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Mitch-Stuart is one of the nation's leading providers of consignment fundraising and incentive travel packages. Having generated over one billion dollars for over 10,000 charities, the company's unique travel experiences and travel packages are used for auctions, raffles, golf tournaments, galas, major donor gifts and other fundraising events. Mitch-Stuart specializes in unique no-risk travel programs that not only serve nonprofit organizations in fundraising but provide incentives for businesses as well.
   
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Keeping Memories in Focus

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

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

Practice: Travelers shouldn’t wait until standing on the shores of Bali or staring at the Eiffel Tower in person to figure out how to use a camera. If one is heading to the beach, try taking photos in the brightest conditions available – midday, perhaps. If the City of Lights is the destination, experiment with some evening photography involving man-made lights, even if it is just the marquee of the local supermarket. The best photographers are experienced photographers.
Shoot to Scale: A fun tip for those travelers exploring huge landmarks or wide open spaces: Try to get a human being in the frame somewhere, while still capturing the entire object or space in question. The presence of a person in the shot will allow viewers to have an idea of the scale of the photo’s object, whether it’s a huge waterfall or a downtown art sculpture.

Turn Off the Flash: In most circumstances, the light generated from the flash on your camera won’t illuminate the object of your photos. The maximum range for many on-camera flashes is 15 feet, and the tiny light on a smartphone usually travels an even shorter distance. If you’re taking photos of a still object at a relatively close distance in low light (like family members posing in front of a monument at night), flash works. Otherwise, it may be better to take a slightly darker shot and then “lighten” it later using an app or a computer program.

For more of these tips, check out Fodor’s excellent guide to travel photography.


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The Spirits of Travel

July 22, 2014
When you (or a donor) dines out, do you check the label on the bottle of wine? Can you tell the difference between a single-malt scotch and a blended whiskey? Do you know about the latest and greatest Indian Pale Ales?

We pride ourselves at Mitch Stuart, Inc. in putting together charity auction travel packages that take donors around the world in pursuit of their passions. For some, that might be great sporting events, for others it could be beautiful beaches, and for still others, it’s the lure of trying a new beer, wine or spirit – or just seeing where a favorite label is made.

An area does not get the moniker “Wine Country” without earning it. There are more than 400 wineries in the state of California north of San Francisco, according to the travel experts at Fodor’s, and while seeing each of them may be a bit ambitious for a week-long sojourn, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can help a winning donor make it to plenty of them. Napa and Sonoma Valleys are favorites of wine connoisseurs around the world, and wineries like Grgich Hills Estate, Frog’s Leap and Long Meadow Ranch give aficionados and amateurs alike a deeper understanding and love for vino. In addition, travelers can discover smaller wineries by taking our private winery tour, which allows guides to introduce oenophiles to the hidden gems of Northern California wine country.

For those who like their adult beverages a touch … stronger … a trip across the pond can yield a great adventure. Heading to Edinburgh means heading to a land known (maybe best known) for its scotch whiskey, and whether it’s via visits to distillers or a private master class, an appreciation for the spirit is easily obtained here. The Irish whiskey drinkers can have their fun as well; a trip to Dublin also involves a premium tasting experience at the Jameson Reserve Bar. (Those trips to Europe can also be wine-centric, as well, thanks to adventures through Barcelona, Tuscany or the French countryside.)

One can combine high-end beverages with sun-soaked beaches, too. San Diego has been called the Craft Beer Capital of America, and a trip to any one of the more than 80 licensed breweries and brew pubs will show why. Hop aboard the San Diego Beer Train and see the coastline while tasting local brews, or stop in at famed microbreweries like Stone Brewing Co. and AleSmith Brewing Company separately. Either way, there’ll be a variety of beer for every taste.
Napa Valley
Wine Tasting
Guiness Storehouse
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Liberty Station


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Life is Always a Beach

July 15, 2014
Sandcastles and plastic shovels. Tropical drinks with little umbrellas. The company of a breezy novel. From childhood through the retirement years, people may change how they enjoy summer days on a beach, but the desire to set up shop on a sandy shore during June, July and August never abates.

Mondrian South Beach
Moon Palace Resort
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Whether it’s a family-friendly trip to warmer climes or a wild weekend away, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can help send your donors on any type of beach adventure with its charity auction travel packages. Which of the numerous beach travel packages should your organization put up for auction? It depends on who are your target bidders.

Some of the most beautiful beaches in America are found on the coasts of Florida, and for those looking for a combination of sand and nightlife, Miami Beach tops the list. Resorts like the Blue Moon Hotel and Mondrian South Beach cater to hip clientele and beachgoers simultaneously; the Mondrian, for instance, is right on the ocean, while also being just blocks away from the best of the city’s nightlife. For youthful donors – or donors shopping for gifts for twenty-somethings – there may not be a better combination.

If your donors are traveling with kids, they’re likely to appreciate the ease of a trip to an all-inclusive resort. The family-friendly properties of Palace Resorts in Cancun, Mexico, give both children and adults the chance to play. Both Beach Palace and Moon Palace provide great beach access, and kids at Moon Palace will love “The Playroom,” with toys, video games, a mini-theater and two playgrounds. At Beach Palace, Kids Club features its own pool for children, one that includes a water slide that might make the parents a bit jealous.

After the kids have grown up and moved on, vacations can be a chance to mellow out, to relax while sitting oceanside. If it’s an escape that a donor desires, the island of Kauai may be the perfect trip. Attracting fewer tourists that Oahu or Maui, Kauai features beaches just as beautiful, but in a more laid-back atmosphere. And at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, guests can have dinner beachside with the hotel’s “Share the Stars with Someone You Love” sand-side service or attend a luau while spending time an ocean away from the stress of day-to-day life.


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Play Ball!

July 08, 2014
High definition television. Multiple 24-hour sports networks. No fee for parking. In our modern times, there are a lot of advantages to watching baseball games from the comfort of a living room. But no cable channel or fancy TV can replicate the smell of freshly-cut outfield grass or the camaraderie of the seventh-inning stretch. Even the hot dogs at the stadium somehow taste better.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love to help non-profits send their donors on once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities through our charity auction travel packages. Every summer, some of those travel packages involve getting great seats to any baseball game in the country – everything from a Wednesday afternoon “get-away game” with an early afternoon first pitch to the MLB All-Star Game (this year taking place at Target Field in Minneapolis).

Those experiences can differ wildly depending on the location, though. Where should a non-profit look to send a winning bidder? Major league baseball stadium experiences can be broken down into three categories, making them easy to pair with a gala theme or non-profit mission:

  • The Latest: Whether it’s the free wi-fi of the aforementioned Target Field or the more than 1,000 high-definition monitors at the new Yankee Stadium, some of the latest Major League Baseball stadiums feature technology previously unimaginable to fans. Some of them also act as curators of the sport’s history: Yankee Stadium has its own museum along with Monument Park, which features plaques dedicated to and uniform numbers of retired players, while Nationals Park has a “Ring of Honor” that bears the names of the franchise’s top players.
  • The Throwbacks: Maybe the best combination of retro ballpark design and modern conveniences can be found in the stadiums built in the 1990s, starting with Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. That ballpark, along with Coors Field in Denver (opened 1995) and Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas (opened 1996 as the home of the Texas Rangers) kicked off a trend in stadium design that takes the aesthetics of older stadiums – lots of brick and exposed steel – and updated the technology. Many of these parks also acted as catalysts for development in surrounding areas; Oriole Park helped revitalize the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore by drawing more people to the neighborhood, while Lower Downtown (LoDo, to the locals) in Denver is now one of the city’s hottest destinations.
  • The Classics: For those who want a connection to the history and heritage of America’s pastime, though, there are still two parks in operation that can transport a fan back in time. In Boston, Fenway Park is uncomfortable, cramped and still a must-see for the baseball aficionado. Everything from the walk to the Park from the T to the first glimpse of the Green Monster in left field feels like moments taken out of a movie. So well known and regarded is Fenway that it was granted a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, 100 years after its opening. In Chicago, meanwhile, Wrigley Field is two years younger but just as big a part of baseball’s fabric. Its ivy-covered walls and outside marquee may be the icons most closely associated with the entire city, while some of the best seats aren’t even in the stadium; rooftop viewing parties on neighboring buildings are as much a part of the stadium experience at Wrigley as hot dogs. Throw in the Chicago Cubs’ tradition of day games, and on summer afternoons in Chicago it can feel like the entire city is playing hooky.
Yankee Stadium
Fenway Park
Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field


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July 4th Celebrations

July 02, 2014
Fireworks at Statue of Liberty
Fireworks at Lincoln Memorial
Washington Monument Fireworks
A favorite reason for many travelers to hit the road is to take in a celebration. It could be a music festival in New Orleans, a wine festival in Napa Valley or even an awards show in Los Angeles, but heading somewhere to take part in a major event has become a big reason for people to get out their luggage. When that event is July 4th, the possibilities for travel become endless.

One of the benefits for using Mitch-Stuart, Inc., as your charity auction travel package provider is that our trips can be used at almost any time of year, including during many holidays. That gives donors the opportunity to pair the bright explosions of some of America’s greatest July 4th celebrations with the warm afterglow of helping their favorite charities at the same time.

Two such big parties are thrown each year at relatively rural, historic American destinations. Mount Rushmore features impersonators of the four memorialized presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, in case anyone has forgotten) and the nightly lighting of the monument itself, though the 2014 drought has canceled any fireworks plans that the National Parks Service may have had. Across the country, Colonial Williamsburg will hold a come-and-go-as-you-please buffet at the Williamsburg Lodge, children’s games on the Virginia Lawn and a Virginia Symphony Orchestra concert, accompanied by a fireworks show.

But for the biggest Fourth of July celebrations, look no further than the “megalopolis.” Every city along the East Coast’s i-95 corridor has a major celebration worth experiencing:
  • In Washington, D.C., more than 750,000 people are expected to hit the National Mall for music, fireworks and fun. PBS broadcasts it worldwide as “A Capitol Fourth,” but being there is the only way to experience the true scope of the festivities.
  • In Philadelphia, the 4th of July Jam is billed as “the largest free concert in America.” The 2014 edition features acts like The Roots, Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Hudson, and the show is followed by a massive fireworks show over the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • The Cradle of Liberty hosts a two-day July 4th spectacular; Boston will feature the Boston Pops and the Beach Boys in addition to a huge fireworks show on the Charles River. The 2014th event will mark the 40th anniversary of the celebration in its current form, with cannonfire and the “1812 Overture” included.
  • The biggest fireworks show in the country could, of course, only take place in the Big Apple. The Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show returns to the East River of New York in 2014, meaning that the explosions will occur with the Brooklyn Bridge as a stunning backdrop.
No matter where you celebrate July 4th this year, we hope you enjoy it – and be safe






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Destination Spotlight: Monaco and the French Riviera

June 24, 2014
There are countless reasons to head to Europe for a summer vacation. Comedian Eddie Izzard once described the continent as “where the history comes from.” Some of the biggest events in the world, both cultural and sporting, take place in Europe. Of course, there are those who visit for its spectacular outdoors settings, be it skiing in the winter or gorgeous beaches in the summer.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., loves to send non-profit donors across the Atlantic Ocean via one of our charity auction travel packages, and one of our favorite destinations on the continent is Monaco. The tine principality is the second smallest country in the world (on The Vatican takes up less space), but it fits more fun into its .78 square-mile area than one could possibly imagine. Best of all, it can act as a home base to visit the entire French Riviera, stretching from Toulon to the Italian border.

Within Monaco itself, visitors can find plenty of activities and diversions, but the gambling of Monte Carlo may be the best known. However, anywhere that gambling takes hold, other high-end services follow closely behind, and the dining, shopping and spas of Monaco are world-class. Gamblers have to have something to do when they step away from the tables, after all. It can seem like every restaurant, from the dinner-and-a-view of Le Grill de L’Hotel de Paris to the open kitchen at superstar chef Joel Robuchon’s eponymous eatery, is featured in travel magazines and on cooking television shows.

In addition to the everyday opulence of Monaco, two major events draw thousands to the south of France every year, for very different reasons. The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the world’s most famous car races, having been run 72 times since 1929 and being one of the three races to make up motorsport’s “triple crown” (alongside the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans). It is often preceded on the social calendar by the Cannes Film Festival, one of the world’s biggest – and most important – film festivals. Winners of the top prize at Cannes, the Palme d’Or, include “Pulp Fiction,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “Apocalypse Now,” among other cineaste favorites.

Of course, even stripped of all of those attractions, the French Riviera would still be a major travel destination, thanks to its location. The Spanish coast (including Barcelona and dance-music island haven Ibiza) and Italian cities like Genoa and Livorno are all within close proximity to the Riviera, making the French locale a perfect home base for a southern European adventure. Beaches like Paloma attract jetsetters from around the world, and Saint Tropez is synonymous with luxurious resort living; it turns out being located on the some of the world’s most naturally-beautiful coastline has its advantages.
The Fairmont Monte Carlo
The Fairmont Monte Carlo
The Fairmont Monte Carlo


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Destination Spotlight: Hawaii

June 18, 2014
Spring officially turns to summer on Saturday morning, and travelers around America will head to warm-weather destinations like Miami (June average high temperature in Miami: 87 degrees) New Orleans (average high: 90) or even Las Vegas (average high: 100). But sun worshippers don’t have to spend their vacations sweating.

The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii
Hyatt Regency Maui
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
With average highs in the low 80s, even at the peak of summer, Hawaii is a beautiful, temperate place to send donors and their families. It’s also a place of surprising diversity, with activities for everyone to be had somewhere throughout the island chain. At Mitch-Stuart, we offer a variety of charity auction travel packages that can give your donors once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, represented by four different Hawaiian islands.

From 36 holes of championship golf to snow-capped mountains, the “big island” of Hawaii hosts nearly all climates, and therefore nearly all sorts of adventures. But there are more esoteric activities on the island as well; Kona coffee can only be produced on the big island, and many of the farms that grow the beans have tours and tasting rooms to visit. Also worth seeing: Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Maui has a mixture of urban and rural areas, offering a little bit of everything for the traveler. Those looking to commune with nature can head to Haleakala National Park and watch a spectacular sunrise or sunset from the summit of the dormant Haleakala volcano or hike through the Haleakala Crater, which sinks more than 2,500 feet into the island floor. City slickers, meanwhile, can walk through Lahaina, the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and check out the restaurants and nightlife of Front Street.

Travelers looking for a more city-like vacation experience would do well to head to Oahu. The island, informally known as “The Gathering Place,” is home to Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, and about 75 percent of the state’s population. It’s also home to one of Hawaii’s best-known tourist destinations, Waikiki Beach, where white sand is reserved for both sunbathers and surfers and where nightlife reigns just steps from the ocean.

Nicknamed “The Garden Isle” for its verdant fields and forests, Kauai may be one of the lesser-known outposts, but its beauty makes it worth a visit. The island is the home of the Princeville at Hanalei, one of the world’s great golf clubs; its Prince course is one of the best on any of the Hawaiian islands. For those who like their outdoors time sans crooked sticks and golf carts, boating adventures along the Na Pali Coast are very popular.


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Fore Father’s Day…

June 10, 2014
When a charity auction trip aligns with a desire from a bidder, it means a satisfied donor and a big check to a worthy cause. This time of year, a top priority for plenty of shoppers is finding a gift for Father’s Day, and hopefully one that does not involve another necktie or barbecue grill gadget. One of the most common types of Father’s Day gifts is golf paraphernalia, be it a new oversized driver or a set of golf ball cufflinks. There’s an entire industry dedicated to creating golf-nut knick-knacks, and Father’s Day is that sector’s equivalent of Christmas.

It may be too late for Father’s Day 2014, but Mitch-Stuart offers several charity auction travel packages that make perfect gifts for fathers, whether it’s a son or daughter buying for a dad or a father buying himself a vacation. Give your donors the chance to take care of a gift occasion by offering (on consignment, as always) a trip to one of these destinations at auction:

Hilton Head: In terms of sheer density of golf courses, it may be difficult to beat Hilton Head, SC. There are more than 20 courses on the island itself, with another dozen-plus more in neighboring cities. Add in the possibility of year-round play, and it’s little wonder that the area is one of the country’s premier golf destinations.  Each of Mitch-Stuart’s auction travel packages to the island include rounds at three different courses, and with our concierge service, extra outings can be arraigned with a single phone call.

Orlando: Every year, around the beginning of spring, the Arnold Palmer Invitational takes place at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge near Orlando, FL. Mitch-Stuart can’t get your donors on the course that weekend, but during the rest of the calendar year the winners of the “Bay Hill Brings You the Best of the Best” trip can play twice on the 18 holes used as a run-up to the Masters. Another package also comes with a one-hour private lesson with a golf academy instructor and a nine-hole “playing lesson” for those whose golf game is a little less Tiger and a little more Kitten.

St. Andrews: While golf is the world’s game, it can only have one true home. And that birthplace is in St. Andrews, a small town on the eastern coast of Scotland. It was here that the sport was first played, in the 1400s, and it also is the home town of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, one of two organizations in the world that sets the rules of the game. Bidders who win Mitch-Stuart’s “Home of Golf” package get a $900 gift card to be used at the Torrance or Kittocks courses at the five-star Fairmont of St. Andrews. In addition, while staying at the Fairmont, experienced travelers can enter the local lottery for a chance to play the Old Course, the world famous 18 that hosts The Open Championship every five years.

Hilton Head
Sea Pines Resort Hilton Head
Bay Hill Club
St. Andrews Golf Course


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Eat, Travel, Love

June 04, 2014
One of the great joys of travel is getting the chance to experience a new culture, whether it’s by taking in beautiful sights, seeing local music or visiting area museums. But to really get a taste of a destination, find a dinner table; there may be no more authentic way to immerse yourself in a new place than figuring out the local cuisine. According to the U.S. Travel Association, “fine dining” is the fourth-biggest reason for leisure travel among Americans, and with celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern shining light on hidden foodie adventures near and far, that ranking seems only likely to increase.

L'Atelier des Sens school of cooking in France
La Cuisine Paris
Sorrento Cooking School in Italy
New Orleans School of Cooking
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we’ve put together a wide range of culinary experiences, both domestic and international, for use by non-profits as charity auction travel packages. Whether it’s gumbo and crawfish in New Orleans or pasta and wine in Italy, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to sample some of the world’s great cuisines – and put some extra cash in your non-profit’s pocket.

From Julia Child to today, France has attracted a reverence from many travelers when it comes to its cuisine. The nation has one of the longest list of Michelin-starred restaurants, and graduates of French cooking schools are considered to be some of the most qualified chefs in the world. Bring home a little bit of that knowledge after taking a class at the famous L’Atelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris with our “Parisian Culture and Cuisine” package. Participants will get a hands-on experience in either school’s kitchen, learning from master instructors. Travelers won’t be stuck making the food for the entire trip, though; the auction packages also includes lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel, the restaurant on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.

Hop in the kitchen in Sorrento, Italy, with a seven-day/six-night trip to the Amalfi Coast stunner. Along with a stay at the Esperidi Resort and a trip to Pompeii, travelers get three classes at the resorts Sorrento Cooking School, where the chefs-to-be will put together a four-course meal, along with receiving in-house lunches after each day’s lesson. Recipes prepared during the seminars will also be included, meaning that the globe-trotting foodies can bring a taste of Italy home, as well. That, of course, is just the on-site offering; the village itself some of the best dining in the country, often supplemented with amazing views.

Class is also in session in the Big Easy. Take a trip to the bayou and enjoy a three-hour class at the New Orleans School of Cooking, right in the heart of the French Quarter. Visitors will get a chance to learn about the city’s cuisine in a hands-on seminar, creating dishes like Crawfish Etouffee, Shrimp Creole and even Bananas Foster Crepes. Travelers will also get a chance to leave the kitchen and head out on a boat for a jazz cruise and Creole buffet.


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Destination Spotlight: Italy

May 27, 2014
As summer approaches, the allure of European travel is hard for the wanderlust-infected to ignore. Kids are out of school, vacation time at companies tends to be easier to procure and long flights can be rewarded with longer stays, rather than flying halfway around the world for a weekend. For those looking to see the best of what the E.U. has to offer, Italy features one of the best combinations of modern and the “old world,” outdoorsy charms and comfortable surroundings, and city bustle and countryside relaxation.

It’s the type of destination that appeals to a wide range of people – meaning that non-profits organizing a fundraising auction or event can maximize interest and bidding with a trip to one of Europe’s great vacation spots. And once a donor has secured a trip via one of our consignment auction travel packages, you can also act as concierge by referring them to any of the following monuments and attractions throughout the country.

Of course, those interested in history will find a plethora of day trips and activities in the country. From the Sistine Chapel to the Colosseum and the ruins of Pompeii, Italy is a high school history textbook come to life. The country is especially loaded with religious artifacts, like the centuries-in-the-making Basilica di San Marco, St. Peter’s Basilica and, though it is technically its own country, the Vatican. Even the famed Roman Forum has a great deal of religious history attached; among the destroyed buildings are the foundations of basilicas and temples.

As one would imagine, considering how Italian food is a near-universal staple of restaurants worldwide, the foodie adventurer has plenty to do while in country as well. Italian cuisine is best known for exports like pasta and pizza, of course, coming from Michelin Guide-beloved eateries like Osteria Francescana and Pergola, but it does not receive proper credit for its seafood. Restaurants along the Amalfi Coast, restaurants like Marina Grande and Osteria da Luisella serve up fish so fresh, as the guidebook writers at Lonely Planet once wrote, that “it is almost still flapping.”

One of the easiest ways to work off all the extra calories from Italian cooking may be to head out on a shopping trip. Whether it’s the modern art pieces of Capri’s Pop Gallery or the high end fashions of Milan, there are enough outlets in nearly every major city to force a traveler to check extra baggage on the flight home. But it is Florence that may attract the most shoppers at all price points, from the luxury shops of Via Tornabuoni to the markets and antiques of Mercato Centrale. For a more “local” experience, head to Cascine Market on a Tuesday for steals and deals.





Sistine Chapel
Roman Colosseum
Piazza della Signoria, Italy
St Peters Basilica


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Memorial Day Getaways

May 20, 2014
The school year is almost over, the temperature is rising and the kids are ready to skip town. Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest travel holidays of the year, thanks to those reasons and so many more.

Bali
Bay Hill Florida
Ritz Laguna Niguel
Fairmont Empress, Vancouver Canada
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we have travel packages for charity auctions that can be used year-round, including during the weekend that is often considered the “gateway to the summer.” And while an extra day off may not be enough time to send your donors to some of the more far-flung, exotic locales – just flying from the United States to Bali would take up most of the time off – there are still plenty of fun weekend trips that will allow them to make the most of the bonus 24 hours of vacation.

The combination of its family-friendly resorts and great weather make Florida a favorite Memorial Day weekend destination. With more than a dozen different catalog options for a Sunshine State getaway, Mitch-Stuart can make Florida a reality for a donor’s dreams, no matter what they may be. Disney World? How about a trip with park-hopping passes, pools and arcades? Is golf higher on the agenda? Our package to Bay Hill gives donors two rounds of golf and an hour of private instruction to shake the winter rust off of the swing. Or maybe your donors would like something a little more low key and relaxing? Our Key West trip, complete with complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, can fill the bill.

If Florida is too far out of the way for donors, the other coast is just as inviting. Memorial Day weekend can be the perfect time for one of your donors to visit Southern California, whether it’s being wrapped in the luxury of the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, taking the tram above Palm Springs for breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley or star-gazing while in a poolside bungalow at a resort in Santa Monica. It seems like beach life is never more than a stone’s throw away when visiting the Golden State, and spending Memorial Day laying back and relaxing on the sand is a perfect way to welcome the summer months.

Not every vacationer is seeking out the sun come Memorial Day weekend, of course. In many southern parts of the country, it feels like summer has already arrived by the time it’s the end of May. For those donors or organizations in warmer climes, a trip to a city like Seattle could be a great break before the heat gets too extreme at home. Split that vacation time between the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, near tourist hot spots like Pike Place Market and the Seattle Waterfront, and the Conde Nast Gold List-recognized Fairmont Empress, in stunning Victoria, B.C. With average May highs in the mid-60s during the month of May, Seattle is a great place for one last fling with spring.


