no one even bids the reserve price? But let your donors step up to the challenge; it’s better to ask for too much (especially if the item, like our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, is being offered on no-risk consignment) than to ask for too little and possibly leave money out there.

Saving the Biggest For Last – It superficially makes sense to save the highest-priced item for the last lot of the evening, letting the anticipation build to the very end. But think logically: If you’ve got two people bidding on the last item, one of them will lose. And that person will go home with money in his or her pocket that may otherwise have been destined for a different auction item. Don’t lead with the most expensive item of the day, of course, but don’t leave it until last, either.

Getting a Volunteer to be Auctioneer – As well meaning as volunteers can be, a good auctioneer is worth his or her cost. There’s much more to running the show than talking fast and exclaiming “sold!,” and a professional auctioneer is skilled at getting the biggest bids out of an audience.

Ignoring the Smaller Donors – Unless there was a lotto jackpot involved, it’s a good bet that your biggest donors started out as small-dollar supporters. Make sure that every bid or donation is recognized, and that those who might right now only be able to afford a smaller gift feel the love, too – it’s the right thing to do, and it could pay off in the future.

Forgetting to Say Thank You – Your donors are happy to help your cause, of course, but it’s always nice to be recognized. Make sure that your supporters know how much their auction bids, contributions and presence means to you with thank you cards, follow-up phone calls and any other sort of recognition possible.

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Traveling Without Driving

October 18, 2017
There are some public transit systems so popular, you can buy their memorabilia. There are t-shirts available online with images of the New York City subway map and mugs with London’s famous “Mind the Gap” slogan emblazoned on the side. In fact, renting a car while traveling to either city – and being responsible for parking said car – can be incredibly inconvenient.

Many of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages come with bonuses like airport transfers. But when your donors are in the city, how do they want to get around? Do they want the hassle of driving, looking for gas stations and constantly worrying about parking, or would they rather let a good subway or bus system take care of the logistics? If your supporters lean toward the later, here are some of our favorite non-New York, non-London options.

London may be the first European city that comes to mind when public transit is the topic, but don’t discount its neighbor across the Channel. Paris is home to the second-busiest subway in Europe, and has more than 300 stations. That sounds like it could be overwhelming for the outsider, but its density is a big benefit; there’s hardly an attraction in the city that isn’t accessible by train. Some of the older stations, which were built in the Art Deco and Beaux Arts style, are also architectural beauties on their own.

Any city where the attractions are bunched together can be navigable via public transit, and there may be no better example of that than Las Vegas. With so many of Sin City’s activities situated on the Las Vegas Strip, it’s easy to use either the hop-on Strip bus “The Deuce” or take the monorail to jump from resort to resort. And with so many of the tours (like those to the Grand Canyon) taking off from Stripside spots, it’s like Mother Nature has her own bus stop.

That same geographic centrality helps make San Francisco an excellent town to visit without a car. The trolleys are world famous, of course, but the Bay Area Rapid Transit system does the harder work for locals, connecting the City by the Bay to Oakland and Berkeley. Combined with local buses, the subway is enough for a visitor to see it all, without having to fight rush-hour traffic.

There may be no city more closely associated with the automobile than Los Angeles, but the transit culture is changing there. Winners of our Los Angeles awards show packages can take the train almost directly to the front door of the Microsoft Theater in downtown L.A. – and during off hours, that same train can take your supporters to the beaches of Santa Monica, to the Hollywood Walk of Stars and even the Hollywood Bowl. It’s amazing to say, but it’s true: A visitor to Los Angeles can see most of the attractions and have a tremendous time without getting into a car.

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The Foods of Fall

October 11, 2017
As seasons change, tastes change. The light fare of the summer months gives way to the rib-sticking comfort food of the fall. Vegetables come in and out of season – it’s time for pumpkins and squash. And vacation destinations often change, as well, as visitors flock to leaf-peeping areas or other places where the fall is colorful.

We’ve written before about chasing the fall colors, so today we’d like to focus on how your donors can use our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to chase the fall tastes. Far beyond a trip to the local coffee shop for a pumpkin spice latte, these vacation ideas can bring your supporters to where the vibrancy of the season can be both seen and tasted.

When it comes to all things fall, the New England area tends to spring to mind directly. And at least two dishes that end up at meals across the world when the leaves change color have roots – some literally! – in the area. Pumpkin pie was technically invented in England, but their version is in no way similar to what we see on dessert tables at Thanksgiving; the modern pie could be said to get its start in the very first American cookbook, written in 1796 by Amelia Simmons in Connecticut. And the most popular variety of butternut squash, one of the fall’s most versatile side dishes, was developed in Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.

Our northeast doesn’t have a monopoly on the season, however. We might think of “Here We Go a Wassailing” as a Christmas song, but did you know that “wassailing” has a second definition, tied to visiting orchards? In the West Country of England, cider is a major product, and ceremonies are performed there meant to give thanks for apple trees. Singing or not, the end product is fantastic apple cider, to be enjoyed either on its own or with a “spike” from an adult beverage.

The fall is also a great time to break out those comfort foods, and there are few foods more comfortable than Irish stew. The dish goes back to the pre-potato famine days, using leftovers and cheaper bits of meat to make a meal out of scraps. That tradition has continued around the globe, as the Irish diaspora has spread; no two recipes for Irish stew seem to be the same, as locals use whatever is on hand to fill out the bowl. But if it’s got root vegetables and lamb or beef, it probably originated on the Emerald Isle.

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The Shoulder Season

October 03, 2017
We think of fall as the time for pumpkin spice, football and the changing colors of foliage. But at travel agencies, hotel front desks and even some restaurant maître d’ stations, the season has a different name: Shoulder Season.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can be used throughout the year, of course, but we’ve got a special place in our heart for that time when the biggest mass of tourists has gone home, the weather is still good and destinations are still at their most welcoming. The shoulder season, for certain travelers, can be the best time of year in some cities.

“Shoulder season” is the name given to time periods that fall in between peak and off-peak seasons at tourist destinations. For instance, Montreal is glorious in the summer, but considered by many to be a bit too cold for winter travel. The fall, in between the beautiful summer and tougher winter, is considered the shoulder season there, along with April and May.

Booking trips during this season, which can vary slightly based on destination but often comes in the fall and/or spring, can be a great way to get the most out of a vacation. Attractions are often less crowded, meaning more room to spread out on the beach or less time waiting in lines at Disneyland. Restaurant reservations can be easier to score, as well. And some destinations have shoulder seasons that come with unique attractions, as well; hiking in the Rocky Mountains can be rough during the winter, but fall walks through color-changing aspen trees in Telluride are stunning.

There are some minimal risks to shoulder season travel, especially when it comes to the weather. Between late-season heatwaves and early-season storms, the climate can be unpredictable. Before the winter snowbirds arrive on Miami’s beaches in January, the region is prone to spurts of severe weather, for instance – even if the shoulder season here lies technically outside of hurricane season. Spring comes to life in most places at slightly different times each year; a trip too far north in April may mean dealing with snow. And shoulder season can fall during an inconvenient time of the year for some; for most destinations, it’s in the fall or the spring, making it a tough time for families to take kids out of school for a road trip.

But if your donors are willing to take a small risk in terms of weather, they can often find destinations that are easier to navigate and have just as many attractions during the shoulder season as during the peak season.

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Great Restaurants

September 27, 2017
Some of our favorite add-ons to our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages are related to food. Donors love it when their trips include some of the day-to-day costs factored in (it’s why “all inclusive” packages often do so well), so having meals as a part of the package can be a strong selling point.

What transforms included meals from a nice addition to a full-on attraction, however, is the caliber of the restaurants with which we work. Our travel packages include gift certificates to some of the world’s best restaurants, the types of places with chefs that donors are willing to bid high to visit.

Some of our favorites from the catalog include:

Commander’s Palace: The restaurant that gave Emeril Lagasse an early gig is a New Orleans institution, with its Creole menu and extensive wine list, still attracts diners from around the world, more than 120 years after its opening. It’s a member of the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame and has won several awards from the James Beard Foundation over the decades.

The Biltmore Dining Room: Much of the menu at the Dining Room comes from Asheville’s Biltmore estate; greens, beef, lamb and various berries often come from the grounds. The rest of the menu is sourced as close to Asheville as possible, making it one of the freshest farm-to-table experiences available.

Katz's Deli:
A part of the deli trio at the center of our “Nosh Your Way Through Three New York Delis!”, Katz’s can trace its lineage in New York’s Lower East Side back to 1888. Ownership has changed over time, but the pastrami sandwich, Katz’s signature item, has remained. (Your donors should make sure to add a side of matzo ball soup to round out the order.)

Gordon Ramsay's Savoy Grill: Get past the bluster of the chef most famous for dressing down aspiring cooks on television, and you find that Gordon Ramsey is incredibly skilled. His Savoy Grill in London has received a Michelin Star, one of the highest accolades a restaurant can receive. For a show to go with your meal, book the Kitchen Table Experience, which includes a menu conceived on that day and a view of, as the eatery’s site proclaims, “the kitchen theatrics and action.”

Esquina Bar and Restaurant: Called Medano Beach’s “best new restaurant” by Fodor’s, this Cabo San Lucas stunner makes full use of its seaside location to offer scallops, shrimp, and a catch of the day. The subtle Mediterranean touches on the menu (chicken kebabs, hummus, etc.) and the lunchtime takes on pizza make it an eatery for everyone in your donor’s party.

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The Colors of Fall

September 20, 2017
When the fall arrives, it brings with it any number of changes. Kids go back to school. Football Sundays become mini-holidays for the sports addict. And t-shirts give way to light jackets and sweaters in closets everywhere. But for the traveler, fall often means one change more important than any other: The changing colors of the trees everywhere that the temperature is moving.

If you’ve got donors who are looking to get away with one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, this is one of the best times of year for them to hit the road. And if they want to maximize the visual benefits of the season, these destinations should be under serious consideration.

