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The Gift of Travel

November 30, 2016
Making a list, checking it twice: For many, the most stressful aspect of the holiday season is gift-giving. Just finding the right gift for each recipient is hard enough; throw in negotiating mall parking lots and waiting for deliveries, and there’s a lot to add to the season’s already-full plate.

We like to help non-profits make their fundraising auctions easy, by offering travel packages on a consignment basis to take some of the guesswork out of galas. But while we’re helping you plan your fundraiser, you can help your supporters by giving them the chance to cross off one name from their shopping lists. Our travel packages make great gifts, and you can make shopping easy on your donors in one of these ways.

There are few presents for which the gift-giver does not know the cost. There aren’t auctions in department store aisles, after all. But your donors can know exactly how much that special travel package will cost if your organization offers them at a “buy-it-now” price. Setting one price for a trip allows your supporters to make their own shopping list for your gala event, while also allowing you to sell more than one package. It adds an element of certainty, allowing your buyers to make sure that they’re not busting their holiday item on one gift.

When some of your donors wake up on Christmas morning, there may be a lottery ticket or two stuffed into a stocking, hanging on the mantle. A tradition in some families, the fun of receiving a “scratcher” for the holiday is the anticipation, the possibility, even the daydreaming of winning the big prize. If your supporters are used to adding a little gambling to their holiday season, why not set up a raffle? Instead of waking up with an infinitesimal chance at winning a big prize, your donors can wake to a much better chance of heading out on a once-in-a-lifetime trip – a chance that has directly helped your non-profit.

Finally, if you want to attract the gift-giving supporter to your fundraising auction, think about auctioning off a travel package that includes a special event. Whether it’s a pair of tickets to the Super Bowl for your sports fans or a night at a star-studded awards show for the celebrity-obsessed, “traveling with a ticket” makes for a great gift, appealing both to a personal interest and the desire to travel. Best of all, several of these “tickets,” like the awards shows, aren’t available to the general public, guaranteeing that your auction-winning supporter’s gift will get the biggest reaction.


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Comfort Food for the Traveler

November 22, 2016

As the temperature drops, what we eat and drink changes. Lemonade is swapped out for hot chocolate. Apple juice becomes apple cider (and, in some cases, apple cider spiked with rum or bourbon). And those summer salads and watermelon become the rib-sticking, carb-heavy cuisine known to many as “comfort food.”

There may be no true dictionary-style definition of this genre of dish; just like Mitch-Stuart’s fundraising auction travel packages, comfort food comes in many varieties. And during this season of big meals and tryptophan comas, selling a trip by appealing to donors’ stomachs may not be a bad idea. Here are a few of our favorite destinations from our catalog for filling, comforting cuisine.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Lone Star State, the home of chili con carne and the league leader in brisket, excels at comfort food. But while Austin and San Antonio get the lion’s share of plaudits for their cuisines, Dallas has its own food culture, with richer dishes playing a major role. Rudy’s Chicken, with a line of cars around the block, is a local institution thanks to its fried chicken, while hungry diners have filled Norma’s Café for sixty years to try its chicken-fried steak. Ask any local, and you’ll get a long list of eateries serving up heavy meals.

Of course, if the idea of “comfort food” has a spiritual home in this country, it would have to be in the Southeast. One of our favorite destinations in the region is Savannah, with its southern charm, cobblestone streets and historic squares. From the Boursin Chicken of 17Hundred90 Inn & Restaurant to the hole-in-the-wall charm of Walls’ BBQ, this is a city with a comforting, filling meal around every corner. Bonus: The food walking tour included in our Savannah travel package will allow your donors to walk off the calories, too!

There are a few staples of the comfort food world – chili, fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, lots of other fried things – and then there’s the Cajun cuisine of New Orleans. We posit, however, that those two things don’t need to be considered separately. Cajun gumbo will keep the hungriest diner full and warm, while beignets round out any starch-friendly meal. Restaurants like Mr. B’s Bistro (with its Gumbo Ya Ya) and Commander’s Palace (with its famous, rich Turtle Soup) may not serve up chicken-fried anything, but there’s still plenty here to satisfy that comfort food craving.




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Raffles on the Road

November 16, 2016
We love galas. The pomp, the fancy menus, the gorgeous, decked-out venues, all of it – including, of course, the fun and excitement of a fundraising auction. But we also recognize that it is a ton of work to throw one; when your organization is responsible for everything from set-up to tear-down, it can stretch the resources of even a larger non-profit.

The good news: If you’re looking for a fundraising opportunity without throwing a gala event, or your in-person fundraiser is still months away, we can help.

Mitch-Stuart puts together non-profit fundraising travel packages for events big and small, and ever since we added raffles to our repertoire of tools, you don’t even need your own soiree in order to send a donor on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Need a way to raise money beyond the gala auction?

Join the Arts: If your non-profit is an arts organization, like a theater or ballet company, it’s a no brainer to offer raffle tickets in the lobby and even add a purchase form to your program. If your charity isn’t? Pair with one, and offer to split the proceeds! You’ll both raise money and gain an ally in future efforts.

A Partner’s Party: Is your non-profit close with a local business – maybe an area law firm, advertising agency or other corporation? See if you can set up a table at their holiday party or summer barbeque! It gives the company a fun attraction for their celebration, and it gives your charity access to potential new donors and a fundraiser that doesn’t need extensive planning.

Nowhere: For that matter, who needs a venue at all? Offer your donors a chance to win a trip to any of our Destinations of Excellence® from anywhere. Raffle tickets can be purchased over the phone, by email or even online, and since your audience isn’t limited by geography or venue, this type of fundraiser can bring in big bucks.


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Staycations: Pro or Con?

November 09, 2016
In an ideal world, we’d all have time. We’d be able to take a leisurely vacation that sends us to a remote part of the world, zipping through flight security, angelic family in tow. The clock on our trip wouldn’t start until we arrived, of course, and we’d get the full amount of pleasure out of our destination without jet lag. And then, refreshed, we’d come back home with a new outlook on life.

This, sadly, is not that world. We’re big proponents of once-in-a-lifetime travel, yes, but we also understand that a multi-flight trip to a land with fewer creature comforts may not fit into everyone’s plans.

And we’re not alone: The “staycation” became a part of the travel lexicon a few years back, when families were looking to take vacations without some of the hassles and costs of major travel. Now, only 35 percent of Americans were planning on traveling more than 50 miles from their homes in 2016, according to AAA.

If you’re organization is based in one of our Destinations of Excellence® locations, could you benefit from offering a “staycation” at one of our partner luxury resorts and hotels? Let’s look at the benefits and the drawbacks.

PROS

Less Travel Means Less Stress: A family with small children may not be interested in anything involving a long flight. An elderly donor may not be able to physically manage a plane ride. A couple may enjoy a quick romantic getaway. And no one, even someone with a passport full of stamps, likes dealing with the airport. Giving your supporters a chance for a luxurious, relaxing experience in their own hometown means getting to avoid long security lines and packing for every possible whim of a fussy toddler.

Get to the Good Stuff: It can feel sometimes like a weeklong vacation is really only five days, with the first and final being lost to planes, trains and automobiles. But if the travel only involves driving across town, those “travel days” end up being “days by the pool,” “days on the beach” or “days on the wine tour.”

Know Your Home: In some of our larger destinations, it can be hard for residents to really know everything. New York is different on seemingly every other block, for instance, and Dorothy Parker supposedly once called Los Angeles “72 suburbs in search of a city.” People return from our travel package destinations with new favorite restaurants, music or activities; when your supporters haven’t left town, they can keep going back to and indulging in those new discoveries – after all, those finds are just a short car ride away.

The Fanciest “Spare Bedroom”: If your donors have family that comes into town over the holidays, then you can help them with their seasonal preparations. Your supporters can give that “staycation” to their kin. It’s a win-win: The travelers get to bask in luxury, while the hosts (your supporters) don’t have to clean out the guestroom.

CONS

The “WOW” Factor: Your auctioneer will have to put some extra elbow grease into convincing your donors of the unique nature of staying in their own town. This is easy to do if the trip package includes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (getting a Los Angelino to bid on a package featuring tickets to the ESPYs or the American Music Awards, for instance), but could be more difficult with a simple hotel stay.

Smaller Bids: With no transportation needed as a part of the package, many of these trips could start from a lower first-bid price, which could translate to a lower winning bid. Again, this is where a professional auctioneer is important; he or she is likely a master in setting a mood and vibe in the room conducive to big money pledges.

Raffle Resistance: To get a donor to buy a raffle ticket is to ask them to gamble, essentially, and if the prize isn’t seen as exceptional, it may be a more difficult ask. The risk-and-reward balance may be different for a staycation than a more traditional, eye-widening choice.

Staycations for Fundraising Auctions: What do you think? Let us know on our Facebook page or on Twitter @MitchStuartInc.


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Mitch-Stuart Endorses…

November 02, 2016
What feels like the longest election season in history is finally (mercifully?) almost over. Less than a week from now, voters will go to the polls to choose the president, senators, representatives and ballot propositions. During the run-up to any vote, newspapers and other media organizations put forward their choices of the candidates, dating at least back to the New York Times throwing its weight behind, a tall, skinny guy from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.

At Mitch-Stuart, we’re in the business of fundraising and travel, not politics. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to get in on the fun of backing some of our favorite aspects of travelling. Note that this is not an all-inclusive list, of course; to list all of the great qualities of travel would take us through the next presidential race.

So, for 2016, Mitch-Stuart endorses…

Wine Tastings: We heartily endorse wine tastings for several reasons, but the best one may actually come after your donors return from their trip. For the rest of their life, when they see a certain varietal at the store or on a menu, they’ll recall that magical time they had in Napa, or France, or Italy – and they’ll remember the organization that sent them, too. (As a bonus: We also wholly endorse Designated Drivers, which is why many of our wine tours also include private drivers.)

Wallet-Free Vacations:
Whether it’s a cruise to Alaska or relaxation on a Caribbean beach, all-inclusive vacations allow your supporters to enjoy time without worrying about trading currency or calling credit card companies to confirm purchases. There’s a variety of choices for these kinds of trips, from basics included to anything goes, and we endorse all of them.

Award Shows: Want to really “wow” your gala attendees? Offer them access they can’t get from a travel agent. The American Music Awards, the ESPYs, the People’s Choice Awards … by giving your donors a chance to rub shoulders with their favorite athletes or stars, you’re giving them a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that will always get our endorsement.

Getting Outside: No matter the time of year, breaking out of the office and hitting the great outdoors is en vogue. That’s why we endorse fly fishing in Canada with every bit as much gusto as skiing in Colorado or horseback riding in Costa Rica. Some prefer the cold, some prefer the heat, but everybody prefers the sun to those fluorescent lights in the office.

Travel: This will not come as a shock, of course. We believe in travel both as a fundraising tool for non-profit organizations and as an important part of life, as a chance to expand ones horizons, and as an opportunity to take time away from work and relax. We believe that the stats are true: People who travel are healthier, more productive and happier. And we believe that by pairing travel with your organization, you can make positive connections that will last a donor’s lifetime.

Voting:
It’s game day for democracy. So, get out there and vote on November 8.


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You Must Be This Tall to Scare

October 26, 2016
The Halloween season has returned, bringing with it ghouls, ghosts and zombies. Houses in the neighborhood are decorated, pumpkins are carved and faces are painted. But the holiday is not often considered a chance for travel; kids usually have school activities tied to Halloween and anyone older might not remember the magic of the day fondly enough to set aside time for a road trip.

However, Halloween is one of our favorite holidays at Americas theme parks. With an entire cast of characters in the spirit of the day, and plenty of resources available to transform spaces into truly frightening playpens of the macabre, there may be no better place to take in the atmosphere of the season than one of these amusement parks each one a part of a fundraising auction travel package available through Mitch-Stuart.

In Southern California, Disneyland is putting costumes on costumes for the month of October, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, among others, wandering the park in their own Halloween outfits. Pumpkin King Jack Skellington and Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas also wander the premises. But the big attraction of 2016 is actually a closing, rather than an opening: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is on its way out, giving way to a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed ride next summer. This is the last year to ride the elevator drop while listening to the spookily-soothing voice of Rod Serling.

On the other side of the country, meanwhile Disney World Orlando has a different take on the holiday, with some of the traditional villains of Halloween recast. Zombies find their voices with the Cadaver Dans, a barbershop quartet of the undead. The Sanderson sisters of Disneys Hocus Pocus mix potions, shadows and some of their evil friends to create the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular show. And the fireworks show, a traditional favorite of a visit to Disney World, gets a makeover during the season, becoming HalloWishes and incorporating more of Disneys catalog of antagonists.

But no amusement park may make a bigger commitment to All Hallows Eve than Knotts Berry Farm. The Anaheim-adjacent theme park transforms each year into Knotts Scary Farm, with mazes and monsters at every turn. Scare zones act as themed immersive atmospheres; this years include Carnevil and The Hollow. Mazes and rides also take on a creepy feel, and even dining gets a Halloween theme, with a boo-fet available each night before Knotts opens (the scares are the roaming monsters, not any mystery meats). The park has even put together a less-intense experience, Knotts Spooky Farm, for families with younger kids; its open during the daytime on weekends.

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Five Great All-Inclusive Perks

October 19, 2016
All-inclusive is an easy enough term to understand; it simply means everything is included in a trips price. But when our non-profit partners offer a fundraising auction travel package that includes a stay at an all-inclusive resort, or on a similar cruise, theres a question always asked: What does all-inclusive actually mean? What is the everything that comes with the package price?

If you want to help your donors understand just how great a deal all-inclusive travel can be, we can help. Here are five of our favorite perks that come with the package price at some of our destinations.

  1. Food: When one thinks of meals being included in a purchase price, its easy to remember the last disappointing, cold Continental breakfast in a chain hotels lobby. But whether its the 24-hour room service of a Celebrity Cruise journey though the Caribbean or the nightly lobster course at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the cuisine already figured in to the trips package price is leagues beyond stale bagels and soggy bacon.
  2. Equipment: Many of our favorite all-inclusive resorts are in gorgeous locations with plenty of outdoor activity options. So being able to borrow snorkeling gear in Costa Rica or a kayak in Bolongo Bay allows visitors to take advantage of the beautiful scenery without having to pack a ridiculous amount of gear.
  3. Entertainment: Get a taste of the culture of the destination at a resort like Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Jamaica; a stay there may include an international dance show, a street music revue or even a steel band playing the night away. Theres never a cover, and your room is only a short walk away (although far enough to be able to retire in peace).
  4. Classes: Want to learn how to scuba dive? Its included in the price when you go to Bolongo Bay. How about a class on making sushi? The Westin Playa Conchal Resort and Spa in Costa Rica has you covered. Heading to an all-inclusive resort can sometimes mean bringing home a new skill or obsession.
  5. Kids Activities: Not every all-inclusive resort is kid-friendly, but those that are do a wonderful job of keeping the young ones entertained. Moon Palace in Cancun, for instance, features game rooms with playgrounds, mini-movie theaters and a fully equipped arcade, among other attractions. And with the resorts staff supervising the children, the parents can sneak off and get in some golf, a spa treatment or just some quiet time walking along the beach.

Thinking about offering your donors an all-inclusive vacation? Talk to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!

Bolongo Bay


Playa Conchal Costa Rica


Playa Conchal Resort


Moon Palace Resort


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Little Extras, Big Benefits!

October 12, 2016
It can be easy, in the rush of putting together a fundraising gala, to treat the set-up as a checklist and skim over some of the items therein. Music? Check. Photographer? Check. There are plenty of decisions to make, and not all might create money right now, at this moment. But theres a lot of goodwill to be mined from what might seem like smaller considerations for a planning committee. And that goodwill can help donors remember your organization, both for future events and for other fundraising drives throughout the year.

We love it when non-profits add a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. fundraising auction travel package to its gala event. Theyre designed to grab attention, to make donors sit up in their chairs and start dreaming about vacations to far-away places and as they do that, they leave an impression on the attendees about the organization hosting the soiree. In addition to your auction lot list, however, there are other ways to try and add that extra-special shine to what could be an overlooked element of your night.

The DJ: There is a skill to disc jockeying that sometimes goes underappreciated; its often a good idea to hire one, rather than depending on a computer playlist or, worse, the radio to provide tunes. But if you really want to get people talking, reach out in your community to find a DJ who spins real records. Not only will you know youve got someone committed to the craft, but youll also add an extra visual element: Records just look better than laptops. Best of all: Many DJs who spin from records do so because they have certain specialties, and so it may be easier to find a disc jockey with expertise in, say, 50s and 60s soul (or the music era of your choice) to fit your theme.