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Live the Life: Traveling for Experiences

May 13, 2014
Imagine, for a moment, being a driver. Not a freeway driver, or a backseat driver, but a racecar driver, careening around turns, trading paint with your rival and earning the checkered flag. Or how about being out on the range, riding horses through central California? Maybe the sea calls instead, with you aboard an America’s Cup-qualifying yacht?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can send your donors around the world via a charity auction travel package (and can help your non-profit earn big bucks at a fundraising event or gala), but it can also help set up once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the types of activities that separate an everlasting memory from a “trip.”

Those seeking to hear the roar of an engine can pick either the closed-track thrill of NASCAR or the open road of the American West with different packages. For the four-wheel enthusiasts, there’s our trip to Charlotte, North Carolina for the ultimate NASCAR experience: A trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and an eight-lap sprint at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. If the added rush of a motorcycle is more the speed of your donors, they can find themselves riding a Harley Davidson through Nevada and Arizona, checking out the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Route 66. Or, their motorcycle excursion can involve the beachside views from the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California, as they cruise between Los Angeles and San Diego.

If the ocean is more appealing, your donors can spend five days and four nights in San Diego’s stunning Mission Bay, culminating in an afternoon experience aboard a racing class yacht. Climb aboard the Stars & Stripes, which competed in the 1995 America’s Cup, and either get hands-on experience or sit back and take in the beautiful ocean views. Afterwards, head back to the Maritime Museum of San Diego and jump on a tall-sail adventure for a four-hour tour, or stay on dry land and check out the boats, sailing ships and submarines on display.

Not all adventures need speed or engines, though. Be a cowboy for four days and three nights in Solvang and take on the more than 50 miles of horse trails. At the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, visitors get to indulge in a throwback lifestyle, one more suited to a time when the American West was about exploring a frontier. After horseback riding, unwind with some fishing at Alisal Lake (which is reserved for guests of the resort), either in solitude or with a guided fishing trip. Hunting is, as one might expect, not on the menu, but one can combine an afternoon learning archery with the barbecued steak of the Ranch Room to get the benefits of the hunt without the hours crouching behind trees or the orange vests.
NASCAR
Motorcycles
America's Cup Sailing
Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort


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Mother's Day Spa

May 06, 2014
When you were a child, Mother’s Day was about craft projects brought home from elementary school art class. As an adult, though, construction paper flowers may not cut it.

Hyatt Key West Spa
Spa
Spa
If your donors are in the same position, we can help.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers a wide range of charity auction travel packages to countries near and far, and sometimes the destination is the star attraction. But what donors do when they get to the locale can be just as important, and for Mother’s Day trips, a relaxing spa visit can be every bit as important as a five-star meal. These are trips that make great presents from an appreciative husband to his wife or child to a mother. Here are just a few of our options:

If mom would like to combine pampering with the great outdoors, heading to Jackson Hole may be the right fit. Jackson’s Rustic Inn sits practically on the edge of civilization, with cross-country skiing, hiking and other outdoor adventures. But when mom wants to calm down after a day of snowshoeing or other activity, she can find her way to the Rustic’s spa for a Seaweed Algae Mud Wrap, or get a deep tissue massage to help minimize the next day soreness.

Or, send mom to the beach in Key West, with a three-night stay at the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa and a hotel gift card that can be used for spa services. A favorite of travel publications like Conde Nast Traveler, which ranked it in the Top 100 Spas in 2012, Jala Spa at the Hyatt offers a tremendous menu of services, including a special massage for mothers-to-be and a Cuban coffee body glow scrub. Some of the massage treatments can even take place in room.

International trips can involve the peak relaxation of a spa, as well. All of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s all-inclusive trips to a Palace Resort in Mexico come with gift cards for spa services. With Palace Resorts locations in Mexican hotspots like Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, most vacation trips south of the border can also involve a relaxing massage, a luxurious body wrap or a cleansing facial. Even better: Most of the resorts also feature golf courses, so dad can stay occupied, as well.










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Case Study – Robert F. Thomas Foundation

April 30, 2014
Robert F. Thomas, a doctor in Sevier County, Tennessee, is said to have made as many as 1,000 house calls in a single year. He was a doctor, a minister and, maybe most crucially, a member of his community, one concerned with making sure that everyone, rich and poor, had access to healthcare.

Since his passing in 1980, the Robert F. Thomas Foundation has continued to build on Thomas’ concern, raising money to help provide health services to everyone. The organization has had help from, among others, Thomas’ most famous patient; he was the doctor who helped deliver one Dolly Parton into the world, and she has repaid him for the service by helping to raise funds and keep his dream alive.

But not even Dolly can do it alone.

“Dolly Parton is a huge part of what we do, but she’s not the sole person who funds us,” said Amy Woods of the Thomas Foundation. “We have a lot to bring in, a lot to do. Our biggest fundraiser that we do is the ‘Evening of Elegance,’ and that’s where I started using [Mitch-Stuart].”

Mitch-Stuart has provided auction-ready travel experiences for the Thomas Foundation’s major and smaller fundraising events. Donors have gone to Canada and the Caribbean, New York and Napa Valley, and everywhere in between. While the experiences have varied wildly, Woods said that the experience working with Mitch-Stuart has remained the same.

“I love the fact that I call and can ask, ‘what should I be looking at this year?’” she said. “They’ve never let me down.”

After a few times working with Mitch-Stuart, providing trips to vacations spots nearby and far-flung, Woods has started to see donors even requesting the availability of certain destination packages for upcoming auctions; trips involving culinary tours are popular, as are excursions to New York City.

“I’ll have people call and say, ‘Do you have any trips this year? Because I would like to go to...and if I’m going to go there anyway, I’d rather buy it from you and help the foundation,’” she said.

Those trip packages, which have attracted a fan base that includes a local mayor, have combined with other auction items like cars and, at one special event, even an Egyptian Arabian stallion to make the “Evening of Elegance” the county’s must-attend social event, meaning big funds for an incredibly important cause.


“It’s really nice to know that every year, no matter what our other items are, we’re always able to go and pick out whatever I want from anywhere in the world out of Mitch-Stuart’s catalog,” Woods said.

Thanks to Amy Woods of the Robert F. Thomas Foundation for taking the time to speak with us! For more information on the organization and its important work, visit it on the web and on Facebook.


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Destination Spotlight: London Calling

April 23, 2014
Two years ago, London captured the attention of the world during the 2012 Summer Olympics. But the United Kingdom’s largest city is not a tourist destination only in Olympiad years. Mitch-Stuart, Inc., offers several nonprofit travel auction packages that take donors to England to enjoy all that the city has to offer, and they are some of the most popular in the catalog. Here are some of the reasons why.

England has an unparalleled history in sport, including rugby and tennis, and London has been the epicenter. It is the only city to host three different Olympiads of the modern Games era. But the country may be best known for the Barclays Premier League, one of the top football (or soccer) leagues in the world. Some of the country’s best-known teams play in London, like Chelsea and Arsenal, and six teams overall competed in the top flight’s 2013-14 season. London is also the home of Wembley Stadium, the second-largest in Europe (with a capacity of 90,000 spectators) and home to the 2011 and 2013 UEFA Champions League (the highest honor in European club soccer) championship matches.

Those more interested in culture can make their way to the West End, one of the world’s foremost theater districts. Almost 15 million tickets were sold to productions there in 2013, including shows like “The Mousetrap” (the world’s longest-running show), “Les Miserables,” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” In all, more than 40 theaters make up the city’s “Theatreland,” and many of those contain elements of classic Victorian architecture, making it a place to see works of art inside of works of art..

Of course, it’s hard to think about London without picturing the historical landmarks. The Tower of London, the famed castle along the River Thames, is more than a millennia old and today hosts tours, exhibits and historical reenactments. The Palace of Westminster, just up the river, is the home of the Elizabeth Tower, better known as Big Ben, along with being the meeting place of the Houses of Commons and Lords. Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the monarchy, is less than a mile west of the Palace of Westminster.
London England
Shakespeare’s Globe
Changing of the Guard Buckingham Palace


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Getting Away: Vacationing In Nature

April 16, 2014
There’s nothing like the energy of city life: The hustle, the bustle, the stop-and-go traffic, the constant feeling of the crush of humanity closing in all around you, the … smog. Sometimes, as the commercial says, you “wanna get away.” With Earth Day approaching, it’s time to celebrate those outdoor destination vacations, those locations where we can go to get out of the office and commune with nature, whether it’s an untouched beach, a snowy mountainside or anywhere else in the great wide open.

Thankfully, we at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can send your donors to stunning vacations in nature just as easily as we can send them to a luxury hotel in a major city. Take a look at some of the consignment travel auction packages that we can put together to help non-profits raise money and give donors a once-in-a-lifetime experience:

Big Sur, California Coast
Jackson Hole
Hubbard Glacier, Celebrity Cruise
For spectacular coastal views, the Northern California ocean-and-mountain favorite Big Sur may be the best combination of nature and civilization. Staying at the Highlands Inn in Carmel means basing one’s vacation in a city of less than 4,000 people, according to the 2010 Census, and being close enough to one of the California coast’s most gorgeous views to see it from the hotel. From there, take a car ride down the Pacific Coast Highway down through other coastal villages like Lucia and Gorda, or explore the Los Padres National Forest to the inland east.

If your donors prefer big mountains without the ocean view, Jackson Hole may be the trip to offer. Whether it’s on skis or by snowmobile, the Wyoming resort town makes for an excellent home base while exploring the mountain west. With Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks just miles away, visitors get glimpses of a frontier life long ago left behind, while also taking in a serenity and calm that city life rarely affords. At the end of the day, they can also soak in an outdoor heated pool or grab a drink at the Rustic Inn’s lobby bar before heading back to their cabin.

When it comes to wilderness in America, though, there is no land less explored than that of Alaska. While Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can’t take donors by helicopter into the middle of the vast, unconquered territory of our 49th state (…yet…), we can send them as close as possible, without having to scrimp on luxury. A seven-day cruise aboard a Celebrity Cruises ship can take explorers past the Inside Passage, to the Misty Fjords National Monument (and its 2.2 million acres of wilderness) and the Hubbard Glacier. And if all of that unspoiled beauty becomes too much, your donors can retire to their veranda stateroom, or perhaps the on-ship spa.


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And the Winner Is…

April 08, 2014
The biggest awards show of the year, it would seem, is always the Oscars. It is the one that inspires day-long media coverage from the red carpet to the post-show parties, the one that inspires living room parties and betting pools and the one that inspires much of America to say, “Honey, we should really go see that movie” just before settling in to a viewing of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” on a Netflix-rented DVD.

But it’s far from the only occasion for the talented and famous to rub shoulders – and many of the others can be more fun than the sometimes-stuffy Academy ceremony. Mitch-Stuart can help send one of your donors via our charity auction travel packages to one (or all!) of these, which could make your charity the winner of Best Non-Profit in a contributor’s eyes.

MTV Music Video Awards (November) and Movie Awards (April): If your donors have kids who would be much more interested in awards like “Best Kiss” and “Best Villain” than “Best Adapted Screenplay,” send them to Los Angeles for either of the MTV awards shows. Loaded with young Hollywood stars and live music performances, there’s rarely a dull moment.

The ESPYs (July): One would think that winning championships and, for the professionals, very large contracts would be enough, but once a year ESPN brings the top stars of the sports world together to celebrate the preceding 12 months. There are lots of opportunities throughout the awards week to rub shoulders with the athletes (for those who can reach LeBron James’ shoulders, at least), and seeing so many heroes of the gridiron/diamond/court together in one place can be a nostalgic trip for the right donor.

American Music Awards and Country Music Awards (November): Are your donors a little bit country, or a little bit rock and roll? November brings awards shows for each, with the AMAs handed out in Los Angeles and the CMAs awarded in Nashville. In both cases, the performances on the stages are only matched by the “secret shows” and other concerts held in the vicinity leading up to and following the awards presentations.

Twilight Saga MTV Movie Awards
Drew Brees
Carrie Underwood and Katie Cook, Country Awards


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New Season, New Trips

April 01, 2014
Spring is upon us (we promise!), and with it comes a variety of new trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog. Non-profits looking to raise more money by utilizing consignment travel auction packages now have more options, including some once-in-a-lifetime experiences! Let’s look at a few of the highlights:

Wrigley Field
Tea at the London Savoy
Highclere Castle
Seeing a Chicago Cubs game from inside Wrigley Field is a sports experience. But seeing the game from one of the Wrigley Field “rooftop clubs,” just outside the stadium, is a unique view of both the game and the city of Chicago. From the complementary food and beverages (no stale nachos or boiled hot dogs here) and the HDTV monitors to stay close to the action to the extra-wide stadium-style seating, the best visit to the ballpark in Chicago does not involve stepping foot inside the park at all. It’s the type of trip for which sports fan donors will go wild – and with a stay at one of Chicago’s best hotels included in the package, even the baseball-phobic will enjoy.

After a 100 million pound renovation, The Savoy has continued to define luxury travel for visitors from around the world. Central to many of London’s great museums and theaters and with a sparkling view of the River Thames, The Savoy is the place to stay in London in order to really feel at one with the city. Mitch-Stuart can send your donors there, too, for a five-night stay that includes $500 either in dining credit at Gordon Ramsey’s Savoy Grill or for afternoon tea at the Thames Foyer.

But for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, send your donors to Downton Abbey. Technically the PBS hit television show is fictional, sure, but Mitch-Stuart has a package custom-made for the show’s fans. It includes four nights at The Royal Park in central London (with a fifth night at The Vineyard Hotel), afternoon tea at the Lanesborough Hotel, and, most notably, a trip to Highclere Castle, the primary shooting location for “Abbey.” Walk the castle’s grounds, through the gardens and woods, and see the same vistas that Lord Grantham and family view on a regular basis. Afterwards, every episode of the television show will be your donor’s own personal vacation video, and a reminder of one of the best travel moments of their life.


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Case Study – Scottsdale Cultural Society

March 26, 2014
One donor is heading to Bali. Another is off to Maui, staying at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. And yet another fulfilled a self-described “bucket list” item by attending the Grammys in Los Angeles in January of 2014.

When the Scottsdale Cultural Council needed to add an extra element of “WOW!” to its ARTrageous fundraising gala, it turned to Mitch-Stuart for help. And one unforgettable night later, the organization has raised a tremendous amount of money and offered its biggest backers once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The Council, which can be found on the web at sccarts.org, offers the citizens of Scottsdale and visitors chances to be a part of world-class art while also fostering younger or newer artistic voices. That can mean anything from concerts and performances at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art and even public works seen throughout the city.

All of that, of course, takes funding, a portion of which is brought in every year at the ARTrageous gala. This year, Natalie Cole was the special guest, and the evening’s theme was “An Unforgettable Evening.” As a part of that, the SCC worked with Mitch-Stuart (and our technology partner, GiveSmart) to offer “Unforgettable Travel Packages,” including our show-stopping trip to the 2014 Grammy Awards.

“We wanted to try something new and the trips were fun and exciting,” according to the organization’s Director of Donor Relations Eileen Wilson. “Our event committee members thought that by offering the trips it elevated the level of our silent auction and caused a buzz at the event.”

Utilizing GiveSmart’s silent auction technology and Mitch-Stuart’s expertise in travel arraignment, SCC was able to cause that buzz and add to an already “unforgettable” evening.

“The experience was very easy,” Wilson added via email. “And [the] customer service was excellent.  I was actually surprised that we sold multiple trips.”


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Big Tickets, Big Cash

March 18, 2014
It can be intimidating for any non-profit organization, no matter the size, to ask for larger donations. Smaller and mid-sized organizations in particular can feel intimidated to try and add zeroes to the end of donation checks. But there is only one way to get bigger donations: Ask for bigger donations.

Since we pair with organizations all the time to offer vacation auction packages sold on consignment, we hear the objections all the time, the thinking from some groups that their donors don’t have the money to be able to bid on a trip. Our response is fairly straight-forward: Give your donors a chance. Just ask!

In order to do so confidently, it can help to remember these three factors that any organization has in its favor:
  • These people like you. A charity auction at a gala or other fundraising event is a celebration of like minds, brought together by a single passion or outlook on life. It is your organization, your passion, which is driving that room. These are not strangers, they are not people on the other ends of cold calls, but your non-profit’s friends. If you can’t ask your friends for help, who can you ask?
  • Shopping lists can line up with auction lists. Unlike a straight donation, a charity auction comes with its own tangible reward. Beyond the satisfaction of helping a group do good, donors can also win memorabilia, dinners and even the trip of a lifetime. Maybe it’s a proud parent who was looking for a graduation gift for a daughter or son. Maybe it’s an anniversary surprise. No matter what the reason, your donors may be in the market for a vacation – and surely they’d like to help your non-profit at the same time.
  • All it takes is an excuse. It’s impossible to force someone to donate money. Strong-arming someone into opening his or her wallet is not charity. But, it can be easier for a person to donate more money if there’s a secondary reason behind it, or an incentive as big as a ticket to the Grammys, a ski weekend in the Canadian Rockies or just a much-needed vacation. Giving people another impetus to donate can loosen up pockets.
The biggest plus about consignment selling is that there is no risk to the organization. If a trip doesn’t sell, it doesn’t sell. But like the oddly-philosophical Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take.”


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Las Vegas Spring Break for Families

March 12, 2014
There was a time when the lobby of the MGM Grand featured a massive statue commemorating “The Wizard of Oz” and the back of the property held an amusement park. There was a time when one of the most popular businesses along the south end of the Las Vegas Strip was a major arcade. Before the promise that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the largest city in Nevada tried desperately to market itself as a family-friendly destination.

That pretense has been gone for years, but as Las Vegas has grown, it has added opportunities for families to enjoy time together. If your donors have children, big or small, a chance to support your charity and win an auction for a trip to Las Vegas doesn’t have to mean finding babysitters and leaving the offspring at home.
Las Vegas
 

Taking a dip in the hotel pool is always a good place to start when traveling with kids of all ages. But not all pools in Las Vegas are created equal for children. At the MGM Grand, the “lazy river” circles the pool deck and there are also shallow pools for the very little ones. There’s also a waterslide for kids at the pool at Excalibur. But the most interesting aquatic experience for kids (and adults alike!) may be the Trainer for a Day program at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. For one afternoon, anyone 13 years old and up can swim with, feed and interact with a bottlenose dolphin in a secluded habitat seemingly far away from the commotion of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Going to a show in Las Vegas does not have to mean staring at half-naked showgirls, either. Sin City is America’s capital of magic, for instance, so seeing a performer like Mac King at Harrah’s is a great way to enjoy the Las Vegas experience. His stage show combines magic and humor in a family-friendly setting, complete with an afternoon start time. Over at the Venetian, meanwhile, comedian Rita Rudner plies her trade. Known as one of the cleanest comics of her generation, Rudner has been one of the reigning comedy stars of the city, selling more than one million tickets in Las Vegas since beginning her run there more than a decade ago.

 
Grand Canyon
A trip to Las Vegas with the family doesn’t have to stay within the city borders, either. The southwest is filled with beautiful vistas and opportunities for hiking, mountain climbing and other activities. Just outside of the city, Red Rock Canyon attracts more than one million visitors each year, people drawn to its red cliffs, its wildlife and abundance of hiking trails. There may be no more popular Vegas escape, though, than one of the myriad of helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon. Though the Arizona landmark is 300 miles or so away from Las Vegas, it still attracts visitors looking for a chance to see one of the country’s most spectacular views. Many of those same helicopter tours also take patrons for a ride over the Strip, giving the tourist chances to take in two breathtaking, if entirely different, vistas.



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Springtime in New York

March 04, 2014
As of the end of February, the winter of 2013-14 has been the seventh-snowiest in the history of New York City. Nearly 60 inches of snow have fallen in the Big Apple, and with another storm making its way through the metropolis on the first days of March, there’s a chance that this winter could move into the top five of all time. But even during the coldest, dampest, darkest days of the season, there is hope. Even though it may not feel like it, the sun will return, the birds will chirp, and the Mets will lose a lot of baseball games. Spring will come.

Experienced travelers know that spring is one of the most magical times of the year in New York City. The energy is indescribable; millions of people who have spent the last few months cooped up in small apartments and layers in coats and sweaters go back outside, all at once. It’s the perfect time to drop in for a visit, or to send your donors via a charity auction, raffle or other fundraising event.

Of course, Central Park is one of the first landmarks that comes to mind when one thinks of a New York spring. The most visited urban park in America is more than just a place to sit in the sun and relax, though; the Central Park Conservatory leads walking tours of the park’s gardens, art and iconic views, among other topics. There’s even a seminar on bird-watching, designed specifically for families and led by members of the city’s Audubon Society. Meeting places and reservation information is all available on the Conservatory’s website, which cuts back on aimless wandering around the park, asking random strangers if they are “with the tour.”

While Central Park may have more than 150 years of history going for it, one of New York’s newest urban parks is stealing its older brother’s spotlight. The High Line has gone from rail to trail, with the mile-long stretch of elevated track that runs through the lower west side of Manhattan reopened to the public as a park in 2009 (with an extension opening in 2011). From the walkway, the tourist has a view of the Hudson River to the west and the shops of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea to the east. In addition, it may be the most lodging-convenient park in existence; it literally runs through the Standard High Line hotel.

Not every spring event revolves around a single park, though. At times, the entire city gets wrapped up in one going-on, such as when the sailors come to town. Yes, Fleet Week is more than just a plot line from that one “Sex in the City” episode. For one week out of the year, New York City honors the Navy and Marine Corps. 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the event, and the city will be filled with ship tours, military demonstrations and tributes to fallen heroes. Thank a hero, check out a warship and get caught up in the spirit of a city finally released from the grasp of winter weather.

New York Mets
The Plaza, New York
Central Park, Duke Ellington Statue
New York

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Los Angeles on the Silver Screen

February 25, 2014
This Sunday, Ellen DeGeneres and a cast of thousands will take over the Kodak Theater in Hollywood for the Academy Awards, and viewers at home will be treated to the view of a room full of movie stars. But, of course, Tom Hanks and George Clooney aren’t the only film-famous sights to see in Los Angeles. Tinseltown has long been immortalized on the big screen, and a tour of the city will visit any number of well-known vistas.

Holywood bench
 
500 Days of Summer Plaque
One of the best L.A.-spotting movies of recent vintage was “(500) Days of Summer,” which took place in the city’s newly revitalized downtown district. A daylong walk of the area can take tourists to the park where Zooey Deschanel’s Summer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom bonded (Angel’s Knoll, where the bench at which they sat even bears a plaque commemorating the film), the bars they frequent (the karaoke scenes were filmed at the Redwood Bar, while Tom punches out a romantic rival at Broadway Bar) and even the building where (spoiler alert!) Tom gets his big interview (the Bradbury Building, also a major location in “Blade Runner”).

Of course, a film with a title like “L.A. Story” is going to be a treasure trove of on-the-street locations. The classic Steve Martin comedy takes place all over the city, with the Museum of Contemporary Art and Venice Beach each providing key settings for Martin and company (including a very young Sarah Jessica Parker). But the most noteworthy place seen might be during the film’s “graveyard” scene, featuring a cameo from Rick Moranis, at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The gravesite has been seen in “The Player,” “Bonfire of the Vanities” and countless television shows, from “Six Feet Under” to “Columbo.” Along with its burial plots, Hollywood Forever is known as one of L.A.’s most morbid venues for movies (the Cinespa screening series in the summer) and concerts (at the cemetery’s Masonic Lodge).

While most of those locations are still in operation today, one famous L.A. film landmark sits empty, now existing almost solely to be used in television and movies. Johnie’s Coffee Shop sits at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, non-operational since 2000, and stands out from the surrounding buildings thanks to its bright blue-and-white striping and neon signage. But even if it’s not still slinging cups of joe and diner food, Johnie’s is still a favorite of location directors; “The Big Lebowski,” “Reservoir Dogs” and an episode of “Mad Men” were all filmed here. But its most pivotal scenes might have been in the late ‘80s cult classic “Miracle Mile,” where it stood in as the café called “Fat Boy” and where Anthony Edwards first tells the assembled masses about an impending nuclear strike.


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Keeping the Torch Lit

February 18, 2014
The 2014 Winter Olympics is days away from finishing, with the elaborate Closing Ceremony planned for February 23. Once the big show leaves town, though, Sochi will still have all of the infrastructure improvements, added attractions and other bells and whistles that come along with hosting an event the size of the Olympiad.

(It will also still have an uncomfortable number of
stray dogs and some mangled bathroom doors.)