Boothbay Harbor – The fall colors are so inspiring in Maine that Boothbay Harbor hosts its own celebration. The Fall Foliage Festival is in its 50th year in 2017, celebrating the season with crafts, contests and even steam-powered train rides. It’s northern latitude also means that the ideal window for seeing the leaves change is a little later than it is for most other locales; a visit here in mid-October can cap a full season of gorgeous color.

Telluride – This mountain hideaway is a stunner year-round, but it’s the fall when the area’s aspen trees start to turn. Grove after grove of the thin trees start to go yellow and orange, and so many of the area’s hiking routes become an explosion of color. The city’s tourism board even has their own name for it: Gold Season. See the color from Telluride’s gondola, lakeside at Woods Lake or on the back of a mountain bike on one of the area’s trails.

– The desert of Arizona may not spring right to mind when considering fall foliage, but this oasis explodes with color in the autumn. The road between Sedona and Flagstaff has been called “the closest thing Arizona has to a New England display of fall foliage” by the Arizona Republic, and with a later-than-average window for the changing leaves (sometimes extending all the way to early November), it’s a great choice for those who might be tired of the expected fall getaways.

Montreal – Americans aren’t the only ones obsessed with all things fall, of course. Whether it’s parks within the city itself or quick jaunts into the surrounding county, Montreal makes its case as a tremendous fall autumn destination thanks to the neighboring Laurentian mountains and various ski resorts. And with the change happening usually around the end of September, the temperature is still warm enough for light jackets, rather than parkas.

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Compliments to the Chef

September 13, 2017
We’ve mentioned before – a few times – our love of traveling for the sake of the palate. Getting gumbo in New Orleans, going on a deli tour of New York, taking a cooking class in an Italian villa: Travel and food makes for a perfect pairing.

Many of our destinations are closely associated with a certain cuisine, be it Creole in New Orleans or all the different variations of pasta on offer in Italy. But some of these locales are also linked to famous chefs, some who stick to one specialty and others who offer variations on foods from around the world.

If you’d like to offer your donors a chance to visit the home restaurant of one of their favorite chefs with one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, we’ve got plenty of options.

Emeril Lagasse: BAM! The chef, television star and spokesperson is worldwide, of course, but New Orleans is certainly his spiritual home. He gained much of his fame heading up the kitchen at Commander’s Palace, a Crescent City institution (and, we’d note, a dining option on our “Discover New Orleans’ Celebrated Downtown” package), and now has four restaurants in New Orleans.

Roy Choi: Not all great chefs work in white tablecloth joints. Choi is the first star of the food truck era in Los Angeles; his Kogi trucks combine Korean and Mexican cuisine into an addictive mix, one that helped launch Choi to stardom. Now, his menus and ideas can be found at six different restaurants in the L.A. area.

Jose Andres: The Spanish-American small-plate chef owns restaurants across the country, but it is Washington, D.C. where he may shine the brightest; his minibar by Jose Andres seats just six diners at a time, only operates on a prix fixe basis and is a Michelin star winner. He’s also earned plaudits for bringing high-end food to moderate budgets at outlets like Jaleo and China Chilcano.

Alain Ducasse:
To be known as one of the great chefs of Paris is to be called an all-star of all-stars; any sort of recognition in one of the fine dining capitals of the world is special. For Ducasse, that recognition comes from a staggering 15 restaurants in France alone, including El Jules Verne, located on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.

Seemingly Everyone Else: Don’t look now, but Las Vegas might have the highest concentration of restaurants from famous chefs in the world. Want to be yelled at by Gordon Ramsay? You’ve got five choices. How about Giada De Laurentiis’ first-ever restaurant? And Lagasse, Andres and Ducasse each have options here, too, meaning that “gluttony” is moving right up the sin rankings in Sin City.

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Eat Dessert First

September 06, 2017
Ernestine Ulmer was a writer without much of a resume. She doesn’t have her own Wikipedia page, and nothing she wrote is available at Amazon. It’s hard to even find out when she worked; some on the Internet credit her as a 19th century writer, while others say she was born in 1925.  But she wrote one line that has survived through the years, one saying that has long outlasted anything else on her resume: “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”

There may be no better time to indulge a sweet tooth than while on vacation. And, like cuisines or certain cocktails or wines, where you are may decide with what you finish your meal.

At Mitch-Stuart, we love sending your donors to cities with great food, via our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. While many foodies travel to celebrate their favorite meal, dessert can also be a compelling reason to hit the road.

Some of our favorite desserts, and their home cities:

The line outside of Café du Monde in New Orleans rarely abates, and it’s with good reason. The coffee’s fine, the menu is pretty good, but the main event here is the beignet, a French-style doughnut sprinkled with powdered sugar. Paired with a cup of java, the beignet is the city’s unofficial breakfast, and while others bake them, du Monde’s is still considered the gold standard.

The lineage of cheesecake can be traced all the way back to 14th century England. But the New York version is worth celebrating as its own creation; with a slightly-browned and smooth top, it is distinctive enough to be in its own category. Finding the best in the city is as tough as picking a best pizza slice; Junior’s in Brooklyn may be the most famous, but there are plenty of contenders for top prize.

Any great French meal – and there are lots of great French meals, of course – isn’t complete until the after-dinner macaron. While they’ve taken off in America as well, Paris still leads the league; there’s even a version sold in France’s McCafe’s (the coffee shop version of McDonald’s). Find a Laduree bakery, which is said to sell 15,000 macarons per day, for a quintessential French experience.

Invented in Italy in the 1960s, tiramisu is as omnipresent on menus at Italian restaurants as is pasta. With its coffee flavor and sweet finish, the custard pairs perfectly with a post-meal espresso or amaro as a way of lingering at a dinner table that’s lively with conversation.  Pompi in Rome can often feature lines out the door for the dessert.

Travel to Key West at the right time of year, and you can take part in a whole celebration dedicated to a particular dessert. The Key Lime Festival gives thanks for the local specialty, Key lime pie, with a pie hop (a bar crawl, but with pie), an eating contest and a “pie drop,” where people try to figure out how to drop one of the sweet, tart pies from the top of the Key West lighthouse and have it land without breaking apart.

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From the Catalog: Great Pools

August 30, 2017
What makes a great resort? It’s a question we ask ourselves every time we create a new non-profit fundraising auction travel package, making sure that the accommodations are up to the level of the great destinations in our catalog. As we do that, we’re looking at qualities like the size of the rooms, the level of the cuisine available at the hotel’s restaurant, and even family-centric attributes like nurseries or play rooms.

One of our favorite amenities at our resorts is the pool. Spending a long afternoon on a pool chair reading, splashing around in the shallow end with the kids, even getting in a swim – all ways of enjoying a vacation day.

We flipped through our catalog to look at some (just some!) of our favorite pools at some of our top-of-the-line resorts. Which kind of pool suits your donors?
  • As strange as it is to say, one of our favorite pool views involves the ocean. It’s the vista seen from the water at Jepun Bali Villas on the island of Bali. From the edge of the infinity-style pool, soakers can see down to the beach, with all the greenery between. And with the gorgeous blue tint of the water at Bali, that aqua and green contrast acts as a visual feast.
  • The cabana-lined pools of the Encore in Las Vegas are exactly what one would expect from a luxury resort; surrounded by flower gardens and with optional food and beverage service available waterside, the pool feels like an oasis from the hustle and racket of the Las Vegas Strip. And like the city itself, there is no off-season, as the heated pools remain open year-round.
  • One of our other favorite amenities that a resort can provide is a top-notch spa, and at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, they’ve combined their spa with poolside living. The rooftop pool is a favorite for those partaking in the spa’s health-conscious lunch options, and the view from their Willow Stream Spa Terrace is as beautiful as any beachside vista.
  • Not every favorite pool is at a hotel, though, and not every pool is on land. Some of the best pools in our collection are aboard cruise ships. Used both for relaxing and for fun ship-wide events, there are often different ships for every group, including an adults-only pool for those looking to avoid the little ones. Best of all, savvy cruisegoers often say that poolside is the hub of activity on a ship; those looking to make new friends or find out about the best upcoming excursions would do well to hang out on a deck chair.

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A Weekend Away

August 23, 2017
When the calendar reaches late August, the minds of many – including some of your donors? – turns toward the school year. And the school year, of course, means rehearsals, practices, games, study groups, tutoring, lessons, and afternoons of frazzled parents driving their kids from activity to activity.

Just looking at that list may make some of your donors want a vacation.

However, it can be tough for a family to pack up and travel around the world during the school year. Some can plan vacations around holidays and breaks, but for most, a long weekend is the best chance to get out and see the world. Thankfully, you can help them with that with one of our weekend-length travel packages.

Thinking about getting those families with school-age kids involved in your fundraising auction? Here are some factors to consider.

Keep Them Close:
We love encouraging your donors to see the ends of the earth when it comes to travel; it’s why we love destinations like Bali and Iceland, for instance. But there’s little reason to get on a plane and fly all the way to Southeast Asia, only to stay for three days and then come home! If you’ve got donors looking for a three-day getaway, don’t get caught up in sending them far away. Let them stay close to home, and they’ll have more time to relax or see the sights, rather than navigate airports.

Emphasize Experiences:
We love loading up our non-profit fundraising travel packages with fun experiences, like winery tours, cooking classes and even dinner cruises. It’s difficult to get the full experience of a city like, say, New York, or Los Angeles, in one weekend. However, in three days, one can get a pretty good experience of culinary New York, or beachside L.A., for instance. It’s why trips like our “Nosh Your Way Through Three New York Delis” are so popular; it allows your donors to focus on one element of what otherwise can be an overwhelming metropolis.

