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Five Reasons Why: Portugal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Spring Springs…

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

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

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

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

Are there major events on which to piggyback?

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

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

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

What have my donors said?

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

Winter Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel Trends for 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say Thanks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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