While going to the actual Olympics can certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, there are still remnants of the Olympic experience left behind in host cities and countries. Give your donors the chance to take advantage of all the perks of the Games without all of the hassles of an overstuffed host city by offering a trip to one of these former homes of the Winter or Summer Olympics.

Vancouver may have been the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, but nearby Whistler was the home of many of the skiing events, thanks to the presence of Whistler Blackcomb. The resort, the largest in North America, already had its own Olympic history: It was conceived for Vancouver’s bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics, then constructed anyway when the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Grenoble, France. Almost 50 years after those games, Blackcomb finally got to host its own Olympic races, including the alpine skiing series. But even if your donors are not the adrenaline junkie types, they can drive the Sea-to-Sky Highway, considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful road trips, or take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola that links the Blackcomb and Whistler mountains.

When the IOC brought the Games to London in 2012, it knew that the Olympics would be held in a modern city well-equipped to host the world. But the competition still needed a central home, a place that would live, breathe and pulse the spirit throughout those 16 summer days. With that in mind, what is now known as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was created. Visitors to the park will be able to get a bird’s-eye view starting in April, when the ArcelorMittal Orbit, an observation tower with two platforms that, combined, overlook the enormity of the space.

It’s all well and good to see the Olympic sights, but experience is the key word when visiting Albertville, France, the host of the 1992 Winter Olympiad. At the La Plagne Bob Experience, visitors can take off down the same bobsled run used during the Games more than 20 years ago. Whether it’s with friends sitting behind a professional “driver” in a bobsled going 120 kilometers per hour or riding solo in a luge/sled hybrid, your donors can experience a taste of the Olympic spirit. Cheering crowds, gold medals and sponsorships not included.

Olympic Torche in Vancouver
Winter Olympics Whistler
Gondola at Whistler
London at Night
London Eye


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Why Travel?

February 13, 2014
There are any number of items that can attract donations at charity auctions. Local restaurants can contribute meals or gift certificates, gyms can offer personal training sessions, and spas can put together day-long getaways. Each of those entries have their places at a well-run fundraiser. But when it comes to a centerpiece item, something that makes the eyes of donors light up and their imaginations race, there may be nothing better than a well-curated, once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity.

Why add a travel package to your auction? Here are a few simple reasons:

Joy by Association: Vacations have been proven to reduce stress, improve the quality and quantity of sleep and prevent burnout. But maybe as important is a vacation’s effect on family relationships. Some of the best memories, those that last a lifetime, come from taking off to an exotic locale with the spouse and kids. Waking up in a Parisian hotel room overlooking the Eiffel Tower, walking through ancient Rome, scuba diving in Bali … those are some of the once-in-a-lifetime moments that kids will remember and cherish forever.

Many of your donors are overworked, and push themselves to be successful and take care of their families. A luxury travel experience can be just the stress reliever that a busy executive needs, and that donor will always associate the good feelings of that trip, those life-long memories, with the non-profit that helped make it possible.

Big Ticket Items Mean Big Money:
In order to get higher bids, one must ask for more money. It’s not a difficult assertion to follow logically, but it can be easy to fall into the trap of playing “small ball” when setting up a charity auction. An organization may be worried about asking for too much, especially at a gala auction where attendees have already paid a significant amount to attend the event.

It’s important to remember, though: These people are at the event to support the non-profit. They want to help. They are an organization’s biggest backers, and offering them a chance to contribute in a larger manner—especially when it comes with the trip-of-a-lifetime as a “bonus”—is enticing.

Hassle-Free, Risk-Free Consignment Selling: Like an exotic trip or a fantasy experience, there’s no risk when selling a package put together by a trusted charity consignment auction travel company. You don’t pay for the trip until you collect payment from the donor. If it doesn’t sell, there’s no harm. It’s a way to quickly add an item to the auction menu and adding that “WOW” factor without risk or having to ask for a donation.

In addition, with careful procurement, consignment travel options can complement other items. Have a French dinner gift certificate to auction? Pair with a trip to Paris! Autographed sports memorabilia? How about a trip to see any regular season sporting event in the country? Also, consignment travel can help support other auction items, allowing a non-profit to accept a wider range of gifts to sell. If a friend of the organization has a timeshare week to donate, for instance, a consignment package can “complete” the donation with airfare to and activities at the destination. There’s no limit to the creativity when there’s no risk to the selection.

What’s your reason for enticing donors with travel?

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Travel with a Ticket

February 04, 2014
Masters
Indianapolis 500
Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby
 
 
On February 6, the pitchers and catchers of the Arizona Diamondbacks will report to training camp in Scottsdale, AZ. They’ll be the first players to open pre-season workouts, and the first athletes to send the thoughts of sports fans racing to the spring months. But the return of baseball is far from the only sporting event to think about when the snow starts to melt and the days get longer; the calendar is loaded in the months of March, April and May with major events and championships in several sports that your donors might care about. Why not couple a charity auction travel opportunity with a ticket to a major spring sporting event? Mitch-Stuart has you covered, with trips revolving around everything from one of America’s oldest sporting events to one of the country’s most prestigious golf tournaments.

Since 1934, the Masters Tournament has held a special place in the hearts of golf fans. Traditionally the first of the PGA Tour’s four “major” tournaments each year, it takes place in Augusta, GA. every April, a time of year when the temperature averages in the 70s and there is little precipitation. It’s a perfect setting for a vacation, too, with Hickory Knob Resort State Park and the cities of Savannah and Atlanta all within reasonable driving distance.

Not every sports fan craves the tranquility of the links, though. For those who like their competition to be a bit louder, consider heading to the capital of Indiana for the Indianapolis 500. More than 250,000 fans cram into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over Memorial Day weekend to see their favorite drivers race while enjoying experiences ranging from infield tailgating to, as Mitch-Stuart has arraigned for charity auction winners, seats in the Penthouse Tower. It’s a holiday weekend away at one of the most prestigious race events in the world.

Cars at the Indy 500 can boast of more than 600 horsepower, but in Kentucky, the most important race is between combatants that don’t need engines at all. The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, and is not just a sporting event, but a way of life for residents and expatriates of the Bluegrass State. The Mitch-Stuart travel package takes winners to both the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks race on the day prior, while even taking care of souvenirs. Bring your own big hats, though.


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WOW your Valentine!

January 28, 2014
This Valentine’s Day, get some romantic planning advice from the experts at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. They know the world’s top destinations and have provided some options for sweeping your loved one off to parts unknown. As part of their planning for 2014 auctions, raffles and other fundraising events using travel packages and experiences, they’ve got the goods on what’s great this Valentine’s Day.

Consider a trip to Sonoma’s wine country. Set in the idyllic, world famous wine growing region abundant with local products, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa features a signature Michelin award-winning restaurant, a treasured golf course set on 177 acres of rolling terrain, and one of the top spas in the country. For hundreds of years, ancient thermal mineral waters have graced the site of The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. Today, the resort is proud to be one of the only luxury spa resorts in the country with its own source of thermal mineral water.

Guests will savor the fruits of the wine country on a personalized five-hour tour of the Sonoma Valley in a chauffeured luxury Sedan. Whether you are first-time visitors or veteran wine tasters, you'll enjoy an enlightening, fun-filled day in this picturesque region. The informative winery tour will be customized based on your individual wine preferences.

Find Love in the City of Light. Whisk your Valentine off to the Hotel Littre in quintessentially romantic Paris which is sure to bring a spark to your life, from the fashion, the culture, the architectural heritage, gourmet cuisine, and of course, the romance! Come explore the capital of France and discover the magic that has beckoned visitors for millennia. You’ll visit one of the world’s most iconic landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, on your half-day tour, and you’ll be blown away by the beauty of Paris at night on your Paris by Night tour - bonjour!

There is so much to see in Paris, from Place de la Bastille, a historical and modernly political square, to the trendy Right Bank district of La Marais, the artists’ studios of Montparnasse, to the high fashion districts of Faubourg Saint-Honore.

Treat her (or him!) like royalty.
What could be more luxurious that a trip to Monte Carlo – The Fairmont Monte Carlo is a unique four-star luxury resort located in the very heart of Monaco. A principality known to everyone, Monaco is nestled between Italy and France on the Côte d'Azur, and when you ascend to the top of The Fairmont, you can see the majestic view of all three countries! Immerse yourself in the beauty and sophistication of this world-class destination with a stay at the Fairmont Monte Carlo.

The Riviera offers over 300 days of sunshine throughout the year. Although the fabulous climate is a primary attraction, visitors are also drawn to Monaco’s warm engaging colors, the variety of its surroundings, and the friendliness of the locals. From the deep blue of the Mediterranean to the dazzling white canyons of the inland countryside, this region never stops revealing surprises.

Pamper the People you Love. Embrace the warmth of Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel or Isla Mujeres, Mexico for some well-deserved pampering, discover the freedom of an all-inclusive stay at Palace Resorts, where one price covers your hotel, mouthwatering dining options and snacks, top shelf drinks, non-motorized water sports, exuberant nightly entertainment, and so much more. Palace Resorts deliver a better class of all-inclusive in tantalizing destinations throughout Mexico. There is no comprising on your experience!

You’ll find luxurious touches and elegant appointments at every Palace Resort, ensuring that regardless of the destination, your vacation will be exceptional. Bask in the beauty of Cancun, which sits at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, where you are invited to explore the area’s natural reserves, archeological sights and attractions. A few miles south along the ancient Riviera Maya, are three more Palaces, including two offering some of the finest golf courses and spas in Mexico, dot the white sands of the coast. The islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are home to more Caribbean Palaces and on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. With six all-inclusive Palace Resorts dotting the sands along gorgeous beaches, to choose from, one of them is certain to provide the perfect setting for your next vacation.

Be sure to check out the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence® Catalogue for more treasured trips





Couple drinking wine
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Paris Eiffel Tower
Paris
Monte Carlo
Fairmont Monte Carlo
Palace Resort Isla Mujeres


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Destination Spotlight: Some Like it Cold!

January 21, 2014
The ski season is heating up and as you plan winter auctions, raffles and other fundraising events using travel packages and experiences, look to Mitch-Stuart, Inc. for the top cold weather “wonders of the world.”

Grab a mug of cocoa and read about some terrific trips – and relax, knowing that Mitch-Stuart will handle every detail of the vacation experience from the minute the trip is sold to the time your donor returns home.

Skiers
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Killington Grand Resort
Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole
Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Skiers at Four Seasons Jackson Hole
 
Perfect Winter Wonderland
British Columbia, Canada
Explore your passions for adventure and relaxation in Whistler. A scenic 90-minute drive from Vancouver along the Sea To Sky Highway brings you into the heart of this alpine valley. Renowned as the top-ranked ski area in North America and home of the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, Whistler easily rivals the major ski regions of Europe, and offers true ski-in and ski-out convenience. Beyond the slopes, Whistler offers an extensive list of other indoor and outdoor pursuits.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler presents a unique collection of dining options that capture the essence of Whistler's lifestyle. Tastefully designed rooms with spectacular mountain or village views were created to blend with the natural alpine setting.

Centerpiece in a Mountain Crown
Quebec, Canada
Experience an unforgettable adventure as you escape from the everyday into a snow-covered winter wonderland. Fairmont Tremblant offers skiers 94 first rate runs and 600 acres that add up to a ski holiday that will soothe your soul and challenge your skills. The architectural masterpiece of this Mont Tremblant ski resort rooted in the legends of Quebec is the state-of-the-art facilities - climb aboard a high-speed chair lift at the doorstep to ski the slopes of Mont Tremblant Ski Hill and explore the mountains.

Fairmont Tremblant sits at the foot of the majestic Laurentian peaks, tucked into the heart of the region's most picturesque village. After a day of skiing out on the slopes, indulge in grandeur and relax in accommodating luxury at The Fairmont. Enjoy culinary delights from magnificent taste providers, treat yourself to a massage, or simply rest in the elegant Nansen Lounge. Proposing a refined choice of wines in the glass, vintage ports, a variety of martinis, or delicious specialty coffees, you will doubtless find what pleases you.

Ski the Best of the West
Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada or Wyoming
World-renowned for a variety of challenging and breathtaking slopes, the West boasts incredible mountains that offer some of the best skiing in the country! Utah has the best white, fluffy powder covering its peaks, Nevada offers an abundance of annual snow-fall, and Idaho has over 20,000 skiable acres for you! From the fantastic snow and four terrain parks of Vail, to the untamed wilderness of the Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming, get ready for world-class skiing in your favorite destination!

Get your winter sports fix some of Western America’s best slopes! Whether you’re looking for the perfect trail, amazing views, or the charm of a memorable destination, you’ll have access to it all! Choose from amazing mountain ridge resort destinations, including Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Vail and Keystone in Colorado; breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe; and the steep terrain and endless backcountry of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Sun Valley, Idaho was the nation’s first snow ski resort, and continues to draw ski-enthusiasts and snow bunnies with its long seasons. Nine powder-filled bowls, eight stunning peaks, 50 immaculately groomed runs, and three award-winning terrain parks make Park City’s mountains the perfect place for you to discover adventure in Utah!

Colorful Landscape of Vermont
Killington, Vermont
Located in Killington, amid the scenic splendor of Vermont's Green Mountains, the acclaimed Killington Grand Resort offers the ultimate mountain vacation experience. Stay in the heart of an alpine paradise, where skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and sleighing are just steps away on six mountains with 140 trails, and over 70 miles of terrain.

Killington is the perfect mountain escape in other seasons too. Hike and mountain bike on 45 miles of lift-serviced trails, enjoy 270 holes of spectacular Green Mountain golf on 15 challenging courses in the area, including Killington's championship 18-hole course, and discover breathtaking panoramic views! Antique shops and craft fairs abound, where you’re sure to find the perfect treasure to commemorate your vacation for years to come. Gourmet dining, musical events and local theatres are close by, including the restored Paramount Theatre, so that you can relax in town at a leisurely pace.

Discover Lake Tahoe's Pristine Beauty
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Discover an alpine paradise at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe. Nestled within the Sierra Mountain Range, the stunning locale of this Four Diamond Lake Tahoe hotel is the ideal setting for your next ski vacation! Tempt Lady Luck in the Casino, and after a day on the slopes ease tired muscles with a deep-tissue massage in the world-class spa. From delicious cuisine and inviting guestrooms to luxurious amenities and services, you'll experience an incomparable mountain escape at this Hyatt hotel in Lake Tahoe.

Take your pick of ski slopes, from Heavenly and Northstar-at-Tahoe, to Alpine Meadows, and Squaw Valley. And Tahoe even has amazing options for cross-country skiing buffs. For the travelers who are not alpine-inclined, enjoy a sleigh ride through the woods, or a snowmobile adventure in the Tahoe National Forest! Of course, you could always simply take in the natural wonders and remarkable sights!










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Fundraisers and Non-Profits – Step Up Your Tech in 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Engaging More Auction Donors: 3 Keys to Your Most Successful Benefit Auction Ever

January 07, 2014
This week’s guest blogger and fundraising auctioneer extraordinaire, Kathy Kingston, updates us about ways to tap into key giving trends at charity auctions.

According to Kathy’s extensive benefit auction industry know-how, benefit auctions are booming across the United States. In fact, many of her clients broke all-time fundraising records this year.

Americans are incredibly philanthropic. 75% of Americans give to Charity, according to Sharon Danosky, fundraising consultant and president of Danosky & Associates. Over 16.3 billion dollars are raised annually at fundraising auctions in the United States according to the National Auctioneers Association.

Kathy encourages nonprofits, schools, and event planners to tap into some of the reasons why people give, often the secret to increasing donor participation at benefit auctions. This advice can help you best select travel packages and other live and silent auction items as well as better planning of all elements to ensure your most successful auction ever.

Kathy created this acronym, MSL to illustrate how she sees auction guests giving at fundraising auctions: meaningfully, locally, and strategically. Here is how it applies to the ways donors are giving.

Meaningfully. Today’s donors give to causes that are near and dear to their hearts, either via personal experience or when someone close to them asks them to become involved. How can you translate this “meaning” to your event? Kathy strongly suggests making sure the event’s mission is central in the conversation. “Not just as the beginning and end of the night, but threaded throughout, visually, conversationally and any other creative way you can think of.” Make sure that your auction guests understand the impact of their gift.

Locally. Think globally, act locally is more than just a lovely thought. It is the mantra of many of today’s charitable givers. It is up to fundraising auction and event organizers to demonstrate how donor dollars benefit local causes and strengthen communities. Whether the cause is kids, animals, neighborhood beautification or something else very directly applicable to your audience, Kathy says “Demonstrate the cause and effect for your attendees, make it live and palpable through special guests, video, live demonstrations etc.” Clearly show how an auction donor’s participation will impact your local community.

Strategically.
Given the changing demographics and buying preferences of auction audiences, Kathy sees a trend towards generous giving during the fund-a-need special appeal. Kathy sees the fund-a-need special appeals as a powerful strategic vehicle for giving at charity auctions. In fact Kathy’s experience over the last several years shows that revenue from fund-a-need is actually outpacing silent and live auction revenue. All donors want their dollars to work especially hard. In many cases guests prefer to give to the cause and not necessarily purchase an auction item.

Think about MLS as you begin planning your 2014 events!

What trends are you seeing for donor engagement at your auction? What are your ideas? Contact Kathy at Kathy@kingstonauction.com or visit her website at http://www.kingstonauction.com.


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2014 Crystal Ball: Travel Trends for Fundraisers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Destination Spotlight: New Orleans

December 23, 2013

New Orleans Paddleboat
New Orleans School of Cooking
House of Blues in the French Quarter in New Orleans
Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans
Creole Cuisine
The city of New Orleans with its storied past and colorful character is one of the most-requested destinations that deluxe travel experts, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has in its no-risk catalogue. And if you organize charity auctions and fundraising events, a trip to the bayou makes a spectacular offering for your donors.

Mitch-Stuart has travel packages and experiences to the destination for those who’ve never experienced New Orleans; from the city’s Creole and Cajun cuisine, riverboat cruises up and down the Mississippi River, to simply enjoying the jazz that is inherent to the region.

The selection of trips works equally as well for those who’ve visited this legendary city before but haven’t experienced it all. This trip can include a lazy ride down the Mississippi in an authentic paddlewheel riverboat for a Creole buffet, and a meal at the renowned Commander's Palace! Your New Orleans adventure culminates with a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking, where you'll learn the basics of food, folklore and Louisiana cooking.

As with all Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel packages, the company has done all the work. Two New Orleans offerings provides donors with a trip for two for four days and three nights at either the historic landmark, Monteleone hotel or the comfort and classic of the Sheraton New Orleans including Economy Class Air. The packages also feature a Dinner Jazz Cruise, a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking and a $200 Commander's Palace Gift Card.

Visitors are encouraged to discover historically celebrated Canal Street in the center of the central business district, legendary entertainment and renowned attractions, such as the famed French Quarter, Convention Center and Aquarium of the Americas.

For the culinarily-inclined (and who isn’t in Louisiana!) Savor two Southern dinners! Since 1880, Commander's Palace has been a New Orleans landmark known for the award winning quality of its food and many commodious dining rooms. Modern New Orleans cooking meets haute Creole in the kitchen, which prepares succulent cuisine with the flavor of distinctive Louisiana. You'll also step aboard the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen and cruise into the night as you enjoy a lavish Creole buffet.

We encourage you to login or register on our site to view the Mitch-Stuart, Inc. catalogue, Destinations of Excellence® for more great examples.
















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Saratoga Hospital: A Fundraising Success Story

December 18, 2013
With more than 450 physicians and other medical professionals on staff, Saratoga Hospital offers care in a broad range of medical specialties. For more than a century, it has been Saratoga’s community hospital.

Ann M. Carroll of the Development department of the Saratoga Hospital Foundation is responsible for fundraising and has worked successfully with Mitch-Stuart, Inc. for the past four years on their annual summer gala benefit auction.

Luxury vacation packages provided by Mitch-Stuart are among the most popular items at our auction,” says Carroll. “The company provides a ‘no-risk’ way to enhance our auction with unique packages you can offer your donors without putting yourself at risk if they do not sell. But that isn’t a problem since 95% of all trips sell!”

She goes on to say that the she works through the comprehensive company catalog and offers a combination of tried and true audience favorites and newer trips and experiences. Often she matches trips with the gala theme for that year. “Last year, our theme was “Party Animals” and we offered the African Safari as one of our top five items and it sold extremely well.”

Carroll sums up by saying, “Working with Mitch-Stuart, Inc. enriches our auction overall because of the access to well packaged and well organized vacations that are easy to execute for the traveler. We are always pleased to refer them to other non-profits.”

Ann Carroll offers up these tips to add to your auction’s success:
  • Package power If your organization has secured a gift that can be packaged with a trip from Mitch-Stuart or any provider, bundle the offerings to strengthen its appeal to donors
  • Relationships count Establish a relationship with a specific salesperson at any of the entities you work with, the personal touch enhances the working relationship for you and the donor taking the trip - like having your own concierge
  • Always make donors a priority Much like the way Carroll described Mitch-Stuart’s customer service as rapid response and solution-oriented, non-profits need to provide the same
  • Solicit and listen to feedback Query your donors about the trips they have taken to see which trips to offer again and again and which to tweak. Use this feedback to help plan
  • Volunteers know best Meet with your volunteers to gain ideas for travel packages. Carroll says, “After all, our volunteers mirror our attendees.”
May this advice help you with your next fundraiser!


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Harness the Power of the Creative Brainstorm

December 10, 2013
For philanthropic organizations looking for fresh ideas for fundraising events and auctions or overall business improvements, brainstorming is a natural way to gather thoughts for consideration. But does your organization brainstorm strategically, with a real end goal in mind? All the creative ideas in the world don't add up to results unless they link to an overall strategic direction, set by the brainstorm leader, whose job is also to fire up the group! Some teams dread brainstorming, seeing it as a waste of time or as a cause for “performance anxiety.” It needn’t be! Here are some pointers that work for Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

The judgment-free zone. The atmosphere should be welcoming, positive and all-inclusive, with the promise that every idea will be considered. This way, the participants won’t be hesitant to share their ideas for fear of ridicule.

Don’t go in cold. Brainstorms work best when the participants are prepared. This can mean anything from preparing a detailed creative brief describing the situation and the goals as well as providing suggested websites to visit for more background.

Start by setting the objectives. Do you want a slew of creative ideas to break an existing event out of the doldrums? Are you seeking to create a draw for a new audience segment? A helpful way to start is to discuss some trends in the category s well as what the competition is up to. Non-profits must also keep in mind the serious nature of the cause they represent/raise money for. This doesn't mean you can't be creative, just keep ideas within certain bounds.

Let the fun begin. Once people start shouting out suggestions or solutions, write them down… all of them. Even though some ideas won’t make sense at the time, they may lead to other things. The best ideas often come from a simple phrase. “My donors love exotic travel” for instance, can open the doors for bringing in expert partners such as Mitch-Stuart, Inc. to do the “heavy lifting.”

Avoid diminishing returns. During any given brainstorm, there is typically a time where the initial excitement dulls and everybody falls into an awkward silence. Sometimes rewording the initial objective or goal is all you need to do to get the juices flowing again. People just need to see it in a different light. Or else bring out the candy!

Never stop brainstorming. Even when the meeting is over and everyone has returned to their desks, create an email chain, or a running word document with the top ideas, fleshed out to give the team something more to build on. A creative team leader can help further the concepts by adding greater detail and graphics to ensure the best result.
 
If traditional creative brainstorming isn’t working for you, check out “speedstorming” a combination of brainstorming and “speed-dating” or brainstorming on steroids.


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Avoid these Six Fundraising Faux Pas

December 03, 2013
Even the best event organizers can use a refresher course on ways to perfect their next fundraiser! Take a look at these potential planning “hiccups” and make sure to take steps to overcome or correct them.

1. Not knowing your audience – As you plan your fundraising auction and, ask yourself who your attendees are. This will help establish everything from the décor to the dining as well as the all-important (most important) auction items you are presenting. Work with your board and consult a travel expert like Mitch-Stuart Inc. to select packages that are a win for your audience based on age, average income, level of sophistication, geography and other factors.