Consider the Staycation: Not every relaxing trip needs to even leave the state limits. Most New York residents don’t get to go to Fashion Week runway shows, and most Angelinos don’t attend the ESPYs. And even fewer residents of any city get to stay at a local luxury resort. Whether it’s hard-to-get tickets, spa indulgences or golfing rounds, there are elements of our weekend-long trips that will appeal to locals as much as tourists, and the only travel needed may be a crosstown drive.

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Compliments to the Chef

August 15, 2017
For us, travel and food are a great match; many of the trips in our Destinations of Excellence catalog involve tasting tours of a city, spectacular dining experiences or even cooking lessons in different cuisines. That’s why we’re excited to be sponsoring the first season of OC Chef Life’s “Battle of the Chefs,” which holds its second “preliminary round” contest tonight in Anaheim.

The show, being taped for online broadcast, pits two area chefs in a battle. They’ll be given a cuisine style (as broad as “street food” or as specific as “paella”) and put together small plates inspired by said style. Then, the audience will pick who moves on to the next round.

Tonight, the showdown involves two of the area’s favorite chefs. Chef Pascal Olhats is a French and French-trained chef and restaurateur who has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. His eponymous restaurant is a local favorite for fans of French cuisine. On the other side: Linda Johnson the owner and chef of Filomena’s in Costa Mesa, a restaurant often seen on lists of the top Italian restaurants in Orange County.

If the talent isn’t enough to get you in the door, the view might be. The tournament takes place each month at The Fifth, the only rooftop restaurant and bar in Anaheim. With its unparalleled view of the Disneyland Resort (and its evening fireworks show), any event here is a special one – and add in the chance to sample the work of top-notch chefs, and you’ve got a tremendous night out.

Finally, a portion of the proceeds each month go to charity, which is always a big plus in our book. Tonight, money will go to the Orange County Family Justice Center, an excellent organization that provides services to survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and elder abuse.

Raising funds, eating great food and watching fireworks, from a gorgeous rooftop bar? We’re ready. If you wish to join us, click here to buy tickets.

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Get Personal

August 09, 2017
We’ve all received the email from a mailing list, with a come-on for a sale or other event. And we’ve all hit delete before we even know the product or service, based on a salutation like “Dear Sir or Madam.” Even in the age of programs that can merge donor names into email solicitations, there’s something about a mailing list that can feel cold.

The best way to raise money with our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is, of course, by selling them in a room of relaxed, happy donors. But in order to fill that room, you’ve got to reach out to them – and in doing so, it’s been shown time and again that personal entreaties are the best.

One effective way of reaching out to your supporters is one of the most old-fashioned: The United States Postal Service. Yes, mass mailing isn’t always an efficient use of money, but targeting specific donors or supporter pools with a tangible invitation is still personal enough to get noticed. Better yet, turn the invites into discussion pieces; tie them to your theme, work with a graphic designer and make them sing, as if they were wedding invitations. Those are the types of postcards or mailers that get tacked to bulletin boards, affixed to refrigerators and, eventually, accepted.

Social media advertising isn’t just for work-from-home schemes. With 68 percent of American adults using Facebook and 30 percent of all American adults of incomes more than $75,000 using Twitter, according to Pew Research, there’s a good chance that your supporters – and supporters-to-be – exist somewhere in the digital space. The audience for your advertisement can be selected by age, location and interests, meaning that your post promoting your event or gala can be in front of a huge number of potential attendees, right next to status updates or tweets from their friends.

The aforementioned invitations have one common goal: To feel more personal. Whether it’s a paper invite that looks handmade or a promoted social media post designed to pop up in someone newsfeed, each try to narrow the space between the organization and the invitee. But there’s an easy, overlooked way of doing just that: Pick up the phone! For your gala, your board of directors could be doing personal phone calls to as many donors as possible, especially those with a bigger budget. If an effective invitation is one that is as personalized as possible, there’s no beating a one-on-one conversation with a board member. (It’s also a great time to listen to the donor’s thoughts, concerns and suggestions, too.)

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Baby-Proof Travel

August 02, 2017
At Mitch-Stuart, we maintain that our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages are good for donors in all walks of life. We’ve got adventure travel, bucket-list trips and tickets to some of the biggest events in the world. But not every class of supporter always feels like they can get away. For donors who have young children, the thought of travel conjures nightmares of packing everything up in the car or, even worse, getting the kids to behave on a flight.

The good news: We can help there. Because while there’s little that can be done to make getting to the destination much easier, making sure that there’s a spacious, private villa waiting may be enough inspiration to get those supporters interested in participating in your fundraising auction.

Why do villas work best when traveling with young children? It’s all about space.

Space for the Kid: Sleeping in a hotel room with an infant can be a test of even Zen-like patience. Having multiple bedrooms, like most villas do, gives the kids their own space, one where they can spread out their toys and play without interrupting the peace and quiet of the adults. It also means that, after the young ones go to bed, the parents don’t have to hold their voices to whispers in fear of waking their progeny.

Space for the Family: We’ve said before that multi-generational travel is one of our favorite uses for our travel packages that include a villa as the residence. Having the grandparents along may help mom and dad sneak out for a nice dinner in a new location on their own. It certainly will make the occasion seem more like time away than being with the same people, just in a different room. And staying in a beautiful villa is a wonderful way to get family members acquainted with the newest generation.

Space in the Kitchen:
Ordering your small children the escargot is a perfect way to force yourself into a fast-food stop on the way back to the hotel. But with a kitchen, included in most villas, parents can prepare meals of which even the pickiest of young eaters will approve, meaning that a hungry child is never more than a room (or a prepared backpack) away from food that will remind him or her of home. It can help settle even the fussiest traveler to have that quesadilla, mac and cheese or even chilled yogurt. And as any parent who has traveled with a toddler before knows, “settled” sometimes is the best attribute that young explorers can possess.

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Recognizing Your Donors

July 26, 2017
We all know the importance of saying “thank you.” After learning to not eat things off the ground and not touch a hot stove, it’s one of the first, basic lessons we learn as children. And in the non-profit fundraising world, we know that saying thank you to donors is important, as well; it gives them the chance to form a bond with an organization or cause, hopefully insuring that the supporters will help when called upon.

But donors can sometimes be a wider category than we think. Yes, those who respond to mail solicitations or buy gala tickets and bid on auction items fall into that classification, but to limit the term to just them leaves out many supporters, including some that you’d be hard-pressed to get along without.

We’ve seen the power of “thank you” first hand in our experience of working with non-profits to help raise money with our fundraising auction travel packages. Just to make sure you’re saying thank you to all the right people, we want to make sure your list is updated to include all sorts of donors, including…

Those Who Donate Items: Not all donations to your cause come in monetary form. Whether it’s business owners passing on a few of their wares or collectible items from a personal collection, getting auction lots donated to your cause can be worth their weight in bids. And since you’re going to turn those auction items into money anyway, it’s important to make sure that donors are recognized accordingly. Thank you notes after the auction are great, but also think about other options in conjunction, like a mention of gratitude when the lot is introduced at the auction itself, or a “donated by…” in the program.

We spent some time in this space going over the benefits of encouraging major donors to “underwrite” certain trips. This can be a major commitment, of course, and so it’s important to recognize those contributors in any way possible. Like a donated item, they’ve made this travel package available, in their own way, so a mention during the auction, a thank you after the gala, and a program shout-out are all appropriate. It might also be nice to pass along any notes, thank yous or photos that you receive from the item winner after he or she returns from traveling – a way of including the underwriter later and an excuse for a reminder that the next gala auction event is always around the corner.

Volunteers: It’s difficult to pull off a major auction event with just your paid staff, which is why most galas depend on a team of volunteers. You may not be able to pay them, but you can make sure that they feel important. Giving them recognition from the stage and sending thank you notes are, again, both important. But trying to find other ways to put them in the spotlight can be fun, too; maybe a volunteer helps introduce one of the night’s biggest auction items, or gets on the microphone to give some background on the cause for which your organization is raising money. Letting your volunteers take center stage give them one more reason to feel warm and fuzzy about your non-profit, which will help when you call for their unpaid assistance in the future.

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Travel with a … Grill?

July 19, 2017
Picture, if you will, a big plate of barbecue. Depending on where you’re from, you might have an image in your head of a chicken leg doused in a dark red sauce, or maybe a tangy pulled pork sandwich with a side of almost-translucent dressing. Either of those are correct, of course. And barbecue fans will go back and forth all day as to which style of ‘cue is the most “authentic.”

But to limit barbecue, the unofficial foodstuff of summer, to a binary choice is to ignore grilling traditions from not only all over the country, but all over the world.

Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to use for any number of reasons, and many of them have culinary twists, whether it’s food tours or in-residence cooking lessons. If you’ve got donors who are connected at the hip to their grills, the type who like to look over the shoulder of the chef at every cookout, some of these alternative barbecue destinations may garner big bids at an auction.

Anyone who has seen Hawaii portrayed on television is likely familiar with the luau, where the party often barbecues a full pig. But that’s not the only way that Hawaiians prepare meat over an open flame. When on the island of Oahu, ask around for a good purveyor of huli-huli, which is chicken done rotisserie-style and, as one might expect, seasoned with a pineapple-forward marinade. While a full luau can be hard to find (and costly to attend), huli-huli is sometimes found even at stands or food trucks.

Really good ‘cue is likely a little too heavy for the health-conscious residents of Los Angeles. But head up the coast a couple of hours – closer to Santa Barbara – and you hit Santa Maria, the home of tri-tip barbecue. A Santa Maria-style plate of barbecue is likely to closely resemble a steak as served in a restaurant; seasoning is sparse, and the taste of the meat (and the smoke created by the oak-powered fire) is the star. The supporting cast, though, can steal the show; most Santa Maria-style barbecue joints will serve it alongside grilled French bread that’s been decadently dipped in butter.

