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Five Reasons Why: Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Falling into Fundraising

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

So, why hold a fundraising auction in the fall?

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

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

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

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

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

Staying Green on the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall Crusin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Falling for Europe

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

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

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

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

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