2. Bad timing – A business associate recently scheduled a big event without consulting an important organization calendar and we’re sure you know the rest – his event now collides with something else of interest to his audience. First rule of event planning, check all possible conflicts before securing a date. This goes for potential event conflicts as well as holidays, potential bad weather dates, even TV moments like season finales of mega-popular shows! It also pays to see what similar events come right before and after yours. Check them out for theme and location, etc. to make sure to avoid the dreaded “event redundancy. Meticulous, thorough planning at the very beginning ensures a most successful event.

3. Poor communication with donors and prospects
– When encouraging attendance to your fundraiser, how many reminders are mandatory? How many are too much? There is no perfect number, but you do want to plan according to some variation of this formula.
  • Save the date (pre-sell)
  • Printed, mailed invitation
  • Email reminder (or 2)
  • Day of email (particularly for those who cannot attend but might like to bid virtually!)
  • Post-event email (if your event is able to sell items afterwards; if not then as a Thank You)
4. Not taking advantage of current technology – If you are having a silent auction, consider using mobile bidding with companies like GiveSmart, a national customer service company engaged in using technology to create an approach to fundraising that raises more money, streamlines the process and delivers an enhanced donor experience. With today's mobile bidding technology, you can bring efficiency and excitement to your silent auctions.

5. Not growing your donor base or allowing attrition – Avoid this by scheduling ways to keep your current donors engaged and increasingly invested. Do so via direct mail, email blasts, newsletters, interesting events to attend and other ways to generate ongoing enthusiasm and anticipation. Work with your auction provider to get all the news on exciting new experiences and destination to whet donor appetites.

6. AVOID "auction sale" attitudes
– Always treat your events as opportunities for donors to give of themselves for the causes they believe in, not as a way to get “bargain deals.” Make each auction item description deluxe and exclusive and remind attendees where their donations are going!


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The Mitch-Stuart Inc. Gratitude Blog

November 27, 2013
At this time of year, we would like to take a moment to thank everyone who continues to make Mitch-Stuart Inc. the leader in providing auction and fundraising planners with unique travel packages and experiences.

This has been a successful year for the many nonprofit agencies we've served, as we have helped raise close to 5 million dollars for thousands of charities with more to come.
  • We are grateful to our hotel and airline partners who make it easy to continuously create exceptional experiences that donors want to enjoy.
  • We are grateful to the wonderful world of charity and philanthropic leadership whose tireless aim to raise funding for their organizations is an inspiration to all.
  • We are also grateful to the countless volunteers who sometimes toil in the shadows, but whose efforts produce flawless events that keep donor support high.
  • We are grateful to the auctioneer community. It is so often their talent and skill that produce truly successful fundraisers.
  • We are grateful to journalists who pay attention to philanthropy – giving causes the attention they deserve so those looking to align with just the right charity can do so.
Finally we are grateful to our staff which sets a fine example for other organizations. Dedicated, perseverant, aspirational and smart, they are the engine that drives Mitch-Stuart Inc. to continue to provide top-level service and products to its clients.
 
We hope you will experience gratitude over the Thanksgiving holiday and throughout the season.


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More Ways to Delight your Donors

November 19, 2013
Last month we shared with you some of the different and delightful travel experiences offered by the latest Mitch-Stuart Inc. Destinations of Excellence® Catalogue. The catalogue is so well-stocked with excellent adventures, it required a second look.

As you begin planning for your most successful 2014 auction, raffles and other fundraising event using travel packages and experiences, look no further than the catalogue but start right here to get some great ideas.

For the Family The experts at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. have combed the globe for family-friendly experiences which include fun-packed trips to the original Disneyland as well as Disney World; or if your tastes wander to the sunniest climes – consider Hawaii and the Fairmont Kea Lani, Cancun’s Palace Resorts or a water park package from one of 50 participating parks in North America! Still haven’t found your perfect trip? Your family can enjoy a historical and cultural vacation in a unique American city such as Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Boston or New Orleans. Make your kids’ (and your own) dreams come true with any one of the above or more listed in the catalogue.

For the Cold-Weather Athlete If skiing is the way to a donor’s heart, consider all the superb ski packages Mitch-Stuart has to offer - winter wonderlands Whistler, Aspen, Vail or Telluride await with luxury accommodations, often ski-in, ski-out and the most luxurious locations. There is virtually no ski resort unexplored by our experts with other fabulous packages including visits to Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Vermont or Wyoming and international destinations like Mont Tremblant in Quebec. Each trip is tailored to skiers at any level. Mitch-Stuart ensures incomparable experiences on and off the slopes.

For the Warm-Weather Athlete Golf or tennis? Scuba or swimming? YES, please. When you work with Mitch-Stuart you can have it all. Resort packages to the best golf in the world include the links your donors are longing for: Pinehurst on your choice of 8 championship courses, Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Club & Lodge, AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess with two 18-hole championship courses, finally a stay at the Fairmont, and play at Old St. Andrews the most sought-after golf experience of them all!

For the World Traveler Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors to far-flung corners of the world with every detail catered to perfectly. International experiences include an exotic Indonesian escape in Bali, the exquisite beaches and cruises to the Caribbean, or fabulous jaunts to the exciting cities of Europe including a gourmet adventure in the heart of Italy and sophisticated artsy Amsterdam. In addition to these charming cities, Mitch-Stuart offers packages to London, Monte Carlo, Paris, Montreux and a safari to Africa. Your donors will want to bid on them all – and isn’t that the goal?

For the Gastronome According to social media experts, the most shared content today is FOOD! Photos of food and discussions of deliciousness fill Facebook feeds and occupy Instagram in huge volume. Your donors want to go gourmet and Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has the offerings! Gastronomic delights include South Beach Wine & Food Festival Southwestern and Mexican fare on trips to the gorgeous Sonoran desert, the epitome of nouvelle cuisine with your wine in Napa as well as epicurean excursions to restaurant towns like Chicago and New York. Get your passports ready for international culinary experiences such as cooking classes and wine tastings in Tuscany or Sorrento and days of dining in Paris.

With the ability to customize trips as well, the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence® trips and experiences may be the only source of auction and fundraising ideas you need to plan.



Disneyland World of Color
Water Park
Skiers
Scuba Diving
London Eye
Rachael Ray South Beach Food & Wine Festival


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National Philanthropy Day, Every Day

November 12, 2013
At Mitch-Stuart Inc., specialists in exclusive travel packages and experiences for charity auction and fundraising events, every day is “philanthropy day” as we work to help our non-profit partners procure much-needed donations to advance their cause.

But, for everyone to acknowledge charitable good, there is National Philanthropy Day®, November 15. It is the special day set aside to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy—and those people active in the philanthropic community—have made to our lives, our communities and our world.

We’d like to take this opportunity to:
  • Call out a few top organizations large and small, as well as some individuals, who really “get it right” when it comes to volunteering and performing wondrous deeds for their own cause or the industry at large.
    • Open Avenues Foundation empowers adults with disabilities by providing employment education, life skills training and meaningful work.
    • Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with 2.7 million youth members and over 1 million adult volunteers. Since its founding in 1910 as part of the international Scout Movement, more than 110 million Americans have been members of the BSA.
    • Safe House Denver serves victims of domestic violence and their children through both an emergency shelter and a non-residential Counseling and Advocacy Center. All of the women, children and youth who come to SafeHouse Denver have access to a full range of bilingual programming, including individual counseling, group sessions, advocacy and safety planning.
    • Catholic Charities represents those living in poverty, calling for more effective and efficient poverty relief solutions and convening thought leaders from across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to identify pathways out of poverty.
    • Paul Clolery is the journalistic voice of the philanthropy industry,  responsible for developing, assigning and editing all content at NPT Publishing Group including the NonProfit Times, Exempt, five E-newlsetter and nptimes.com. His staff has received more than two dozen reporting and writing awards—eight of which were awarded to Paul himself.
  • Provide you with some ideas to celebrate Philanthropy Day in your own way such as:
    • Use the day to reach out to donors to help them PLAN their giving. Donations take on maximum impact when the giver takes a little time to determine which organizations and when/how much to give.
    • Encourage those involved with your cause to ask for donations to this cause instead of birthday and other holiday gifts.
    • Help event organizers get new folks onboard by offering up great ideas for events and auction items.
    • Try to particularly appeal to young people – studies show the earlier kids get involved with philanthropy, the more likely they are to continue their involvement as they grow older.
    • Finally, recognize someone special in your or someone else’s organization with a note, flowers, invitation to lunch or other way to say “job well done.”


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Veterans Day—Making It More Than Just Once A Year

November 05, 2013
As we approach the annual salute to our nation’s veterans—those individuals who have given so much and served so well to protect democracy, freedom and our way of life—we realize the holiday designed to remember and honor them is indeed a wonderful tribute. BUT—given what they do or have done on our collective behalf to keep America safe and free—we should try at other times of the year to think about and consider their tremendous contributions.

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
Arlington National Cemetery
Gettysburg
USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial
Here are a few easy, thoughtful and educational ways to do just that—whether as an individual or an entire family. We think the following trips can be memorable learning experiences—and at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. we are proud to be able to offer them as charity auction or other fundraiser options for packaged travel at your events.
  • Washington DC: Nowhere in America will you find more beautifully done tributes and memorials to veterans and our greatest leaders than in our nation’s capital. Whether you’ve never been there—or have visited several times—a tour of Washington’s monuments is always a highly moving, emotional experience. The Vietnam, WWII and Korean War Memorials—just to name a few—are both soul-searching and beautiful. Have you ever walked the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, looked up at the huge sculpture of the great man himself, read the Gettysburg address printed on the walls—and not been electrified by the experience? Your trip can also include stops at Arlington Cemetery where those who gave their lives for our liberty are interred and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. DC is a GREAT way to honor and remember.

  • Gettysburg, PA: Site of the greatest battle ever fought on American soil is likely one of the most—if not THE most—well preserved battlefields in the world. More than 150,000 soldiers—from both North and South—met face-to-face on this relatively small plot of ground which ultimately decided the outcome of the Civil War. The scores of statues and memorials saluting and honoring those brave men from both sides along with a stay at an actual battlefield bed-and-breakfast makes a tour an incredible, unforgettable experience.

  • Hawaii: Of course Hawaii is all about fresh and floral air, the warm, tranquil waters, and the breathtaking natural beauty, but the islands have quite the place in American military history. After you have taken in the glorious scenery and explored some of the  culture and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people, you must be a witness to the history of Pearl Harbor complete with a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, the National Cemetery of the Pacific and Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, extraordinary homages all.
So—think about all our Veterans have done for us this Veterans Day . . . and reflect on how we can remember and honor them at other times of year as well.






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Destination Spotlight: Seattle and Victoria, BC

October 30, 2013
The Beauty of the Pacific Northwest

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. invites you to take any of our four breathtaking trips along the Pacific Northwest and get to know one of the most spectacular coastlines in all the U.S. Think it’s only rainy and cloudy? Think again! You simply cannot deny the beauty and diversity of the rocky coastline, glacial peaks, rich farmland, charming towns, and cosmopolitan cities that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Check out these packages that will awe your donors!
  • Begin your trip in Seattle with a spectacular stay at The Fairmont Olympic, the Pacific Northwest's only AAA Five Diamond hotel. It’s located just footsteps from Seattle’s most exciting attractions, including the famous Pike Place Market and Seattle Waterfront, plus a multitude of museums, theatres, shops and restaurants; allowing you to enjoy both sides of the Puget Sound. Boasting impeccable service, splendid Italian Renaissance architecture and two award-winning restaurants, The Fairmont Olympic is widely regarded as one of the city’s most celebrated treasures.
  • Coffee isn’t the only beverage brewing in Seattle. In addition to the city’s thriving coffee scene, your donors can enjoy our three-hour brewery tour and imbibe Seattle’s very own beer while visiting the best microbreweries, learning about beer varieties and the beer making process. Of course, for the coffee lovers at heart, there’s no shortage of shops to step into for a Cup o’ Joe before starting the day. Take in the major sights around Downtown, including the previously mentioned Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Aquarium. Of course you will have to visit the original Starbucks – and don’t forget the Space Needle. Well worth the minimal fee it costs to ride the elevator to the top, you’ll get to take in amazing 360-degree views of the city, Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, and the Cascade Mountains.
  • Take a ferry like no other to one of the busiest destinations in North America. The Clipper Ferry offers year-round daily departures from Seattle to Victoria, BC and whale watching tours through the Puget Sound.
  • There’s so much to do and see in Victoria! Our final package offers a stay at The Fairmont Empress overlooking Victoria's spectacular Inner Harbor. The hotel showcases the spirit and energy of Vancouver Island in grand style. It captures the grandeur and elegance of a bygone era, with the most modern facilities for today’s traveler. From exhilarating ocean-bound whale watching safaris, world-class cultural exhibits and mouth-watering local cuisine to scenic garden and winery tours, The Fairmont Empress immerses you in the best Victoria can offer!
Take in the majestic sights, tastes and sounds that Seattle and Victoria, BC has to offer. Your donors will find these trips simply irresistible—the make great fundraising opportunities!!






Space Needle in Seattle
Pike's Place in Seattle
The Fairmont Empress in Victoria
Victoria Canada
Butchart Gardens


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400 Ways (and Counting!) to Delight your Auction Audience

October 22, 2013
When it comes to donating to a favorite cause at a charity fundraiser, people spend with their hearts or palates or adrenalin in mind. Which is a good thing if you are in receipt of the latest Mitch-Stuart Inc. Destinations of Excellence Catalogue. The newest catalogue is a round-the-world compendium of classically fabulous cities and properties combined with once-in-a-lifetime experiences that evoke responses like, “The trip of a lifetime!”

MetLife Stadium
Ferrari F430 F1
Safari Lions
Sea World Killer Wales and Kids
Emmys
Bloomingdales New York
The savvy event planner can take a look at their crowd and know which exclusive packages to offer in order to achieve the highest “WOW” factor. To get your paddles up and at ‘em at your next event, here is just a sampling. Read on and get some good ideas.

For the Armchair Athlete and Fervent Fan Would you like to offer your crowd trips to any major sporting event in the U.S.? Mitch-Stuart Inc. offers that. As well, pick and choose some amazing one-time events such as the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Masters at Augusta, the Ryder Cup in Scotland, the Indy 500 in Indianapolis or the 2014 Super Bowl – the first one at MetLife stadium played outdoors as real football should be! If your sports fan tends toward a less visceral appreciation of athleticism, there’s a package to attend the ESPYS – ESPN’s annual celebration of all things sport.

For the Walter Mitty in us all On sea, on land and in the air, there is something for those in search of a pulse-racing experience. Whether its spending a hands-on day on the America’s Cup yacht as part of a trip to San Diego, a thrilling and beautiful driving experience in Europe in your very own Porsche, exotic car-racing in Las Vegas (including a heilicoptor tour of the city) or an exhilirating motorcycle tour throughout Arizona and Nevada aboard a Harley Davidson or Triumph Thunderbird, Mitch-Stuart has excellent experiences for the thrill-seeker. Not high energy enough? Try a “Top Gun Experience” as a fighter pilot for a day in a military aircraft.

For the Fan of the Four-legged a few exciting Destinations of Excellence! There is a breathtaking safari to Kenya that features endless wildlife viewing from the Serengeti to Kenya's Masai Mara. The Westminster Dog Show offers a backstage pass to this wonderful world of purebred dogs and all the grace, pomp and circumstance that goes with it – plus it’s in New York. If your taste runs more to the aquatic, visit San Diego with a package dedicated to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. For equine enthusiasts, two great options – come to the Kentucky Derby for a mint julep-filled visit to storied Louisville and the annual heart-pounding race or visit Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo Championship.

For the Celebrity-Struck Awards shows know no bounds in the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence catalogue. Your devotee can see the Emmys, the Grammys, The VMAs, the People’s Choice Awards and more – all in either Los Angeles or New York offered in addition to exclusive fun-filled packages with lots of extras. Country music enthusiasts can also visit Nashville for the Country Music Awards.

For the Fashionable Those with a PhD in the “Shopping Arts” will be over the moon with one of Mitch-Stuart Inc.’s famed shopping packages. The new catalogue features destinations such as Palm Springs for a few days of the
 finest outlet shopping or the always popular New York “Shop til You Drop” excursion. There is a featured Nordstrom experience that one can obtain in San Francisco, Newport Beach or Chicago. Finally, the shopping is pretty good in Paris and several Italian cities Mitch-Stuart packages as well!

If you aren’t too overwhelmed by all the fantastic finds in the new catalogue, visit it yourself! This is just a taste.



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Oktoberfest! Time To Celebrate The Best Brews Across America

October 15, 2013
Oktoberfest has been an important part of Bavarian culture since 1810 and an important part of world culture for almost as long with fairs and festivals of the hops-happy everywhere you turn. In fact, with the overwhelming popularity of craft beer in our country, (craft beer sales rose 15% in dollars and 13% in volume in the first six months of 2013) and more than 2,500 breweries currently operating in the U.S.—the most since the pre-Prohibition era—a golden age of beer is underway! No better time to celebrate suds than October, and here are some great destinations that the experts at Mitch-Stuart Inc. recommend. And if you are planning a charity auction or other fundraiser, keep them in mind when putting together some great packaged travel for your bidders! Cheers or Jubel as they say in German!

Chicago
Already a food and wine mecca, Chicago knows how to appreciate the best beers too. This month visit the Public House featuring a month of beer-mania including beer and brat tastings! Additionally Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers "Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago," a getaway for two to Chicago which includes an Original Chicago Pizza Tour – goes great with beer, of course!

Victoria, B.C.
You may not think of our Canadian neighbors as a hotbed of Hornchen (German pastry) but the Victoria Edelweiss Club throws a mean schnitzel dinner with beer and accordion entertainment – totally authentic!

San Diego
After enjoying a day of sand and surf in “America’s Finest City”, whether its “Oktober” or not, sample a variety of award-winning beers via a unique Mitch-Stuart Inc. experience—craft beer tour. With over 60 craft breweries in San Diego county alone, the beer enthusiast culture is on the rise. Sit back and relax on this fun and safe way to visit San Diego's breweries, and taste many of their award-winning beers.

New York
Mitch-Stuart Inc. offers “History and Hops of New York” a trip for two including a New York beer and brewery tour. And, the whole month of October in New York features events and happenings from a group called Germany in NYC which you can check out here.

Seattle
Many may remember that Tumwater, WA was the home of Olympia Brewery which shut down in 2003. But that doesn’t keep the region out of ale! There are many regional Oktoberfests including one in Leavenworth, WA boasting live music, arts and crafts and activities for the whole family and a keg tapping ceremony!

No matter where you are spending October, may it be worthy of a toast!

Outlander Brewery & Pub
Freemont Brewing Company
Emerald City Beer Company
Brooklyn Brewery
Spuyten Duyvil


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Fall For Sports—Literally!!

October 09, 2013
From Los Angeles to Long Island and everywhere in between, we are a country of sports fans. They are the lifeblood of professional and college sports, and today’s global sports industry is worth between $480-$620 billion. Smart auction industry professionals know the value of engaging the hearts, time, attention and wallets of this group.
MetLife Stadium
Houston Texans vs Dallas Cowboys
Angel Stadium
NCAA Hockey
NBA Baskeball
Therefore, if you're appealing to this crowd, fall is truly the ONE time of year where every major sport is either underway or reaching the height of the season. Whether it's NFL or college football, Major League Baseball, the NBA or hockey, this is the time of year to plan an incredible, memorable trip via a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. with a complete sports travel package to incorporate into your fundraiser or charity auction. These are dream trips—where your sports fantasies actually come true. Take a quick, memorable read:

First–EVER Super Bowl in New York. Gotham's the place for the 2014 Super Bowl—and the first outdoor, cold weather championship game in February at the magnificent MetLife Stadium. The high energy, fun-filled, four day & three night package includes everything you need to cheer on your team in style—from game tickets, to economy air travel, hotel, transfers to hotel and the game, daily breakfast and the excitement of being in the Big Apple.

Be a Pro—At Any Pro Game! This unique dream package allows you to attend any game in the 50 professional sports markets. Whether NFL, NHL, NBA or MLB, this three day & two night trip for two is complete with everything you need for a complete experience including hotel, economy airfare and game tickets.

The Fall Classic. The World Series—it doesn't get any bigger or better than that if you're a true, die-hard baseball fan! This unique dream package for two includes TWO tickets to TWO successive World Series games in the same city; hotel, economy airfare, breakfast, transfers—everything you need to sit back and watch the top baseball event of the year.

We Have A Package For You To The 2014 BCS! The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, one of the most beautiful settings in all of sports, will be the site of the 2014 Bowl Champion Series (BCS) Championship Game. Your donors will enjoy being at the Super Bowl of college football, while basking in sunny Southern California in January. The Rose Parade, the pageantry of college football, the biggest college game of the year—and, on top of all that—it's the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl. The package for two covers four days & three nights, hotel, game tickets, breakfast, car rental and breakfasts—everything you need to experience the historic game!

With any of these unique sports packages from Mitch-Stuart, Inc…your attendees will be winners no matter what their favorite team does!



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Event Best Practices: A Few Holiday Thoughts

October 02, 2013
Event Best Practices: A Few Holiday Thoughts

The holiday season is an important time for charitable giving and the end of the year is the most popular time for organizations to host fundraisers. Roughly a third of all annual donations are made in December. Fundraising is all about generating income for a good cause and a successful event allows for fun and rewarding ways to generate donations. Best success is achieved with careful and strategic planning.

The holidays are simply the best time to fundraise! So start early with a few event must-do’s:

Thoughts on Themes


Don’t be afraid to be creative—as long as it’s in keeping with the interests and status of your target audience and—in some way—relevant to the equity and “ethos” of your organization. Keep your auction event fun with a theme that will excite your donors. Black tie galas and winter wonderland themes are always nice but a fun, pop culture pleaser like a holiday movie theme can rev up your guest list (a visit to Middle Earth courtesy of December’s Hobbit release perhaps?) Come up with a few creative ideas—and test out the best with a few key board members or regular contributors to get their input and tacit approval. Once they sign on, RUN WITH IT!

The Art of the Holiday Basket

Baskets are a solid way of enticing higher levels of giving—plus they can make excellent raffle prizes. Again, don’t be afraid of getting creative with the contents. Go green with sustainable foods and even cooking lessons or other hot trends such as pet gift baskets, premium cigar baskets and art gift baskets. Everyone loves a basket full of goodies. They’re great for re-gifting too!

Getaway Gifts

Consider travel packages. People love to travel, according to Travel & Leisure magazine, “Of course, one thing in travel remains constant year after year: the quest for new horizons.” You can offer a range of these from warm, exotic destinations to one-of-a-kind “experiential” trips! Look for places and packages that capture the imagination. What could be more fun at the holidays than knowing you’ve just won or purchased an exciting trip for yourself or your family! And doing it for a worthy cause is a win-win for everyone involved. A complete, all-inclusive package to the 2014 Super Bowl or a deluxe holiday shopping spree in NY? Surfing and scuba lessons in Maui? See these and more in our sample trips.

Keep your donors merry and be creative for your next holiday event.


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Event Best Practices: Hire a Professional Auctioneer

September 24, 2013
Many non-profit organizations watching their expenses think that anyone with an exciting and engaging personality can master the art of auctioneering at their next fundraiser or charity auction. Not the case.

Often times we see organizations hiring celebrities or local talent to steer the live auction but the truth is that hiring an experienced auctioneer is the most effective way to raise maximum funds for your benefit.

Hiring a licensed professional such as a Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) over a “fun” personality can be the difference between big profits and not so much. A polished professional who sweats the details can interest, inspire and influence a restless crowd! As an added plus, they will assist with making sure your organization procures hot auction items including both donated and on consignment, that keep driving excitement and bids – items that fulfill fantasies such as dream vacations and experiences. Professional auctioneers will help you take your auction to the next level!

Here are some tips for selecting the right auctioneer:
  1. Ask for a written proposal: Make sure the auctioneer wants the job and really understands the parameters of the event. Have proposers include fee, out-of-pocket expenses and an outline of how they see the event going. Look for creative flourishes that may set them apart.
  2. Credentials: Ask your potential auctioneers about their credentials and their experience. Be sure to look for auctioneers who have professional certification from the National Auctioneers’ Association. You’ll want to know how long they have been certified along with any other accolades they may hold.
  3. Key Questions: Like any interview process, be sure to ask for a list of previous clients that they have worked for. Referrals are often the best way to get a sense of the type of auctioneer you’re dealing with and if they will be a good fit for your organization’s event. Ask for the video! Seeing them in action will also tell you how good they are at the job.
Your bottom line is at stake. Make the wise decision and choose a ‘real’ auctioneer for your next event.