And America does not have a monopoly on great grilling, of course. In Barcelona, the art of barbacoa involves a heavier emphasis on pork over cow or chicken, but it still tastes delicious all the same. And barbacoa in Barcelona is often done in a very communal atmosphere; festivals are prevalent, maybe as common as private, backyard affairs. And in Tuscany, like Santa Maria, there’s no sauce used (except for a finishing drizzle of olive oil), but the flavor that comes from the all-wood fire is plenty for most barbecue fans. With an emphasis on fresh elements (especially vegetables), European grilling is both healthy and flavorful.

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Water World

July 12, 2017
There may be no more quintessential summer vacation than one involving a beach. Ever since automobiles have existed, Americans have jumped in the car to take day trips out to the shore. And there are several trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog set up for your sand-loving donors. But to limit major bodies of water to objects of stares from seaside recliners is to ignore several different ways in which water can be the centerpoint of a fantastic vacation.

Do you have any water-loving donors? If so, we’ve got a non-profit fundraising auction travel package that lets them interact with oceans, rivers and seas in almost any manner.

In the Water: For those supporters who want to do more than stare at an ocean, three of our trips to Bali might fit the bill. SCUBA lessons are easy ways for your donors, even the inexperienced ones, to interact with underwater nature, and in the pristine waters around Amed, the fishing villages on the eastern side of the island, there’s plenty to see beneath the sea. Maybe they’ll even spot the sunfish, Bali’s 2,000-kilogram docile monster of a fish, for a great photo opportunity.

On the Water: We love cruises here at Mitch-Stuart – we just took this space last week to talk about best practices for your donors who are heading out on the seas. But if you’ve got supporters who want to stick to one destination but still get in some boat time, offer one of packages with sightseeing or dinner cruises. Be it gliding through Amsterdam’s canals at night, exploring the architecture of Chicago, or experiencing some of the best jazz that New Orleans has to offer (along with a Creole buffet!), the options for day-long or shorter cruises on our trips seem endless.

By the Water: Of course, just being ocean-adjacent is good enough for many people. Mitch-Stuart has dozens of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that will put your donors on a beach chair overlooking some body of water. But another way to stay by the water is to find a great stream and go fishing. Our “Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada” package sends supporters to Alberta or British Columbia for a fly fishing expedition. With the reasonable Canadian temperatures (the average high in Whistler is 80 degrees during July, the city’s hottest month) and the fun of learning how to fish from experts, the travel package is the type that will have certain donors jumping out of their seats during an auction.
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Enjoying the Seas

July 05, 2017
At Mitch-Stuart, some of our most popular non-profit fundraising auction travel packages involve cruises. We love being able to send donors on an all-inclusive trip that touches on several different countries and offers opportunities for a tremendous range of activities. And since we’ve been fans of cruises for so long, we know some great ways for a donor to take advantage of time out at sea. If your donors follow these four suggestions, they’ll make numerous new memories – and they’ll remember that your non-profit helped make them happen!

Pace Yourself:
Whether it’s food, drink, or sun, it’s easy to be a bit too gluttonous on day one of a cruise. And as big as a modern cruise ship is, there’s way too much to see at once. Relax, make reservations for activities at a later date, and try to soak in a bit of the ocean before trying to do it all.

Get Off the Ship: It can be hard to remember, with all of the food, the activities and the amenities aboard a cruise liner, that the ship itself is only part of the destination. Whether it’s a warm-weather cruise around the Caribbean or an adventure into the waters of Alaska, these trips explore some of the world’s most beloved territory. And with adventures ranging from guided tours to adrenaline rushes, there’s something off the ship – just like there’s something on the ship – for everybody.

Expand Your Palate: The variety of dining options on modern cruise lines, especially the ones in our trip catalog, is breathtaking. If your donors want to make sure they enjoy their journey, they should eat more than the same five dishes that make up their diet at home. Try sushi, or Chinese hot pot cuisine. Go to that Tuscan Italian steakhouse. It’s a rare opportunity to have so many options at just an arm’s length; tell your donors to take advantage (and to send pictures of the exquisite meals back, of course!).

Don’t Wait: Want to try out one of the specialty restaurants? How about getting a massage? Your donors need to approach the trip with an outline of what they want to do while at sea, and make sure to reserve their spots as soon as possible. That great off-ship hike or fantastic chef’s table dinner is not hidden, and there are hundreds of other passengers likely interested. If they commit early, then they can relax and enjoy their voyage without the fear of missing out.
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Great American Celebrations

June 28, 2017
Fireworks at the National Mall

For some, July 4th means grilling in the back yard, getting together with family and friends, and watching the big celebrations in Washington D.C. and elsewhere on television. But at Mitch-Stuart, we think that the Fourth of July is one of the best holidays of the year for themed travel. A federal holiday, in the summer with kids out of school? It’s no wonder that AAA rates July 4th as one of the largest travel holidays of the year; more people often hit the road in early July than do for Memorial Day!

We’re big proponents of traveling for a specific reason, whether it’s a tremendous wine tour in Italy or a Broadway show in New York. And while many of these Fourth of July celebrations are travel-worthy on their own, some are add-ons to already-fantastic events. Consider it a two-for-one Independence Day Sale: Your donors can go to an event and get a party at the same time.

For those looking to combine a patriotic display with an attraction in one of our favorite destinations, these celebrations are ones to watch.

There are fireworks displays in and around Los Angeles too numerous to count. A favorite for decades, though, has been the July 4th show at the Hollywood Bowl. Often headlined by a legendary music act (Smokey Robinson played the 2016 edition) and always with a patriotic medley performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, it’s a quintessential summer evening in L.A. Pair it with a pre-show picnic (outside food and drink are allowed at the Bowl), and a donor will have a unique story to tell about a trip to the City of Angels.

The biggest Fourth of July celebration in some destinations is tied to a local sports team. In San Francisco and Atlanta, for instance, fireworks follow the baseball games of the Giants and Braves, respectively. Cities with minor league baseball squads often light the skies over their stadiums, as well. The best-kept secret, though, may be in Denver, where Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids throw an all-day affair, called 4th Fest. Since the team’s inception, it’s been the one of, if not the, biggest celebration in the state’s capital city.

Of course, considering the historical import of the day, it is not surprising that museums often do a great job of celebrating July 4th. In cities like Boston (at the Museum of Science), San Diego (USS Midway and Maritime Museums), and Chicago (Chicago History Museum) revelers can spend the day splitting time between picnics and exhibits. And of course, the biggest museum-adjacent celebration is also the nation’s most famous, as the National Mall (which is lined with different Smithsonian museums) welcomes as many as a million people for a concert and fireworks show.

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Summer Cuisine

June 21, 2017
When it is blazing hot outside, few people want a hearty meal. The summer is the time for lighter cuisine, with dishes that match the seasonal availability of many fruits and vegetables – and often don’t require adding to the home’s heat problems by turning on the oven.

Mitch-Stuart loves to send donors on foodie adventures with its non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. During the summer, those trips are less about rib-sticking soul food or heavy cream-based sauces and recipes, and more about light dishes, the type that don’t weigh a diner down afterward and can be eaten in between hikes, bike rides or even surfing runs. If you’ve got some supporters who think the way to a good vacation is through the stomach, we’ve got destinations to which they’d like to go during the summer months.

When it comes to lighter summer fare, no city may spring to mind faster than Los Angeles. The City of Angels eats lean throughout the year, and there’s an abundance of options; some of the country’s best sushi restaurants are here (five of the top 20, according to an MSN list released in late 2016), and seafood is fresh and abundant. In addition, health-conscious Angelinos take some of the lightest options from elsewhere and make them their own, as evident in the town’s current poke fever.

More than a continent away, Italian food is often stereotyped as being heavy, thanks to rich sauces and plates full of pasta. But in the southern part of the state, especially along the coasts, seafood reigns. A city like Sorrento is as well known for its clams as its spaghetti – in fact, the combination of the two is one of the town’s most popular dishes. And almost every meal here for those of age ends with a digestif of limoncello; it’s such a tradition, some restaurants offer a pour of it free of charge when diners ask for the bill.

Lighter cuisine can also describe the portions, too. Take Barcelona, where its traditional foods like gazpacho and paella are served as tapas, or small plates. Not only does this mean no entrée-sized calorie bombs, but also it allows for diners to sample a wider range of dishes. Dinner at a restaurant in Barcelona often means being able to sample, snack on and share the entire menu, rather than making just one choice. Considering that options will often range from pa amb tomaquet (tomato bread) to Iberian ham, even the heartiest diners may want to downsize their dishes.

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Auction 201

June 14, 2017
You know about using an auctioneer, you know about planning for outdoor venues, and you know where to spend money to make sure your event is as successful as possible. Along with providing once-in-a-lifetime fundraising auction travel packages to sell on consignment, we love to help out with any advice you may need when it comes to arranging a fundraising gala.  

Many of the more basic tips are either common sense or discussed elsewhere on the blog. So this week, let’s look at some other ways to make your next fundraising auction the best one yet.

1. Diversify

We often talk about diversifying auction items; a lot list with nothing but golf items may not appeal to the widest range of gala attendees. But by offering different kinds of trips during your event, you can reach every type of bidder, too, whether it’s the supporter who likes the thrill of a competitive back-and-forth or someone who just wants to buy an item to help, rather than deal with an escalating price. Offering live and silent auctions, along with “buy it now” items and even raffles, means offering your donors more chances to get involved.

2. Identify top bidders for future events

Every bid is a data point for the planning of future auctions. If you see someone going big, whether winning or losing, you want to know their interests and what they might be seeking. These are the people to which you want to reach out before the next event, to see what has caught their eye lately. Then, figure out how to deliver that item. It will take some of the guesswork out of the process of rounding up auction items and guarantee that every item has someone in the crowd for which it’s the pinnacle of the evening.

3. Group smaller donated items together

Sometimes, items are stronger together. If you’ve got some donated lots that may not be big enough to deserve their own time in the auction spotlight, find a creative theme and turn three or more small pieces into one big gift basket. It gives you more time during the auction to spend on each lot, and it takes focus away from the individual items. Instead, your donors will have the chance to support your cause by buying a “basket” of items, at least one of which a supporter may be interested in. In fact, if you’ve got donors interested in different parts of the collection, you’ve just increased the competition for all of them.

