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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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