The Photos: We love professional photographers for their skill, their flexibility and, from a business standpoint, their ability to deliver photos that your organization can use as promotional materials in the future. But your attendees will also appreciate the chance to capture their own memories from the evening. And while many have cameras on their cell phone, few will have the ability to make animated GIFs, for example, or paper flip books. Consider hiring an outside vendor to provide a photo booth experience, such as an automated GIF maker (stitching together several photos in quick succession to create a herky-jerky animation) or a flip book printer, to help donors and guests make memories on their own.

The Drinks: A couple of good choices of wine, a local brew or two or maybe a sponsor? Its very easy to overlook any sort of alcohol choices, because its pretty hard to go wrong with offering adults free drinks. But its also a great place for a little extra inspiration. Were in the middle of a craft cocktail renaissance right now, and there are numerous bartenders in your city that are creating fascinating new drinks. Find a local expert and create your own, themed specialty drink list! It doesnt have to be long maybe one for guests who like lighter mixtures, and one a little boozier but its the type of added extra that will get guests talking. And if the drinks are big hits, they might even be reaching out later to get the recipe!


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Thankful for Canada

October 05, 2016
In America, were getting ready for Halloween at the end of this month, but our Canadian friends are skipping right past that and heading straight for Thanksgiving. Canadas version of the holiday occurs on the second Monday of October each year (meaning October 10 in 2016). Starting from a desire to give thanks for a bountiful harvest, todays version is about gratitude for all things good people, events or circumstances.

Canada is one of our favorite destinations for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, and so this seems like as good a time as any to tip our cap in appreciation of our friends to the north.

So, why are we thankful for Canada? Here are three of many! reasons:

Hockey! The clich is true: If youve never seen hockey live, you havent experienced the sport at its finest. And though the Canadian teams of the NHL have struggled a bit in the recent past (no teams from our northern neighbor made the playoffs in the 2015-16, the first time thats happened since 1970), places like the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens are epicenters of the sport still. With our Go to Any NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS Game or PGA Tournament travel package, your donors can celebrate the countrys national sport with a trip to any of the seven Canadian cities with teams. (For the record, that package also works with basketball, a sport invented in Massachusetts, but by a Canadian its a sort of athletic dual citizen).

Gorgeous winter wonderlands! The Pacific Northwest is beautiful at all times of year, but the winter months are when it really shines. Vancouver practically sparkles through the season, and neighboring Whistler is one the worlds great snowy playgrounds. Trips like Perfect Winter Wonderland and Vancouvers Gateway to the Pacific can transport donors to this stunning region for a seasonal getaway. Whether its exploring the charms of Vancouver itself (like the ice skating rinks that remain from the 2010 Winter Olympics) or barreling down a ski run in Whistler, the seasons charms come alive north of the border.

Fun fishing expeditions! Outdoor activities in Canada arent limited to ice and snow, though. During the summer, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and become an outdoorsperson (even if its only for a vacation). One of our favorites: the guided freshwater fly fishing experience that comes with the Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada package. Escape to either Alberta or British Columbia and spend a day with a guide and enough equipment to catch that evenings dinner. Theres little more relaxing than taking in that summery lake view from a boat on the water.






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Chasing the Summer to the South

September 28, 2016
The early days of the fall are so charming, with the leaves changing colors and the air possessing that small bite. And the early days of the winter are cute too that first light snowfall, maybe, or the first night gathered around a roaring fire. But once the first blushes have passed, winter can be a slog. And weve all had that feeling, maybe sometime in January or February, of desperation, waiting for the sun to return.

Of course, when the northern hemisphere is at its coldest, our neighbors to the south are basking in the summer sun. And there are plenty of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages in the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence catalog that can send one of your supporters south of the equator to chase that summer feeling, even when the weather at home is stuck in a deep freeze.

A few of our favorites:

Winter in Australia is more myth than fact, as it is, especially in the North Queensland area. The coldest month of the year features average high temperatures in the high 70s, so your supporter can go on our Experience Two World Heritage Sites trip at any time of year and be guaranteed some rays. But for the most tropical experience, December and January is the time to get on the plane, with temps in the 90s. Of course, your donors will have the chance to cool off, while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef or relaxing in their villas private plunge pool.

Of course, much of the southern hemisphere has that same year-round summer feel. A good example: The Summer Olympics this year were technically held in the winter August in Rio de Janeiro should, by the calendar, be the equivalent of February here. Of course, Rios February looks much different than ours; by average, its the hottest month of the year, averaging 81 degrees for its daily high perfect weather to explore the beaches of the Barra de Tijuca neighborhood on our Sunsets, Samba and Soul trip.

The closer one comes to the equator, though, the less seasons tend to matter. And Bali is the closest of our destinations to the middle of the earth, meaning that theres never a bad time to visit. The average high and low temperatures barely fluctuate throughout the year; our winter and their summer is mostly designated by rainfall rather than degrees. And while it does rain more in Bali over the winter months, this is a lot different than the driving, bracing rain one may find in colder weather. For those not afraid of the occasional cloud cover during a vacation, finding the warmer temperatures of Bali during our winter months can still make for a great break from the doldrums of the season.
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NYC at Its Best the Fall!

September 21, 2016
New York City doesnt need much help in the way of tourism marketing, but someone in City Hall should likely tip a cap in the direction of Matthew Broderick around this time each year. For a generation of moviegoers, its Ferris Buellers lip-synced version of Danke Schoen that forever tied the countrys most famous urban park to the autumn: I recall/Central Park in fall But theres plenty of reason to seek out New York in the fall beyond the central Manhattan attraction.

Mitch-Stuart produces non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to be used at any time of year, and supporters often use them to head to the beach in the summer or to the ski slopes in the winter. But unlike the heat and humidity of a Big Apple summer or the wet, biting cold of the city in the winter, the fall is the perfect season to explore a city best seen while walking its avenues.

Need more reasons to head to NYC for a fall vacation? How about:

Outdoor Museums: The Museum of Metropolitan Art is a year-round concern, of course; air conditioners and heaters work wonders. But the fall brings interesting exhibits outdoors, like at the day-trip-worthy Storm King Art Center, with more than 100 works of sculpture dotting 500 acres of beautiful fields and hills. Closer to home, the Queens County Farm Museum features a three-acre corn maze, pumpkin patch and haunted house.

Broadway: The fall also brings with it a host of new Broadway shows. Star-studded revivals are on tap, led by The Front Page with Nathan Lane and John Slattery, along with world premieres and musical adaptations of Hollywood films (watch for Holiday Inn, the stage version of the Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire classic, to draw big crowds). After a slow summer season, Broadway is often heating up just as the temperature is starting to drop.

Festivals: Oktoberfest is a favorite celebration everywhere where there are people who imbibe, and New York does it up right with its biggest celebrations taking place in Central Park and on the East River. 2016s biggest dates have already passed (American Oktoberfest is mostly celebrated in September, due to weather concerns), but beer fans can start planning for next year. Or, if theyd like a boozy celebration sooner, theres also Cider Week, observed this year from October 21-31.
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Three Ways to Supercharge Your Fundraising Auction

September 14, 2016
If your organization has been running fundraising auctions at gala events, you might have, by now, fallen into a pattern. You know when the decorations go up, you know who to contact for food, and you even know which emcee or professional auctioneer to call.

But just because a certain idea or decision has become automatic doesnt mean that its the best one for your organization. Its good to reexamine those automatic choices that you may be making for your fundraising auction from time to time, just to make sure that youre earning every dollar possible for your cause.

Need some new ideas? Here are three small ways to maximize fundraising auctions earning potential.

Shake It Up: Its tempting to arrange the items of a gala auction in the same way one would arrange an award show: Opening with the smaller items, and then building to the big money-earners. And it makes sense on an emotional level, to crescendo throughout the event to its climactic end. However, from a pure money-raising standpoint, leaving the biggest items until the end may mean keeping some of your biggest supporters on the sidelines. After all, if a donor has set a budget for their bidding and really wants, say, that gorgeous trip to Bali, he or she could sit out earlier items of interest to save up. And then if that supporter doesnt win the trip, the budget goes home, rather than into a different purchase. Mixing up the order of items a couple of smaller ones, then one of the big-money lots, then back to a couple of smaller ones makes it more likely that your biggest monetary supporters will walk away with something.

Dream BIG: If you want to raise big funds from an auction, you have to ask for big funds. Sure, youll have a certain number of donors willing to overpay for a basket of goods from local artisans (and putting that basket together will help strengthen ties to your community, as well), but you cant get what you dont request. So, upgrade that trip: Offer the weeklong European sojourn alongside the weekend in Las Vegas (with our consignment travel packages, you dont have to pay for them unless they sell, anyway). Give your donors the chance to step up to the plate; you may be surprised by what happens.

Something for Everyone: On the other end of the spectrum, though, there will be some donors who cant pay for the luxury travel, the expensive memorabilia, or even the local artist gift basket. Maybe they just believe in your cause so much, they wanted to support it in person, on its biggest night. Not only do you want to make sure that they have a great time, but you also want to give them the chance to participate in the gala fundraising. Thats where a good raffle can come into play. Giving people the option of trying to win a big prize via a small donation and a drawing keeps smaller donors engaged throughout the evening as a participant, not just an observer. Its one easy way to make sure everyone in the room is excited while still generating revenue for your non-profit.


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The Food of Napa Valley

September 07, 2016
Calvin and Hobbes. Tailgating and barbecue. The Chicago Cubs and well get em next season. Some pairings just make sense. The art of matching gets taken to a whole new level in wine-centric destinations; sommeliers have made whole careers out of perfecting suggestions for pairing wine with food.

Napa Valley is one of our most popular Destinations of Excellence, and the first reason that springs to mind is, of course, the areas wineries. Some of the best American vinos are made here, and a visitor can spend multiple trips to Napa and still not run out of new tasting rooms to visit. But those in the know also understand that the wine capital of America has a thriving culinary scene, one to match the highs of its bottled treats and that very clearly holds up its end in any food and wine pairing.

With the prevalence of alcohol in the Napa culture, it should be no surprise that there are plenty of ways to get around the valley sans auto. And while walking and bicycling around is a fun way to see everything up close, theres a major drawback: Its hard to eat while walking, and nearly impossible to do so while on a bike. Thats where the Napa Valley Wine Train comes in, and with it a three-course gourmet meal. Enjoy roasted beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin or even a catch of the day fish entre en route to the Grgich Hills Estates, for a private tour and tasting. Theres even a dessert course for the ride home, for those whom have worked up an appetite seeing the Grgich grounds.

Just down the road at Saint Helena, the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is the home of chef Timothy Mosblech, recognized by California Home and Design magazine as one of wine countrys best kept secrets. His Chefs Table (a component of our Napa Valleys Perfect Blend of Indulgences package) lunch includes a plethora of farm-to-table dishes Long Meadow Ranch is one of a handful of wineries that also grow their own grub paired with their flavor profile wine siblings. And as recognized as Long Meadow is for its wine, dont miss out on its award-winning olive oil, also available.

Unfortunately, Chef Mosblech wont fit in your donors carry-on luggage, which means your supporter will have to leave behind the cuisine of Napa Valley upon departure. But they can learn how to recreate some of Northern Californias magic at home with the Raise Your Glass and Say Cheers to Napa trip. Donors can choose to take a class from an expert chef, including seasonal ingredients, expert cooking techniques and, crucially, what wines to pair with their new recipes. Its a perfect way to make sure that your supporters return from their trip with something to share because getting them to give up one of their new bottles of wine might be difficult.




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Travel with a Ticket

August 31, 2016
Almost 50 percent of Americans did not use any of their vacation days in 2014. Its easy to understand why, on one hand: If one feels overworked, taking a week off might seem like setting up a work avalanche upon returning to the job. And its not like that dream beach or ski resort is going anywhere, right? But aside from the well-documented health benefits of vacations, getting out of the office means getting the chance to see some pretty special events, the type of once-in-a-lifetime occurrences that wont be there waiting during that mythical down time at the job.

Mitch-Stuart sends donors to dream destinations regularly with its fundraising auction travel packages. But as amazing as it sounds, it can sometimes be tough to get supporters to actually take a vacation. One of the easiest ways to fix that: Give your bidders a chance to win a trip that is not just to a place, but an event, one that only occurs once a year. In addition to the appeal of leaving work behind, these trips also speak to supporters who need a date certain on the calendar for which to plan a getaway.

The most prestigious film festival in America is Sundance, which takes place every year in the winter wonderland of Park City, Utah. The most prestigious film festival in the rest of the world is Cannes, which takes place in its namesake, a sunny, summery destination on the southern coast of France. And Mitch-Stuart has your donors ticket to either one. Whether the dream itinerary involves American indie films and skiing, or international movies and time on the beach, supporters can be the first to see the films about which everyone will be talking within the year. And the parties at each festival are legendary.

For those who want even more of a red-carpet experience, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to one of several spectacular awards shows. We wrote earlier this year about the different ways that your supporters can rub shoulders with the superstars of sports, music and stage; the chance to center a trip on such a glamorous event is one at which supporters will leap. In addition, the cities involved in these award show packages places like Los Angeles and Nashville are Destinations of Excellence on their own, meaning that theres plenty to see when not hobnobbing with celebrities.

If your donors want to have a say in the event ticket that goes with their travel package, let them choose their own adventure! Our Any Live Concert or Theater Production Experience trip allows your winning supporter to pick a show to attend anywhere in America. The biggest Broadway productions? Sure! That arena-sized concert? Absolutely! Even passes to a multi-day festival are in play here. Whether its for themselves or for a family member (thanks to the personalization, it makes a great gift item), donors love the chance to control their itinerary with this trip.






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On the Road Again

August 24, 2016
Theres so much to do in some of our Destinations of Excellence packages that it can be hard to fit everything into an itinerary. Throw in time to relax in luxury accommodations, and finding time to even sleep seems difficult.

But an underrated use of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is as home bases, places where a supporter can start a trip, but then head off to other nearby communities. Having a nice suite or villa to which to come back can simplify a road trip, giving the traveler less reason to worry and more space to have fun on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Some of our favorite home bases:

Less than six hours separates the three biggest cities of the Pacific Northwest, making the triumvirate of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver prime road trip fodder. Starting in British Columbia, check out the gorgeous sites of Vancouver (and neighboring Whistler) before heading across the border to Seattle and its iconic skyline not to mention its great coffee! From there, the Rose City is just three hours to the south, with its lively street food and microbrew scenes.

The Kentucky Derby is one of our favorite sporting events, and weve got a couple of travel packages that can take horse racing fans to the jewel of the Triple Crown. But once the horses have retired to their stables and the crazy hats are back in their boxes, it might be time to hit the Bourbon Trail. The distilleries of favorite big-name bourbons like Evan Williams, Jim Beam and Bulleit are all in the city itself, but there are several more (including Makers Mark and Four Roses) within a short driving distance. The trail is made up of nine distilleries in all, and the thirsty traveler who visits each one gets a free t-shirt.

Of course, Northern California has its own share of boozy tourism, and the Anderson Valley wine trail is one its lesser-known treasures. About 100 miles north of Napa, the trail may be just ten miles or so long, but its home to 25 different wineries. Its also the home to several major events each year, including a Pinot Noir festival and a barrel tasting weekend that involves almost every different vino producer in the area. (Obviously, for both this one and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, bringing a designated driver is a must).

But one of the most underrated home bases for great road trips is the City of Sin itself, Las Vegas. Sure, the town has its fair share of diversions, too, but its also a half-day or less drive from the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Death Valley National Park, Zion National Park and, if ones willing to spend just a little while longer in the car, Yosemite National Park. For a city best known for its neon signs, the natural sights within a short distance of Las Vegas may be even more impressive.

Vancouver

Kentucky Derby

Napa Valley

Grand Canyon


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What I Did During Summer Vacation

August 17, 2016
For families across the country, August means heat waves, last-minute trips and the return of school. And along with the beginning of the educational year, the sons and daughters of your supporters will each be asked one simple question, whether its in the form of a written report or playground small talk:

For families across the country, August means heat waves, last-minute trips and the return of school. And along with the beginning of the educational year, the sons and daughters of your supporters will each be asked one simple question, whether its in the form of a written report or playground small talk:

What did you do during summer vacation?

The good news: You can help your supporters make sure that their kids have a good answer.