Want more auction tips? We’ve got them! Reach out to one of our Travel Experts for more information.

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Where Summer Rules

June 07, 2017
As May turns into June, Memorial Day fades in the rear view mirror, and the summer solstice sneaks up on us, thoughts often turn to vacation. Kids are out of school, workplaces may be a little more lenient when it comes to three-day weekends, and something about the warmer temperatures tells us that it’s time to get outside.

Often, as we pull out our calendars, we think of area beaches – or even of flying to nicer ones. But there’s another way to think about the summer traveling season: What are the destinations that are, by far, best in the summer? Where should you go in June, July and August where there’s a major advantage over November, December and January?

At Mitch-Stuart, we believe that the vast majority of destinations for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages – including those below! – are appropriate for year-round travel. But for these cities, states and island provinces, there’s something about summer that makes them “musts” during those months rather than “maybes.”

While it’s true that modern cruise ships are pretty well climate-controlled, summer is still the best season by far to take a trip through Alaska. The “cruise season” is said to run from April through to September, making summer the most popular time, and with good reason: High temperatures are warm enough that off-boat excursions don’t require coats. Late summer, in particular may be particularly attractive, with nighttime growing dark enough to catch glimpses of the northern lights and the mosquito population beginning to thin out.

Average high temperatures in Reykjavik, Iceland never get above 60 degrees, even during the summer, so it’s not the place for the thin-blooded. But considering that the average high temperature in the winter months hovers around freezing and summer precipitation averages are as much as 40 percent lower, anyone looking at heading to the Icelandic capital would do well to consider June, July and August. An added bonus: At the summer solstice, the city gets as many as 21 hours of sunlight, meaning even more time for exploring the country’s rugged beauty.

The southern hemisphere is in the midst of winter when we’re enjoying beach weather here in the north. The temperatures in Bali, though, do not deviate much throughout the year, thanks to the island’s proximity to the equator. Accordingly, the seasons are separated less by degrees and more by inches of precipitation. The winter, according to the travel experts at Frommer’s, is considered the rainy months, where flash floods and afternoon thunderstorms are frequent. If your donors would like to explore Bali’s charms without getting soaked (or carrying around an umbrella), our summer is by far the best time to visit.

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Under (and Traveling To) the Boardwalk

May 31, 2017
It’s thought that the first boardwalk in the United States opened to the public in the late 19th century, in Atlantic City. The idea of combining entertainment of one form or another with beautiful beach views may have existed previously, but it was there, in New Jersey, where an American summer totem was born.

Mitch-Stuart loves setting up donors with summer vacations worthy of postcards and “How I Spent My Summer” papers upon return to school. Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can send your supporters around the world, and during the summer some of our favorite destinations have amazing boardwalks to explore.

For families, Old Orchard Beach checks off all of the requirements of a great boardwalk. There’s the Palace Playland, with its carousel, slide and bounce house for the kids. For adults, the pier has its own nightclub. And for everyone, the restaurants serve some of the freshest seafood around including Maine lobsters (which are worth the trip all by themselves!). And all of this is just an hour and a half from Boothbay, and almost exactly the same from Boston.

The boardwalk at Venice Beach is colorful in a way that only California could be, from its open-air gym to its Snapchat glasses vending machines (a rare collision of Muscle and Silicon Beaches). At around 1.5 miles, the Venice Beach Boardwalk is lined with artists and street performers, restaurants and cafes, and every type of tchotchke dealer one could seek. And it’s steps from the gorgeous beaches of both Venice and Santa Monica (the latter connected to the boardwalk area by bike and walking path). It even has its own elevated view, with the rooftop lounge at Hotel Erwin acting as an observatory deck for those who want to see the colorful craziness from a birds-eye view.

Is Navy Pier a boardwalk? Well, who says you need an ocean? In Chicago, Lake Michigan substitutes for the Atlantic or Pacific, and the 101-year old boardwalk and pier has become a center of all things Chi-town. Giordano’s is on premises for those seeking the famous deep dish pizza, while Riva Crabhouse provides an upscale seafood experience. Dining and sightseeing cruises are constantly departing from the Pier, as well, and the landscaped green surrounding it all gives visitors a chance to picnic on a warm day. Beyond Wrigley Field, there may be no attraction in Chicago that appeals to such a wide swath of the city’s visitors.

When it comes to this quintessentially American class of attraction, though, Coney Island may be the one that comes to mind first. This New York institution, back at full strength after being battered by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals each year. As seen in countless films, the Ferris wheel here has become a symbol of the New York beyond Manhattan’s skyscrapers. On the ground, classic fair food is in abundance, along with the sorts of carnival games and attractions that may scratch that nostalgic itch for your donors.
Old Orchard Beach

Venice Beach

Navy Pier

Coney Island

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More Memorial Day Getaways

May 24, 2017
This year, more than 39 million people will get on the road for the Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA, the most in 12 years. And not all of them can go to the three destinations we highlighted three years ago here on the blog.

While Mitch-Stuart’s non-profit travel packages can be used throughout most of the year, we’re partial to creating Memorial Day trips to remember. And while Seattle, Southern California and Florida are still excellent choices for celebrating the three-day weekend, they are, by no means, the only destinations worthy of consideration:

There is never a bad time of year to visit New York; even in the dead of winter, there’s so much to do and see. But the Big Apple makes this list for two reasons: Springtime, even if it’s late spring, is always a time of high spirits, thanks to locals being able to trade coats for sunglasses, and Fleet Week begins. The annual celebration of the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps features the Parade of Ships, Meet the Pilots question-and-answer sessions, and even air shows featuring Naval and Marine aircraft. Even for New York, the energy on the streets during the festivities is peaking.

Las Vegas lives for three-day weekends, and Memorial Day weekend is no exception. The city comes alive with visitors, especially from nearby Los Angeles, and every restaurant, nightclub and resort puts its best foot forward. And while it’s hard to point at any individual event as being only for the holiday weekend, the massive number of shows in the city mean there’ll be plenty to do.

Visiting the south during the Memorial Day weekend makes perfect sense. Getting to the Sun Belt before the more oppressive summer heat arrives in June. That’s true for Charleston, one of our favorite cities, with an average high temperature of 85 in May, against 90 in July. Maybe as importantly, the lows in May still get down to 63 degrees, making evening walking tours extremely comfortable. And with Memorial Day weekend also being the kickoff of Spoleto Festival USA, which brings artists from around the world to South Carolina, there’s plenty to do while enjoying the weather’s last hospitable days.

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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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Swiss Army Knife Destinations

May 10, 2017
Triple threats. Renaissance men or women. Swiss Army Knives. We have plenty of names for them, but they all come back to the same idea: People who are versatile, who have skillsets larger than one discipline.

We have Swiss Army Knives in fundraising auctions, too. Those are the items that can attract bids from anyone in the room, the types of lots that encourage activity from all corners. They can be the most lucrative, because of the number of aspirants, and certainly can be the most fun.

And often, they’re travel packages.

There are some locales in our catalog of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that cater to so many different constituencies, they become indispensable auction items, the type that get everyone in the room involved. If you don’t have an idea in what your big-money donors are interested, or you just want a location sure to please the widest base of donors, consider one of these options.

Los Angeles: Even with all the high-minded literature and the sheer number of films made about the City of Angels, Steve Martin may be the one to get Los Angeles right in “LA Story,” when a character calls it “a place where they've taken a desert and turned it into their dreams.” The beaches to the west and the mountains inland, the bustle of downtown Los Angeles and the small town feel of Larchmont Village, the exhibits of newest museum The Broad and the silliness of the iconic Laugh Factory, downtown’s architecture and Elysian Park’s Los Angeles Dodgers: Any city the size of L.A. will have to contain multitudes.

Paris: The City of Lights is thought of often as the home of tremendous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. While that’s true, the city has a tremendous number of sides to show. Paris’ gourmand credibility has never been questioned, of course, and the cocktail renaissance is growing as well. It’s a home for culture, both high (the Louvre) and pop (the nightclubs of the city are commonly filled). And sports fans get to see one of the best soccer teams in Europe, Paris Saint-Germain, ply its trade.

New Orleans:
The city of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter is also the city of Frenchman Street, one of America’s hallowed grounds for jazz. It’s the capital of Creole cuisine, for the gumbo fans, and the birthplace of the Sazerac and the Hurricane. From an architectural standpoint, it’s a fascinating place, with examples of buildings and homes in nearly every major style since the 18th century. It’s a city that hosts three major festivals each year: Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Jazz Fest and Essence. And in the fall, the New Orleans goes crazy for the NFL and its Saints. No matter the donor or supporter, there’s always something to do in the Crescent City.

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New Destinations, New Adventures

May 01, 2017
The calendar keeps turning, and with it the seasons; we’re now in the midst of spring, which means at home it might be time for a cleaning. Here at Mitch-Stuart headquarters, though, instead of taking items to Goodwill, we find ourselves adding new trips to our Destinations of Excellence catalog. It’s our chance to refresh our offerings and make sure that we have the once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list-type experiences for which you donors will want to place the biggest bids.
What’s new at Mitch-Stuart?
  • If your donors have picked up a travel magazine in the last year, it’s likely they’ve seen an article about Reykjavik. The Icelandic capital came in second in one travel search engine’s list of most popular destinations, and one photo of the iconic Northern Lights will remind your supporters why.
  • Luxurious accommodations are the name of the game for our new trips to Belize, Sedona and Jackson Hole. Whether it’s taking in the beaches of the Caribbean/Central American gem,  off-roading in Red Rock Country, or going on a wildlife safari in Grand Teton National Park, your donors will return to top-notch luxury in the evening, balancing nature with pampering. 
  • Get local with attractions that can only be found in specific destinations. There’s only one Space Coast, and our newest trip to Cocoa Beach involves not just two-day admission to the Kennedy Space Center, but lunch with an actual astronaut. And ask any New Yorker: There’s only one city for the country’s best deli food, and we’ve got a tour of three of the best.
In addition, we’ve got brand-new options for Napa Valley (one involves a barn – really!), a cozy stay on the coast of Maine, a city-and-country combo in Canada and even a professional photo shoot with Paris a backdrop.
Want to find out more? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today! Give us a call at 800-574-9991 or send an email to info@mitchstuart.com

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What ISN’T New in Fundraising Auctions?