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I’ll Have What She’s Having

September 17, 2013
The true cuisine connoisseur goes to Paris for pate and pot au feu; North Carolina for BBQ and New York city for “deli.” Deli is short for delicatessen, which comes from German words meaning yummy food and the term has come to refer to Eastern European Jewish food in general. “Deli” is defined by meat sandwiches on rye bread and hard rolls, sour pickled cucumbers, tomatoes and sauerkraut, and potato salad and cole slaw. The best definition of deli may be this one: Jewish deli food is salty and fatty, sour and juicy, chewy and crusty. The “delic” in delicatessen is for delicious, not delicate!

Of course the title of this blog refers to the immortal utterance in “When Harry Met Sally” which was filmed at Katz’s, 2nd stop on our tour of NYC delis, a tour which we encourage you to proffer up to please the palates at your next fundraiser or charity auction. Do so and be sure to see mouths water and donations rise!

Planning a trip to New York’s delis includes visits to at least four of the five boroughs of Manhattan where there will be much to do to whet an appetite before stopping for a corned beef or pastrami on rye. We have compiled a “baker’s dozen” of must munch eateries and you can fight among yourselves about whose corned beef is king!
  1. 2nd Ave Deli
  2. Katz’s
  3. Carnegie Deli
  4. Artie’s Deli
  5. Barney Greengrass (Upper West Side)
  6. Russ and Daughters (Lower East Side)
  7. Mile End Delicatessen (Brooklyn)
  8. Jay & Lloyds (Brooklyn)
  9. Liebman’s Deli (Bronx)
  10. Loeser’s Kosher Deli (Riverdale, Bronx)
  11. Lido Kosher Deli (Long Beach, near the beach)
  12. Ben's Best Kosher Deli (Rego Park, Queens)






Arti's Deli
Artie's Delicatessen
Artie's Deli
Carnegie Deli

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Round of Applause: Mitch-Stuart, Inc. Wins the 2013 SCORE Award!

September 10, 2013
Recognition for a job well done isn’t something we take lightly. So, while we are overjoyed to have been named the winner of the 2013 SCORE Award for The "Outstanding Small Business Launched by Individuals Aged 50+" at the SCORE Foundation's award ceremony last month in Dallas, we also want to use the opportunity to share some “success strategies” that others can employ when contemplating awards and other recognition.

First, a bit about the SCORE Award.

The SCORE Foundation is the globally-recognized organization of retired business executives who "mentor" small businesses and Mitch-Stuart was selected out of hundreds of entries from across the country for this prestigious award. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. was founded by Stuart Paskow and Michelle Cohen at an age when many might be looking at lessening their workload, but their extensive experience in the corporate and non-profit sectors and long-standing entrepreneurial spirit allowed them to innovate and become trailblazers for a new industry. Over the past twenty years Michelle and Stuart created and shaped the concept of travel in non-profit fundraising, specializing in unique travel programs that assist nonprofit organizations and provide incentives for businesses.

Mitch-Stuart has proudly raised more than $1 billion for more than 10,000 charities throughout the nation and serves thousands of clients annually. Telling the company story in a meaningful way helped lead to the SCORE Award recognition. Here are some ways your organization can help tell its story and gain valuable industry recognition.
  • Research, research, research Identify award categories into which your organization or founders might fit and really do the homework to make sure you qualify. Factors such as geography, number of volunteers and employees, target market, successful fundraising efforts, diversity, etc., may all make up key criteria.
  • Hire a professional If you or someone in your organization doesn’t have the time to research and prepare the often in-depth award entries and applications, retain a writer or public relations professional to do the heavy lifting, with the organization’s leadership weighing in and editing content of course.
  • Make a plan Work backwards from the competition deadline to ensure that you make critical due dates and have ample time to retrieve important data, visuals or other components necessary to present a complete entry.
Finally, our mantra of “client service is king” really resonated with the SCORE Awards judges. More about the importance of service in our upcoming Mitch-Stuart Inc. fall newsletter.




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Don’t Sacrifice Fitness When You’re Traveling!

September 04, 2013
These hotels make it easy

A recent poll shows that 53% of Americans like to stay in shape while on vacation, with about the same percentage opting for the hotel gym as their workout choice. Smart hotels have gotten savvy about what they offer their guests – a couple of weights and a treadmill just will not do! This is important for those who organize charity auctions and fundraising events as well, since crafting the perfect travel package is key to success.

There is a trend now to offer health and wellness professional consulting and training including: body composition assessment, personal training, private yoga, nutritional counseling, group exercise and more. Here are some examples of hotels and properties that really do it right for their clientele.
  • Fairmont Hotels & Resorts provides gym clothes and shoes gratis for all members of their President's Club (free to join). Fitness at the Fairmont means Reebok® workout apparel and footwear, an MP3 player and a yoga mat with stretch band, all of which can be delivered directly to your room upon request. The service is complimentary for Premier and Platinum members with a small service charge for Club members.
  • Ritz Carlton Washington DC for $15.00 a day guests can visit the Sports Club/LA and full access to 100,000 square feet of fitness machines, basketball courts, squash, a lap pool, boxing area and more than 100 weekly classes. The Ritz-Carlton - Bachelor Gulch - has amazing outdoor activities including a private, guided outdoor adventure in the surrounding White River National Forest, ideal for the mountain enthusiast and other adventures like the Winter Private Snowshoe Adventure, water therapy in the Gulch Signature Copper Tub Soak (for individuals or couples) and the Roaring Rapids (Inspired by white water rafting, this hydrotherapy massage experience includes a choice of detoxifying mustard or relaxing herbal mountain blend and is a wonderful alternative to a hands-on massage.) The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel ultimate beach vacation offers three miles of sandy beach with captivating views of the pacific while exercising in the Fitness Center or taking yoga outside on the bluffs. The Spa emphasizes the Art of Well including balance, energy and vitality. Fitness center - Cardiovascular & Strength Training, Resistance & Weight Training, Personal Training, Wellness Classes - Yoga and Pilates - all situated atop a 150 foot bluff.
  • Hyatt at the Bellevue guests gain complimentary access to the Sporting Club at Bellevue, accessible by an enclosed sky bridge and home to 93,000 square feet of strength and cardio equipment and an indoor running track.
  • Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco Sports Club/LA runs this hotel's on-site, 127,000-square-foot fitness center, which has out-of-the ordinary amenities such as a boxing studio and basketball court. Guests can attend workout classes for free and get advice from personal trainers.
  • Marriott Renaissance Club Sport in Aliso Viejo, California with full access to Renaissance Club Sport, a world-class sports club boasting 75,000 square foot facility offering a 12,000 square foot fitness floor, six group exercise studios, court sports, aquatic center and childcare services. The hotel near Laguna Beach, CA creates a superb suburban spa-style hotel and fitness center while offering many resort-like amenities for their guests. They can also enjoy jogging and fitness trails.
So many choices, so little time! Do your homework and see which offering appeals to you and your organization.


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A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Travel

August 27, 2013
Google chocolate and travel and you get about 300 million results! There’s a good reason for that, with chocolate topping many favorite “things to eat” and travel topping many favorite “things to do.” Savvy organizers of fundraisers and charity auctions will want to combine these two audience pleasers.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers plenty of these (guilty) pleasure trips to some serious chocolate capitals. Feast your eyes (and then your palates!) below:

San Francisco Get a true taste of the city on one of three delicious tours! You’ll enjoy a spectrum of chocolate flavors on the Ultra Chocolate Tour, including French, Belgian and American chocolates, and a blind chocolate bar tasting. Top if off with a Chocolate Lover Card entitling you to discounts and VIP treatment at nearby boutiques!

Boston Boston’s not just about seafood… The Original Chocolate Walking Tour will take you to the best chocolate shops, bakeries and cafes near vibrant Newbury Street.

Asheville Prepare your palate for a delicious epicurean combination! You’ll get to enjoy a red wine and chocolate truffle tasting! A friendly host will guide you through your tasting, and you will learn about the red wine-making process and why chocolate and red wine are considered a natural pairing.

New York The Big Apple is actually a chocoholic paradise, which hosts two of National Geographic’s Top 10 Best Chocolate purveyors. Read on for a sampling of some of New York’s most amazing shrines to the cocoa bean.
  • The City Bakery specializes in hot chocolate, all year long, but particularly in February’s month-long hot chocolate festival featuring a different special flavor daily as well as original. Considered the best by many, its rich and thick with a homemade marshmallow.
  • Vosges offers a bacon chocolate bar and a mushroom chocolate bar and chocolate covered spicy fire tortilla chips. Sounds weird yes? But very cool and different.
  • Jacques Torres is renowned for rich and delicious and hot chocolate bar. They also sell some chocolate with sex appeal – such as caramel body spread etc. Something for everyone.
  • Max Brenner is on the Nat Geo list, and has a complete restaurant menu in addition to fine hand-made chocolate. They have vats of chocolate and unusual offerings such as praline waffle balls!
  • Serendipity is a must-do as they are open late and serve food and are famous for the frozen hot chocolate! The landmark offers other amazing desserts and the atmosphere is classic and cozy.
  • Magnolia Bakery is also on the Nat Geo list and is best known for its daily cupcakes with flavors such as Truffle: devil’s food cake and chocolate or white chocolate truffle filling covered with chocolate ganache or German chocolate cupcakes.
Let us know you travel for your chocolate fix!






Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco
Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco
Chocloate Pastries
Serendipity Hot Chocolate
Jacques Torres Chocolates


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Autumn in Nevada

August 20, 2013
Ok, it’s not April in Paris, but there are some lovely advantages to offering vacation packages to the delightful desert oasis of Las Vegas – especially when the temperature dips below 100 degrees – as part of your charity auctions or fundraising events.
Las Vegas Strip
Exotic Car Racing
Cirque de Sole Beatles Love
Las Vegas Rodeo
Blue Man Group
Grand Canyon
Mitch-Stuart Inc. offers a decidedly different take on the Las Vegas experience combining luxury hotel ambience with extreme thrills of exotic auto racing and aerobatic flight simulation, helicopter rides, to unique entertainment options such as attending a rodeo.

If a different customer take on Vegas is what your organization is looking for, here are some examples of what’s new under the (Las Vegas) sun!
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas with Economy Class Air, Including an Exotic Car Racing Experience
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at the Wynn Las Vegas with Economy Class Air, Including an Aerobatic Flight Simulator Experience
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at The All-Suite Venetian Resort Hotel Casino with Economy Class Air, Including Round Trip Airport Transfers, Tickets to Your Choice of Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles or Mystère, and an Evening Helicopter Ride over the Strip
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Three Days & Two Nights at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Hotel, Marriott Autograph Collection with Economy Class Air, Including Show Tickets
  • A Trip for Two to The National Finals Rodeo Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada for Three Days & Two Nights at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Including Two Tickets to Your Choice of Any Session with Plaza Level Seating (December 2013) (Land Only)
And if you want still more adventuresome Vegas, there is no shortage of interesting day trips. The world famous Hoover Dam lies about an hour from Las Vegas. Right outside of the city is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon that offers plenty of either easy or more strenuous hiking and mountain biking trails and for a more extensive day trip, you can even visit the Grand Canyon. Closer to the strip but still a world away, visit the Mob Museum which showcases both sides of the notorious battle between organized crime and law enforcement, or the Neon Museum which is loaded with the huge signs that once beckoned you into casinos like the Silver Slipper, Stardust, and El Cortez. A trek to Lake Mead is beautiful as well.

But if all you really want to do is gamble, shop and then eat well – dine like the locals at these palate-pleasers:
Anything we missed? Let us know your favorite Vegas visitor spots.



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Concierge Services to Die For

August 13, 2013
In the uber competitive world of luxury hotels, a key secret weapon in the arsenal is often the concierge. Defined as a staff member of a hotel or apartment complex who assists guests or residents, as by handling the storage of luggage, taking and delivering messages, and making reservations for tours – this doesn’t even begin to cover the breadth of services today’s top-notch concierges provide for high-end clients such as those who seek deluxe custom travel packages for charity auctions and fundraising events.

To be truly at the top of the concierge game ala a Four Seasons, Fairmont or Ritz, a hotel had better be able to provide complimentary access to myriad products and services including:
  • Sports Clubs
  • Private car services
  • Personal shopping services
  • Sports gear (helmets/bicycles/etc.)
  • Rose petal turndown service, drawn baths and butler packing and unpacking
  • VIP tables at top restaurants
  • Exclusive private outings such as private wine tours
  • Sought after tickets to cultural shows and events
  • Finding canine companions
And these are just the standard concierge fare! Some hotels have really raised the service bar, hiring specialty concierges (is that redundant? NO!) We have discovered specialists who go by titles such as:
  • Pillow concierge (choices of pillows)
  • Soap concierge (from cinnamon to vanilla)
  • Tanning concierge (no need to apply your own sunscreen)
  • Wedding proposal/honeymoon concierge (rose petals to loud speakers)
  • Technology butlers
  • Golf concierge
  • Pet concierge (treats/toys/clean-ups/walkers)
  • Ski concierge
  • Even “romance” concierge (less said the better)
We are certain there are even more concierge listings waiting to be created. Got any services you’d like to see offered at your favorite hotel? Let us know!


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Fetch! Pet-Friendly Hotels you should know about

August 06, 2013
Many of Mitch-Stuart, Inc's  hotel partners have gone above and beyond when it comes to embracing pets. Certain hotels even have their own pet mascot. In fact, some of them are superstars!
Matilda, a cat who lives at the Algonquin Hotel
Marriott Dog
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Dog
Hyatt Dog
Fairmont Whistler Dog
Take Matilda, a cat who lives at the Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan. She even has her own hotel package which includes a continental breakfast for two, a welcome cocktail in the lobby, a Matilda coloring book, a feline-focused book called "Fabulous Felines" by Sandy Robins, a plush stuff Matilda cat and chocolates for the kids, and a "CATabulous" eye mask!!!

Pet mascots have become so famous that they even have their own merchandise. Sparky Kia Smith is a Labrador-Jack Russell who is stationed at the Hotel Palomar in Arlington, Virginia. Sparky has trading cards with pet advice and travel tips available for purchase.

It’s no secret that pets make great companions. While many hotels consider pets a nuisance, there are a few hotels that are pet-friendly and understand that your furry friends can add a special element to your next vacation package. Mitch-Stuart has found FOUR hotel chains that not only welcome pets with open arms, but have special benefits for them.
  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts. Each of their pet-friendly hotels offers various facilities specifically designed to accommodate pets and their owners. For guests who enjoy fitness, the Marriott has on-site health and recreational facilities that offer ample opportunities for exercise when you can’t hit the trails with your pet.
  • The Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton treats your pet like a star. Pet services range from a Burberry raincoat (on loan) to a canine massage therapist. The hotels that do accept pets offer treats, toys, beds and bowls. Canine room service and spa treatments for dogs are also available.
  • Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.  The Hyatt has 90 locations that welcome canine and feline companions. The amenities offered include a special dog bed, bowl, ID tag, and welcome card. At check-in pick up a dog welcome letter and door hanger. There’s also a designated dog walk area complete with fully stocked cleanup stations.
  • Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.  All Fairmont Hotels are dog friendly and—as a matter of fact—18 of their properties have "Dog Ambassadors"—obviously something to give the guest "paws"!!!

Does it make you feel better to take pets with you when you travel? Share your pet travel experiences below!


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Discerning Diner: 5 Favorite Foodie Destinations

July 30, 2013
Food is an important part of travel. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. knows delicious dining can add the sizzle to any vacation package. We took a look at five popular Mitch-Stuart, Inc. destinations and the unique food options available.

Napa, San Francisco

Mitch-Stuart offers several trips to Napa. A wine component is part of the trips offered, but while you’re in Napa take time to indulge in the great food available, in addition to the wine. Whether it’s fine dining or more casual fare, Napa is food heaven.
  • Redd. With a modern spin on wine country cuisine, Redd features dishes with influences from Asia, Europe, and Mexico in a relaxed yet stylish environment.
  • Gott’s Roadside. This burger-and-shake shack features unique options like the ahi tuna burger on a toasted egg bun or the Let's Be Frank hot dog topped with cheese and house-made chili.
New York, NY

With a variety of trips to choose from, you will never want to leave the Big Apple. Several of the New York trips offered by Mitch-Stuart feature the option to visit the New York Food and Wine Festival. Whether or not you choose the Food and Wine Festival packages, make sure to check out these other great dining options while you’re in the city.
  • Lexington Brass. Serving lunch and brunch, this spot puts a twist on American bistro classics. You might just see Bill and Hilary Clinton there!
  • Food trucks. New Yorkers are always on the go. To save time and money they get lunch from food trucks. Check out the top 10 food trucks in NYC (as voted by Gothamist). Everything from Mexican to slushes can be found on a food truck.
New Orleans, LA

New Orleans is a great option for food lovers. Mitch-Stuart offers a slate of trips to The Big Easy. One of the trips features a $200 gift card to Commander's Palace or Mr. B’s Bistro. Here are other food options to explore while you’re in New Orleans.
  • Nola. One of New Orleans’ most popular restaurants, Nola has American, Cajun/Creole, and Southern/Soul food to choose from.
  • Tommy’s Cuisine. This "Creole-meets-Italian" restaurant has “updated classics” and is adjacent to owner Tommy Andrade’s wine bar.
Chicago, IL

Known for its Deep Dish pizza, Chicago is a popular Mitch-Stuart destination. The company offers several trips there. One trip includes an original Chicago pizza tour. Be sure to check out these other places while in the Windy City.
  • Alinea. Chef/Owner Grant Achatz tests the bounds of the culinary world with his dishes. There’s also his famous 24-course tasting menu, which takes five hours to complete.
  • More Cupcakes. This Chicago bakery makes cupcakes acceptable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. With flavors such as BLT (frosted with ranch dressing), brie champagne, and strawberry feta, you’ll be wanting more cupcakes.
Paris Culinary School, France

Mitch-Stuart brings you to The City of Light through various trips. One of the Paris trips includes a hands-on cooking course at L'Atelier des Sens or La Cuisine Paris. If you prefer to be more “hands- off,” check out these other restaurants.
  • Apicius. Located near the Champs Elysees, Apicius is an establishment in which the food and décor are both grand. Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato’s creative dishes give a new feel to Paris dining.
  • La Petite Chaise. This is the oldest restaurant in Paris, dating back to 1680. Today, this historical landmark features traditional dishes that match its history. Be sure to try the lamb and rabbit entrees.
What foodie destinations have you visited, and what was your favorite item?


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Common Things People Forget When Traveling in the Summer

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


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Support Your Smaller Charities!

July 16, 2013
When it comes to charities, the “big names” usually get most of the attention, while the smaller charities have to hustle to get their fair share. Small charities are often amongst the neediest and also often performing some of the most important work on the smallest budgets. Contributing to their success helps a great number of people. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. happily supports smaller charities and the results have been amazing!

Mary Dekle is the Resource Developer at Legal Services of North Florida, Inc., a private non-profit corporation dedicated to providing free legal representation to low income people with civil legal problems. She has worked with Mitch-Stuart for several years. Dekle’s cause is an example of how smaller charities benefit from Mitch-Stuart travel packages. “We realized auctioning off enticing vacation packages was a great way to excite donors,” said Dekle. “Trips such as auction items have been so successful; we now have expanded to include a special auction of trips at other times of the year, not just our annual fundraiser.” According to Dekle, the vacation auction items have been so successful that they have often been “purchased by individuals who were not regular contributors and, after taking the trips, they've become regular donors!”

Mitch-Stuart offers fantastic vacation options as auction items which help support smaller charities. Here are other ways companies and individuals can help support small charities:
  • Via Sales. You can choose to have a percentage of profits from sales of a particular product or services, or sales on a particular day, go to that organization.
  • Via Volunteers. If your employees are looking to support a charity, the opportunity to volunteer will be greatly appreciated and much needed by a smaller organization.
  • Via donors to similar causes. Let customers and donors know about the charity with whom you are working and how their activities may align or support those of a more familiar “brand name cause.
  • Via social media. Promote these needy yet deserving entities on your website, social media and in other marketing materials to “turn up the volume”.
The impact of the trips Mitch-Stuart provided to Mary Dekle’s organization warranted great results. “The trips are an equalizer for small and midsize non-profits,” said Dekle. “It gives our auction, and our organization a higher profile -like something you'd expect from a huge non-profit.”

In what ways have you supported smaller or lesser-known charities?


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Destination Spotlight: San Diego

July 09, 2013
SAN DIEGO: SO MUCH TO “SEA”. . .SO MUCH TO DO. . .SO MUCH TO ENJOY. . .AND ALL “FOUR” YOU!!!!!

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. invites you to take a trip to beautiful San Diego… four trips actually! Get to know California’s second largest city via our itineraries below. We know that whichever one you pick, this coastal water wonderland beckons with blue skies keeping watch on 70 miles of beaches and a gentle Mediterranean climate that begs for a day of everything and nothing. Heads up to donors! These four trips are fantastic auction travel packages waiting to be scooped up.


Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina in San Diego
America’s Cup Yacht
Killer Whales at Seaworld
San Diego Wild Animal Park Lions
F-8 at USS Midway Museum
The first trip is for those who love to sail, since this is an America’s Cup yacht experience you don’t want to miss. Stay at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina, which puts you close to the sheltered waters of San Diego Bay. You'll have the unique opportunity to experience almost two hours of boat racing, including a race on a current generation America's Cup yacht. The Hyatt Regency and Mission Bay Spa and Marina offer panoramic views of the marina and the Pacific Ocean along with a pampering spa and water playground with multiple slides.

If you’re an animal lover, this second trip is perfect for you. Your stay at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina includes a one-day admission ticket to SeaWorld®, or a second option, where a one-day admission to either the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park is also included. Venture beneath the waves for an up-close look at Shamu, moray eels, California bay rays sea lions, harbor seals and other exotic creatures closer than ever before! Enjoy the adorable black and white pandas, the meerkat and camels at the San Diego Zoo; or witness the rare and exotic animals up close at the exciting shows at Safari Park.

There’s so much to do and see in San Diego. With our third option, choose to stay at the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina or the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa and experience endless activities. Jet-ski, sail, or simply sit and breathe in the ocean air on the resort’s 16 waterfront acres across the bay from downtown San Diego. You can also take the Old Town Trolley Tour, which will guide you around San Diego hotspots, including the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and Seaport Village. You can also visit the island of Coronado, the Crown City, Balboa Park-a city park that combines open space and greenery with cultural attractions- and El Prado- a long promenade running through the park, lined with Spanish architecture.

Finally, our fourth itinerary offers exploration beyond the city limits. Separated by the San Diego Bay, Coronado is a playground outside of San Diego. Watch as yachts and sailboats glide past the majestic Coronado Bridge. Check out the Ferry Landing Marketplace, the Silver Strand Bike Path and 18-hole Coronado Golf Course, all in walking distance. At the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa enjoy luxurious spa treatments and outdoor heated pools, lighted tennis courts and bicycle rentals.

Take in the sights and sounds of San Diego and experience all this amazing city has to offer! Donors will love these trips, and these four packages also make for great fundraising opportunities. You don’t want to miss out!


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True Blue American Causes

July 02, 2013
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is regarded and celebrated as the birth of American independence. Typical festivities range from fireworks, parades and concerts to barbecues. However, we must remember that America’s independence didn’t come easy. Americans had to fight battles and wars, as well as endure hardships in order to obtain the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we all have today.

American Flag
Statue of Liberty Fireworks
U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
One way Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has showed its appreciation for our nation’s independence has been to partner up with charities such as The Sentinels of Freedom, USO Cares and Wounded Warriors.

Sentinels of Freedom provides life-changing opportunities for men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have suffered severe injuries and need the support of grateful communities to realize their dreams.

The organization offers up to four year "life scholarships" to help vets become self- sufficient. Mitch-Stuart, which is known for offering unique, auction-worthy items, provided the auction travel packages for this organization. The Sentinels of Freedom were able to choose luxurious trips and fundraising packages and sell some of them multiple times.

Mitch-Stuart created the USO Cares with American Airlines program. They have created a program in which care packages are sent to service members all over the world. For $25, a package was sent to a person in the military anywhere in the world. In return for the donation, the person who sent the package received 150 AAdvantage miles.