Mitch-Stuart offers non-profit fundraising auction travel packages for all sorts of occasions, whether its a bucket-list cruise or a honeymoon villa on a tantalizing island. We also can help gets kids ready to answer that first question of the school year with stories, photos and mementos that will make them the talk of their classes.

That final trip before the school year begins can be used to help the kids warm up their brains before heading back into academia, and there may be no place that combines history and modern fun better than Washington, DC. With monuments and museums scattered all around the city, the District of Columbia is a perfect place for youngsters to learn about history while also seeing some of the worlds most recognizable sights. Our Celebrate the Heart of the Red, White and Blue trip includes an Old Town trolley tour with more than 100 points of interest, and the Smithsonian museums have always strived to make learning fun for all ages (the Air and Space Museums ride simulators give kids the chance to feel the thrill of space flight or air combat, for instance).

There are plenty of souvenirs of summer, but there are few that look better in a homeward-bound carry-on bag than leis and sea shells. Yes, the charms of Hawaii make for a great send-off to summer, and our Captivating Island Culture package includes a suite stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani on the island of Maui. With the beach just steps away, kids can spend their last days of freedom running through the surf, building sand castles and searching for the perfect sea shell to show off at home. Your donors can bring home an excellent memento, as well; the resort offers complementary photo sessions to capture the whole family in one of the worlds most beautiful environments.

If your donors really want to give their kids an experience that will make the youngsters the talk of the class, though, theres Disney. Whether in Southern California or Florida, Mickey Mouses theme parks are so beloved, in part, because of the number of only-in-Disney experiences and sights available. Even better: Mitch-Stuarts trips to each park also include experiences at other, nearby attractions; Happiest Place on Earth takes supporters to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm (and even includes dinner at Medieval Times!), while the The Most Magical Place on Earth package includes passes to Universal Studios (with its The Wizarding World of Harry Potter parks) along with Orlandos Disney World. Coming back to school wearing those instantly-recognizable mouse ears will earn a donors son or daughter instant cool points during recess.

Washington DC

The Smithsonian

The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

Disneyland


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Ever heard of

August 09, 2016
People love to be in the know. Whether its the secret pop-up restaurant, the speakeasy with an entrance through a barber shop or the newest underground music act, theres a thrill that comes with experiencing something different, something that your peer group hasnt discovered yet.

We love our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to places like New York, Las Vegas and Hawaii, of course. But not every trip needs to be to one of the capitals of tourism. If your supporters are looking for that hidden gem of a vacation, the one that none of their friends have taken, these options may be for you.

Have your donors thought about traveling to

Asheville? The North Carolina retreat is a cultural oasis in western North Carolina; theres nearly as much live music here as there is in a city like Nashville, and even though the population has been booming as of late, it still maintains the feel of a small town. Theres also the historic charm of the Biltmore House & Gardens, a winery tour and even a chocolate tasting included in our travel package for the city.

Boothbay Harbor? Small town living never seemed as picturesque as in this Maine destination. Go whale-watching on one of the ships that works the harbor, or spot the historic lighthouses that dot the rocky shores. Ditch the rental car and walk through the charming town itself, stopping in at the various antique and curio shops. Or charter your own yacht and set sail for a day on the water. One summertime trip to Boothbay Harbor can make the town the little secret that one of your donors loves to talk about!

Charleston? The southern charm of South Carolinas second-largest city has been recognized by others; Travel + Leisure magazine named it Americas Most Friendly City in 2011, and Conde Nast Traveler has called its people insanely nice. But the hospitality of strangers is only one reason to visit this underappreciated jewel; walking along cobblestone streets and admiring the gorgeous, preserved old homes will work up an appetite, and the booming restaurant scene in the city will fill your donors back up.

Riviera Maya? The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is an incredibly scenic area, with beaches and jungle to complement the almost-mandatory trek to the ruins of Chichen Itza, one of UNESCOs World Heritage Sites. Combine that with the luxury found at the Fairmont Mayakoba, and you get a vacation that will appeal to a wide cross-section of your supporters.

The Biltmore

The Nonantum Resort

Charleston

Fairmont Mayakoba


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Travel Obsessions

August 03, 2016
This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will face off against the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game. Its the first exhibition game of the season, one in which star players like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck will likely play for the first quarter, if even that long. And yet it will still be a ratings bonanza for ESPN, as millions of football-starved fans tune in. If baseball is the national pastime, then football has become the national obsession. But Americas not the only country with a major infatuation.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take your donors almost anywhere in America and to any NFL or college football game, as well! but they can also be used to check out the obsessions of other countries around the world. For those who want to find and enjoy those local passions, here are a few options.

Staying in the sports realm, the English Premier League is known around the world as one of the top levels of play in soccer. And within the country itself, the words of a former Liverpool manager ring true: Some people think footballs a matter of life or death. I assure you, its much more important than that. Theres nothing quite like walking into Old Trafford in Manchester, Anfield in Liverpool or Stamford Bridge in London to witness the passion, the pageantry and the colors of a Premier League match in person.

With grape-growing regions throughout the country and more than eight billion bottles produced each year, France is a world capital of wine. But its not just one of the countrys top exports; the French take their wine seriously, and study it closely. Theres even the Cite du Vin, a new museum dedicated to wine in Bordeaux, thats been informally named the Disneyland of Wine, with more than 14,000 bottles from more than 80 countries. For anyone who cares deeply about wine, theyll find doppelganger obsessives in France.

For a closer sojourn, there are few countries that can legitimately claim to be the spiritual home of a genre of music. But Jamaica has always had a sort of claim to reggae that few other nations hold on one style or rhythm; an artist gets immediate credibility in reggae just by having Jamaican ancestry, much less being from the island itself. Any trip to the country would be incomplete without stops at places like the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. And if the travel plans line up, Reggae Summerfest in Montego Bay is the worlds biggest and best festival for the genre.


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This or That?

July 26, 2016
Some of the Destinations of Excellence in the Mitch-Stuart catalog are synonymous with an interest, an attraction or even a climate. Oenophiles know to go to Napa Valley or on one of our adventures in France. Want beaches? Thats why weve got trips and cruises that go throughout the Caribbean. But sometimes, a traveling pair may differ on what each wants. Cityscapes or nature? Warm weather or sweaters and fireplaces?

For those donors who cant decide on the type of vacation they want, we can still help. Many of our charity fundraising auction travel packages appeal to not just different interests, but even direct opposite ones. If youve got supporters who dont know what they want to do, but do know that they want to get out of town, one of these trips could raise big bids.

Do your donors want

Nature or Luxury?: For some, vacation perfection is a tent, a campfire and smores. For others, its infinity pools and relaxing spa treatments. The island of Praslin in Seychelles combines both with Raffles and its 86 villas, restaurants featuring cuisine ranging from Creole to sushi, beachside spa and two infinity pools staring down the Indian Ocean. Beyond the resort, there are ample chances to explore nature, with hiking, ziplining and even rock climbing available in the nearby forests.

Hot or Cool?: Summers in Telluride, Colorado feature a little something for everyone in terms of climate. The average high temperature in the city in the month of July almost hits 80 degrees, warm enough for t-shirts and shorts while hiking or mountain biking through the Rocky Mountains. In the evening, though, bring a coat: The average low temperature dips hovers around 40 degrees, which is great bonfire weather. For those who like either sunscreen or sweaters, summertime in Colorado is perfect and with golf courses and private outdoor hot tubs, our Colorado at Its Absolute Best trip will let your donors experience both.

Fast-Paced or Relaxed?: Southern California has a little something for everyone. Visitors can even ski in the morning and watch the sunset over the beach in the evening, if they like. But with the opening of the citys newest light rail line, Los Angeles has made it easier than ever to go from the bustling atmosphere of Hollywood or the hip downtown district to the laid-back, beachside vibes of Santa Monica or Venice. If your donors want to see the sights of the City of Angels while also getting in a surf session in the morning or a beachside picnic dinner in the evening, this might be the best time to do so.

Raffles Praslin


Raffles Praslin


Telluride


Santa Monica


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Geek Out On the Road

July 20, 2016
Tonight, thousands of costume-clad fans of pop culture will flood the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con, the largest gathering of fans of comic books and comic-adjacent entertainment in the country. Between July 20 and 24, more than 130,000 attendees will look for rare issues of comics, watch new trailers for forthcoming movies and flood the restaurants and bars of the host citys lively Gaslamp District.

Your donors may not be into cosplay (dressing up like favorite fictional characters), or willing to stand in long, snaking lines for free posters, but we guarantee theyre something that theyre equally as geeky about. And whether its a genre of music, a type of wine or even cooking from world-famous chefs, Mitch-Stuart quite likely has a non-profit fundraising auction trip that can send your donors to the home base of any passion.

Music lovers can be incredibly dedicated to their favorite genres, and some cities are inexorably tied to the styles of song that have made a home within city limits. Two in particular stand out at great destinations for great tunes: Nashville is, in many ways, the spiritual home of country music, and with either of our travel packages that can take your supporters to the Country Music Awards, donors can rub elbows with the shining lights of the genre as well. A few miles south, jazz music is such a part of the blood of New Orleans that its jazz festival is one of the worlds greatest. Go to any bar around town, and a combo is likely to be playing in one corner. Or better, let your jazz-obsessed winner go to Preservation Hall, dedicated to preserving the citys musical heritage (and home of the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band).

Some call themselves oenophiles. Others are fine with winos. Whether fancy or simple, wine lovers are motivated to travel to taste their favorite varietals. A quick word search of our catalog reveals more than 30 different trips that involve the spirit in one way or another. Your supporters can tour wineries closer to home, in Napa Valley or the Williamette Valley of Oregon. If they want to go bigger: How about adventures to Italy, Spain or France? There are chances for wine fans to fly all around the world in search of that perfect label, that rare bottle or just the opportunity to geek out with fellow connoisseurs.

Of course, those destinations are already on the lips of fans of music or wine. But did you know that one of the biggest gathering of chefs and wineries each year AND the one of the biggest art shows take place in the same city? And that its not New York or Los Angeles? Each year, thousands of foodies and art fans flock to Miami for (during different weeks, of course) a chance to surround themselves with like-minded aficionados at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival and Art Basel Miami Beach, both in the sunny city of Miami.  The conventioneer website BizBash named each event the top in the country in their respective categories, meaning that, besides the world-class entertainment and gorgeous beaches, theres yet another reason that a supporter might want to take the chance to support your cause while also heading to Florida.

New Orleans


B Cellars Vineyards And Winery


Chateau Angelus


South Beach Food & Wine Festival


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Healthy Habits as Travel Souvenirs

July 13, 2016
Whether it is postcards, that perfect sea shell or even a snow globe for a collector at home, trinkets from vacation always fill any leftover space in luggage when a traveler returns from a voyage. But not all souvenirs are physical; some globe-hoppers may come back with fascinating stories, others with a new affinity for a specific wine varietal. Some may even have figured out how to finally hit that untrustworthy pitching wedge (just kidding, of course no one knows how to do that). But maybe best of all is when someone returns from time away with something healthy to add to their life a new habit, perhaps, or a positive change in outlook.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we believe that travel is inherently positive, whether its as healthy as a beachside yoga retreat or as gluttonous as a weekend in Sin City. But there are some habits that your donors can pick up on the road that can translate to a healthier lifestyle at home, and a vacation away from the stresses of the day-to-day life may be the perfect time to acquire those patterns.

One healthy habit that can be picked up while on the road is also our first form of transportation walking! Exploring a new destination on foot can be one of the most insightful ways of seeing what makes a city tick, along with being a way for travelers to find their own hidden gems those corner cafs or small parks that dont make the guidebooks. Spend a week walking around a dense, urban center like New York or London, and one may want to come home and spend more time discovering the lesser-known neighborhoods their own city has to offer.

Of course, not all by-foot exploration needs to be urban. Some of our favorite trips give donors a chance to go hiking in some of the worlds most beautiful destinations. Getting out and seeing the sights of the Rocky Mountains in Aspen, or the wilderness of Jackson Hole, may be the catalyst a donor needs to conquer that hike closer to home, and get a good workout in at the same time.

American take-out food consumption has risen dramatically over the past few decades, as has obesity rates. Correlation doesnt prove causation, of course, but the added ingredients in a lot of the fast food we consume certainly dont make us healthier. If you want to start a new habit of eating better food, you can go on the road to a few different cities for inspiration. One trip to take may be to San Francisco, where chef and food activist Alice Waters opened her first restaurant, Chez Panisse, in 1971. In doing so, she sought out organic foods to serve, long before farm-to-table was a buzzword, and her restaurant continues in that tradition to this day. For those who want to have control over a meals ingredients by learning how to cook it themselves, several of our trips to Italy, France and even New Orleans feature cooking lessons, as well.

Weve spent some time recently extolling the virtues of stress relief while on the road, but its important enough to mention again: Traveling doesnt have to be a tension-accumulator. Thankfully, many of our trips include treatments at resort spas, like those at the all-inclusive Palace Resorts in Mexico, several trips to Florida and even some adventures in Californias wine country (combine a massage with a glass of wine for full relaxation).

London


New York


New Orleans Cooking School


Massage at Bali Villa


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Travel in a Time of Brexit

July 06, 2016
The news of Great Britain leaving the E.U., known as Brexit, has left the world in shock. The vote sent waves through every international market, and while stocks have mostly evened out and in some cases gained back the losses they suffered one important economic marker has yet to fully recover.

The American dollar has not been as strong against the British pound in recent memory, with one pound now fetching around $1.33 US. This is in comparison to around $1.46 in the run-up to the Brexit vote, and more than $2 per pound in October of 2007.

Mitch-Stuarts fundraising auction travel packages can take your supporters to Destinations of Excellence around the world, but there may be no better time than now to offer your donors a chance to head to London, where the dollar currently goes further than it almost ever has before. How does this translate on the ground? Your auction winner can:

Catch a game: The Premier League is one of the worlds most popular sports associations, with soccer fans around the globe tuning in on a weekly basis to watch teams like Manchester City, Liverpool and 2015-16 champion Leicester City. The drop in the pound also means that ticket prices have fallen, as well; Arsenals league-topping cost of 97 pounds on average for a single match ticket now comes in at just under $130, as opposed to almost $142, while Leicesters 22 pounds price sure to go up after winning last seasons title has fallen from $32 to under $30, a steal for championship-caliber soccer anywhere.

See a show: Londons West End is a favorite destination for theater-lovers from around the world, a close second maybe to only Broadway for the peak of the art form. Accordingly, admission prices are higher here than in most theater districts around the world; an average high-end ticket cost almost 100 pounds in 2014. The current dip translates to a $13 dip enough for a post-show pint at a nearby pub after the show.

Grab a meal: The English capital city has some of the worlds most inventive chefs working, but getting a table at Sketch or The Grill at The Dorchester may cause a bit of sticker shock. Those prices are a little less shocking now, though; The Grills summer prix fixe menu gets a small haircut (now under $75), while the Michelin-starred Sketch can now come in under triple digits.

Theres never really a bad time to help a donor visit London, but theres almost never been a time during which the dollar has gone further than today. Want to set up your supporters with a chance to visit the United Kingdom? Reach out to one of our Travel Experts!


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Guest Post: Take a Chance on a Raffle!

June 29, 2016
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, Kelly Russell tells us about a recent experience running a raffle using a Mitch-Stuart travel package as the prize. Enjoy!)

A client of mine wanted to offer a Golden Ticket Raffle at their event without losing one of their live auction items. They tried something unique that worked well. They chose eight consignment packages from Mitch-Stuart, Inc. as options, and allowed the winner to select any one of the eight amazing vacations. We had a few great outcomes to our evening.

It expedited our timeline at the top of the auction.

Once we declared the winner of the Golden Ticket Raffle, we did not have to wait for the winner to rifle through the catalog to determine what they wanted to take out of the live auction line-up. They had the entire night to think about which location would make for their dream vacation.

The variety added interest.

With all the options, many people were interested in taking their chance in the raffle. If you won, you were going somewhere great. MSI has a wonderful selection of packages and many include airfare so you get a complete experience. This adds to the interest factor.

Dedicated packages allow for pre-sales on raffle tickets to guests.

Nothing is worse than not being able to attend your childs school auction when you go EVERY year. With a set raffle selection, you are at least offering the opportunity to participate in absentia. Bonus: If you have a limited number of tickets to sell in your raffle, as well as a limited number of attendees at your event, pre-sales broaden your donor base.