April 26, 2017
We’re less than a week away from the Association for Professional Fundraisers International Fundraising Conference, or AFP for (mercifully!) short. Each year, fundraisers from around the country gather to talk about where the industry is going, best practices and the future of fundraising technology.

We love being involved in these conversations, too, but as the start of the conference draws close, we thought it’d be worth a moment of time to talk about what isn’t new in fundraising auctions. The next app or big data tool are incredibly important to the modern fundraiser, sure, but there are some aspects of fundraising auctions (and the travel packages that sell at them) that don’t shift over time.

What hasn’t changed?

Auctioneers. We’ve written before about why you want them. They keep the party going, they get the biggest bids and they’ve got the ability to get more information about your non-profit to the audience. Plus, their experiences working with numerous charities means that they can give suggestions about program order, starting bids and even what items to offer. They’re worth every penny and more.

Trusting your donors. It can be scary to offer up big-ticket items at a fundraising auction. What happens if no one bids? What if the auctioneer is left there, holding the gavel? In order to raise big amounts of money with a charity auction, you’ve got to offer some items that will require big donations. If it’s an item that some of your supporters want, like a once-in-a-lifetime trip or tickets to a major sporting event, you’ll be surprised at how much they’re will to pay, knowing that the money is going to a good cause.

Having FUN! At no point should the event itself feel, to you, like anything less than the greatest night of the year. This is your chance to talk with others who are passionate about the same issues, to enjoy a night out on the town and to raise money for a worthy cause (yours!). Fun is absolutely contagious, and if you’re having it, others will have it too.

Saying “thank you.” And say it to everyone. From a practical standpoint, it gets your name in front of everyone’s eyes one more time. But it also gives them the chance to feel recognized for whatever they brought to the evening, whether it was donating an auction item, bidding on one, or even simply cheering on the bidders.

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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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Indulgent Vacations

April 12, 2017
In day to day life, we hold back. We can’t eat a five-course meal for lunch, because we’d fall asleep at our desk in the afternoon. We can’t finish that bottle of wine at dinner, because we have to be productive the next day. We can’t spend the day shopping or relaxing at the spa, because we’ve got real-world responsibilities.

On vacation, though, we are different people. And we are ready to indulge.

Some are coming off of a Lenten season of self-denial, while others may just want a chance to take a break from a diet or other restriction. But all of your donors want to let loose when they hit the road. With our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, they can do just that. And while any vacation is bound to have the chance to indulge in one way or another, there are some destinations that are come to mind immediately when thinking about treating yourself.

It’s not a coincidence that Mardi Gras, the festival of indulgence that precedes the self-denial of Lent in the Catholic (and other Christian) faith, has found its spiritual home in New Orleans, From the city signatures like beignets and Sazerac to the all-night jazz jams in the bars of the French Quarter, New Orleans is built for the binge. But the Big Easy is more than the drunken revelry of the Mardi Gras parade; it’s a city where people serious about their crafts, whether bartenders making Hurricanes or bakers making those powdered-sugar breakfast confections. And for those for whom indulgence comes aurally, there may be no city in the world more in love with music than New Orleans. Walk into any random bar on Frenchmen Street and you’ll be blown away by the jazz combo playing in the back corner.

One of the most indulgent ways to spend a day is immersed in “shopping therapy,” going through racks and racks to find that perfect wardrobe piece. For those looking to splurge, Beverly Hills may be the destination; with shops for many of the high couture world’s most-loved brands, it’s no wonder that people from around the world plan vacations to visit. And for those who want to make sure there are no surprises when the credit card bill comes in, our “Beverly Hills Sensational Shopping Spree” packages even comes with a $1,000 gift card for Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue or Barneys.

But as cliché as it may be to say, Las Vegas likely still leads the league in indulgence. It’s in the Nevada desert that travelers can eat their body weights in gourmet food at all-you-can-eat buffets, discover their next favorite cocktail at one of the city’s many forward-thinking, mixologist-led bars, or relax the day away at a spa with world-class treatments. The impulse to overdo is built into the city’s DNA. And while it was once best-known for its seedier escapades, Las Vegas now offers something for fanatics looking to sate any hunger: Golfers, theater lovers and music fans also can spend days in Sin City consumed by their respective passion.

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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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For the Trail Traveler

March 29, 2017
The best views aren’t always the easiest to find. Being in the midst of the concrete jungles of modern life often makes it more difficult to see the beauty all around; sometimes, it’s elevation that’s needed. Thankfully, there are hiking trails near many of our favorite destinations that can give your donors not just the outdoors experience or the exercise that they desire, but also postcard-worthy views that inspire awe and makes a traveler want to plan return trips.

Some of our favorite non-profit fundraising travel auction packages with nearby hiking adventures include:

The City of Brotherly Love’s renaissance over the last decade has done wonders for its status as a tourist destination, but one aspect that’s always been strong in Philadelphia has been its abundance of hiking opportunities. There’s the Schuylkill River Trail, a marathon-length route that starts near the city’s Museum of Art and runs along the waterfront (and close enough to the historic Manayunk Bridge, reopened in 2015, that a side trip may be in order). Ridley Creek State Park, just outside of Philadelphia proper, is more than 2,500 acres of trails, fly fishing and horse riding. And for the “urban hikers,” the city also has more outdoor sculptures and murals than most cities in the country.

Los Angeles: Hollywood? Sure. Beaches? Of course. But very few would associate Los Angeles with hiking. However, the city has not only a tremendous network of trails (the Backbone Trail, which runs 70 miles through the Santa Monica Mountains, starts in neighboring Malibu), but many that are accessible for those staying in urban areas: Griffith Park is the one of the country’s largest urban parks, with trails heading in every direction, while the Runyon Canyon hike is a beginner-level stroll that attracts people from all walks of life. Many of the city’s iconic views come from a trail; the Hollywood sign is best seen either from Griffith Park or the Mt. Hollywood Trail, while the trails at Ernest E. Debs Regional Park have some of the best views of the downtown skyline.

Telluride: Of course, one might have more of an expectation of outdoor beauty in this Colorado favorite. But until your donors are standing at the summit of Ajax Peak, or overlooking the mountain village from Beak Creek Falls, it can be hard to sum up just how breath-taking views from a simple hiking trail can be. During the warmer months, the Bridal Veil Falls (the largest in the state of Colorado) attract visitors from everywhere, and both snowshoeing and cross-country are very popular on some of the trails in the winter. For the experienced hikers, a journey on the Sneffels Highline will take the visitor deeper into the mountain backcountry.

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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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One Pint for the Road

March 15, 2017
In the overall picture of beer sales in America, craft breweries are still only a small portion. According to the Brewers Association, microbreweries and other craft enterprises had just a 12 percent market share in 2015, and 20 percent or so of beer sales. However, in a year where total beer sales declined by .2 percent, craft sales went up by 12.2 percent.

That’s a lot of beer sales numbers for a travel blog, we know. But here’s the reason why their important: No one is going to travel for Budweiser. But if any of your donors are beer connoisseurs, they will want to hit the road to find their favorite small brewery, to try the latest trend in the craft world or just to spend a few days, much like wine fans, hopping from taproom to taproom. With Mitch-Stuart’s non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, we can help.

When it comes to destinations where beer springs to mind immediately (especially two days before St. Patrick’s Day!), it’s hard to outdo Dublin, Ireland, home of Guinness. A brewery so old and storied it has its own attached seven-story museum, the St. James’s Gate Brewery offers tours, tastings, and one of the best views of Dublin from its “Gravity Bar.” But Dublin is a great city for the beer-oriented tourist in addition to the famous brewhouse; Irish Red Ales and other craft libations are flourishing, with 50 different labels across the country.

Closer to home, the craft beer scene in Portland has earned its reputation as America’s best. The city has a tremendous variety of smaller-batch porters, lagers and ales available, with more than 60 breweries in operation. But what may set the Oregon city apart from the competition is its loyalty to the home team (or home beer, in this case): According to a CNN report, more than 50 percent of the draft pints served in the state were brewed there, and the share of supermarket sales for local beers hovered around 40 percent. And restaurants as varied as Apizza Scholls (which The Oregonian called “the best pizza in Portland” in 2015) and the old-school steakhouse RingSide Grill delight in their ability to serve up local pints to pair with their entrees.

Finally, any list of American beer cities that doesn’t start with Portland will almost invariably lead off with San Diego. The sunny southern sibling of Portland offers craft breweries in almost every neighborhood, including ones that tourists are likely already visiting (La Jolla and the Gaslamp District are each home to multiple microbrew options). Many of the local taprooms and alehouses also love throwing food-and-beer events; the San Diego Brewers Guild’s events page lists soirees like “Brew-n-Donut Pairing” and “Cupcake and Beer Pairing.” Combine all of that with the natural charms of the Southern California town and San Diego becomes an incredibly attractive destination.

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Alternative Sun

March 08, 2017
For every vision of a beachside paradise, there’s someone who imagines trying to get the sand out of a bathing suit. For every cold drink, there’s a sunburn. And for every relaxing waterside read, there’s the specter of corralling the kids for the drive to the shore.