Check out these patriotic getaways from Mitch Stuart, Inc. this Independence Day:
  • Ellis Island. Stay at The Ritz-Carlton New York, located in Battery Park. This package offers an exceptional cosmopolitan experience. Hop on a three-hour Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, which gets you up close to Lady Liberty! Marvel at the famous Statue of Liberty and remember the millions of immigrants that found their own independence once reaching Ellis Island.
  • Washington, D.C. Experience our nation’s capital like never before. View some of our nation’s most famous monuments on the Gray Line sightseeing tour or the Old Town Trolley Tour. The Gray Line tour will take you past famous landmarks including the new World War II Memorial, the FBI Building, Federal Triangle, Ellipse, Tidal Basin, National Archives, Washington Monument, House and Senate Office Buildings, U.S. Botanical Gardens, National Gallery of Art, U.S. Navy Memorial and the Grant Memorial. The Old Town Trolley Tour will guide you to landmarks such as the Capitol Building, Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and the Museum of Natural History.
  • Philadelphia. Nothing says red, white and blue like Philadelphia. Home to the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia is filled with so much historical significance that it will leave you wanting to explore even more. Your trolley tour will take you past some of the most popular and historic attractions. The National Constitution Center is America’s most interactive museum, and is solely devoted to the U.S. Constitution.
  • Gettysburg. Mitch-Stuart is currently creating a once in a lifetime experience for Civil War buffs to visit Gettysburg beginning this fall. Stay tuned!

How will you show your patriotism this Fourth of July?


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Home Is Where the Hotel Is

June 25, 2013
Not a phrase many would say upon entering their hotel room, but major hotel chains are trying to change that. Slowly but surely, more hotels are leaning towards “home-like” and family-friendly atmospheres. These brands are out to attract with the addition of kids clubs, teen programs and kids’ nights out. They also assist with planning family outings.

Many hotel brands have transformed standard hotel rooms into over-the-top bedroom sanctuaries. Gone are uncomfortable sheets. Now there are better linens, duvets, and pillows to make a hotel room feel more like your bedroom at home. Also, harsh lighting has been replaced by soft, natural light. To top things off, plug-ins and docking stations for all your electronic gadgets have been conveniently added to help you use your phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops and portable gaming devices from the comfort of your bed.

According to Michelle Cohen, President of Mitch-Stuart, Inc., “Our clients are even reporting that room service has experienced an ‘extreme makeover’.” Hotels know room service can be expensive and that many of their patrons seek food outside the establishment. Here are some solutions savvy establishments are implementing. Everything from Starbucks to all types of food options are now featured in the lobbies of many hotels.

Guests who felt like the mini bar offered the best meal, are now free to explore other options within the hotel. This has been great for guests who are on business trips, or for those who still need to work while on vacation. These guests no longer feel they have to work from their hotel desk, but rather they can take their laptops and iPads into the hotel lounge and coffee spots and work comfortably there.

So, what hotels are offering these “home-like” experiences? Here’s a couple:

The Residence Inn by Marriott® describes their hotels as places to “enjoy, unwind and work.” These rooms come fully equipped with in-suite kitchens, which feature a full-sized refrigerator, stove, microwave and coffee maker. Other amenities include:
  • Free daily hot breakfast with a variety of options
  • Free Wi-Fi in all suites and lobbies
  • Free grocery delivery
  • 24-hour market
  • Dry cleaning & on-site laundry
  • Private meeting spaces for events & family gatherings
  • Outdoor spaces with fire pits & barbeques
  • Complimentary evening socials
  • Business center services: free access to computers, printers and fax machines
HYATT® recently underwent a reinvention. Part of the reinvention includes the HYATT Has It program. There’s always one, two, or sometimes three things that you forgot. Well the HYATT Has It program has a list of complimentary items as well as items to borrow or buy. They are stocked up on everything from curling irons to yoga mats.

What hotel made you feel like the most at home during your stay? LET US KNOW!


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Destination Spotlight: Paris

June 18, 2013
OOO-LA-LA!!!! From the exquisite culture and cuisine, to its rich art history and beautiful monuments, there’s plenty to do while in Paris—considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers several different experiences in the City of Light that caters to your heart’s desire.

Eiffel Tower in Paris
L'Atelier des Sens Cooking School
Louvre Museum in Paris
Notre Dame in Paris
Basilique du Sacre Coeur in Paris
Enjoy cooking—and dining? Your first option involves Paris’ culture and cuisine. The trip for two is a six day, five night stay at the Hotel Le Littre. Included in this package is a hands-on cooking class at L'Atelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris, a two-hour sightseeing tour of Paris, lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel at the Eiffel Tower, and a one-hour River Seine cruise.

Located on the Paris Left Bank, the Hotel Le Littre is peacefully located between Saint Germain des Pres and Montparnasse, the new areas for fashion designers and luxury shops. Food lovers won’t be disappointed as the L’Atelier Des Sens and La Cuisine Paris offer cooking classes led by skilled chefs who will impart their lessons on everything from macaroons and croissants to the quintessential French baguette.

Are you an art and history buff? The second option is the coup de grace!! This trip includes a six day, five night stay for two at the Hotel Le Littre. Half-day shared tours of the Louvre Museum, Musee d'Orsay, and the Centre George Pompidou are included in this package.

Visit the renowned Louvre, one of the world’s largest and most visited museums; then make your way to the Musee d’Orsay for the impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. End your trip at the Pompidou Center and explore the modern art “it” houses.

Looking for romance? Look no further. The third option is for the romanticist in all of us. This trip for two at the Hotel Le Littre includes a romantic Paris by night tour, a one hour Seine Cruise, which includes a full course dinner, and a private illuminations tour. The City of Light is sure to bring a spark to your life, from the fashion, culture, architectural heritage, gourmet cuisine, and romance! Come explore the capital of France and discover the magic that has beckoned visitors for millennia.

Get pampered with the proverbial “royal treatment”? Another Paris option is just that!! This trip for two is for seven days and six nights at the Le Royal Monceau and Raffles Paris. Included in this package is your choice of either a half-day private tour of the Louvre Museum or a half-day private tour of the Musee d'Orsay, both skip-the-line entrance tickets.

Le Royal Monceau offers the elegance, prestige, luxury, and hospitality that have been signs of high European culture. Only in Paris, France, steeped in history, passion, beauty, and "l’art de vivre", could this legendary hotel begin yet another life in a refined new design that recalls its origins as it appeals to the contemporary traveler, who desires not merely a place to stay but a place to feel truly welcome.

Whatever your age or interest, each month in Paris has its unique attractions and pleasures: cutting-edge fashion, food, and fun offered against a backdrop of 3,000 years worth of history! Take some time and come see Paris now.

Paris is THE place!!!!


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Mistakes

June 11, 2013
By Tom Harrison

It’s been said that good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. There’s a lot we can learn from some of the really bad decisions that have been made—so that we can make better ones. Or at least we can make our own mistakes rather than simply repeating these whoppers.

Here are 13 mistakes we all wish we had known about without having to actually make them!

Mistake 1: Cutting acquisition quantity to improve fundraising ratios, but destroying your future revenue stream in the process. If you cut back on acquisition, you’ll have fewer current donors to cultivate next year and will start a downward revenue spiral that’s difficult to reverse.

Mistake 2: Hiring the wrong major gift leader. You don’t want a major gift leader who meddles with your successful direct response program instead of visiting with donors. Or one who tries to restrict direct response (DR) communication with donors based on how much they’ve given rather than based on who can actually be personally cultivated. Major gift officers should generate major gifts.

Mistake 3: Letting brand dictate fundraising messages instead of mandating that brand reinforce fundraising messages.

Mistake 4: Getting seduced by a consultant who claims to be able to acquire “higher value donors” and ending up getting too few donors to sustain your organization. The lesson is that you need a program that acquires those higher value donors plus all the other donors.

Mistake 5: Setting a target for your capital campaign but forgetting to include two years of operating budget in the total. The new building or new programs always cost more to operate than your current budget. By raising two years of operating costs up front, it gives you time to increase your revenue stream to meet the new operating budget.

Mistake 6: Cutting revenue-producing programs to address a budget shortfall. A wise accountant serving as a new board member addressed a nonprofit’s $100,000 budget shortfall. He suggested actually spending more money on revenue-producing activities. He correctly noted that the DR program raised $3 for every $1 spent. Increasing the DR budget by $50,000 raises $150,000—with a net of $100,000 to solve the revenue shortfall.

Mistake 7: Accepting Watchdog standards. Don’t brag about your stars. Instead, teach donors to judge you by the impact of your programs, not by arbitrary – and often misleading – cost ratios.

Mistake 8: Chasing blindly after the next big thing. The fear of being left behind can cause us to leap before we look. Protect your core revenue streams, and budget separately for R&D with dollars you can afford to lose.

Mistake 9: Making it look too easy. If people take your fundraising programs for granted, they’ll be tempted to water them down by mistakenly cutting frequency or insisting on more stories of success and less emphasis on need and urgency. Worse still, when the resulting fundraising efforts fail – they will – it will be blamed on the channel or the donors or your department, rather than on the dilution of the strategy.

Mistake 10: Forgetting to test. Why would anyone abandon a control for something new without testing? Maybe they’re afraid to be proven wrong, or because testing is difficult, or testing costs more, or maybe they just can’t imagine that their idea could fail. Always test.

Mistake 11: Believing that you are the target audience. Meet the donors where they are, rather than where you wish they were. Make it easy for donors to financially support programs that they are passionate about, not programs that you (or your program people) wish donors were passionate about.

Mistake 12: Being so afraid of being called a micro-manager that you don’t manage enough. It’s irresponsible to stand by and watch your people make mistakes that you know, from experience, will damage your organization. Sure, you sometimes need to allow them to learn from their own mistakes—on the small stuff. But on important matters, you owe it to your organization, your people and yourself to teach your staff the right things to do and the right way to do them. If there’s one thing experience teaches us the hard way, it’s that not all ideas are of equal value.

Mistake 13: Being afraid to fire someone. If someone is not succeeding in his position, he is hurting the cause you represent and likely demoralizing other employees. Your organization deserves top-performing employees. If someone isn’t cutting it, even after you’ve worked to help her improve, let her go. It will allow you to hire someone better, and will allow the exiting employee to find a position where she’ll contribute more and be more highly valued.

There may only be seven deadly sins, but there are myriad marketing missteps. If you have others to add, we’d love to hear from you!

Tom Harrison, CEO
Russ Reed
russreid.com


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Get Creative! Fundraiser Locations You Haven’t Thought Of

June 04, 2013
“Been there, done that”.

The last thing you want your guests to say when you are hosting a non profit auction! And it all starts with the location. Here are some outside-of-the-hotel-ballroom options you might want to consider when hosting your next charity event.

That trendy place you’ve been meaning to go Why not raise money in a fun and low-key, “natural” atmosphere? If your donors and attendees are comfortable they may be inclined to spend a little more money than they planned, which isn’t a bad thing! Consider a hot club, restaurant or bar. Be sure to factor in the following:
  • Serve any “signature dishes” the restaurant might be famous for
  • If a bar has been around for a significant amount of time jump on its rich history, or if it’s known for serving a particular drink, it could be fun to let your attendees know about it
  • For a club, see if there’s a famous DJ or if this venue hosts a special jazz night or other genre of music-themed night
This can be a win-win situation for your fundraiser and the owner of any of these establishments. Explain to the owner that this could be a great PR opportunity for their business and the possibility of returning patrons is too good to pass up.

Lights! Camera! Action! Similar to hosting your fundraiser at a restaurant/bar/club, a local movie or legitimate theater will also benefit from a great PR opportunity. However, the additional benefit of holding something at a theater is the venue’s ability to advertise the event and sell tickets. Let your guests explore a stage where great plays have unfolded -- it never hurts to be in a place of grandeur.

Go “Old School” No, you’re not having your donors relive their senior year of college. Contact a local campus group that supports your organization’s cause. Coordinate with them to seek out an interesting on-campus location and give them a chance to also support the cause. This also encourages the next generation of philanthropists.

Where’s the most creative place you’ve ever been for a charity auction?


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Destination Spotlight: Rocky Mountain Magnificence

May 28, 2013
Destination Spotlight is back! This month’s destination spotlight is Alberta, Canada. Alberta’s grandeur and beauty are obvious from the moment of arrival – rolling foothills, intimidating mountains and the breathtaking pristine wilderness are among it’s more distinct natural landmarks.

Banff Golf Course The trip for two includes a three night stay at the Fairmont Banff and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Both the Fairmont Banff Springs and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise offer the perfect backdrop for a luxurious vacation in this stunning region.

The itinerary includes an event-filled day of adventure with choices including snowmobiling, ATV, Jeep rides, hiking tours, mountain biking or horseback riding. You have the flexibility to choose the activity you want!
the Fairmont Banff Your stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs will provide hospitality, majesty, and scenery that few hotels in the world can rival. Its unique blend of opulence and seclusion has been a treasured trademark in Alberta for more than a century. Styled after a Scottish baronial castle, the Fairmont Banff Springs offers championship golf courses, unparalleled skiing, classic cuisine and Willow Stream, a world class European-style spa.
the Fairmont Lake Louise Not to be overlooked, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is recognized globally for progressive environmental stewardship and responsible tourism. Located in the heart of pristine Banff National Park, you can relive the experiences of early adventurers year-round in the surrounding wilderness. During the summer months, you can join in activities such as canoeing, fishing and rafting. Winter presents a dramatic wonderland of unique recreation including world-class downhill skiing, heli-skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, cross country skiing, ice skating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Ice Scating at the Fairmont Lake Luise Here’s your opportunity to really treat yourself to a true taste of the outdoors. Absorb yourself in the serene sights and get ready for an unrivaled outdoor experience! At Mitch-Stuart, Inc. we provide trips that not only provide awe-inspiring moments, but memorable experiences that last a lifetime.


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What is Consignment?

May 21, 2013
Google consignment and you will find the definition is a trading arrangement in which a seller sends goods to a buyer or reseller who pays the seller only as and when the goods are sold."

And today, consignment is hot!

The market for consignment has blossomed thanks to value-conscious consumers and recent research that states that the overall category sees revenues of over $13 billion. While anything can be sold on consignment, people generally think of designer goods such as clothes, bags and shoes. Another faction covets art, sporting goods and musical instruments.

The truly savvy though, know that incredible experiences can be purchased on consignment to benefit charitable organizations and incent employees. We are talking about the exciting, no-risk travel packages we create and offer to clients who use them in a variety of ways. Who are the winners here? Everyone involved!

Charitable organizations who work with our company know that they are taking no risks when offering exciting, eclectic travel packages for sale at their auctions. Now they can offer greater, more exotic packages, appealing to a larger audience than they might be able to otherwise obtain. No purchases are made until the packages are sold. And in the unlikely event that an offering doesn’t sell, there is no obligation to pay for the package. It is actually far more common that more than one package will sell, raising even more money for the cause.

Auction attendees benefit from the array of vacation packages and once-in-a-lifetime experiences (“Fighter Pilot for a Day,” “Shop 'Til You Drop!”) that we supply and can modify for the purchaser. Our unlimited supply of inventory means we can add packages to an event on the spot.

Employers and their employees benefit from consignment travel packages as well. For the employer, they can offer a unique, sometimes "one-of-a-kind" travel incentive travel package to a worthy employee, often providing more value than the actual cost. Additionally, the employer doesn't have to pay for the package until the employee earns or selects it. For the employee, it's a winning proposition as well. He or she knows they are receiving something special of great value. It's the proverbial "win-win" for everyone!!

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

May 15, 2013
By Sherry Truhlar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Visually attractive displays

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Why Recognition Works

May 07, 2013
One of the many reasons that people donate to their cause of choice is frankly, the joy of seeing their generosity rewarded, on a plaque for a modest donation, or a hospital wing or university chair if you are playing in the big leagues. Recognition of any kind stimulates loyalty, repeat performance and people just love to read or hear their own NAME!

There are some acknowledged practices that Mitch-Stuart, Inc. leaders in packaged auction travel recommend. Co-founders Stuart Paskow and Michelle Cohen say “Always thank a donor 3 times, even small recognition reinforces the power of the donation, stimulates loyalty to a brand and incents people.” However they caution, when thinking of ways to recognize your donors, be sure to consider their wishes, as some prefer to remain anonymous.

Here are some of the ways donor recognition works:
  • Provides positive public awareness  Companies will often participate in corporate philanthropy and as a result of their donations; the company name is touted publicly. This burnished image can also attract top talent as many employees look for companies with a good social responsibility track record.
  • Offers opportunity to stand out among their peers  Competition can be a good thing when it comes to donors making donations to your cause. If a potential donor sees a friend or co-worker being recognized on a plaque or press release, that potential donor could easily turn into an actual donor!
  • It lasts  Giving the donor a personalized keepsake or at another level, a name on a door, provides everlasting association with your cause and a positive reminder of your organization.
  • Stimulates loyalty to your organization  When donors are recognized by your organization, they are more likely to be loyal to you in the future. As a result of the recognition, they may donate more often or in larger amounts.
Whether the recognition is big or small, just make sure it happens! Make sure you say thank you in a meaningful way at least once, or else that person may think twice about donating to you in the future.


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The Quest for Younger Donors: Holy Grail or Tilting at Windmills?

April 30, 2013
By Tom Harrison

Is your CEO concerned that your donor base is aging? Is your board pressing you to target younger donors? Are your younger staff bemoaning the fact that your marketing materials aren’t relevant anymore?

They’re all wrong.

When I entered the direct response fundraising world in 1985, everyone was terrified that donor files were aging and that the younger folks, dubbed “baby boomers,” were not giving. What would we do?

Russ Reid, the founder of the firm that still bears his name, smiled and said, “Stop worrying; they’ll give when they turn 45.”

Sure enough, as they crossed the magic threshold, baby boomers have, indeed, become a most generous cohort and have fueled (and will continue to fuel) philanthropy for years.

Now that senior baby boomers are turning 65, some nonprofits are again frantic that their baby-boomer rich donor files are aging and that young people aren’t giving. Some are even investing big bucks in trying to get 20-40 year olds to give. And when it fails, they claim, in their most sincere revisionist tones, that the objective was really to engage and begin to build a relationship with these donors of the future. Puh-lease!

Your staff are likely far younger than your donors. My friend, Bernard Ross, often begins his brilliant sessions with nonprofit organizations by having people write five words on a piece of paper and keep it in front of them. The words? “I Am Not The Audience.” Your staff’s choice of media, design, messages, spokespeople, music and donating behavior is NOT the same as that of your donors.

We’ve all heard the argument that we need to target 20-40 year olds because we’ll have them on the file that much longer. Or because they’ll be more likely to give to us when they’re more ready and able to give.

I don’t buy it. In the first place, it’s cost-prohibitive from an ROI perspective to acquire 20-40 year olds as donors, and while the second argument is tempting, there is no proof I’ve ever seen that engaging the youngsters makes them more likely to recall and support that same organization when they do become donors.

Donor files are always aging. As they do, new generations take their place.

Simply put, we need to stop targeting people whom we wish would give, and target people who do give. Would McDonalds spend money targeting vegetarians because it is an under-represented audience in their stores? Want to know who really gives? Read James Wilson’s book, Who Really Cares. It’s an eye-opener.

Two questions to clarify the quest to find the elusive younger donors:
  1. What is the most important indicator of whether someone will give to a direct response appeal?
    Answer: whether they’ve given before. To any appeal. Or, better still, to you. People in their 20s and 30s likely haven’t.
     
  2. What is the second most important indicator of whether someone will give to a direct response appeal?
    Answer: Age. It’s a better predictor than household income, ethnicity, education levels or religion.
The accompanying chart from The Heart of the Donor Study confirms what we all should know from experience: Older donors give more, and are more generous and far more valuable to nonprofits than younger donors.

Donor age graph

What does this mean to you?

Rejoice in your older donors. Cultivate them well.

Invest in a strong planned giving program. Don’t leave it to chance. Take half of the next bequest you get and fund a couple years of planned giving work. It’ll be the best long-term ROI you’ll see.

Choose your media channels wisely. If your best donors are 55+ (they are), make sure you communicate with them via their preferred channels, not your staff’s preferred channels.

Don’t swing before the pitch. Don’t waste direct response fundraising budgets on 20-40 year olds until they enter the age group of donors. But do get them involved! They make a terrific volunteer base, they’re inexpensive to reach and engage through social media, and they can turbo-charge your advocacy programs.

OK, I take it back. Finally, remember when I said folks were wrong to try to get younger people to give? I was just getting your attention. It really depends on how you define “younger.” The Seniors and Boomers will continue to be provide the lion’s share of nonprofit donations in the decade to come. That’s where you should focus the lion’s share of your fundraising budget. But if the average age of your donor file is 65 or even 70+, you should be working to acquire “younger” donors: people in their late 40s and 50s.

by Tom Harrison, CEO of Russ Reid


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Destination Spotlight: Alaska’s Majestic Frontier

April 23, 2013
We are introducing this new monthly blog feature dedicated to showcasing the best in Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel to get your wanderlust wondering about wonderful excursions! This month’s destination spotlight is our seven night cruise vacation aboard the Royal Caribbean International to Alaska’s Majestic Frontier.

Alaska Cruise Drink in the splendor of the seas as you make your way along the Alaskan coast, in and out of passages, past fjords, and miles and miles of wilderness. With ports such as Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia, Royal Caribbean showcases the quintessential character of the Pacific Northwest.

The trip for two includes a seven night stay on the Royal Caribbean International in a Veranda Stateroom, gourmet meals, spas at sea, daily entertainment, and a range of shipboard activities.
Ketchikan The itinerary includes Vancouver, British Columbia; Inside Passage (cruising); Juneau, Alaska; Skagway, Alaska; Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska; Ketchikan, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington.

Some exciting experiences available at the ports include Alaskan salmon fishing, helicopter rides to view the glaciers, whale watching, polar and grizzly bear sightings, mountain climbing, and zip lining.
Alaska Whale One of the stops Skagway, Alaska offers a frontier atmosphere with saloons and dance hall. The Seattle stop offers lots of hiking, biking, and hitting the observation decks to see some of the amazing views.

You will view the most dramatic Alaskan glaciers while passing through the Tracy Arm Fjord, as well as the Hubbard Glacier, one of the fastest moving glaciers on the continent, while aboard this Alaskan cruise.
Alaska Glacier From the vastness of the glaciers, to the unique scenery and wildlife, this trip will really let you explore the wilderness. With such large territory to explore, the experts at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. provide the opportunity for visitors to make the trip their own and make it unforgettable.


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Beware the Hungry Road Warrior

April 16, 2013
Road warriors know certain truths. First, if you are trying to stretch the travel budget never, ever stay at the conference hotel. There is always a better deal, often right across the street. Second, clear Homeland Security early. It’s better to wait on the other side of the wall.

If flying out of San Francisco, you might want to get in line the night before the flight. It is without a doubt the worst of the major airports when it comes to clearing security.

That brings us to food. No real road warrior would pay United Airlines $7.99 for a microwaved cheese burger or $7.49 for a snack box of stuff you wouldn’t buy if you were on the ground. Real road warriors know where and when to eat. The food at airports is overpriced in all cases but you can get a decent meal if you know where to look.

A favorite place is in Houston at the George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport. In Terminal C you’ll find an area called Real Food. It’s cafeteria style. There’s everything from barbecue to salads to meatloaf to chicken and deli. It is airport pricing, but the portions are respectable. If I’m going to or through Houston, I wait to eat there.

My home airport is Newark Liberty International. The food there is early American shopping mall food court. For the trendoids, there’s a Crumbs Bake Shop if you want to spend $3.95 on a cupcake or $4.25 on a cannoli. There is a Gallagher’s Steakhouse in Terminal C. It’s nothing like its namesake in New York City and the food has been uneven in multiple tries. But, it’s probably the best of what Newark has to offer.

You would think that the food at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans would be mighty tasty. You’d be wrong. It’s got to be in the top five worst airports for food. Likewise, you’d think there would be decent food at Ronald Reagan International Airport with all of the important folks going through there. You’d be wrong again, although a Five Guys hamburger joint just opened.