Gamble with a new idea and see how it works at your next fundraiser!

Need a great consignment package for your next event? Let the folks at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. know that Kelly Russell at Artisan Auctions sent you!

(Big thanks to Kelly Russell and Artisan Auctions for sharing this with us! For more information about Artisan, go to artisanauctions.com.)


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Raising Funds Under the Stars

June 22, 2016
Take a look around everyone is outside. Coworkers are taking their lunch breaks at that park across the street. Evenings are spent at baseball games. Vacations involve beaches, camping or long hikes. This is the season for al fresco everything.

So why keep your gala indoors?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. loves helping non-profits raise money with our fundraising auction travel packages theyre the perfect addition of wow! to any gala program. But we *really* love it when we get to help charities pair the perfect auction destination with an amazing outdoor event. And while pulling off a successful outdoor fundraising gala is not easy, a bit of foresight and planning can create memories for your supporters that will make sure they always think of you and your cause fondly.

Where does your event committee need to focus its energy when planning an outdoor event? Start with these three areas:

Theme: If youre going to go through the trouble of moving an event outside, make it count! Whether centered around a menu item (barbecues, crawfish boils, etc.) or a larger, atmosphere-based idea (with a title like Enchanted Forest or Beach Bonfire), this is the chance to create a night to remember by piggybacking on the beauty of nature. Have fun with it, and dont be afraid to push a little past your normal boundaries; its likely that your supporters will be a little more forgiving about small problems if youre trying something daring and fun.

Logistics: Everything from picking the right location to having enough flat surfaces and tables becomes magnified at an outdoor gala. As an example when inside, you can just look for an extra power outlet, but if you havent run adequate juice to run both the DJ equipment and the temporary lighting, for instance, theres little that can be done on the fly. It might be a good idea to run something approximating a dry run of the event a week prior with as much of the equipment as possible (no need to add rental days for anything gear coming from outside of the organization, however). And before locking into a space for the event, make sure you visit it during the time of day which youll be holding the gala, to check for things like bug population.

Food: The cuisine you serve outdoors is often a function of the seating you have available. If youve got formal tables set up, it may still be easy to present delicate meals requiring all utensils. But if your outdoor space is a little less formal standing pub tables, for instance finger food might be the way to go. Just stock up on wat napkins, in order to avoid long lines at whatever running water is available. Its also important in an outdoor space to think about the distance from the kitchen to the gathering. Is food going to be prepared off site? Will it stay warm as its being brought to the party? And whos going to bring it all? The meal is the most tangible item for which a guest is paying with their ticket get it right, and few are going home unhappy.

Got any other suggestions for pulling off an outdoor gala? Let us know on social media: Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more tips and travel inspiration.


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The Summer of Cool

June 15, 2016
The stereotypical images of summer vacation involve beaches. Whether its lounging on the shore, playing in the sand or swimming in an ocean or lake, the images that spring to mind when people talk about the summer months are those of surf, sandcastles and sunscreen. But just because snow is far from the average mind not to mention the weather report doesnt mean that mountains and colder regions should be considered off limits.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together non-profit fundraising travel packages to destinations all over the world, and many times winning bidders want to see the sights during peak seasons. But as summer gets ready to make its entrance, its nice to remember that the best places to vacation during these months arent always the sandy beaches. In fact, heading to a location best known for its winter escapades can be the best way to spend a summer break.

Its strange to see a destination with Lake in its name and think of wintertime fun, but Lake Tahoe is probably best known for its world-class skiing, both downhill and cross country. During the summer, though, Tahoe still shines, thanks to its diversity of entertainment options. Water-based activities are a must in the resort town, of course, with stand-up paddle boarding and jet skiing possibly the most popular. But the surrounding mountains are great during the warmer months, as well; rent a mountain bike and head downhill, or grab your gear and go hiking through some gorgeous wilderness. Theres even some fine art, for those who want to take it a little easier, in the form of summers Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, which takes place in the stunning Sand Harbor State Park.

The hottest average high temperature in Bar Harbor, Maine, is just 75 degrees (coming at the end of July). Thats just one of the reason that the town has become a prime escape for northeastern city-dwellers. Exploring Acadia National Park is a treat as the climate becomes more temperate, and with so many New Yorkers and Bostonians coming to town, there are plenty of concerts, pop-up art spaces and interesting dining experiences here, as well. Make sure to stop in at some of the historical monuments and collections, as well; the Abbe Museum is a repository of Native American artifacts and stories, while younger kids tend to love the Dorr Museum of Natural History.

The cities of Vancouver and Victoria are thought of by many as great skiing outposts. In fact, the towns are so synonymous with winter that the former was awarded the Winter Olympics in 2010. But in the summer, the largest city and the capital city, respectively, of the province of British Columbia are just as beautiful and have just as much to do. Scheduling a trip around Victorias Summer Splash is a good way to go; the local symphony performs a program from a barge in the Inner Harbour, while locals either picnic on land or float around in kayaks. Outdoor activities about in both the two cities and the surrounding area, with hiking and mountain biking being favorites. And, for those who absolutely must have a beach trip, Vancouver landmark Kitsilano Beach fits the bill nicely.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino


Bar Harbor Maine


Acadia National Park


Vancouver


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Inner Peace, Out on the Road

June 08, 2016
For an activity that is said to be so relaxing, travel certainly contains its share of stressors. From flight delays to safety worries and even starting from the process of packing, it takes a lot of work to hit the road, and that work doesnt come without some level of mental strain.

We at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., love travel its why were so committed to helping non-profit fundraising with our auction travel packages. But even we recognize that going on vacation isnt as simple as waking up one morning having been transported to paradise. Send this cheat sheet along to your donors who win one of our travel packages at auction so they can make their experience that much easier.

The stress usually starts before travelers even arrive at their destinations. With the busy summer travel season upon us and the Transportation Security Administration seemingly devoted to hour-plus long security lines, a familiar muscle tightness can develop even before reaching a departure gate. So for flyers taking off at airports like San Francisco International and Chicago OHare, a sanctuary from the bustle can be a relief. Thats where the yoga room comes into play. Several airports, and several more in the near future, offer separate rooms for travelers to lay out a (provided) mat and stretch, either with ones own yoga routine or led by a teaching video. After standing in a long, winding security line, its a chance to catch ones breath before boarding.

Of course, its hard to pull off downward dog or Tree Pose while seated on a full flight or driving on a road trip, for that matter. For cases in which physical stress relief may not be possible, theres always guided meditations, and theres a wide variety of apps available for smartphones that can help. Stop, Breathe & Think is a good place to start for the novice, while Calm has a tremendous catalog of programs for different purposes (self-affirmation, sleep inducement, etc.). The engine roar may not be as calming as the wind chimes of a local meditation or mindfulness center, but noise-cancelling headphones and the right soothing voice coming from a cellphone can turn the stress of flight into a chance to relax.

No one wants to carry around that travel stress after arriving at a destination for a vacation. So many of our non-profit fundraising trip packages take supporters to resorts with world-class spa accommodations, making that post-flight massage easy to book. Be it aromatherapy, facials or a simple dip in the hot tub, these facilities can kick-start a vacation and put even more mental distance between the joys of travel and the stress of the workday.


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Picnicking In Paradise!

June 01, 2016
Spring is turning into summer right before our eyes, which means its time to dig the beach-and-pool gear out of the closet and stock up on sunscreen. June, July and August are ingrained in the minds of many as a time for leisure, going all the way back to the summer vacations of childhood. Longer days mean staying out later into the evening, and even the heat itself manufactures a certain unhurried pace.

One of the best ways of soaking up that sun during the summer months is getting a group of friends, the extended family or even just your significant other outside for some al fresco dining. The picnic is practically a summer must: Go to any public park in a temperate climate on a Sunday afternoon and youll see blankets spread out everywhere, homemade food, mini-speakers playing music and the occasional football or Frisbee being tossed around.

Our non-profit fundraising travel packages often put your donors in the middle of cities with incredible restaurant scenes, making it tempting to spend the trip dining in. But it would be a shame to not get some food to go in one of these destinations and spend a leisurely afternoon outside, admiring one of the worlds great vistas.

When Travel + Leisure put together its list of the top cities in America for picnics, two of the top three choices were in Southern California. It makes sense: The Southland has year-round picnic-acceptable weather and plenty of beachfront land upon which to lay out a blanket. But both San Diego (which finished second) and Los Angeles (third) also have fantastic options for picnic-ready carryout meals (important for those traveling with little access to a kitchen) and a variety of landscapes; spend a day in LAs Griffith Park or an afternoon in Balboa Park in San Diego and youll see these two gorgeous cities from a different angle.

To go to Paris and not enjoy a baguette al fresco would be a crime of some sort, surely. The good news: Possibly the best view of the Eiffel Tower comes in the citys 7th Arrondissement (or district), on a grassy strip of land, called Champ de Mars, leading up to the base of the monument. In fact, many of the most well-known sites in Paris have green areas nearby to admire the view while dining on that glorious French food; outside the Sacre-Coeur, alongside the River Seine and in the Luxembourg Gardens are all lovely spots. Eating outdoors is a popular enough pastime in the city that several services will deliver a picnic lunch to tourists true blanketside service!

Of course, when it comes to parks that are perfect for picnics, there may be no better example in America than Central Park in New York. The crown jewel of the citys open space, Central Park has been attracting visitors with blankets and baskets for more than 150 years. Its not the only great vista in the Big Apple to take in while dining, though; the High Line has plenty of space to dine while overlooking Chelsea, and for those heading to other boroughs, Prospect Park is a perennial favorite. Even better: Your donors can pick up their meal at one of New Yorks great delis with one of the gift cards that comes with our Nosh Your Way Through Three New York Delis package.

Santa Barbara Beach


Eiffel Tower


Central Park


Central Park


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Travel-Worthy Tributes

May 25, 2016
In pop culture, Memorial Day means the beginning of summer, cookouts, spontaneous beach trips and, for younger people, finals and the end of the school year. And with the exception of those year-end tests, were in favor of all of those ideas, too. But its also important on Memorial Day to take time and reflect on the reason for the holiday: Honoring those who gave their lives, what Abraham Lincoln once called the last full measure of devotion, to protecting and serving this country.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we have hundreds of non-profit fundraising travel packages that donors bid on in order to go on relaxing, energizing, or just plain fun vacations. But our trips work for any occasion, including paying solemn respects this weekend at one of these monuments to our fallen Armed Forces members.

Many travelers make their way to Indianapolis, Indiana on Memorial Day weekend for the Indy 500, one of Americas great car races and one that has been scheduled on or near the end of May since 1911. But the city is also home to one of the most iconic memorials in America, the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument. At just 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty, the obelisk was built as an ode to Indiana residents who fought in the Civil War, but has over time expanded to honoring soldiers in the Revolutionary and Spanish-American Wars as well. It also now houses the Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. When it was established in 1902, it was thought to be the only monument at that time to be dedicated to the everyday soldiers, the rank-and-file, rather than a general or a commander.

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is made up of nine different locations in three different states, but the majority of the locations are in Honolulu, at the site of the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS Arizona Memorial is a tremendously-designed monument; the structure straddles the sunken battleship, without ever touching it, allowing for unique visual perspective of the wreckage. There are also monuments to the USS Utah and Oklahoma there, while the USS Missouri, not technically a part of the monument, is also docked in the harbor, having been turned into a museum.  Taken in whole, its a powerful reminder of those who gave their lives in the Pacific.

The largest concentration of memorials, however, is in the area of our nations capital. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial may be the most famous, its wall of names receiving more than three million visitors each year, but the DC War Memorial, the U.S. Navy Memorial and the World War II Memorial all also fall not just within the city limits, but within a short distance of each other. With Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Imo Jima memorial) located a short subway ride away in Northern Virginia, not to mention all of the presidential monuments and other historic landmarks in the metro area, there are many opportunities for patriotic visitor to pay their respects.

Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Pearl Harbor

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial


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Bid and Stretch Trips for Yogis

May 18, 2016
For many, the goal of a vacation is to relax. Its a chance to leave the worries of day-to-day life behind, get on the road and unwind, even if its just for a few days. For those who cant get out of town in between, say, the end of work today and the beginning of work tomorrow, though, theres the stress-relieving properties of yoga.

Between 2008 and 2013, the number of Americans who participated in a yoga class at least once in the year increased from 17 to 24 million. Thats nearly as many yogis (of varying levels) as there are golfers, according to USA Today. Chances are, there are supporters of your organization that have a favorite class or teacher in your hometown and theres also a good chance that some of their identities may surprise you.

At Mitch-Stuart, we have fundraising auction travel packages that take donors all over the world, to hot sports for golf, foodie culture, music and high culture. Yoga has such centers, too, and for those who want to get some downward-facing dog time while on vacation, these destinations may attract extra bids.

A favorite of Worlds Best Yoga Spots lists, Bali is the home of the yearly Bali Spirit Festival, a confluence of dance, music and, of course, yoga. But the island is a favorite of yogis all year, with places to practice on the beach, in the jungle and everywhere in between. And despite having a reputation for attracting regular practitioners, many of the classes in Bali are considered more restorative and relaxing, meaning that theyre appropriate for all experience levels.

Costa Rica is a favorite nation for yoga retreats, with places like the Blue Spirit Retreat Center and the Luna Lodge hosting traveling groups from around the world for weeklong sessions in the wild and on the beach. But your donors dont have to commit to a full seven days worth of downward-facing dog to get in a stretch or two. The Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort features multiple classes a day in beautiful Nosara, for instance, and Montezuma Yoga hosts morning and evening sessions in Playa Montezuma. Even some of our partner resorts offer their own classes, like those at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa.

None of this is to say that your donors need to leave the country for a yoga-cation. Major metropolitan areas in the country like New York and San Francisco have so many options for classes that to list them would take days. But if you want to find Americas great yoga secret, head to Asheville, North Carolina. No, really: The city was named one of the top ten cities in America for yoga by Yoga Journal, thanks in part to its close-knit community and surprising variety of styles.

Bali Villa

Bali Beachfront Villa

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

Port Douglas


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Oh The Places They Will Go!

May 11, 2016
May brings Mothers Day, the Kentucky Derby and, of course, flowers (according to the Theory of April Showers). But its also the time of year when students get together, listen to one final lecture, and walk across a stage to be handed a piece of paper. It is graduation season in America, and this can be a fun time, celebrating the academic achievements of friends and relatives of friends. But it can also occasionally be confusing: What present does one get for a recent graduate?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s fundraising auction travel packages are often used as gifts, whether its for birthdays or anniversaries. But there are plenty of trips in our catalog that make a lot of sense to give to a college graduate as a celebration of their maturation into the real world, while also raising money for a good cause.

As anyone who has joined the working world knows, there may be no freer period of ones life than the one that comes between graduation and a first job. Whether its just a couple of weeks after final exams or a job search that stretches throughout the summer, there often are few worries as post-grads start to dive into the real world. This means that there may be no better time in the near future for a traveler to take that major trip, the week-long one to a part of the world that falls way outside of weekend getaway status. Several of our Destinations of Excellence fall into that category, but the hottest one right now might be Bali, the Indonesian island that has been popping up in travel magazines for the last several years. Its the type of once-in-a-lifetime trip that is meant to be savored, and not rushed perfect for the recent graduate with a little bit of flexibility on his or her hands.

The backpacking trip across Europe has been a staple of post-graduate travel for generations. The romance of the open road, sleeping in train cabins, and seeing the entire continent is a major draw to the young and adventurous. It also can be stress-inducing for the parents of those doing the traveling, however. Help your donors split the difference with the Hit the Road, Jacques! travel package, which sends a donor or a donors gift recipient to both Paris and Rome, with stays in nice hotels (no sleeper cars here!) and tours of the city on a vintage motorcycle and a Vespa, respectively. The trip couples the thrill of roadtripping with the knowledge of where a traveler will be sleeping and showering, allowing worried parents to sleep better.

Of course, for some, getting out of school is a stressful enough proposition that a recent graduate may just want to sit on a beach chair, sipping a frozen drink that has a cocktail umbrella in it. For those ex-students who need some time to decompress, there may be few better places to do so than at Montego Bay in Jamaica, at an all-inclusive resort like the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. Its the best of both worlds for a young traveler: A diversion-filled property where the food and drinks are complementary, on an island known for its world-class culture, lively arts scene and fascinating cuisine.