One of the reasons that Mitch-Stuart offers such a wide range of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is because one size – or one destination – does not fit all. While many are drawn to our selection of beachside escapes, with trips to the Caribbean, Southern California and Hawaii, there are some who still want to get some sun without having to deal with the beach’s drawbacks. For those sand-averse donors and potential bidders, here are some alternative pathways to Vitamin D.

Why would one go into the ocean when one can float above it? Cruises combine the sun and relaxation of a beachside vacation with the creature comforts not always accessible along the surf.  Whether it’s sailing between islands in the Caribbean or navigating the Mediterranean Sea, riding a modern ship gives donors access to the best sunbathing, while also allowing for gourmet meals. And if a small taste of beach time is desired, there’s always a chance to get some sand in one’s shoes when disembarking at one of the ports of call.

Neon isn’t the only light that can be found in Las Vegas, and visitors get to soak up that Vitamin D in multiple ways. The resorts of the city have a tremendous network of pools, each catering to a different taste; some of them are non-stop party scenes (“daylife” as it’s called in Sin City), while others are more relaxing and meditative. But what doesn’t get as much attention is the number of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts within a small drive of the Strip. Hiking through Red Rock Canyon is a favorite pastime of the sporty Vegas resident, and Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon are each comfortable day trips. The best part: After a day outside, your donors can soak their feet and get a massage at one of the city’s many spas.

Finally, if there’s anything more relaxing than sitting by the pool, taking in the sun, it’s receiving a massage at the same time. Many luxury resorts offer poolside spa services, allowing visitors to get outside and find their bliss simultaneously; the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, for instance, has an adults-only pool and group exercise activities in the natural light of the resort’s atrium, along with a spa-only menu of healthy cuisine served poolside. Combining Vitamin D therapy with wellness programs gives guests a stress-free glow – maybe the best souvenir to bring back to the real world.

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Eye-Catching Hotels

March 01, 2017
It can be easy, when thinking about beaches in far-flung places and tickets to glitzy events, to remember that the first question any of your donors will be asked about their fundraising auction travel package will be, “where are you staying?” Even in the most attraction-filled destination, travelers spend a plurality of their time in the hotel – much of it asleep, sure, but it’s also the respite from the craziness that travel can bring. And sometimes, that home-away-from-home carries as big a name as the nicest restaurant or most exotic location.

Whether it’s the tickets to the big game or the transfer to or from the airport, Mitch-Stuart gives attention to every detail of its non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. That’s especially true of where your supporters will be staying at the destination, and it’s why we deal with some of the highest-rated hotels in the world. But there are three names in particular from our catalog that stand out even to the less-experienced traveler, iconic hotels that have the type of reputations you can use to help drive up bids.

It’s hard to visit Los Angeles and not set foot somewhere that’s been used as a location for a film, of course, but the Beverly Wilshire is iconic for its place in silver screen lore. “Pretty Woman,” “Beverly Hills Cop” and even the television show “Entourage” have called the hotel home, and after the cameras have stopped, stars like Elvis Presley and Warren Beatty have lived in between its walls for extended periods. And along with its stature, the hotel is home to a top-of-the-line spa (a recent recipient of the Forbes Five Star award, in fact) and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, along with being a short walk from the shops of Rodeo Drive.

In London, the first-ever luxury hotel still may be the best. The Savoy Hotel opened in 1889, with of-the-time extravagances like electricity and hot and cold water in each room. Needless to say, the industry standard has upped a bit, but The Savoy has more than kept up; a renovation estimated at more than $300 million took place between 2007 and 2010. The result, according to most who have been, is old world elegance and service, but with the amenities the modern traveler requires. Of special notice: Afternoon tea in the hotel’s Thames Foyer is a must-do (and included in our “Stay at the Most Iconic London Hotel – The Savoy” package).

But ask anyone on the street for the name of a famous luxury hotel, and the first response is most likely to be The Plaza. The New York landmark has 110 years of history, including being namedropped in iconic literature like “The Great Gatsby” and appearing in “Annie Hall.” It also may be one of the most accidentally-photographed hotels in the world; its address makes it a dramatic backdrop for the beauty of neighboring Central Park. It even became the name of a major international treaty: the Plaza Accord, which dealt with currency rates, was signed there in 1985.

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The Silver Screen, in Real Life

February 22, 2017
One of the biggest clichés in film, other than the “homely” woman who magically becomes irresistible when she takes off her glasses, is when a director or screenwriter tells an interviewer that “[insert city here] is really like another character in the film.” While there may be a monument or two in a movie that indicate where the story takes place, it’s not every day that a film’s location matches its spirit, the feeling one may have while visiting the metropolis.

The Sunday, “La La Land” is up for Oscars in 14 different categories, and the credit in part goes to Los Angeles. The vision of Hollywood put forward in the musical is intoxicating, and in many ways does feel like the real L.A., where dreams are made and dashed on a daily basis, and life happens in between working towards the goals.

There may be no better marketing for a destination than a film set in a specific locale. With its colorful song-and-dance sequences, “La La Land” may compel your donors to add Southern California to any list of dream vacations. But Los Angeles is certainly not the only city in our Destinations of Excellence catalog to which a winner of a fundraising auction travel package can fly. Here are a few more places that have received flattering – and, in terms of spirit, accurate – portrayals on the silver screen.

There is no city more wide open, where more is possible, than Chicago in John Hughes’ classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” When the titular character commandeers a parade float to lead seemingly the entire populace in singing “Twist and Shout,” it has the same energy as a teenager sitting in his or her bedroom, singing into a hairbrush. While New York and Los Angeles both get tremendous press as the cities where dreams come true, thousands pour into the Second City each year from smaller Midwestern towns to chase that freedom. And in wide-open spaces like Millennium Park and along Lake Shore Drive, Chicago can feel just as open to that freedom as anywhere.

Who hasn’t wanted to fall in love while zooming around Rome on a Vespa (or, maybe, a faster mode of transport)? “Roman Holiday” is a classic of the “Hollywood on the Tiber” era, when many filmmakers from around the world were drawn to the Italian capital, and movies like “Ben-Hur” and “Cleopatra” were shot there, giving a sort-of old-school romance to a city steeped so much in history. Today, the images of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck – and, by proxy, Rome – are almost a shorthand for carefree love. (Just, please, if you do ride a scooter around Rome, wear a helmet).

For city spotting, though, there may be no better film than “Paris, je t’aime,” the anthology film featuring short stories in neighborhoods all over the French capital. With so many different backdrops, the movie is one of the most wide-ranging depictions of Paris committed to the big screen; for once, the city is shown as being so much more than the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine. In addition to physically happening everywhere, its stories cover the gamut – tales of the domestic workers, the tourists, the aging lovers, the city’s diversity – while showcasing the French sense of whimsy. There’s a magic in the film that might only be felt standing on the Pont des Arts, the bridge where the Locks of Love once lived, and facing out towards the lights of the city at night.

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Beyond the Beach

February 15, 2017
If you live in the Great Lakes region, early-to-middle February tends to be the coldest time of year. According to a report from the Guardian in 2012, we are in the middle of the coldest week in England of the year. February 13, 14, 17, 18 and 20 are five of the ten coldest days, on average, in the U.K. And for almost everyone else, the snow on the ground and the tiny “high” temperatures each day act as constant reminders that we’re in the depths of the winter.

It is at times like these that travel thoughts often drift toward sandy beaches, tropical drinks, and all of the sun one can soak up on an island vacation. But while we love sending your donors on adventures with our fundraising auction travel packages, we also love it when your supporters get to fully explore a destination, not just the space directly around a beach chair. Our island-based trips include some destinations that are both about the beach and the culture or activities found inland.

There certainly are beaches on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, but the sand that most immediately associate with the resorts there sits in fairway-adjacent bunkers. The island is the home of 24 different golf courses (there are 40 in the area overall), and it’s become one of the most popular destinations in the country for both the weekend duffer and the scratch (that means even par, or very good) player. It’s also the home of 300 tennis courts, a major arts center and a tremendous local dining scene. It’s possible, in fact, to spend an entire vacation on Hilton Head without ever touching the sand – as long as you keep the ball in the fairway.

Golf isn’t necessarily high on the amenity list on Mount Desert Island in Maine, despite its name; being that far north usually makes courses unplayable for much of the year. But what it may lack in putting surfaces, it makes up for in natural beauty. The island is the home of Acadia National Park, the first park east of the Mississippi River, established in 1919. The park’s roads make for perfect hiking and biking trails. Bar Harbor, one of the island’s biggest towns (only topping out at a little more than 5,000 people), is a well-known tourist destination, and its downtown sector is a particular draw during the summer months.

Whether it’s the height of summer or the dead of winter, the isle of Ireland is better known for its green grass than its beige sand. That’s not to say there aren’t places to break out the beach chairs, of course, but a trip to Ireland is a trip focused much more on culture than suntans. And despite being an island, Ireland has its fair share of geographic variety, too; the coastal mountains don’t reach the heights of the Rockies or the Alps, but they do provide for both recreation and dramatic backdrops for photographs. Its rolling green hills, meanwhile, draw visitors at nearly every time of year.

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Galentine’s Day

February 08, 2017
The television-created holiday of Festivus turns 20 years old in 2017. The alternative Christmas “for the rest of us,” the “Seinfeld” joke featuring an airing of grievances and “feats of strength” went from the small screen to a favorite theme for December get-togethers, complete with the Festivus Pole.

Not to be outdone, another NBC comedy has created its own holiday, and it’s one we fully endorse. On “Parks and Recreation,” lead character Leslie Knope gets together her girlfriends the day before Valentine’s Day for a brunch celebrating her circle of friends, no matter their relationship statuses, dubbing it “Galentine’s Day.”

Of course, we at Mitch-Stuart love our more romantic non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, to destinations like Paris and Italy. But we also love it when our trips are used for friends to reconnect, to make new memories, or even just to get out of town for some relaxation. (And it’s good for the non-profit, too – groups of friends can buy multiple trips to make sure everyone gets a room, meaning more money for the charity.) Because of that, we think that Galentine’s Day is as good a reason as any to send your donors on one of these adventures.