Whenever one of those celebrity chefs opens a chain of eateries in airports you can expect to be disappointed, like I was at Cat Cora’s Kitchen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That isn’t the case in Chicago at O’Hare International Airport where Rick Bayless has opened Tortas Frontera. There’s a guacamole bar, soups, salads and breakfast sandwiches. The main attraction is the tortas, griddle-baked Mexican sandwiches with a variety of fillings such as beer-braised beef short ribs, chipotle chicken, garlicky shrimp and goat cheese. Here’s the best part. It has a list of the local farms from where the food was sourced.

It’s a long way from San Francisco International to downtown. Grab a cup of soup at the San Francisco Soup Company near Gate 80. They have a great variety of nice soups and, of course, some sour dough to go with it.

You don’t have to be hungry or under-nourished while on the road. To steal a phrase from celebrity chef Alton Brown, you can find good eats at the airport.

Paul Clolery is vice president and editorial director of NPT Publishing Group in Morris Plains, N.J., which publishes The NonProfit Times and its sister publication the magazine Exempt. He also has oversight responsibilities for the editorial content The NonProfit Times Online, the e-letters NPT Weekly, NPT Instant Fundraising, NPT TechnoBuzz, Exempt and NPTJobs.

Often a speaker for industry meetings and conferences, he has spoken at conferences of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, The American Society of Association Executives, The American Institue of Certified Public Accountants, The DMA Nonprofit Federation, the Blackbaud user conference, the Kintera user conference, the Convio user and the Sage Software user conferences. He also has been master of ceremonies for events at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


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The Importance Of Being Different

April 10, 2013
In some countries, they call it “tall poppy syndrome” — you’re different, you’ve achieved a lot and sometimes it breeds some jealousy. But in the business world, standing out because you do something different (and successfully) just makes you a leader in your “field.”

At Mitch Stuart, what sets us apart is our customer service. Of course most companies see themselves as providing excellent customer service. But we feel our brand of customer “care” goes beyond and as we spend a few days at the industry AFP conference seeing many of our long-time clients, we thought we’d take a moment to talk about our customer service differences.

First, let’s identify what creates good customer service. MSN Money which awards top customer service providers every year has isolated three traits which comprise “winners”

  • Good service starts at the top. Companies with great service have chief executives who make it their mission. They're not afraid to spend money, hire experts and structure the corporation around the goal of sterling service.
  • Service is seen as a continual challenge. Companies with outstanding customer service are more eager to talk about their continuing efforts than to accept praise for a job well done.
  • These are companies where people want to work. Companies that excel at customer service are often also known for providing relatively good pay and benefits. They trust their employees to make decisions, then routinely stand behind those decisions.

At Mitch Stuart we are pleased to be able to say we meet the above criteria and we would like to share some of our examples.

We have never been afraid to spend money and structure our business around “sterling service.” While other packaged trip providers offer travel which include blackout dates and restrictions for the folks who have purchased them, at a cost-savings to the provider but often a hassle and extra work for the purchaser.

“That’s not a vacation!” says MSI co-founder Michelle Cohen. “We went into business with the idea of providing a perfect, well-planned and nothing left-to-chance experience for our customers, and have done so for 20 years.”

A client visiting our booth this morning said it best, "Wow, that is so major that your packages allow our donors to travel from any airport and during holidays — and not be limited to only one airline and its major hub airports. That's HUGE!!! We really like your flexibility!"

But, at Mitch Stuart, we don’t believe in “laurel-resting” we confer with our clients regularly to see where we can fine-tune service to meet their needs. Our clients have told us that many travelers, in their excitement to  support an organization buy a trip to a destination even if it isn’t somewhere they really want to visit. We work with clients to accommodate them and allow them to trade their package for another destination.

Retaining top talent in any business is an ongoing challenge. At MSI we can report that most of our employees have been with us for an average of 8 years. We attribute some of the company loyalty to ways we have found to help keep employees working even when their lives have changed, by offering telecommuting and other flex scheduling.

But nothing speaks louder than client referrals and client repeat business. In those categories, MSI is humbled to be able to report that between 85 and 90% of our business is repeat.

What do your customers say about your customer service? Let us know in the comments.


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Why People Bid (Don’t Let Your Money Walk Out The Door)

April 02, 2013
You’re holding your next nonprofit auction, you have your announcer, your items for auction, the crowd of people, and you made sure to do plenty of publicity about your auction beforehand. Now, how do you ensure that your items actually get a bid? Two things to always consider before planning are the time of the auction (not so late that you risk losing some of your crowd) and use of a professional benefit auctioneer or a known personality with lots of pizazz.
 
Here are some other top tips from Mitch-Stuart, Inc.:
 
The opening bid is reasonable – If bidders find that the opening bid on a travel package is reasonably priced or lower than what they had expected, people are likely to bid on that item.
 
The item is popular – Seeing lots of other people bidding on a specific package will attract others to that package. If an item is popular among others at the auction, people will tend to feel that they too want the item.
 
The item is unique. . .The “WOW” Factor – Offering exceptional trips that an individual cannot purchase from going to a travel agent or website, is a great way to generate interest. If bidders cannot get this specific package or trip from anywhere else, then the package is worth more.

Added bonuses –
Anyone can offer a trip to Paris or a trip to Disney World, having those extra bonuses in with your package, makes your trip different. These include trips to spas at the place of your vacation, dinners at high-end restaurants, tours of the city, etc.
 
The trip is personal – Maybe the bidder went there for their honeymoon, or studied abroad in that country, or used to go to the place as a child, whatever the reason, this person would love to win the bid and get to travel to this place once again!
 
The chance to hobnob with “boldface names”! – Everyone has that one celebrity that they would pay any amount of money to meet, and here is their chance! Mitch-Stuart offers opportunities to attend the Grammy's with the after party, The Prime Time Emmys, Country Music Awards and the ESPYS (Sports Awards) and many other events where value-added can mean a start-studded affair!
 
What have you found helps your item get a bid at an auction?
 

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Tricks of Trade Show Attendees (Get the Most Bang from Each Booth Visit)

March 26, 2013
In early April, the Mitch-Stuart team will be attending the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference on Fundraising, always a great opportunity to see old friends and associates in the industry and make new ones. Often times attendees just…attend. Here are some ways to maximize a trade show visit so you come away with great business-building information and contacts. Hope to see you there.

Be a Hunter/Gatherer! Get a hold of the show directory and plot your path to make sure you visit booths that provide some combination of these three elements — education, entertainment and free stuff — but make sure it is meaningful to your company and not stuff for stuff’s sake. Only visit vendors whose products and services advance your own.

Namely, names Successful trade show attendees come away with a slew of names and email addresses. Use every opportunity to make a connection — as an attendee, every booth sponsor will want your contact information — but there are several other categories of trade show visitor such as media, or potential business partners that are very valid relationships to foster.

Time is NOT on your side Don’t let a booth rep squander your time. You can size up your needs (particularly if you did the advance work from the first tip) and politely extricate yourself from someone who cannot positively answer this question — “Does your product or service advance my own?”

Remember Trade Show 101 Dress comfortably! Hydrate! Don’t go to every soiree! And, importantly, document your visit — take cell phone photos of remarkable booths, take notes during meetings with useful contacts and attend smart talks and breakout sessions.

Bask in the Afterglow For five minutes, then follow up with your new friends! A quick note, an invitation to phone or Skype, don’t let anyone go un-contacted after the show. This is often the time when “real deals” are sealed.

Got any trade (show) secrets you’d like to share?


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A Different Take on Appealing to Alumni Associations

March 19, 2013
Has your annual donation drive failed to drive donations? Has your donor base “checked out” when it comes to writing checks? Soliciting hard earned dollars from anyone for anything takes a lot of hard work and finesse especially in this economy. Sometimes it’s timing, sometimes it’s the approach, or sometimes it’s a combination. If the end result is low end donations, you might want to consider offering something new to your base.

When you analyze it, even if people care deeply for a cause, if the pitch is “been there, done that,” it may not resonate. So your job as a development director/fundraiser then becomes figuring out a way to excite and energize alumni beyond “Hey we’re your school, please write us a check.”
 
The answer may be as simple as making more money for your association and less work for you. As we have reported in this blog before, people today crave experiences, particularly customized experiences that represent a check-mark on a list of “things I’ve always wanted to do.”
 
Why not offer your alumni risk-free custom-designed travel packages that are in fact a reward for being an alumni? This offer should be presented to your audience as an opportunity for a great vacation that will also result in some funding for your alma mater. It can be viewed as the ultimate win-win!

Specialized travel companies offer exciting creative packages at steep discounts, through a website created especially for the association. There is no cash layout or cold-calling every store in town. The association pockets a percentage from each sale of a trip. Some examples of these extraordinary experiences include sojourns to Sonoma’s wine country including a private tour, a magnificent trip to Paris which features a cooking class at L’Atelier Des Sens or a shopping excusion to New York. There are so many options.

An experienced company will work with you to:
  • Design trips your members would want
  • Come up with creative ways to make the trips available such as raffles; offers on your website etc.
  • Create a “wow” factor for your organization and better yet, the target audience
  • Help you to market the travel program to get the highest possible participation

Travel is such an exciting option for associations and their members and distinctly different. Have you had success working with custom-designed travel packages and your association? We would love to know about your experience!


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Maximize your Memories (Creative Tools for Documenting your Trip)

March 12, 2013
Looking to “upgrade” the memories you make on your upcoming trip? Here are some creative tips to digitally and traditionally keep your vacations alive long after you’ve landed. Face it, “plain vanilla” photo albums are so 15 minutes ago!

If you like to take photos:
Use Flickr! Flickr is one of the most popular photo sharing applications. It allows you to upload photos through your phone, the web, or your email. You can add tags, your location, as well as people to your photos, to help remember the specific moment. Once you upload your photos to Flickr you can then easily share them on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog. While on Flickr you can see others photos that have been uploaded of the place you’re visiting, which can give you ideas of where to see next.

If you like to write:
Keep a blog! You can create a free online blog using sites like WordPress and Blogger. This way you can document your daily activities while on the trip as well as your personal feelings and insights. Your blog can then be shared with your friends through Facebook or Twitter. Get into a routine of doing this as often as possible, maybe each night when you are back at your hotel before going to bed.

If you like to take a piece of the place with you:
Collect mementos! Keep everything you can from the place you are visiting. And not just the obvious things that you can get at the gift shop like post cards and mugs, but real stuff that represents your specific trip. These can be tickets from a show you went to, a brochure about the hotel, your bus or subway card, anything and everything that you want to remember. Take all of these things when you get home and put them in a scrapbook or make a collage!

If you want to do a combination of all of the above:
Use Trip Journal! Trip Journal is the perfect travel application for when you want to document your upcoming trip all in one place! With Google Earth integration, Trip Journal allows friends and family to easily see your traveling routes, waypoints for visited destinations — including address and location, full screen photos, videos, comments and notes, as your journey unfolds. Once you return from your trip, you can always go back and access your memories in the archive.

What’s your favorite way to document your trips and vacations, so that you will always have the memories when you get home?


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Millennials and Philanthropy: Major Stars or Bit Players?

March 04, 2013
With 20+something CEOs and business leaders like Mark Zuckerberg making meaningful donations to pet causes, it is time to take a closer look at this generation and view its potential as a force in future philanthropy.

According to the first ever research project of potential Gen X and Millennial major donors, conducted by the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University with input and assistance from 21/64, a non-profit consulting practice,
"The next generation of major donors has the potential to be the most transformative philanthropists in history". "The Gen Xers and Millennials who are inheriting the $40 trillion wealth transfer, along with those making their own wealth, will control unprecedented amounts of philanthropic resources."

The researchers note this phenomenon—large amount of wealth along with assets passed to decendants through pre-bequest transfers and the amount of new wealth created—has lead some observers to predict a new "golden age of philanthropy".

Key points to consider on how these major donors differ from previous generations of major givers:

Driven by VALUES NOT VALUABLES  Values will drive them--not the trappings that go along with having wealth. The data says these values have more often than not been learned from parents and grandparents.

IMPACT FIRST!!  These next gen major donors highlight the importance of strategy for the future of the field. "They see philanthropic strategy as the major distinguishing factor between themselves and previous generations and see previous generations as more motivated by desire for recognition or social requirements, while seeing themselves as focused on impact first and foremost!"

TIME, TALENT AND TIES  Once engaged, these next gen donors want to go "all in." Giving without significant hands-on engagement feels to them like a hollow investment with little assurance of impact. They want to develop close relationships with organizations or causes they support. This group also wants to listen and offer their own professional or personal talents, all in order to solve problems together.

CRAFTING THEIR OWN PHILANTHROPIC IDENTITIES   Most of these young people say they will do this through their own personal experience. They learn most from "seeing and doing" or even hearing from others about their own authentic experiences of seeing and doing. Rather than waiting until the sunset of their lives, these next gen donors want to actively craft their identities now and actively think about their own legacies.
 
Bottom line: They are different, more strategic, with a strong desire to be active much earlier in their lives and, as noted at the outset, have the potential to become the most significant philanthropists ever.
 
We would love to hear any ideas you have for creating/forging relationships with Gen-Xers and Millennials or any examples of personal success with this group.


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The New Medium is Still the Message!

February 26, 2013
Don't be intimidated by internet jargon, embrace it.
 
Last week, we talked how those in non-profit marketing can make social/digital media work harder for them. We stressed that you should indeed "get in the game" — but have reasonable expectations. It's not the "be-all, end-all" — but a new element that should be included in your marketing mix.
 
We thought it would make sense to round out the discussion this week by covering a couple of BASIC principals you need to consider when thinking about the digital marketing and your organization. Many non-profits find themselves in one of two scenarios when establishing an online presence:
 
  1. You don't have a website and will be launching one sometime in the near future (yes Virginia, there are still people out there who aren't represented on the internet!!)
  2. You do have a website that has been up for a while but isn't attracting more "eyeballs.”
 
These two situations came to mind for us recently when a non-profit client was curious about how they could get more "hits" or "eyeballs" to their website. Should they be sending out more press releases about their site? (which obviously you can do). Should they link their site to other relevant sites? (which you also can do). But online marketers can do more.
 
Start with these two questions: What have you done to maximize site potential i.e. steps to ensure "SEO"? What are you doing in "Key Word Optimization?"
 
Our client looked at us like we were from Mars!
 
When we explained what SEO meant — "Search Engine Optimization" — they immediately "got it.” SEO is the method of ensuring that search engines — Google, Bing and the like — list your organization and/or website when someone types in a relevant non-profit category and/or locale and hits "search." SEO makes certain that your entity is on the "pop up" list. WHERE on the list will depend on whether you pay the search engine for a specific placement i.e. you want to be #1 or among the top three etc.
 
By working with a top search engine-utilizing SEO, our non-profit friend dramatically increased the number of visitors to his site.
 
It was a similar experience in our discussion regarding "Key Word Optimization." Our non-profit collegues didn't know that certain words or phrases, based on their relevance to a category or high volume use on search engines, can trigger visits to your website. You can contact the Googles and Bings of this world and work with them on finding the most pertinent words and phrases to help maximize these potential website hits. The cost varies from search engine to search engine.
 
Now that you are more educated about digital, social, blogs, internet, websites, SEO and Key Word Optimization, feel free to explore the web at will!


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How Non-Profits Can Profit from all the Tools in the Marketing Tool Box

February 20, 2013
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the blogosphere — the list of social and digital platforms grows every day. And with this growth comes the belief among marketers that each will be the future savior of the brand, company, and product or in our case, the non-profit. Conventional wisdom — demonstrated by the tremendous numbers of eyeballs and viewers these vehicles attract — is that each entity can navigate the new landscape and leverage some or all of what is available.

We've taken the plunge at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. and believe we're laying the foundation for our future in this arena.

No doubt you should get involved in the social-digital media "space" — but there is a caveat. We were speaking with a friend recently who is the Director of New Media for a large, well-known multi-national ad agency. His specialty is social-digital experiences.

With everyone looking to him and his "bag of new tricks" as the proverbial silver bullet for a renewed and revitalized success for their brand or product, his honest response was:

"I'm just a ‘new tool in the tool box.’ We still need to be doing traditional marketing activities with traditional media IN CONCERT WITH a social-digital media effort. We are not a stand-alone function who will save the day. We can add new dimension, new ways of reaching our target audiences — but we work best when we all work together."

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc. — we're successfully doing traditional marketing — with the added power of social and digital efforts — and here are some of the benefits we are seeing.

Facebook — In mere months we've designed a page that serves as a sounding board for ideas such as contests and photo displays and we now have a presence in this "must-have" medium. We also use Facebook to link to our newly created blog and highlight news of the company.

Twitter — In 140 characters or less, every day we tweet out news of interest to potential customers and clients. We have seen our followers grow, re-tweet, favorite our comments and we reciprocate to other like-minded "tweeters" in the travel/non-profit space. We're not only generating buzz about our company, but of industry news and trends.

YouTube — Here is a situation where we are exploring to find the best way to use the platform. We recommend strategizing the best way to use each of the tools to reach your audience and tell your story.

Blog — The Mitch-Stuart blog you are reading provides a place for us to demonstrate our expertise as well as give "shout-outs" to great clients with great stories to tell. We see our posts linked to other companies and do the same for theirs. Our blog also helps to provide us with ideas for direct mail, publicity and our upcoming newsletter. It also gives us the opportunity to comment on timely topics and start conversations with readers.

Stay tuned, there's a lot more to come!


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Oscar Goes Traveling

February 12, 2013
And the Oscar goes to… YOU!

Have you ever fantasized about going to the location of your favorite movie, walking the streets the characters walked, and pretending to be a part of their experience? Well, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers packages that give you the chance to do just that! Below are examples of some of our packages that serve as themes and locations for Oscar-nominated movies.


Silver Linings Poster Image Silver Linings Playbook — Silver Linings Playbook has been nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture. In the movie, the main character, Pat, attends a Philadelphia Eagles game that his father has bet a lot of money on, as his good luck charm. Mitch-Stuart offers a trip for two to any regular season NFL football game, such as a Philadelphia Eagles game.  Hopefully you can be a better good luck charm for your team than Pat was!


Les Misérables — Also nominated for Best Picture is Les Misérables, a film that takes place in early 19th century France. Mitch-Stuart offers six different French packages that include hotels all over Paris, including the Marriot Champs-Elysees and the Hotel Le Littre. One of our trips to Paris includes a trip for six days and five nights, including a cooking class at L'Atelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris, a Tour of Paris, Lunch at Altitude 95 at the Eiffel Tower, and a cruise down the River Seine. From learning how to make macaroons, croissants, and the quintessential French baguette, you’ll take home the best souvenir of all: French culinary savoir-faire! Les Misérables Poster Image
Snow White and The Huntsman Poster Image Snow White and The Huntsman — Colleen Atwood is nominated for Best Costume Design in Snow White and The Huntsman. Snow White and the Huntsman is a modern take on the classic story of Snow White. Although this film was not a children’s movie, a trip to Disney World is a great way to enjoy the Snow White we all know and love. Mitch-Stuart offers Disney fans a family trip for four to Orlando, Florida for five days & four nights at the Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, including three-day My Way Passes to Disney World.  At Disney World you’ll be sure to enjoy rides and attractions, and of course Snow White and all the Disney characters!

Beasts of the Southern Wild — Beasts of the Southern Wild is nominated for Best Picture, among other awards. The movie takes place in a fictional Louisiana town, Bathtub. Mitch-Stuart offers a trip for two to New Orleans, Louisiana for five days and four nights at the JW Marriott New Orleans, including a Dinner Jazz Cruise, a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking and a $200 Commander's Palace Gift Card. To get more of the feel of the film, visit Isle de Jean Charles, not far from New Orleans, which is where the film was shot. Beasts of the Southern Wild Poster Image

Life of Pi Poster Image Life of Pi — Life of Pi, which is nominated for Best Picture, tells the story of young Pi who sets sail to Canada with his family. After a storm hits the ship he is found on a rescue boat alone, but with the company of a Bengal tiger. Unlike Pi, you CAN make it to Canada on a Mitch-Stuart trip; we offer trips throughout the country! You can enjoy resorts and hotels in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Vancouver. One of our trips to British Columbia includes a trip for two for five days & four nights at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler and a $600 Fairmont gift card for ski lift tickets. Chateau Whistler is a top-ranked ski area in North America, and was home of the 2010 Olympics.

Without a doubt, Oscar certainly logs his miles! These trips are a great way to reward a movie buff, or generate a standing ovation at your next auction; but we have more where they came from! Be sure to check out our catalog for the rest of our trip selection.


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Cruising for Unique Fundraiser Venues?

February 05, 2013
By guest bloggers Jay and Corinne Fiske Northwest Benefit Auctions

How many times have you ripped open an invitation to a fundraiser only to see that the venue is [yawn] another hotel? Hotels are great, but if you really want to woo and wow your crowd, think outside the ballroom and get creative with some of these location options.

Cruise Ship
  • It’s already a party atmosphere
  • The demographics of the attendees should be excellent
  • No one can leave early!
  • Lots of lovely onboard “real estate” for live and silent auction locations
  • Duration of a cruise means many previews of the silent auction items
  • Lots of ways to co-promote: Your mailing list, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets
  • Cruise lines love the ability to market directly to potential “cruisers” through the internal network of the organizations. It is a win/win for everyone, and an experience which will be long remembered.
Museum
  • Spaces often provide large, varied and unusual settings
  • Knowledgeable, experienced on-hand staff a helpful asset
  • “Behind-the-scenes,” insider tours are powerful lures
  • Museums and other cultural institutions often cash-strapped and make very willing partners
  • Ability to leverage museum member mailing list/social media platforms a plus
Stadiums
  • Informal, less-stuffy atmosphere perfect for the right fundraiser
  • Fun catering options on-site
  • Ability to procure team memorabilia/ticket packages to add to silent and live auctions
  • Offer of VIP tours to guests as part of event
  • Marketing via non-traditional “sports” platforms (social media too!)
What is important to remember when working with these and other out-of-the-ordinary locations is, although providing a non-typical venue is great for your cause, these spaces do bring along their own "unique logistics challenges" but the benefits will win out.

Savvy planners will sell the space on the inherent “win-win” of hosting a fundraising event there. Here is an approach we have found successful.

When proposing your fundraiser idea to the facility manager, agree to market the specific event to your mailing list, post on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, and become part of their viral marketing efforts. Some good examples of organizations that have the depth of contacts to make this “quid pro quo” relationship work are:
  • National trade associations
  • Alumni associations
  • Major health and research organizations
  • Nationally associated church groups
  • Class reunions
  • Corporate organizations wanting to give back to good causes while combining a little work
  • Fraternal and service organizations
You get the idea. Smart, forward-thinking venues have the ability to market directly to their target audience through the internal network of the organizations. It is a win/win for everyone, and ideally provides an experience which will be long remembered.


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It’s Good To Be Choosy: How We Select and Package Travel for Our Customers

January 29, 2013
A bit of an art, a bit of a science — that sums up our approach to selecting the most intriguing travel packages for non-profits to use as auction fundraisers.

The “art” part comes from our experienced insights into what donors want to buy. We ask ourselves, do the packages appeal to a wide enough audience, yet exude cool “gotta-go-there panache? Have we heard about them in travel circles or popular media? At the same time, we ask ourselves will it appeal to enough audiences and can we make it fit auction budgets.

For example, as cool as a trip to Iceland may be (brrr, very cool) it might be still too “off the beaten path” to get enough takers to make it worthwhile. We compare new ideas to “hot sellers” — trips to clamored-for top destinations such as our shopping spree trip to New York City and our Napa Valley Wine Tour.

Have we ever miscalculated? Chosen a package that just didn’t draw the way we thought it would? Yes, and we learned from the experiences. For example, our trip to Thailand, which not only included a tour around the country but also an elephant ride, river rafting, and cultural show, didn’t draw the appeal at auctions that we were hoping for.

When considering a new trip, we also ask ourselves — Is it special enough? For example, as long as tickets to coveted sports and entertainment events are still very hard to come by, we will use our connections to make them available.

Speaking of “our connections,” here is where the “science” part of the job comes in. At Mitch-Stuart, we have spent the better part of the last 20 years developing, honing and nurturing a wide and diverse breadth of relationships in the luxury travel world. These trusted relationships are part of what separates our business from some of the more formulaic companies offering packaged travel today.

When someone returns from a Mitch-Stuart trip, their feedback is important to us. We also try to glean good information from them on their experience to help determine whether to keep that trip — and then to build more like it. It is relationships with both our suppliers and our recipients that help us stay “choosy” when choosing travel packages.
Any travel packages you’d like to see us choose?