Bali Villa

Arc De Triomphe, Paris, France

Vespa in Rome

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall


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Luxurious Travel for Mom

May 04, 2016
Mom. She gave you so much while, in many cases, sacrificing her own desires. Each year, we set aside a day to celebrate the mothers in our lives, and give them gifts of gratitude. And while most mothers are happy with a brunch and a scented candle, doesnt it feel like we can do more?

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love it when donors win our fundraising auction travel packages as presents for others. Whether its a graduation adventure, a birthday gift or a special anniversary getaway, we think that travel is one of the worlds greatest experiences and, therefore, one of the worlds most meaningful gifts. Some of our Destinations of Excellence can act as perfect getaways for moms, as well, giving them the chance to relax in the arms of luxury.


If mom has a taste for the finer things (or if your donors want to give her that taste), there are few cities more attuned to the luxurious lifestyle than New York. And while we have several trips to Big Apple, one of our favorites is the Exquisite New York Dazzles Like Never Before package. The adventure includes a stay at The Plaza, the world-famous hotel located right off of Central Park, in a Rose Suite, with a separate sitting room and a marble wet bar. But the biggest highlight may be the $1,000 gift card to Tiffany & Co., perfect to pick up that special necklace, pair of earrings or ring.


Does mom have a sweet tooth? If so, maybe San Francisco is the destination for her. The city by the Bay is known as a tech industry hub, as a place with stunning views and fantastic seafood. But its also the home of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company and on our San Francisco Sweet and Savory trip, mom can go on an Ultra Chocolate Tour, featuring seven tastings and even some wine and cocktail pairings! That adventure also includes a stay in a suite at The Fairmont San Francisco, with its unparalleled view of the city from the top of Nob Hill.


Of course, there are few cities on the planet more closely tied with luxurious indulgence than Paris. From its bustling caf culture to its rich cuisine, the City of Light is a place for relaxation, for letting loose and for enjoying high-end experiences of extravagance. Our Royal Parisian Palace package features a hands-on cooking course at one of the citys top schools, a lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel in the Eiffel Tower and even a cruise along the River Seine. Its capped off with accommodations at Le Littre, right on the Left Bank and a short distance away from Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.

The Plaza New York

Ghirardelli San Francisco

L'Atelier des Sens

Eiffel Tower at Night


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Spring Updating: The New Catalog!

April 27, 2016
Spring is the time to declutter, the time to go through closets and get rid of that which you dont need anymore. We do it to create space for ourselves, both metaphorically (dont you feel more relaxed when surrounded by less stuff?) and physically. But best of all: All that new space means youve got room to store new purchases.

Weve got the same impulses at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., but in our case its more of a freshening up. Thats why our new catalog of fundraising auction travel packages features some brand-new trips to the worlds greatest destinations.

Whats new in the Mitch-Stuart catalog? Check out:

  • New continents! Weve brought back an adventure to Australia that is perfect for your outdoorsy supporters; it includes a stay in a three-bedroom villa and chances to see the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. And we also return to South America with a trip to Rio de Janeiro, with a weeklong stay in the prestigious Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, which will host a large number of venues for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Stays in gorgeous villas! Give your donors the chance to take a whole family or crew on vacation to places like the island of St. John in the Caribbean and the Rich Coast of Costa Rica (both with four-bedroom accommodations). Catch your dinner in Costa Rica and bring it to a private chef to prepare, or visit Caneel Bay, also known as the Rockefeller Estate, in St. John
  • More options in Bali! Stay in a five-bedroom beachfront mansion on one outing, or get in touch with your spiritual side with a trek to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. And weve also added a trip to nearby Thailand, with a stay in a villa located just minutes from the countrys stunning West Coast beaches.
  • More golf courses! Play a round at Pete Dye's Valley Course, the sibling to the world-famous Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, while staying in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Or take a shorter break in Scottsdale, Arizona while still getting in games at the Troon North Golf Club, named one of the Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play by Golf Magazine.
  • More beachside fun! New options in Belize, St. Thomas and Cabo San Lucas combine sandy fun with luxury and adventure.

If youd like to hear more about any of these new ways to send your donors on the vacation of a lifetime (while making money for your organization), reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today.
Port Douglas Australia Villa

Rio de Janeiro

Bali Beachfront Villa

World Golf Village Florida


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Happy Centennial, NPS!

April 20, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

In 2016, the National Park Service turns 100 years young. Formed in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson, the agency has had the mission, as the president said at the time, to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. Thats a big task, but for a century the NPS has done exactly that, preserving some of Americas most scenic lands and making sure that people can enjoy them without harming the surrounding environment.

At Mitch-Stuart, were appreciative of everything the National Park Service has done for travel and travelers in America every day, but especially so during National Park Week, which in 2016 stretches from April 16-23. During this time, entrance to the parks is free, and there are different programs throughout the country, both educational and fun. If youve got a national park near you, youve got a couple more days to go for free, and if youve got donors who love the outdoors, youve got a big selection of trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog that can pique their interest.

The serene setting and outdoor beauty is a major reason that Jackson Hole has been an in-demand destination for decades. Part of that beauty comes from the surrounding national parks: Grand Teton is the closest, with its mountaineering and fishing opportunities, in the shadow of the mountain range of the same name, and Yellowstone, the wilderness that many consider to be the cornerstone of the national park system. Photo opportunities about here, of course, be it Old Faithful Geyser, Snake River or any of the hundreds of species of animals that can be spotted by a patient (and quiet) observer. Our Premier Retreat in the Great American West package can take your donors to two of the jewels of this countrys outdoors.

Not all national parks are far off in the wilderness, though. The National Parks of New York Harbor is the group name to 22 different monuments and ten parks in New York City and the surrounding area.  The most famous of these sights is the Statue of Liberty, but the list also includes the Federal Hall National Memorial (home to the first Congress and Supreme Court), Governors Island National Monument and the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt. And when the concrete jungle gets to be overwhelming, the Gateway National Recreation Area offers beaches, lighthouses and even archery ranges.

One of the most underrated getaways in the national park circuit, however, comes in the countrys northeastern corner. Acadia National Park goes from mountains to beaches, all within a short distance from Bar Harbor. Visitors can check out the only fjord on the east coast of the U.S., go biking or hiking on a myriad of trails, and even take a horse out on 45 miles of carriage roads. Our East Coast Escape to Mount Desert Island travel package can set your donors up with all the outdoor adventure and gorgeous vistas they could want.
Grand Teton National Park

Statue of Liberty

Acadia National Park

Bar Harbor


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Traveling the Earth, On Its Day

April 13, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

April 22 is not the Earths birthday, of course. But it is the day weve set aside to celebrate the rounded pebble on which we float through space, the home that provides water to drink, food to eat and gravity to keep us stuck to the ground. Its also a day to think about the planets challenges, the areas that need the most help and support in offsetting human influence, be it deforestation, pollution or other ruination of natural resources.

Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to some of the most beautiful corners of the world, of course, but some of those Destinations of Excellence are also the most fragile areas. On this Earth Day, we spotlight some of those places where preservationists are hard at work and places that could use tourism dollars to aid in conservation efforts.

While the Brazilian rainforests may be the most well-known, there are plenty of other stunning examples a little closer to home. In Costa Rica, for instance, Corcovado National Park has gorgeous views of the last remaining tropical lowland rainforests in the country, while the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve contains more than 2,500 plant species, many of which are visible from one of the reserves hiking trails or ziplines. Belize is another Central American country where rainforests remain; one of the largest remaining populations of the jaguar can be found there along with the howler monkey. And the Reef Bay Trail on the tiny Caribbean island of St. John is one of the most popular attractions there, incorporating both the beauty of the bio-diversity and the history of the island in the form of abandoned sugar estates and the remains of the last plantation.

One doesnt have to leave America to find a bio-diverse environment, of course. In fact, one of the worlds habitats with the most varied collection of native species is the Florida Everglades. Stretching from just south of the Orlando area all the way to outside of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, the marshland is home to more than 350 types of birds, including endangered species such as the wood stork and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Plant life thrives in the humid conditions, as well, and its also home of the Florida panther, of which only an estimated 80 remain, according to the National Wildlife Federation. With all of the parks throughout the wetlands, including Everglades National Park, there are plenty of ways to interact with the area while being respectful of the preservation efforts in place.

If youve got donors interested in a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experience, though, send them to the coral reefs off the coast of Bali. The island is a part of the Coral Triangle, which has been called the Amazon of the Ocean because of its biodiversity; 76 percent of all coral species in the world are within the triangle, along with 37 percent of the worlds reef fish species. Its been the subject of a high-level conservation effort for almost a decade now, called the Coral Triangle Initiative, and that work is partially supported by the $12 billion nature-tourism industry there. Exploring the region from the sea, whether its on boat or scuba diving in the ocean itself, is a must-do for the nature-obsessed.
Costa Rica Rainforest

Rainforest Howler Monkey

Bali Villa

Florida Panthers


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Rock and Travel?

April 06, 2016
In a few days, the attention of the music world will focus on tiny Indio, California. The desert community just outside of Palm Springs will host one of the countrys biggest gatherings of rock, indie, hip-hop and youth culture. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (named after the valley that is home to Indio, Palm Springs and other neighboring cities) draws nearly 200,000 people to inland California over the course of two weekends, all to watch some of the largest names in music. Festivalgoers travel from around the world to camp outside of the Empire Polo Grounds, the host of the concert, or book hotel rooms across the valley.

Like a food festival, a particular sporting event or even a season change (like fall in New England or spring among the cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C.) music can be a great motivator for a traveler. Thankfully, Mitch-Stuarts catalog of fundraising auction travel packages can absolutely be used to send a music aficionado on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure involving some of the great names and places in music history.

For music fans, there are few cities more accommodating than New Orleans. Beyond every caf and bar in the French Quarter with a jazz combo playing in the back corner, the city is home to some of the countrys best music festivals. The New Orleans Jazz Festival brings in some of the worlds brightest lights in its titular genre, along with soul, R&B and even rock acts (Pearl Jam and Stevie Wonder are headlining in 2016). The Essence Festival, traditionally held during the summer, may be Americas biggest celebration of African-American culture, including music headliners, guest speakers and others. And Voodoo Music and Arts Experience combines great tunes with interactive art in a way that draws fans of both.

For those who prefer music of a different era, a trip to visit one of the countrys museums dedicated to the art may be a great bidding motivator. Whether its the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland or even a smaller tribute (the Stax Museum in Memphis, for instance, dedicated to the classic soul label), a trip with a built-in musical attraction like one of these destinations can turn heads at a fundraising auction. These excursions can be bonus features to an already-existing package (a country fan bidding on our CMA Awards, Country Music's Biggest Night! item, for instance) or reasons to utilize one of Mitch-Stuarts Choose Your Own Adventure packages, making them versatile selling points.

And if your supporters want to combine the energy of music with the star power of awards shows, weve got trips to two different nights filled with statuettes, live performances and surprises galore. As mentioned before, the CMA Awards, Country Musics Biggest Night! takes donors to Nashville this November to watch the 50th annual Country Music Awards. And while the show itself is the centerpiece, fans will find plenty to do during the rest of the time; theres a reason Nashville earned the nickname Music City, after all. And no city does glitz and glamor quite like Los Angeles, meaning that the 2016 American Music Awards, also held in November, attracts a whos-who of the pop charts. The 2015 edition featured Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, One Direction and Coldplay and the 2016 show could feature your supporters (in the audience, at least) with the Rock On at the American Music Awards! package.
Louis Armstrong Statue

New Orleans Jazz Band

Taylor Swift

Coldplay Concert


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April Foolish Travel

March 30, 2016
April Fools Day is Friday. Do not believe anything.

There may be no holiday more custom-built for the Internet than April Fools Day. Between joke articles on websites, the yearly Google product announcement video and the constant silliness of social media, the web goes all out for April Fools Day like Boston does for St. Patricks Day.

If youve got donors who go all-in on April 1, who push for your charity to send out fake fundraising letters or posts faux sonograms on their social media feeds, they may also be the type of person who would love to travel to one of comedys meccas, one of the cities responsible for the development and production of humor. There are several Mitch-Stuart fundraising auction travel packages that can put your supporters within a stones throw of comedy history.

Despite its reputation for being teeming with tear-jerking dramas, Broadway has shown its ability to be fall-down funny over the past 15 years in particular. Shows like The Book of Mormon, Spamalot and Avenue Q combine stage theatrics with big laughs, whether its social satire or pure silliness. Mormon is still on Broadway to this day, while Avenue Q has moved to an off-Broadway house. Of course, the rest of the city has deep roots in comedy, as well; Carolines on Broadway and Gotham Comedy Club are two of the most famous stand-up stages in the country, and incubators like The Pit NYC and Upright Citizens Brigade feature the next generation of funny people first.

For those interested in the recent history of comedy, Chicago is an interesting choice for a vacation. It was here that Second City, the improv troupe and school that gave the world everyone from Alan Arkin and Fred Willard to Tina Fey and Chris Farley. Stretching back to the 1950s, when the comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May were seen on stage at a Second City predecessor, the city of Chicago gave talented funny people room to create comic personas without the glare of Hollywood or New Yorks bright lights. Its also the home city of two classic comedies of the 1980s, The Blues Brothers and Ferris Buellers Day Off.

For the best in comedy today, though, Los Angeles may be the destination. Improv theaters like The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade have been the primary farm systems for Saturday Night Live cast members for decades now, and everywhere from the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard to the Whole Foods in Pasadena (no, really!) now hosts stand-ups. One of our favorites is the Largo at the Coronet, a 280-seat theater near the Beverly Center shopping mall that hosts the best in alternative comics stars like Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman are regulars there in an artist-friendly environment (no cell phones and no talking in the theater). Bonus: Its next door to one of the best cocktail lounges in the city, the Roger Room, making for a quintessentially L.A. one-two punch.
Monty Python's Spamalot NY

Chicago

Los Angeles


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Break for Spring

March 23, 2016
Maybe schools have it right, after all.

After a winter of tough weather, indoor activities and heavy coats, people are ready to get outside and run around at the first sight of the sun. Schools have long accepted this fact, giving kids a week off to go and burn off that pent-up energy. Starting with the Colgate swimming team heading south to Florida in 1935, the modern Spring Break is often wrapped up in parties, alcohol and an ever-increasing amount of corporate sponsorship (see: Most Florida beaches throughout the month of March).

But just because one leaves academia behind doesnt mean that a Spring Break becomes unnecessary. After a full winter of going from home to car to office building and then back, getting into the outdoors for a few days can do wonders for the spirit. At Mitch-Stuart, we offer fundraising auction travel packages for all times of year, but many of our trips can help melt away the winter doldrums and serve as a spring break for the post-graduation set. Want some ideas for adventures to offer for auction at a spring-flavored gala? How about

On the Links: Months off due to weather can leave a golf swing pretty rusty. And one way to get that Vitamin D infusion is by walking 18 pristine holes somewhere in the southern half of the country. Resort towns like Hilton Head, South Carolina and Scottsdale, Arizona feature numerous course options for the semi-pro player all the way down to the weekend hacker. Meanwhile, desert towns like Palm Springs and Indian Wells are still temperate enough in the spring to play all day; those triple-digit mid-day temps dont start showing up consistently until June.

Hit the Beach: Yes, plenty of college kids will be heading to cities in Florida, Texas or Southern California to celebrate the season (and we can send your donors to those places as well, if they want to join the revelry). But for those who prefer their beverages in containers other than red Solo cups, the Caribbean makes for a great getaway. Whether its five days in Aruba, Bermuda or Jamaica, theres no place to get reacquainted with sunshine than on a beach chair, listening to the waves roll in. And for those with a limited vacation window, the Caribbean is a closer journey than you might think; take off from Manhattan in the morning, and youll be in Aruba in time for happy hour, for instance.

Head to the Islands: For students, hopping a flight to Hawaii usually is out of the question; between the travel time and the expense, the 50th state does not attract the kind of collegiate crowd one would expect based on its stunning beaches and warm climate. But for those who are just looking to miss that last cold snap at home and defrost under the springtime sun, there may be no more scenic place in America to do it than Hawaii. And with ten different trips to the islands, encompassing stays on four different islands, all the views of the state are available.


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Celebrating Americas Diversity

March 16, 2016
This Thursday, people around the country will fill Irish bars, drink a pint of Guinness and toast St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Emerald Isle. But while, for many, intoxicants and green clothing will make up the bulk of the revelry, theres a great amount of cultural significance to the day in this country; its a celebration of the Irish people who meant so much to Americas development when they began coming to the United States en masse in the 19th century.