Lovers enjoy trips to Hawaii, of course, to the point that we offer a package that includes a vows renewal on an Oahu beach. But friends can also find their versions of bliss on the islands with a trip that includes a spa visit. Packages like our “The Essence and Spirit of Aloha” or “Pacific Vacation Paradise” feature gift cards for massages, facials and any number of other spa services on site at the resorts. And with either a volcano tour or the excitement of Waikiki Beach, respectively, waiting for after the spa, there’ll be plenty to chat about on the way home, too.

“Parks and Recreation” also launched a smaller fake holiday, where two of the secondary characters take a day off from work for indulgences and shopping trips (“Treat Yo’ Self,” it’s called on the show). That’s not a bad theme for a trip for friends, either; the combination of time away from the stresses of the day-to-day and some additional retail therapy ay set your donors up for ultimate relaxation. Mitch-Stuart has travel packages that can send supporters to San Francisco, Newport Beach and Chicago with gift cards for sprees at Nordstrom, or even the grand prize of four nights at The Plaza with a $2,000 credit at Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s or Bergdorf-Goodman.

Those looking for fun with their friends out on the road would also do well to head to Napa Valley for some winery tour adventures. Send your donors on a limousine tour through boutique wineries, let them dine on three-course gourmet lunches and, most importantly, compare notes while trying some of the best wines in America. A long-time destination favorite for groups of friends, a Napa Valley trip package is sure to attract the supporter looking for a journey with their longtime acquaintances.

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More Than a Game

February 01, 2017
On Sunday, the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will face off in Super Bowl 51, to a television audience in the nine figures, along with more than 70,000 in-person spectators. The entire week leading up to the game, football will be inescapable, with the NFL Experience fan zone already underway and overwhelming media coverage clogging every outlet. It doesn’t sound like a place for the non-football fan to go.

However, it turns out that the attention of the sports world focused on one city becomes quite a magnet. While the week’s festivities may be leading up to the big game on Sunday, the array of music, food and revelry on offer goes far beyond football.

Mitch-Stuart is proud to offer a trip to the Super Bowl as one of its non-profit fundraising auction trip packages. Our “Winner Takes All at the 2018 Super Bowl” trip includes four days and three nights in Minneapolis for next year’s championship game, and while football will be the focus of the outing (thanks to two tickets to the game), there’s plenty more to do wherever the Super Bowl is taking place.

How do you fill your non-stadium time? How about…

The Parties: Wherever the Super Bowl goes, exclusive soirees usually follow, with celebrities and open bars aplenty. But not every get-together in the lead up to the game is guest-list dependent. This weekend, for instance, the Big Texas Party (with barbecue, local beers and celebrity guest appearances) will draw both the pigskin addict and the food fan, while raising funds for local charities. Between benefit brunches and late-night revelry, it’s possible to attend a party at the Super Bowl morning, noon and night for almost a full week.

The Music: The jocks and the band kids may not have mingled much in high school, but it’s no longer a Super Bowl without a list of major concerts. Musicians from around the world descend on host cities to play for large audiences (and in some cases, large appearance fees paid by brands anxious for the publicity). This weekend, acts like Solange, Leon Bridges and ZZ Top will all play for free at the Discovery Green in Houston. And for those with some contacts and some favors to call in, invite-only shows are a Super Bowl weekend tradition; Taylor Swift will be playing this weekend at the DirecTV party, a celebration that has, in the past, played host to Dave Matthews and Jay Z, among others.

The Food: Super Bowl host cities are almost always hubs of foodie culture. That’s more an accident of location and size than a planned correlation, of course; any event that goes to places like New Orleans on a regular basis has to incorporate local cuisine in some way. But the NFL has made sure to draw culinary influences in from around the country; the yearly Taste of the NFL event brings together more than 40 of the nation’s top chefs, with at least one from each city with an NFL team. It’s a way of letting your tastebuds travel the country, all in one place – and, for one year, without the goopy queso dip at your friend’s Super Bowl party.

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The Rise of Bleisure

January 25, 2017
Type “bleisure travel” into Google, and the search engine may try to correct your spelling. It is not a graceful portmanteau, and in a way it represents the exact opposite of its meaning: Business travel that is either expanded for or planned to include leisure travel elements (in the combined word, it looks like it’s the business that’s tacked on).

For donors who might not feel they have time to take a “full,” week-long vacation, offering them a chance for a weekend stay in a city in which they may already be working combines convenience with relaxation, and makes them active participants in any non-profit fundraising auction. If, instead of planning work around a weekend away, your supporters can simply skip the return flight and have some unencumbered fun in a new city, it may inspire more of your gala attendees to consider bidding on a travel package (and more bidders often means a higher closing price).

Want to offer some of your donors a chance to extend those business trips? Here are some thoughts on how to capitalize on the trend.

A Weekend Away:
Bleisure travelers are different than the regular business travelers, who are often ready to come home immediately after finishing their work (if not sooner). But even if the business traveler does want some extra time to explore a city, they’ll have already been away from home for a few days. A weekend trip makes perfect sense: Work for a couple of days, then spend a couple more days having fun.

Cities to Consider: If you’ve got some donors who may be interested in bleisure travel, then picking the right destination is important. While we adore destinations like Bali and the French countryside, your donors may not be taking too many meetings during poolside yoga sessions or winery tours. Places like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, of course, are common destinations for business travel, while Las Vegas may be the convention capital of the world.

Evergreen Events: Some of our travel packages are notable for taking donors to our Destinations of Excellence™. Others find their biggest value in tickets for specific events, like the Super Bowl or an awards show. But if you want to attract bleisure donors, make sure your trip has access to a tremendous attraction that happens year-round. Think, for instance, about a trip with a food or beverage tour (like the pizza tour that comes with the “Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago”), or maybe one with a round of golf or two included. A trip that works for business travelers is one that they can use no matter when work calls.

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Power Travel

January 18, 2017
On January 20, thousands will crowd the National Mall to watch the peaceful transition of power, as Barack Obama departs the White House and Donald Trump officially gets the front door keys. The next day, thousands more will march in the nation’s capital, protesting the policies of the incoming administration.

There are few countries in the world who recognize such a transition of power with the pomp, circumstance and agitation of the United States. But that doesn’t mean that America has a monopoly on inaugural celebrations. The international side of our catalog of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages includes some national capitals that recognize a new leader with parades, ceremonies in historic squares, and even fireworks and garden parties.

In France, the inauguration ceremony is a private affair, almost completely held behind closed doors at the Elysee Palace, the president’s residence. But to mark the occasion, there are often parades, tributes and speeches for the public as well. Of course, it takes little to want to organize a parade when one has access to one of the most iconic thoroughfares in the world, Paris’ Champs Elysees. Throw in a stop at the Arc de Triomphe, and the supporters who line the famous street get a celebration worthy of the office.

One of the newest republics in Europe is Croatia, and thus far its four presidents have each given their inaugural addresses in St. Mark's Square, in the capital city of Zagreb. It’s the home of St. Mark’s Church, along with the parliament building, the high court of the country and even the Banski dvori, the seat of the Croatian government – an incredible amount of power in a one square block space. Just to visit the square is worth the trip; the brick street and the baroque architecture contribute to a feeling that belies the country’s young age.

Of course, while they are rare, the celebrations of the accession of royalty may be the most over-the-top – and the most fun to attend. Even in a small principality like Monaco, no expense is spared; when Albert Grimaldi became Albert II, Prince of Monaco in 2004, it involved a garden party for 7,000 and fireworks over Monte Carlo. The accession is still celebrated; ten years after taking the throne, Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett and Robbie Williams each performed concerts and chefs prepared the world’s largest fougasse (a French bread similar to focaccia).
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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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What’s Hot for 2017?

December 28, 2016
We love every trip in our catalog of more than 300 non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, but each year we get asked the same question: What’s hot? What’s motivating donors right now? What’s drawing the biggest bids?

There are, of course, evergreen answers to that question. Trips with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities attached – Super Bowl or award show tickets, for example – will always be popular. Certain destinations, like New York or Napa Valley, will likewise always draw eyeballs.

But as we get our tuxes and dresses ready for New Year’s Eve, we wanted to take a look at some other ideas for 2017. Based on trend-spotters across the travel industry, here are some of the areas to consider if you want to ride the wave of a current surge in interest to a bigger fundraising haul.

Return of the Snow-Seeker:
People “pinning” snowbound travel adventures on Pinterest have increased by more than 300 percent, according to the site’s “Pinterest 100” trend report for 2017. Destinations like Vancouver, Colorado and Jackson Hole may see an uptick in interest for those looking to get a blast of winter cool while snowshoeing or skiing.

Bali is Big: One of Booking.com’s picks for trendy locales in 2017, Bali is seen by many as a great choice for a relaxing “sanctustay,” coupling sightseeing with spa visits and wellness activities like yoga. Giving donors the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the Pacific may prove to be even more popular in the coming year.

Go National: The National Park System celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016, and the increased attention to jewels like Yosemite and Yellowstone seems to have whetted the appetite of travelers. Parks and park-related activities have been seen an increase in “pinning” on Pinterest of 66 percent, again according to “Pinterest 100.”

Baby Boomers Looking at International Travel: According to AARP, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United Kingdom are the three leading destinations for Boomers looking to use their passports. And while 51 percent of those surveyed are looking to stay in the U.S. (Florida and California being the two leading domestic vacation spots), 43 percent are planning to take at least one trip beyond our borders.

Cajun Hospitality: According to the trend-spotters at JWT Intelligence, New Orleans looks to be a major player in 2017 tourism. With cultural events like Jazz Fest and the Essence Festival growing larger each year and conferences like the tech-centric Collision moving to the city, there may not be a better time to offer your supporters a chance to see the Crescent City.

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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