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A Fundraising Success Story

January 22, 2013
Open Avenues empowers people with disabilities, age 16 and over, to reach their full potential. They offer job training and a life skills program to help these adults become self-sufficient.
 
This organization, with the help of Allison McElroy, Foundation Director, would like to share some of their secrets to fundraising success.
 
Open Avenues has worked with Mitch-Stuart Inc. for the past six years on their Spring Fling event. Prior to partnering with Mitch-Stuart, Open Avenues relied mainly on local merchants to donate auction items. Since working with Mitch-Stuart, this reliance on local merchants (and the inherent “donor burnout”) has disappeared producing more successful and lucrative auction events.
 
“Deluxe vacation packages provided by Mitch-Stuart are the most popular items at our auction,” says McElroy. “The Mitch Stuart model works so well for us since we don’t have to pay for anything that is not sold.”
 
She goes on to say that the company helps her plan each year by recommending “hot” and popular destinations. McElroy then reviews what her audience has selected in the past and what she knows about their likes and dislikes to create a potent and popular mix of experiences.
 
The best news? Open Avenues credits the addition of Mitch-Stuart trips with a consistent increase in donations year over year.
 
Want to emulate Open Avenues’ auction success? McElroy offers some tips:
  • Tap fundraiser guests who have taken a particular trip to act as roaming ambassadors, or “PR people” to talk about their positive experiences and help influence others to bid on them.
  • Creatively package trips at live auction — McElroy offered a “Bros on the Go” trip using Mitch-Stuart’s attractive offer of tickets to any major pro sporting event. By combining two of these trips, the organization made a great way for four friends to go. She then followed that up with a “Girl’s Weekend” version as well, packaging two trips to New York City for an expansive girlfriend weekend.
  • Tantalize your guests in advance with sneak peeks at the Mitch-Stuart catalogue to whet appetites and get people pre-planning what they want to bid on.
  • Keep up with your audience’s changing taste, adjust which packages you offer accordingly.
  • Time your event previews and vacation package “sneak peeks” to when people receive tax refunds or bonuses to help them fantasize about how they might spend such funds.
May this advice help you with your next auction!

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2013 Crystal Ball: Travel Trends and Fundraisers

January 16, 2013
Even though we only just barely escaped the fiscal cliff and the Mayan calendar and we still have the debt ceiling to worry about, top travel prognosticators are forecasting upturns all around the industry. This is good news if you are planning a charity fundraiser and worrying about donations.
 
Take a look at some of the trends we are tracking as you plan your winter/spring events.
 
“Modern Family” Vacation
You, your kids, your parents, the in-laws — everyone’s invited on these multi-generational, often money-saving family getaways.  With people looking for economical ways to travel and keep their family close (“we never see the grandchildren”) group bookings are more popular than ever. Some cities we like for the “family that plays together” include Telluride, Colorado, Maui, Hawaii and of course Disney resorts. (Mitch-Stuart Hot Trips)
 
Friend, Share, Like, BOOK!
Just saw your FB friend’s fabulous photos from Down Under? Your college roommate tweeting his jaunt to Jakarta? Someone you don’t know at all pin some “food porn” from Paris on Pinterest? You may be suffering from a case of “vacation envy” that can only be cured by booking a similar trip. Social sharing may be the best advertising going right now. Smart planners will scan social sites and see who’s wandering where as a guide to planning some 2013 excursions.
 
Unwind, Unplug
Digital detox is predicted to be high on travelers’ to-do lists this year. Savvy planners will look for destinations without WIFI for this crowd. Locales offering deluxe loafing like Nevis, West Indies or St. Kitts, should be included in auction items you are considering (know your crowd of course before you offer) 
 
Travel & the Big Game (er Games)
Once-in-a-lifetime events and sporting spectacles occupy a spot on many a bucket list, but if the 2012 Olympics in London are any indicator, people want to check that item off pronto! And there are so many opportunities all over the world from serious soccer matches to Formula 1 and the NFL to the Masters Tournament in Augusta, GA or the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.
 
Death of the Staycation
There’s a lot of pent-up demand to see the world!  Many who lost jobs, were downsized or just felt the need to be thrifty are seeing some financial light at the end of their tunnels and are itching to explore! Experienced auction planners know that means, adding some “dream trips” such as private tours of Rome or Florence complete with top-notch cooking lessons, Napa Valley Wine Trips, New Orleans, New York or even the Primetime Emmy Awards and Governor’s Ball in Los Angeles.
 
All in all, we at Mitch-Stuart are looking forward to a spectacular travel year and we would love to hear your opinions on some “hot spots” for 2013. For more information on any of the trips listed above click here.

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10 Deadly Sins of Benefit Auctions

January 08, 2013
Part II
How To Wreck Your Charity Auction Fundraiser
By Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS

Welcome to the second half of Kathy Kingston’s expert advice for your next auction fundraiser.

6. End with Your Live Auction
This costly mistake will kill your bottom line. Do NOT wait until after dinner or after entertainment to raise money. Why? It’s too late and by that time many of your guests are tired, inattentive or worst yet — gone. You cannot raise money when your supporters are driving home in their car! It is imperative to strategically schedule your Live Auction and Fund a Need Appeal EARLY in the event when your guests are attentive, awake and ready to bid. You will maximize fundraising when you position your Live Auction and Fund a Need Appeal before or during dinner. Save awards and entertainment for your grand finale.

7. Ignore Inviting the Right Guests
This fundraising folly has two dire consequences: failure to optimize giving during the auction and loss of future philanthropic support. First, fill your venue with guests who have the capacity to bid and give generously at your auction beyond just buying a ticket to your gala. Second, position your charity auction as a cultivation and relationship building opportunity so that you can turn bidders into long term donors. With this ideal approach you can follow up with your generous bidders and invite them to become more deeply involved in your organization. Remember the first rule of fundraising: “People give to people — not causes.”

8. Stay in the Dark

This often overlooked blunder can easily be prevented. Dim dinner style lighting will lose thousands of dollars and put your beloved supporters to sleep. Illuminate your silent auction brightly. Turn up house lights up fully during the Live Auction and Fund a Need Appeal; light the stars of your event — your guests. Never spotlight your auctioneer — it’s impossible to see bidders. Brighten up your venue and your fundraising results will shine.

9. Keep It Noisy
Nothing spells fundraising auction disaster more than an audience that does not pay attention and where no one can hear the auctioneer or your success stories. Benefit Auctions require a unique sound system that is different from any other event. Never use the built-in house sound and avoid the band’s sound system because neither is adequate for your auctioneer to raise more money. Invest in a professional sound company and use powered speakers on stands that surround your audience. A professional sound system will pay for itself many times over and improve your guest’s experience so you can maximize your fundraising!

10. Don’t Have Any Fun
People spend more money when they are enjoying themselves. Did you know that the #1 reason people attend an auction is to have fun? (MORPACE 2008) Infuse your benefit auction with interactive income activities that rain money such as Heads and Tails, Premium Dessert Frenzy, Sign Up Party Boards, Super Silent Auctions, Centerpiece Auctions, Gift Card Sweep, Auction Chicken, Wild Card Auctions, Pot of Gold and much more! Propel your profit and add fun ideas to get those bid cards waving!

© Kathy Kingston 2013  All rights reserved.
www.kingstonauction.com  603-926-1919
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10 Deadly Sins of Benefit Auctions

January 03, 2013
(Part I)
How To Wreck Your Charity Auction Fundraiser

By Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS

This week guest blogger and auctioneer extraordinaire Kathy Kingston brings us Part I of a two-part post featuring must–DON’Ts for successful auction fundraisers. Read on and stay tuned for Part II next week.

1. Leave Money in the Room
THE most expensive mistake you can make is using a volunteer amateur auctioneer. Why risk it? Retaining an experienced professional fundraising auctioneer can increase your net auction profits from 20% to over 300% immediately. Uniquely experienced and dedicated to maximizing fundraising, a professional benefit auctioneer does not cost — it pays!

2. Don’t Ask for Funds
It’s financial suicide is avoid a Fund a Need Special Appeal. Let’s face it, not everyone wants or needs a live or silent auction item. Create this opportunity for everyone to contribute to your great cause at a level that is meaningful to them. Ignite generosity with a well conducted, inspiring Fund A Need that that can literally double your live auction profits in just 10 minutes!

3. Offer Too Many Auction Items That No One Wants
This catastrophic calamity will insure that you lose thousands of dollars. First, be sure to match your auction items to the unique profile of what your auction guests really want. Second, less is more. Reduce the number of auction items and focus on fewer unique items that produce bigger results. Make sure your organization procures hot auction items that keep driving excitement and interest — items that fulfill fantasies and dream vacations and experiences that are unique to your supporters. And remember to consider adding consignment items to complement your donated items to add excitement and dollars.

4. Plan a Party and Forget Fundraising
An epic error is to plan your auction fundraiser like it’s your social soiree, business function or even worst a wedding. Focus first on fundraising — not your centerpieces, entertainment nor the color of tablecloths — all which raise zero dollars. Remember, your charity auction is often one of your biggest fundraisers of the year. You simply cannot afford to lose precious dollars or support in this new economy. Strategically design your benefit auction to emphasize your unique mission and how your donors can make a difference. Proudly promote your cause and emphasize that the reason “Why We Are Here” is to raise funds so that your guests can change lives and improve your community.

5. Bore Your Audience
The quickest way to lose money and momentum at your benefit auction is to sedate your guests with a string of talking-head long speeches. Just say No BS. (No Boring Speeches!) Insist on a few well placed brief inspiring remarks that emphasize first person testimonials and your success stories. Capture the hearts and wallets of your guests and showcase your cause and your transformational results.

© Kathy Kingston 2013  All rights reserved.
www.kingstonauction.com  603-926-1919

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Make Your 2013 Luxury Travel Packages Work Harder!

December 26, 2012
This year, resolve to make the exclusive travel packages your audience wants — even more desirable!

Start by gaining more insight into your customer and your marketplace so you can increase your understanding of what your audience truly wants in luxury travel offerings.

The 2012 Virtuoso® Luxe Report has started the work for you by citing five of the current biggest travel trends. Test your knowledge with the answers below.

Here are some other ways you can get started today.

HOT SPOTS. Of course you learn about all of the must-do destinations from the travel and hospitality trades, but what about People Magazine and Page 6 of the New York Post? Be sure to add these and other beacons of boldface names to your reading list along with hotel and travel publications to stay on top of all the trends.

SURVEY SAYS! Survey your clients. A simple online survey can be a goldmine of information. Well-worded questions can yield donor wish lists for auction items but can also give you some ownable research you can highlight on social media sites; tout to others you do business with (or want to) as well as offer to certain industry media.

GET OUT. To trade shows in your industry, of course, be it fundraising or something specific to your field, but think outside the booth as well — travel to consumer shows, food and wine shows — even fashion and gift shows can open your eyes to interesting auction offerings as well as to new and original marketing and packaging ideas. Not to mention that every outing is a potential conduit to customers.

IT’S A MINDSET. We all know the importance of downtime and unplugging, but while you are updating your Facebook status or making sure you saw every episode of your Showtime or HBO fave, be thinking like your customer….how do they unwind? What do they read? This process can lead to new ways to understand and communicate with customers and perhaps differentiate you from the competition.

(Answers)
  1. Family and multi-generational travel
  2. River cruises
  3. Active or adventure trips
  4. Luxury cruises
  5. Celebration travel

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2013 Donor Do’s And Don’ts

December 18, 2012
Donors are the lifeblood of fundraising organizations. And in the multi-faceted, donor-demanding world we live in, it is easy to see how a donor base can become fatigued. As a New Year’s resolution, why don’t you ensure your organization initiates donor appreciation by following these simple “do’s and don’ts”.

DO learn the art of “narrowcasting.” Show your organization’s smarts by strategically targeting those most likely to give instead of setting your sights on quantity over quality.

DO listen to your donors. Take their critiques seriously, acknowledge their wisdom and attention to your cause and demonstrate change based on their recommendations.

DO thank donors, early and often! It is human nature to yearn for appreciation for a job well done. Engender continued participation and warm feelings with simple heartfelt thanks, expressed in a timely manner.

DO give equal time (as hectic schedules permit) to small donors. A big pool of small donors is as invaluable as its opposite! Additionally, by cultivating small donors, you will migrate some into the bigger donor ranks.

DON’T burn out your volunteers. Volunteers keep your non-profit ship afloat and being tasked too often to do the same rote tasks can sour even the most devoted. Listen to them as well and incorporate their suggestions. Keep the tasks rotating so volunteers can experience each aspect of your organization and find something they can truly hang their hat on.

DON’T constantly ask for money. If you try going to the well too often, it will run dry.  Contributors don't want to feel obligated ALL the time to find money.

DON’T make the mistake of not cultivating new donors — let people know your mission and always have an “elevator speech” prepared.

DON’T send form letters to big donors (sometimes with mass mailings a form letter is a must) but to your loyal enthusiasts, the personal touch is demanded!

Most importantly, keep striving for more dialogue with your donors. With the advent of social media, there are many platforms for two-way conversation but that is not carte blanche to forego the occasion for coffee or lunch!

Do you have any do’s and don’ts you’d like to share?
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Are You Ready for Your Holiday Fundraiser?

December 11, 2012
During this hectic holiday season, your holiday fundraiser may have to work a bit harder as it competes with other social gatherings such as office parties. According to a recent survey from Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc., the number of businesses planning a year-end party is up 83 percent year over year.

In addition, 17 percent of responders said that more money is being budgeted for their event in 2012, and 10 percent said this would be their first year back on the scene, having gone one or more years without one.

No one can attend every event they are invited to, are you armed with enough “bells and whistles” to make your end-of-year fundraiser stand out in a crowd of various invitations? Here are some things to consider as the date approaches.

Increase Awareness – Yes, you can keep increasing awareness as the date approaches. Take advantage of online news sites (see the local “Patch” news outlet and others in your community). These sites often allow one to post event information directly on the website. Also send media alerts and updates to daily newspapers, local TV stations and radio outlets.

The Personal Touch – This can be as sophisticated as timed reminder e-mailings or text messages to those as-yet-to-RSVP, or as “old-school” as making personal calls to encourage attendance.

Get Social – Even in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, savvy event planners can cut through the clutter and engage invitees through simple social media channels. Is your event on Facebook? Does it have its own hash tag and are committee members tweeting on a daily basis? Be sure to research what other social media sites resonate with your attendees.

And hurry up! The clock is ticking. Get more gala ideas here at the Mitch Stuart website and we would love to learn any of your fundraiser tips!
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If You Think the World of Your Employees, Give it to Them!

December 04, 2012
Okay, maybe not the world, but certainly a well-deserved glimpse of it. Corporate incentive travel programs are a powerful way to tell an employee, “Job well done” even in this uncertain economy. According to a recent survey by MeetingsNet.com, although one-fifth of respondents are expecting cuts in their incentive travel budgets, 48% expect them to remain the same and 31% expect a slight increase.

So, what are some of the best ways to design and implement a successful incentive travel program? We asked Mitch-Stuart Inc. SVP, Business Development Michael Upp to share his top tips.
  1. Identify your goals Incentive travel can be used to motivate employees, reward current customers or attract new ones as well as increase sales of a product or service. It is crucial to decide at the outset what your desired outcome is so you can plan and select a package accordingly.
  2. Create a plan and budget Determine who is eligible, how you are going to communicate your offering, the duration of the program and give it a working title to help get the creative juices flowing. Budget will dictate the types of rewards you can offer, but rest assured there is a corporate travel package to fit any budget. A good rule of thumb for an overall budget is as follows:

          Rewards – 80%
          Promotion and Communications – 10%
          Administration – 5%
          Training and Research – 5%
     
  3. Select the rewards Companies such as Mitch-Stuart offer everything from a lavish Hawaiian of European vacation to a sports, shopping or sightseeing-themed package. You can scale back to simply domestic airfare or go the other way with a deluxe Kenyan safari or “Top Gun” experience.
  4. Promote! Maximize your results by getting the word out with all the tools at your disposal - use direct mail, email, newsletters, mobile marketing and more to stay in touch with your target.
  5. Measure the results Put measurement tactics in place to gauge the effectiveness of your program. Was the target audience motivated? Did you see a measurable increase in employee satisfaction? In customer loyalty? Measurement will help you determine what worked and what can be improved for the next time.
If you have some examples of successful corporate incentive programs, please share them in our comments section.

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Tis the Season for Direct Marketing Appeals!

November 27, 2012
Fifty million pieces of charity mail are delivered on average per day.  However, it is likely that one from your organization was just tossed in the trash yesterday, leaving you scratching your head, trying to figure out why that letter was never opened.

Direct mail fundraising accounts for the majority of the roughly $300 billion contributed annually in the U.S. That’s right. The bulk of charitable money isn’t from foundations or corporations. It’s from folks like you and me writing checks for 10 bucks.

Direct mail fundraising is both an art and a science. It’s conceiving, producing and mailing the right appeal to the right list or donor prospects at the right time and measuring the result.

In its modern form, direct mail fundraising appeared in the United States after World War II when nationwide charities such as the National Easter Seal Society sought ways to broaden its fundraising base. It was only with the advent in the 1960s of the ZIP code and, later, the computer that direct mail fundraising began to gain wide use.

The use of direct mail fundraising spread during the 1970s, when computer technology quickly allowed direct mail to become how most Americans learned about, and first provided financial support, for their charities of choice.

It’s the same today. Technology drives the response, whether the mail sends people to a website or donors see something on the web and clicks to contribute.

As veterans of successful fundraising campaigns incorporating direct mail, we wanted to take an opportunity to provide some useful “dos and don’ts”:
  • Do draft shorter, more succinct notes to established donors
  • Do draft longer missives with those you wish to acquire (on the theory that someone who is willing to send you money wants to know a great deal about the organization.)
  • Do offer premiums (results show an 11 – 15% lift in response rate and a 40-50% increase in average gift)
  • Don’t underestimate the pull of a powerful P.S. with a call to action
  • Don’t neglect the personal touch (refer to the potential donor by name early and often!)
  • Don’t stress what YOU are offering; stress what benefits donors will accrue by participating

If done correctly, direct “snail” mail or email should be provocative enough to cause even the most jaded to rip or click. What additional tips have worked for you?

To leave a comment, please click here.

Package Travel: What’s New for Non-Profits

November 20, 2012
Are you racking up sleepless nights worrying about how to make your next fundraising auction special? Rest easy and check out some new ideas for no-risk travel packages.

But, before you even start dreaming of the spectacular offerings you can present to your attendees, take a look at this event selection checklist:
  1. Select packages that motivate all attendees and give your fundraising a big boost.
  2. Use a wide variety of offerings, such as ski packages, golf trips, sporting events, cruises, getaways, family trips and much more.
  3. Think big - an exotic destination could be your recipient's dream vacation and give your event that "WOW" factor.
Finally, ask yourself, has your crowd “been there, done that?” If so, you might want to consider some of these “experiences” offered by Mitch-Stuart. According to recent press, the well-traveled don’t always want cookie cutter trips, they want meaningful, more “curated” travel.

This year, Mitch-Stuart, the leader in providing no-risk travel packages for fundraising events presents this eye-popping array of new offerings guaranteed to move even the most jaded travelers.
 
Please read on and let us know of any wonderful package travel opportunities you’d like to see.
  • Go to the Primetime Emmys!
  • Go to Any Game in 50 Markets! (NFL, NHL, NBA or MLB Regular Season Game)
  • Top Gun Experience being a Fighter Pilot for a Day in a Military Aircraft
  • Explore Kenya's Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife and a game drive from a hot air balloon
  • An America's Cup Yacht Experience
  • All-Access Ultimate NASCAR Fan Experience
  • Culinary experience – cook with the Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence
  • Scottish fairy-tale tours of castles and mansions
  • Join the foodies at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Of course, we’re always expanding our catalogue to include some of the travel industry’s most unique and exciting trips and packages. Be sure to visit our website, register and check out the full catalogue.

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SOLD! Ten 10 Steps to Your Most Successful Auction Ever

November 05, 2012
Going, going, gone! Paddles up, neck and neck, in exciting competition…nothing thrills quite like the emotion of bidding for something highly desirable. That emotion (and thus the bidding) is heightened when attendees embrace the cause behind the auction. Smart organizations can create a “perfect storm” at fundraising events, guaranteed to make guests feel good about themselves and the cause, resulting in huge gains.

Welcome to the Mitch-Stuart Blog. As the leading provider of no-risk travel packages for charitable fundraising, it is our goal to give you easy-to-use advice and cutting edge point-of-view on topics of interest to your industry. Thus, our first blog post will focus on how following the advice of expert auctioneer, Kathy Kingston, of the renowned Kingston Auction Company, can ensure your non-profit auction meets and exceeds its fundraising goal!

Kathy Kingston’s Cardinal Rules for Record Breaking Benefit Auctions
  1. Focus on Fundraising
    Show how guests can make a difference. Using compelling video, speakers and other communications, envelop your audience in the cause and how their contribution matters.
  2. Fill Your Audience with the Right People
    Audience development is #1. Take the time to research and cultivate lists of likely bidders.
  3. Find the Right Match
    Solicit auction items that fit your guests. Know your crowd! Do they respond to rich and varied experiences while traveling or are they more about relaxation? Do the homework.
  4. Add Consignment Auction Items
    Complement your donated items and add excitement.
  5. I Can Hear You Now
    Invest in a professional sound system. Your guests will respond best when they are made to feel appreciated in all ways, every detail counts.
  6. No BS - No Boring Speeches
    Enough said.
  7. Stories not Stats
    Success stories inspire generosity – appeal emotionally and it will pay off in the bidding.
  8. Don’t Leave Money in the Room
    Ignite giving with a “Fund A Need Special Appeal” where a passionate, involved speaker does the “ask” to build emotional and financial support.
  9. Add Fun!
    Add profit-making revenue activities to keep those bid cards waving! Make sure your organization procures hot auction items that keep driving excitement and interest – items that fulfill fantasies and dream vacations and experiences.
  10. Invest in a professional
    Retain an experienced professional benefit auctioneer who can interest, inspire and influence a restless crowd!
    In business and in our blog, we will continue to partner with experts in the field to give your organization and your event all the tools for success, but we want to hear from you too. Please add any of your expert advice in the comments section below.

To leave a comment, please click here.

Veteran’s Day Thoughts on Giving

November 04, 2012
Americans donated more than $298 billion to charity in 2011. In addition to monetary donations, individuals also find ways to offer their time, goods and services and other support. While there are many options for giving, including to victims of the recent Superstorm Sandy, we wanted to pause on Veteran’s Day and tell you about a wonderful way our company has been able to help an important veteran’s group.

Sentinels of Freedom provides life-changing opportunities for men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have suffered severe injuries and need the support of grateful communities to realize their dreams. The organization offers up to four year "life scholarships" to help vets become self- sufficient.

The group works tirelessly each year to raise money through its gala. For previous events, organizers had relied on the generosity of its donors to source and secure auction items. While they were successful in procuring items, the goods tended to be the same, leaving attendees looking for something “new and different.”

Enter Mitch-Stuart. As many readers know, obtaining unique, compelling auction-worthy items is what we are known for. The Sentinels of Freedom organization noticed the difference right away as they were able to choose luxurious trips and packages and sell some of them multiple times, to the delight of their guests.

Ultimately their most recent gala was a huge success. Carla Goulart, COO of Sentinels of Freedom remarked “The money raised means that we can grow our support for our Nation’s Severely Wounded Veterans who have voluntarily raised their hand to serve and protect us and our freedom.”

Mitch-Stuart feels blessed and honored to have helped this worthy organization in such a meaningful way. But there are important, individual ways to help our nation’s veterans.  Here are some examples that we hope you may be able to incorporate into your charitable giving this year.
  • Volunteer to drive a disabled vet to a doctor’s or other appointment. More information can be found here
  • Consider hiring a service member when you have a position to fill. They don’t come more qualified!
  • Help make sure these returning soldiers have proper clothing to go on a job interview; donate “gently used” professional clothing to Suits for Vets
  • If you don’t see a charity “fit” for you – tap into your own talents – vets can use everything from bookkeeping to babysitting and so on; create a charitable gift and give it.
The rewards are amazing.

Any other great ideas for helping veterans, just post in our comments section.

To leave a comment, please click here.
 
 
 
 
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