These types of celebrations, these recognitions of cultures that have contributed so much to the American fabric, can be great reasons to travel to some of Americas favorite cities. For your donors who win a fundraising auction travel package from Mitch-Stuart, here are some great holidays worthy of a trip.

According to numbers from the Migration Policy Institute, there are more people from Mexico in Los Angeles County than there are in any individual city in Mexico itself, save the capital. With such a large population, its no wonder that L.A. is a national leader in Cinco de Mayo celebrations. But while every Mexican food restaurants from Tinseltown to the border will offer some sort of special menu, and some revelers will be much more interested in the libations of the country than the culture, those with an interest in the heritage of our southern neighbors will head to Olvera Street, in downtown Los Angeles. Theres food and drink, of course, but theres also music, exhibitors, and traditional dancing. Even bigger: The streets Dia de los Muertos celebration each year stretches for almost a week, and includes nightly processions and stunningly-decorated alters.

Long considered the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, San Franciscos version of the neighborhood throws one of the biggest Chinese New Year parties in the country. The area around Telegraph Hill in the City by the Bay plays host to a parade, a run, and a gorgeous street fair with great food, merchants and artisans teaching traditional Chinese cultural arts like lantern- and kite-making. About a half-million attendees walk the streets each year during the celebrations, making it a popular choice for travelers looking to see San Francisco through the prism of one of its oldest neighborhoods.

Spotlighting New York City for its celebrations of international culture feels like a cheat; in the Big Apple, nearly every nation in the world has a sizeable population (and, in many cases, a pride parade). One of our favorites, since we love to travel for foodie adventures, is the Feast of San Gennaro, held in the citys Little Italy neighborhood. Theres a procession here, as well, but theres also musical entertainment, remembrances and ceremonies, and most importantly all sorts of Italian food. Restaurants and cafes open their doors and offer special menus, those with bigger stomachs participate in a cannoli-eating competition and chefs demonstrate how to add that touch of Tuscany (or other provincial cuisines) to any home-cooked meal. The 2016 edition is expected to draw more than a million visitors to lower Manhattan from September 15-25.
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Were Heading to Boston Join Us!

March 09, 2016
Were packing our bags, getting plenty of rest and trying to find where we put our heavy coats. The AFP International Fundraising Conference takes place in Boston on March 20-22, and were excited to announce that well be on the exhibit hall floor at Booth #918, talking with attendees about our non-profit auction travel packages! Well also be sharing out booth with our friends at Grandstand Sports, the home of one-of-a-kind autographs, posters, game-used equipment and other mementos that make for fantastic auction items.

If you or someone in your organization is attending the conference, heres a cheat sheet of some of the highlights:

GONE! 3 Fundraising Auction Mistakes How to Engage New Donors, Solicit High-Profit Auction Items and Break Revenue Records Every Time! Our friend Kathy Kingston has her own seminar! The author of A Higher Bid will break down the three most commonly-made mistakes in preparing for and executing a fundraising auction, and give attendees the knowledge needed to use a fundraising auction as a catalyst for donor development. And even better: Kingston will make her way from her lecture to our booth, #918, for a Q-and-A session and refreshments. (March 21, 11:00-11:30 a.m.)

Leveraging Social Media to Engage Millennials & Drive Event Fundraising Social media will likely never replace a personal call or mailed invitation for gala events, but getting the word out on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms can help introduce your fundraiser (and non-profit) to the broader world, and gives your supporters an easily-shareable invite so that they can bring friends. KC Fox of Eventbrite and Darian Heyman of the NUMI Foundation will take attendees through the best practices of the digital space. (March 20, 10:15-11:30 a.m.)

Donor Surveys For The Win You know who donated money to you, whether it was as a gift or with a winning bid at a fundraising auction. But do you why they did? Shanon Doolittle breaks down the art and science of the donor survey, how to analyze the results and how to use that new information. Its a seminar with practical tips that can be immediately put in place. (March 22, 3:15-4:30 p.m.)

Boston Pizza and Taverns Tour No, this isnt a seminar about how to throw a pizza party in a bar as a fundraiser. Instead, its a three-hour walk around the city, stopping in at different pizzerias, taking a ferry ride and seeing some of Americas oldest and most historic pubs. Its one of our favorite parts of our The Savory and Smooth Tastes of Boston non-profit auction travel package, and if youre in Boston the Saturday before the conference, it may be a great way to see the city.

Again, well be set up at Booth #918 throughout the conference. Stop by and say hello!
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Do You REALLY Make Money from the Highest Bidder?

March 07, 2016
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, auctioneer and SocialSmarts founder Corinne Gregory tells us how activity, not deep pockets, drives auction fundraising. Enjoy!)

If youve ever been to an auction and Im assuming since you are reading this, you are already a veteran of at least one event -- you are aware that the high bidder is the one the auctioneer sells the item to when the bidding has concluded.  So, its natural to believe that the high bidder is the one who is making the money for the charity during a Live or Silent Auction.

Well, folks, let me be the one to break it to you: It isnt true! Yet so many charities covet the high bidders because they truly believe that these individuals are going to make more for the cause. Even most auctioneers will work particularly hard on getting to the high bidder because they feel this is where their energies should be focused. And that may be costing you money and not making you more as you would expect.

First of all, there is a common misconception that, in order to make more money at your event, you need to invite more people with high net-worth. While it would seem to make sense that people with more money will be prime targets to spend more and be your high bidders, frequently the opposite is true. When people have ample discretionary income, they tend to buy things that they want as it comes along. They arent going to wait around and save up just to buy at your auction. Thats not to say that these individuals arent generous or wont contribute to your auctions bottom line, but they arent going to be the ones generating the most bid activity.

So then, if the people at the top of your buying pyramid arent going to be the ones generating the most bids, who is going to help you make more money? The answer is simple, really: everyone else.  Activity is where the money is.

Why is activity so important? Well, although we do collect money from the high bidder, each time someone puts their bid number down on a Silent Auction form or raises their Bid Card during the Live Auction they are raising more money for the charity. The second, third and fourth high bidders are helping raise the price of that item. Ultimately, the high bidder is the one who is determined to hang in there and out-bid the competition. So, as I like to say to my auction audience, Its the job of the second, third and fourth high bidders to make sure that the winner pays appropriately!

So, if we are making money from any and all bidders that participate, its crucial to have audience engagement. We want them all to bid -- more bid cards in the air means the revenue to the charity increases. That means, as an auctioneer, I need to be courting the second and third high bidders, giving them permission to stay in the game, and not just focusing on one or two potential high bidders. In fact, I coach my audience, letting them know they can play along all they want -- be my second and third high bidders all night long. But, if they dont actually want the item, they should pull their cards down before I say Sold!

So, remember, while we do ultimately collect the money from the high bidder, we make money from every guest that places a higher bid on a Silent Auction form or raises their bid card during the Live Auction. Its important to keep your entire audience engaged and interacting because, even if they dont win, their participation ensures that the charity does.

(Big thanks to Corinne Gregory for sharing her insights with us this week! For more information about her, go to auctionhelp.com and corinnegregory.com.)
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Awards for (Auction) Winners

February 24, 2016
The tuxes are pressed, the limos are gassed up and the neighbors of Hollywood’s Dolby Theater have listed their apartments on home-sharing sites to make extra money. It’s awards season in Los Angeles, and it culminates this Sunday with the Academy Awards presented live in front of a theater filled with celebrities and a home audience measuring in the multiple millions.

But while the Oscars represent the end of film’s awards season, there are plenty such ceremonies throughout the year, evenings that combine star power with glitz and glamour. Mitch-Stuart has tickets for your donors to some of the biggest award shows of the year in our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, including these great 2016 commemorations.

There may be no greater intersection of sports and pop culture than the year ESPY Awards, held next in July of 2016. From its downtown Los Angeles home, the ESPYs recognize great achievement in sports over the previous 12 months, including top players, top plays and top teams. But whether a donor’s favorite franchise won the Super Bowl or didn’t even make the playoffs, there’s plenty to celebrate – and plenty of stars of film, music and television with whom to celebrate. And for those who wish to balance their sports with some art, the trip package puts the auction winner at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel, mere blocks from The Broad, one of contemporary art’s splashiest openings of 2015.

For a trip that combines big names and a down-home feel, offer our “CMA Awards, Country Music’s Biggest Night” package. Held in Nashville this November, the Country Music Awards honors the best and brightest in the genre, while featuring plenty of performances; last year’s show saw “The Voice” host Blake Shelton, “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood and the legendary Reba McEntire take the stage, with even Justin Timberlake helping out his buddy Chris Singleton on a song. Combine that night of stars with three days and one more night of Nashville’s local music scene, tremendous food and historic beauty, and it’s a weekend that will make lifelong memories.

But the longest-running award show in our catalog will take your donors to the Great White Way for the 70th annual Tony Awards. If you’ve got a supporter in love with the smash-hit musical “Hamilton,” this will likely be the year he or she wants to go; the show is likely to be up for everything from “Best Musical” to “Best Soundtrack With Which to Sing Along While Stuck in Traffic.” Throw in a likely performance, and this June’s Tonys could be the night for a “Hamilton” obsessive – and the two-night stay at the Grand Hyatt New York, a stone’s throw away from Central Park and Times Square, means that the fun doesn’t stop at the doors of the Beacon Theatre.
Drew Brees

Carrie Underwood and Katie Cook

Brad Paisley

Tony Awards


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Las Vegas: Spring Wonderland

February 17, 2016
The summers in Las Vegas can be brutal. Average high temperatures in Sin City during the summer months stay in the triple digits, with a peak of 106 degrees on average in July. The winters head to the other end of the spectrum; while average highs in December and January are just under 60 degrees, the lows get down to nearly freezing, and the desert winds can run right through a snowbirds bones.

Thankfully, theres the spring. While Las Vegas doesnt have as many of the blooms that other cities might have (theres nothing in the area that could compare to, say, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.), the more moderate temperatures of March, April and May can draw visitors out of the air-conditioned casinos and into the fresh desert air.

At Mitch-Stuart, our non-profit auction travel packages are designed to be used at almost any time throughout the year, but there are definitely seasons that, depending on a travelers hobbies and activities, are more pleasant than others. And if youve got supporters who love poolside libations, golfing, or just outdoor sightseeing, springtime in Las Vegas is hard to beat.

One of the favorite pastimes of spring Vegas visitors is camping out poolside for an afternoon, with a drink (alcoholic or otherwise) in one hand and a good book in the other. The pools at the major casinos start opening for business in mid-March, and with temperatures being warm (especially for those coming from colder, snowbound homes) but not scorching, there are plenty of chances for working on that tan while relaxing in a lounge chair. Hotels like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Caesars Palace have raucous poolside atmospheres, while Paris Las Vegas Soleil Pool is a calming oasis in the shadow of the resorts replica Eiffel Tower.

Playing golf in the tremendous heat of a Vegas summer can feel more like a death march than a game. Going in March or April rather than July or August, however, keeps the heat on simmer rather than broil. And the city is an underrated stop for golfers, too, with a major variety of courses in the area; the TPC Las Vegas is a stunner appropriate for strong players, while Angel Parks Cloud Nine is a shorter, executive course designed for hackers of all levels. Players dont even have to leave the Strip, with the Wynn Golf Club providing an 18-hole layout in the shadow of the resort.

Even sightseeing can take on a labored pace in 100+ degree heat, meaning that natural wonders like the Grand Canyon may be better appreciated in the spring, rather than the summer. For all the manmade, neon diversions of Sin City, its most beautiful vistas can be found in the surrounding desert. Red Rock Canyon offers tremendous hiking and rock climbing, and Hoover Dam is a unique architectural marvel. And though it sits in the neighboring state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon hosts visitors from Vegas every day, thanks to a plethora of tour operators flying helicopters to and from the natural wonder.
Las Vegas

Maverick Helicopters Las Vegas

The Wynn

Grand Canyon


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The Romantics Valentines Day Gift

February 10, 2016
Chocolate? Meh. Flowers? Theyll be dead in a week. Jewelry? Sure, but do people really need more stuff? We may be biased, but there may be no more romantic gift than the gift of travel.

Mitch-Stuart can set up your donors with fundraising auction travel packages for any time of the year and for any occasion, of course, but theres something special about sending two lovebirds out into the world together, to explore and make wonderful memories. Whether youve got supporters looking for a honeymoon excursion, a babymoon last hurrah, or just an adventure with the love of his or her life, setting them up with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a Destination of Excellence will plant you in their mind every time they reflect on that romantic getaway.

What makes travel so romantic? Some ideas:

Two people enter a relationship with lifetimes worth of experiences in their past. That extends to cities visited, which means that if one-half of a couple is a regular in, say, Las Vegas, the other half may feel more like a tourist following a guide than an equal partner. But when two people explore a new destination together, it can be a bonding experience. Want to give your donors the chance to make a destination feel like a shared romantic getaway? Offer one of our packages to a far-flung locale, perhaps like Bali, where your supporters can relax on beaches, get couples massages and explore an island while making it theirs.

Going on an adventure together can also push you and your partner out of your comfort zone. Whether you feel stuck in a rut or just would like to infuse your romance with a little spice, the adrenaline triggered by trying something new can be a great way to jump start emotions, as well. This could mean, for instance, heading for Africa with our Explore Kenyas Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife package, which includes a gift card that can be used for game drives, bush walks and other safari experiences.

Finally, while the act of traveling is romantic on its own, the destination often has its own enchanting activities. We touched on that idea last year around this time, but it bears repeating: Booking the right itinerary once on the ground can make any place seductive. Exploring New York as a couple may mean a walk through Central Park at sunset or a date night at the Plaza. Any Southern California or Caribbean trip means walks along the beach. Skiing adventures in Aspen means aprs-ski cuddles by the fire. No matter the trip, theres something waiting at the destination for couples.
Massage

Fairmont Kenya Safari

Central Park Carriage New York

The Buccaneer St. Croix


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Mardi Gras Around the World

February 03, 2016
Its a funny reason for a Christian holiday: The night before the purging season of Lent, Mardi Gras celebrates binging, preparing for the relative austerity of the weeks pre-Easter by over-indulging for one night. For some, that means plenty of adult beverages, while for others its fatty and sugary foods. No matter the gluttony of choice, Mardi Gras is best observed by consuming too much of something that will put the celebrant in confession the next day. Of course, like other holidays, Fat Tuesday (as its known in some parts of the world) is only partially about religion anymore, as it has been adapted as a secular celebration for revelers of all (or no) faiths.

While New Orleans may be considered the holidays epicenter, Mardi Gras parties arent the sole domain of the Crescent City. In fact, with our fundraising auction travel packages, Mitch-Stuart can send one of your supporters to a celebration in any one of the great travel destinations around the world. Want to enjoy the day without a trip down Bourbon Street? You and your donors have options.

While New Orleans may be the city most associated with the holiday today, its origins are in French Catholic traditions. It should be no surprise, then, that France has nationwide celebrations of Carnival and Mardi Gras to this day. Parades in Nice, Paris and other cities mark the occasion, with large floats, ornate masks and confetti being the coins of the realm. Nice, in particular, is a special celebration; it attracts more than a million visitors to the city.

In Italy, Carnival is tied closely to Mardi Gras, as well; Fat Tuesday is the final day of the celebration that involves fireworks, special dinners and parties, and art. In 2016, the Venice festival is featuring almost 150 separate events, leading up to a best mask of Carnival contest, a closing ceremony and fireworks at the Arsenal of Venice.

Your donors dont have to leave the country to celebrate Mardi Gras, either. Universal Studios in Orlando celebrates the holiday on select dates between February and April, with parades and concerts in a family-friendly environment. Music is a major part of the fun here; 2016 features traditional New Orleans Zydeco bands in the French Quarter Courtyard and big name touring acts like Adam Lambert and Diana Ross on the Music Plaza stage.

And while New Orleans will always be the gold standard of Mardi Gras celebrations in America, most major cities in the country mark the day with some sort of event. In New York, the 2nd Avenue Mardi Gras Stroll enters its 19th year of libation-fueled fun, while the Mardi Gras Ball in Boston is into its third decade of existence. Mid-sized communities get into the act, as well; In North Carolina, Asheville has its own parade on the weekend preceding Fat Tuesday, and Snowmass, just miles outside of Aspen, kicks off the day itself with the Mother of All Ascensions, an uphill snowshoe race.
Carnival in Nice

Carnival in Venice

Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida

Mardi Gras at Snowmass


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Beyond the Slopes

January 27, 2016
For some, skiing is the most thrilling activity imaginable on two planks of wood: The speed, the adrenaline, the rush of careening down a mountainside with the wind whizzing past. For others, it seems like the easiest way to book a vacation in a local emergency room.

Offering a ski-themed fundraising auction travel package can make a lot of sense for organizations, especially those based in warmer climates. But if you want to widen your trips appeal, make sure to point out the non-skiing based fun that can be had in many of our favorite winter wonderlands.

In Colorado, the Rocky Mountains attract bicyclists throughout the summer months, taking to the hills in search of good workouts and downhill sprints. But just because the winter months bring snow to the ski runs doesnt mean that bicyclists have to hang up their helmets. Visitors to the city of Telluride, for instance, can take the Telluride Brewing Company Tour, with a fat tire bike tour of the surrounding valleys floor, finishing with a tasting at the titular brewery. The wider-than-normal tires grip the ground better, meaning increased traction and safety in even the most treacherous of conditions. The tour is a beautiful way to enjoy the bracing cold of the season, then immediately warm up with a pint of beer.

Weve written at length about the reasons that Jackson Hole makes for a great getaway, but one of our favorite options for vacations during the Wyoming winter is a cold-weather safari. Local tour guides take visitors out into places like the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park, looking for everything from waterfowl to wolves. And with the guide doing the driving, everyone on the vacation can relax and sightsee, rather than one unlucky person having to drive. Bonus: No trip photo may beat that of a donor, standing out on the Antelope Flats, with mountains in the background and bison or other animals roaming nearby.

For those who still want to strap something to their feet, a trip to Whistler may be in order, where the infrastructure left in place from the 2010 Winter Olympics has created a surplus of ice rinks upon which to skate. Pose for group photos on the surface of the rink in the Olympic Plaza, for instance, with the five rings of the Olympic Games still standing in the background, or head indoors to the Meadow Park Sports Centre to find an NHL-sized sheet of ice and instructors ready to help teach neophytes. And if being out in nature is a priority, the Whistler area has a number of lakes that, during the winter, freeze over enough to support skaters (check local safety guides, of course). Skating in circles, with the gorgeous backdrop of British Columbia, can be every bit as satisfying as speeding down a mountain.
Telluride
 
Grand Teton National Park
 
Fairmont Chateau Whistler


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Disney for Everyone

January 20, 2016
The first thought is of the ears, the ubiquitous hats with plastic versions of Mickey Mouses circular stand-ins for hearing appendages. Theyre must-have pieces of memorabilia for the kids that are most closely associated with the Disney theme parks in Southern California and Orlando.

Like those ears, when many people think about Disneyland and Disney World, they imagine an army of children, running from line to line and eating cotton candy. But empty sugar calories and roller coasters are only one side of the most popular attractions in Anaheim and Orlando, respectively.

Mitch-Stuart prides itself in setting up non-profits with fundraising auction travel packages to Destinations of Excellence around the world. It can be easy to overlook the Disney resorts as options for donor bases who seek more grown-up experiences, but the Happiest Place on Earth has plenty of charms to make even the most sophisticated supporter smile.

While many may associate amusement parks with hot dogs, funnel cakes and too-sweet lemonade, both Disney resorts have expanded their food offerings to appeal to visitors with more mature palettes. In Florida, restaurants like Victoria and Alberts bring fine dining to Disney with a dress code (dinner jackets for the gentlemen, dresses or pantsuits for ladies) and one of the most coveted meals in the city of Orlando: The Chefs Table, a one-seating-per-night affair with an ever-shifting tasting menu. Southern California, of course, has a cuisine of its own, and it comes to life at Napa Rose inside the Grand Californian Hotel, while the upscale Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disneyland feels like a supper club.

Each resort also has its own version of a Main Street, with different experiences best enjoyed by those whom have reached at least 21 years of age. In Anaheim, Downtown Disney is a favorite for everyone from sports nuts (its the home of the lone remaining ESPNZone restaurant) to music lovers (jazz fans flock to Jazz Kitchen, while some of the top touring acts of today play the House of Blues). In Florida, Disney Springs features a resident Cirque du Soleil show, its own House of Blues and the trendy Paradiso 37 lounge.

But not every adult activity in Anaheim or Orlando has to be cartoon mouse-free. For anyone who wants to see the parks with fewer rugrats running around, try to time your trips to the Magic Kingdom Park or Disneyland Park for later in the evening. Disneyland Park stays open as late as midnight, depending on the season, and the Magic Kingdom Park has a 12 a.m. bedtime year-round. Its true that kids tend to get to stay up later when on vacation, but even with that caveat the 11 p.m. Main Street Electrical Parade at Magic Kingdom Park is still attended mostly by the young-at-heart, rather than the young-in-actual-age.
Disney

World of Color Disneyland

Disney Cars

Disney Castle


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Fundraising Auction Resolutions

January 12, 2016
Were almost two weeks into 2016. How are those resolutions doing?

According to a Harris Interactive poll from two years ago, one in three people who make a New Years resolution has ditched it by the end of January. Whether its shedding a few extra pounds, staying within a budget or even stopping smoking, changes made based on the calendar seem to carry less weight for individuals than those made out of true need. However, for your organization, the New Year may be just the time to supercharge a fundraising auction.

We love helping non-profit organizations raise funds with our gala auction travel packages, but we also want to make sure that each trip offered fetches the maximum bid possible, while also being easy for both the supporters and the staff. What are some changes you can make to guarantee that 2016 is your most successful fundraising year?

  • Get mobile. Pew Research says that almost two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone as of the spring of 2015, and that number certainly is not going to decrease. Using a mobile bidding system like our partner, GiveSmart, allows your gala attendees to place bids from their table and, maybe more importantly, pay from their phones, helping to lessen that end-of-evening payment crush at the auction table. It also simplifies your post-auction process by collecting fulfillment and payment information in one place, meaning less paperwork.
  • Get wide. Yes, most resolutions involve getting more narrow (especially when it comes to waists and guts), but it might be time for your gala auction event to try and reach out to more people. An eye-popping 87 percent of millennials gave to charity in 2013, but for those who are just starting in their chosen career paths, bidding $5,000 on a trip may be impractical. However, by offering a travel package raffle, those same 20- and 30-somethings who may not be able to shell out the big bucks can support your organization while having a chance at winning a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
  • Get big. On the opposite end of the affordability spectrum, never be afraid of offering the kinds of trips that bring in the biggest bids. Offering at least one affordable option is important to get everyone involved, but your biggest donors are willing to buy more than a couple of raffle tickets. Weeklong adventures to Bali, safaris, tickets to the biggest sporting events and award shows each of these can bring in the type of money that turns a fundraising effort into a major success. Give your supporters a real chance to step up to the plate, and you may be surprised by what theyll do.


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Travel With Your Pack

January 06, 2016
Multiple times every year, we gather together our travel experts and put together new trips for our Destinations of Excellence catalog. These fundraising auction travel packages can be sold at galas or via raffles, and are sold on consignment, meaning theres no upfront cost to the charitable organization.

Our last catalog update included the expansion of our Villas and Residencies section, featuring trips with accommodations for up to ten people, in housing beyond the normal hotel room. From private residences to water-side villas, these vacations can not only bring in bigger bids, but can appeal to very specific types of bidders. If any of these motivations for shopping at your charity auction sounds familiar, weve got just the trip to make your supporters happy, all while raising funds for your important cause.

As some parents may have discovered over the last month, buying gifts for kids especially college-aged or grown kids can be tough. But experiences never go out of style, and globe-trotting with friends is even better. If youve got supporters who have kids that are ready for traveling with their peer group, offer them the chance to bid on trips like our This is Your Balinese Paradise or Balis Breathtaking Beauty packages. These type of international adventures can spark a lifelong love of travel in a recent grad, and in most cases will be otherwise out of reach financially for the gifts recipient. Theyll also get a great chance to bond with their friends, classmates or new coworkers in a way that transcends the connections forged at, say, happy hour.

For your donors who might have formed their own social clubs, be they ski, wine or golf-centric, the prospect of getting the whole group out to explore its passion can bring in big money. For the golfers, the Colorado at Its Absolute Best trip takes up to eight people or two foursomes to Telluride, with discounted green fees and access to the Telluride Golf Clubs Members Club. Oenophiles will love heading to Sonoma, California with up to six people staying in a private residence. And skiers can head out on the slopes in Deer Valley or Telluride, with up to eight people. Meeting at the local wine bar or playing the nearby 18 may never feel the same.

But the most common and trendiest reason for travelers to need extra room in their accommodations is multi-generational trips. Getting the entire family together and getting out on the road can lead to the creation of lifelong memories, the type that are rehashed at holiday dinners for years to come. Any of the trips in our catalog are capable of creating those once-in-a-lifetime moments, but our trips to Italy may be the best at offering fun for the whole family. The Under the Tuscan Sun package allows a donor to bring nine more people to Tuscany, and includes an in-villa gourmet meal for the entire family, either an artisanal cheese or olive-picking experience and, for the grown-ups (or grown kids), a full-day wine tour.
Bali
 
Villas at Tristant
 
Sonoma
 
Tuscany Villa


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What to Auction in 2016

December 30, 2015
We at Mitch-Stuart are many things, including purveyors of great non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. What we are not are soothsayers. Just like we didnt predict the poor-dancing Left Shark from the Super Bowl or that NASA would discover water on Mars, we cant tell you what will dominate the pop culture landscape in 2016.

However, when it comes to auctioning off travel packages, we can see the future.

Looking at some of the trends that professional travel agents, journalists and others have predicted for the new year, along with information from 2015, we can figure out some of the trips that will bring in big cash for non-profits in 2016. Some ideas for your upcoming galas:

Hawaii: Of course, trips to Hawaii make for great auction items any year, but 2016 is already looking to be a busy one. Advance bookings are up over those leading into 2015, and with plenty of attraction openings (including an outpost of the world-famous Blue Note Jazz Club on Waikiki Beach), our trips like Captivating Island Culture and Hawaii is a Lovers Paradise are likely to garner big bids. In addition, 2016 will mark a somber, special anniversary for any of your supporters who happen to be veterans of the Armed Forces: December 7 will be the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Europe and Canada: Theres plenty of reasons to head overseas, from the culture to the food, but one current one is the conversion rates. Weve written about this in this space before, but the Euro is currently at a ten-year low against the American dollar. But when looking to make that (American) dollar last longer, do not ignore our northern neighbors, either. One American dollar currently fetches almost $1.40 in Canadian cash, meaning that exploring Vancouver (Vancouvers Gateway to the Pacific) or Victoria (Escape to Victorias Elegance and Grandeur) is even easier.

National Parks: There will be celebrations at national parks throughout the country in honor of the National Park Services 100th anniversary, starting with the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Years Day. There are parks near many of our destinations, but one of our favorites is the Grand Teton National Park, where your donors can float along the Snake River, hike on more than 200 miles of trails and, with our Premier Retreat in the Great American West package, go on a safari-style adventure.

Cruises: 24 million people are expected to hit the seas in 2016, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. Its another year-to-year increase for one of travels growth industries; Just 15 million travelers opted for a cruise in 2006, and 2015s final tally is estimated to be 23 million passengers. This could mean even more interest in one of our cruise packages, ranging from the chilly (Alaskas Majestic Frontier) to the sun-soaked (Sail the Southern Caribbean Seas).

Multi-Generational Travel: Its less about a single destination and more about how people want to travel, but the experts at Frommers saw a 20 percent jump in multi-generational travel (families, from grandparents to grandkids, traveling together) in 2015, and that number is likely to continue to grow. Bigger parties traveling, though, means bigger rooms needed for accommodations and thats where we can come in, with our expanded Villas and Residencies catalog. Whether its in a ten-person villa in Bali (Pampering Balinese Sanctuary) or a six-person setup in Tuscany, Italy (Villas, Views and the Valdichiana), the entire family can relax and enjoy some of the most beautiful destinations in the world.
Hawaii

Banff Canada

Grand Teton National Park

Cruise

Italian Villa


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Holiday Trips For Your Entire List

December 23, 2015
One revelers winter wonderland is anothers wasted vacation.

There are as many ways to celebrate the holiday season as there are people to celebrate it. That makes our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages a perfect fit for those days off around the end of the year; weve got as many destinations in our catalog as there are tastes, as well. If youre looking to send donors on trips that theyll love (and for which theyll love to place big bids), it might be good to think about the types of celebrants they are.

The Adventurer
Gift List: North Face apparel, REI gift certificates
The Trip: From British Columbia to Park City and Lake Tahoe, weve got trips for every winter sports participant. If youve got a donor base that lives for the adrenaline rush of skiing or snowboarding, our Perfect Winter Wonderland package sends supporters to one of the top-ranked ski areas in the world, Whistler, which hosted the 2010 Olympics on its mountains. It is one of several packages that either include lift tickets or are set at destinations within walking distance of a downhill paradise.

The Nester
Gift List: Gourmet hot cocoa mix, chunky sweaters.
The Trip: Is there a more seasonally-appropriate way of celebrating the holidays than cuddling up with a loved one next to a roaring fire? For travelers who are more in the apres-ski scene than skiing itself, heading out into the wild can be a wonderful break from the day-to-day. Our Premier Retreat in the American West trip involves four days and three nights in gorgeous Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in a 400-square foot cabin with all the amenities one could want. The resort also features a spa, outdoor heated pool, Jacuzzi and sauna, so theres no shortage of areas in which to get warm and cozy.

The Gatherer
Gift List: The presence of family members spread out around the country.
The Trip: Getting the entire family together at home for the holidays can be tough. But for the times that all the schedules align, why not gather the crew in a new, destination-worthy location and one that takes care of the cleaning and prepping of the bedrooms for you? We added a plethora of options to our Villas and Residences catalog this year, meaning there are now trips to everywhere from Bali to Aspen that feature accommodations for up to 10 people. The best part: No one is consigned to sleeping on the couch for the holidays in a full home.

The Snowbird
Gift List: Sunscreen, a new beach tote.
The Trip: Of course, the idea for a white Christmas is anathema to some, who would rather shun cold temperatures and chase the sun. For them, a Caribbean cruise may be the perfect balm. Our trips like Sail the Southern Caribbean Seas and The Western Caribbeans Rhythms At Sea combine veranda stateroom luxury with the restorative power of the suns rays to keep even the most cold-adverse traveler happy.


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Guest Post: How to Ask Big Donors for Leadership Gifts in Six Steps

December 16, 2015
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, Keith McLane of KLM Auctions tells us about reaching out to those major gift donors. Enjoy!)

Charity fundraising events pose a tough challenge: You have to mobilize financial resources from donors to meet your aggressive monetary goals. To launch your campaign, you turn to your high-power donors, the heavy hitters who make or break your efforts. Your outreach to them takes first priority.

So how do you address these big donors in a pre-auction fundraising letter and hit all the right notes? Lets take it step-by-step.

  1. Start off with a big thank you for past generosity:

    Dear Stan and Jan,

    Thank you again for the donation of your Tahoe home for the auction; it was incredibly generous and I hope it goes for some really big money this year!

  2. Make your supporters understand how important their contributions are, and how their leadership role will be critical in the new project:

    I'm reaching out to very select families regarding this year's Fund-a-Need. I don't know if you saw my earlier email to the auction RSVP list, but we have an idea we're very excited about: To add artificial turf and a retaining wall to the dirt hill near Annex (beside the ramp between the upper and lower playgrounds). We think it will make a huge difference to the children's experience and really liven up the play space.
  3. Emphasize the immediate challenge ahead, and how the big donor will be a visible trailblazer who sets the tone for the entire community.

    But it doesn't come cheap.

    We've been working with landscape architects and the bids are on the order of $60,000, of which I'd like to raise $50K or more from Fund-a-Need. It's a high goal, but in the past when the (Name of School) community has mobilized we've come in at or above that level and I'm hopeful we can do it again. If we hit the $50K target, we should be able to make up the remainder from the general auction proceeds.

  4. Let your donor know that if they are first in the game, they can be a game-changer in realizing fundraising goals:

    Hence my request. I have no idea if you are planning to contribute to Fund-a-Need or not this year, but our professional auctioneer tells us the most successful technique is to have one or two pre-committed top-tier bids in his pocket. It gets the energy in the room flowing and gets the paddles going up at nice high levels.

    In other words, we don't want to guess what the high bid is going to be, and we don't want to start too low.

  5. Show understanding and flexibility youre not forcing anything on your big donor. At the same time, express your gratitude again and drive it home that they can play a prominent, instrumental role in realizing a community dream.

    I'm asking about a dozen families to try to find someone to start our bidding at $5,000. Yes, I realize that's a large amount and that you've already done a ton for the school and for the auction, for which we are all extremely grateful. And I realize we're coming at families with asks left and right and if this is too much I absolutely, totally get it; no problem whatsoever.

    But looking at past years' bidding patterns, if we can get someone to start at this level I do think we can hit it out of the ballpark.

  6. Establish a basis for quick personal follow-up a call or a meeting. Give another hearty thank you and a reminder to save the date.

    I will give you a call this evening to touch base in person. Thanks in advance for your consideration, and thanks once again for the generous donation of your Tahoe home!

    Take care, and looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.
In these six steps and with personal engagement, you can make your fundraising goals a reality.

Let your biggest donors know how grateful you are, and have them imagine what they could achieve next by dreaming big.

Keith McLane of KLM Auctions is one of California and the Nations top charity auctioneers and fundraising strategists. KLM Auctions auctioneers have all earned the distinguished Benefit Auction Specialist (BAS) designation from the National Auctioneers Associationa designation held by fewer than 20 auctioneers in California.


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Guest Post: Fundraising Lessons From Apple Picking

December 02, 2015
(NOTE: On occasion, we love reaching out to our friends and partners in the non-profit fundraising world to find out what theyre thinking about when it comes to helping charities raise the most money possible. This week, were re-posting this wonderful essay by Connie Johnson of the Benefit Auction Institute about the parallels between fundraising and the outside world. Enjoy!)

Eight years ago my husband planted a Honeycrisp apple tree in our front yard. And being Minnesotans we are very biased that all Honeycrisp apples if not the ones from our very own front tree are the best on the planet. Of course, we place a premium on the fruit that the tree produces because there is some amount of work in getting to the point of harvest. Between the watering, the tiny amount of spraying, and the occasional pruning of the branches, there is something very satisfying about getting to the place where we can pick our prized apples.

Here are a few lessons Ive gleaned from our apple tree and some parallels I've found in charity event fundraising:

Some apples are a lost cause. Get rid of them!

Despite our intention to have as near to organic fruits and vegetables in our yard as possible, my husband learned through trial and error that some degree of fruit would be lost without preventive measures like spraying. And even then, some apples still end up taken over by worms, bees or various bugs. We dont try to save those apples. We get them off the tree and into the compost bin so they can feed the soil and serve us in some capacity later.

Relating to fundraising, you should be surveying your practices regularly, analyzing what works best and offloading the practices that have bugs in them. What produces the most donor fruit? Focus there and lose what is ineffective or even harmful.

Some apples are only partially compromised. Save what can be saved.

OK, so heres the thing: At our house we try really hard not to waste what can be saved. And honestly, when you take a good look at bad apples, many apples can be savedat least in part. We pull them off the tree and cut off the bruised or compromised area and eat the part thats OK.
In planning your event, maybe you dont have to dispose of an entire procedure, but merely tweak it for better results. Cut out whats undesirable. Find a way to make whats left work.

Some apples are beautiful on the outside, rosy and colorful, but dont taste good because theyre not ripe enough or theyre overripe. Strike when the fruit is at its peak!

So much of effective harvesting boils down to timing, doesnt it? Strike too soon or too late and the fruit may not taste right. It might be too tart or have little taste at all.

When harvesting donor gifts, you have to consider if the donor is ready for your ask. Have you done the proper work to select the optimum date for your events demographic? Have you informed them of what your nonprofits mission makes possible and what youll be able to do with more resources? Have you reminded them that your event is a key part of your nonprofits giving calendar and how critical each gift is to your cause? Have you let key person-to-person encounters pass by and with them a great opportunity to ask for their support?     
    
When picking apples, your reach matters.

Several weeks ago we got a frost warning. In essence, get those apples off the tree, or lose them! My husband worked so hard to care for the tree and its fruit and I wasnt about to lose those apples to a cold night! I grabbed the step stool from the garage and very carefully pulled down what I was capable of getting to. But heres the thing: I am a petite woman and could not reach all of those apples by myself. I plucked off what I could, but I also knew my limitations and called in reinforcements. My husband is a tall guy and was able to reach higher (the Benefit Auction Institutes tag line) to get those last apples down.

In the world of fundraising galas, you know as well as I, that it takes a solid and strategic team effort to get your best results. Look carefully at your limitations, opportunities and resources, and make sure that the right person is working on the right task to optimize the event that you work so tirelessly on for months.

Enjoy the fruit and share it.


At a family party before the final harvest we let everyone pick an apple off the tree. We had plenty and some gifts are meant to be shared. My soon-to-be three-year old niece heard she got to choose her own apple so I brought her out to the tree and hoisted her up. She looked at her options and then yanked her favorite apple off. Before I could even get her inside to wash the apple, she took a gleeful bite out of ither apple moment, and that sight made my week.

Isnt the point of fundraising to share the bounty? To make sure that the resources that your nonprofit needs are within reach because of the generosity of people who care about your mission and programs? Then share. Share donor resources. Share stories donor, program recipient, volunteer, staff member. And give everyone on your team a chance to have their apple moment. It is the very best part of fundraising.

Happy harvesting!

(Big big thanks to Connie Johnson and the team over at Benefit Auction Institute for sharing their apples with us this week! For more information about the Institute, go to benefitauctioninstitute.com or call 651-318-0115.)



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Gather the Family

November 25, 2015
Today is one of the busiest travel days of the year for a reason: Thanksgiving is a holiday that is best spent surrounded by loved ones, carving up a turkey/ham/tofurkey and slipping into tryptophan-induced comas. Almost 47 million Americans are estimated to be hitting the road for the celebration. But what if your donors could take the festival of thanks with them and bring their families along?


Mitch-Stuarts non-profit auction travel packages can send couples on getaways around the world, but it can also take the entire family to a destination worthy of a feast. With in-accommodation kitchens, your donors can cook a fantastic holiday dinner or, in some cases, even have a private chef do it for them!

Some examples of great holiday season destinations for the family, from our Destinations of Excellence catalog:

Crested Butte: If sitting around a roaring fireplace is a go-to Thanksgiving tradition for a donors family, a trip to the Colorado mountains might be in order. Our Crested Butte Promises a Superb Alpine Adventure package includes a stay in a two-bedroom condominium steps from a ski lift at the base of Mt. Crested Butte, with an in-unit fireplace and fully-equipped kitchen. Guests can either prepare their own Turkey Day feast with groceries gathered by the resorts personal shopper or head to the Alpine Club and make reservations for dinner at one of the resort towns fantastic restaurants.

Cancun: Of course, its often easier to let someone else handle the cooking while on the road. Our Family Paradise in Mexico package can send a family of four (two adults, two children) to a oasis-like Palace Resort in Cancun for an all-inclusive retreat. That includes a kids club for childrens diversions, four swim-up bars for the parents, $1,500 worth of golfing or spa treatments and gourmet dining. And if the menu at one of the resorts doesnt meet your supporters wishes, that donor can head to any of the other Cancun Palace Resorts to see what theyre whipping up in the kitchen.

Cortona, Italy: Those looking to really leave the beaten path behind, meanwhile, can head to Tuscany for a stay in a Cortona villa. Packages like Under the Tuscan Sun and Villas, Views and the Valdichiana include accommodations for up to six people, and each of them also involve an in-villa cooking class and meal. See what a proper Italian chef would do to a Thanksgiving feast, and you may never go back to turkey and mashed potatoes again!




Crested Butte

Palace Resort in Cancun

Italian Villa

Italian Villa


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A Travel-Worthy Thanksgiving

November 18, 2015
Thanksgiving is one of Americas favorite travel holidays: AAA projected that more than 46 million Americans would travel more than 50 miles from their residence in 2014, and with gas prices still low, that number may increase this year. Many of those hitting the road at this time of year are heading to visit parents or grandparents in hometowns around the country. But at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we believe that home is wherever the family is and that means that home can be anywhere.


Many of our non-profit auction travel packages do not have holiday blackout periods, meaning that your supporters can win a trip at your gala fundraiser and use it to take the family somewhere new for the holiday. And with travel-worthy Thanksgiving events sprinkled throughout the country, that winning donor can create a new holiday tradition for his or her family out on the road.

Any conversation of Turkey Day traditions has to start with the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. Starting in 1924, the procession makes its way through Manhattan with balloons, floats, and performers from pop music acts like Nick Jonas and Idina Menzel. From living rooms across the country (which watch the parade live on NBC) to the sidewalks of New York City, the parade may be the single most-witnessed Turkey Day event. Its a great place to send donors, as well, either for them to take in the nostalgic charms of the Snoopy balloon in person or to allow them to introduce a younger generation to the wonder of these skyscraper-sized blimps.

Of course, after the floats are put away in NYC, Thanksgiving can sometimes become about the three Fs: Food, Family and Football. Luckily, Mitch-Stuart can help with one of those as well. We can send supporters to any regular season football game in the country, and that includes the traditional Thanksgiving Day games in either Detroit or Dallas. In Motown, the Detroit Lions have played a home game on every Thanksgiving since 1945, while the Cowboys have suited up for all but two Turkey Day games since 1966. For either, we can get your donors in lower level seats for all the action.

Not every tradition is sedentary, though. For many people, getting outside is a popular part of the holiday, too, whether its a family touch football game in the backyard or a leisurely hike. Almost 1,000,000 Americans participated in a Thaknsgiving Day trot or fun run in 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal, and it seems like small towns and big cities alike are hosting everything from 5Ks to marathons. One of the oldest of these also takes place in one of our favorite Destinations of Excellence, New Orleans, where the Athletic Club Turkey Day Race has been held for an astounding 107 consecutive years, making it one of the oldest non-marathon races in the country. It features a five-mile run for adults and even a half-mile race for kids, with all of the proceeds going towards Spina Bifida of Greater New Orlean.




New York Macy's Day Parade
 
New York Macy's Day Parade
 
Dallas Cowboys Stadium
 
NOAC Turkey Day Race


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Sparking Nostalgia with Travel

November 11, 2015
Nostalgia was once considered to be a disease. Once thought an illness of the immigrant class, the feeling of longing for a previous time was originally labeled by a Swiss physician as a condition that caused both mental and physical maladies, according to the New York Times. Today, however, we understand that its a natural part of life, and one that can give us comfort; studies have shown it to counteract loneliness, anxiety and even boredom.


There are as many triggers for nostalgia as there are memories themselves, but one of the most common is a destination. To see a news report about a faraway island, for instance, can trigger a longing to go back there, or a film set in the Caribbean could be a strong reminder of a honeymoon.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we know that people travel for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, its to explore brave new worlds, to head to locations not before seen. But often, we leave the comfort of our home to remember, to feel closer to a time past, and to share in a memory with loved ones. For those nostalgic travelers, we have several places in our Destinations of Excellence that can trigger those sepia-tones feelings.

Theres a sense of wonder that comes from the first time standing on the streets of Manhattan, looking up at the skyscrapers and feeling the energy that comes from New York City. That initial experience of the metropolis is hard to replicate, but one of our several non-profit auction travel packages to the Big Apple can give a donor a chance to, at least, catch up with the City that Never Sleeps. Whether its a horse-and-carriage tour through Central Park or a Broadway show, we can send supporters on the type of big city adventure that will bring back memories.

The locks of love that were once attached to the Pont des Arts Bridge have been removed, so if any of your donors had once left a memento of their affection there, thats one less memory to revisit. But there are plenty of landmarks in the City of Lights that can spark nostalgia for visitors. The sight of the Eiffel Tower, a walking tour of the Louvre, or even a champagne cruise down the River Seine are each such indelible moments for a tourist that returning to them at a later date can be powerful.

Sights can, of course, bring back memories, but they seem to become even more powerful when paired with distinctive smells. For those who live in landlocked regions, standing on a beach and smelling the ocean air can bring back memories of sandcastles, family vacations and even bonfires. Sending supporters back in time via a trip to the coast is as easy as picking the destination, with sandside vistas available on either American coast, on several Caribbean islands and even facing the Mediterranean Sea.
New York
 
The Plaza, New York
 
Eiffel Tower Paris
 
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell at Chinese Theater


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Giving Tuesday: How We Can Help

November 04, 2015
First, it was Black Friday, the traditional first day of the Christmas holiday season, taking place the day after (and, increasingly, the day of) Thanksgiving. Then, Cyber Monday became a way for people returning to work to procrastinate on the following Monday by looking at deep discounts from online retailers. Soon after, to counteract the marketing power of major chain stores, there was Small Business Saturday, to promote local concerns.

And now, to help Americans remember the thousands of worthy and important non-profits that rely on donations, theres Giving Tuesday, which falls on December 1 in 2015. After the first days of holiday spending are finished, a day is reserved for lending a hand to those who help in local communities and across the nation. Its both a celebration and, if used properly, a chance to kick-start the end-of-year fundraising drives. More than $50 million was raised on the day in 2014, according to several of the major non-profit sector donation processors.

At Mitch-Stuart, were best known for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, which charities can offer on a consignment basis during galas and other events. But there are ways to utilize these money-raising tools on Giving Tuesday, as well, that will both make a donors once-in-a-lifetime travel dreams come true and bring in a chunk of change to be used to fund good works.

One of our most recent programs can make Giving Tuesday fundraising a breeze. By setting up a Mitch-Stuart Travel Raffle, you can give your donors a chance to buy tickets, in many cases online (where permitted by local laws), for a chance to win a fantastic trip package. Organizations can make it a one-day frenzy, where tickets are only available on Giving Tuesday itself, or they can sell tickets for weeks in advance and do the drawing on December 1. Either way, using the extra publicity of Giving Tuesday to help promote the raffle can lead to more tickets sold and more funds raised, all without planning and executing a gala or event.

Of course, with Giving Tuesday in such close proximity to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many potential donors may still be in purchase mode. If youve got a list of big supporters that you think may be interested in buying individual trips, we can work with your organization to offer a Mitch-Stuart travel package at a buy it now price. It allows the donors to take the guesswork out of how much theyll have to pay for that weekend trip to the beach or once-in-a-lifetime adventure, while also allowing you to piggyback on the season with a more traditional shopping experience.

A Giving Tuesday promotion doesnt have to end on that specific day, either. If your organization has an upcoming gala or major fundraising event, you can make December 1 the official first day of ticket sales, too, getting an extra signal boost from the pseudo-holiday. And if youre planning on offering Mitch-Stuart travel packages at that future event, you can also utilize some of our promotional collateral available for each individual trip.

Want to pump up your Giving Tuesday fundraising? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
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Vacations for Ghost Hunters

October 28, 2015
The Halloween season is a time for frights, be they on the big screen, the trick part of trick-or-treating or the unholy abomination that is budget candy corn. For people who are big into the holiday, though, it is also a time to get on the road and check out some of the spookiest sites in the world. Some of those attractions are manmade, like the events we profiled last year. But others stem from a combination of tragedy and a certain suspension of disbelief that can make people believe they are seeing ghosts.


Mitch-Stuart doesnt feature any specific ghost-hunting trips in our catalog of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. However, several of our Destinations of Excellence can also act as home bases for those looking for restless spirits. For those looking for the scariest of Halloweens, one of these places might be hospitable.

It was an opera house in Paris that once housed a phantom in its basement, so it should be no surprise that the City of Lights has its share of haunted tales. The citys catacombs are one destination for ghost hunters, with the remains of more than six millions Parisians there, often arraigned into macabre art. The Red Man of the Tuileries, a notorious hitman for the royalty in the 16th century, is said to still patrol the Louvre, and even the Paris Opera, the setting for fictional Phantom of the Opera, has a real-life ghostly visitor in the form of a love-struck woman, just outside its doors.

A little closer to home, the spirit of Hollywood pervades much of Los Angeles. But the spirits of Hollywood can be found at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, across from the TCL Chinese Theater (and the famous sidewalk handprints). A mirror there that used to hang in the suite of Marilyn Monroe supposedly shows the reflection of a blonde woman in the background, while Montgomery Clift (of From Here to Eternity and Judgment at Nuremberg fame) is said to walk the ninth floor. The stories are so woven into the fabric of the building that the hotels website used to have a section devoted to the tales.

Even places considered to be bright slices of paradise can find themselves possessed by spirits. Honolulu doesnt seem like the type of place that would be ghost-friendly, but residents claim that it has its own history with the supernatural, in locations like the Old Waialae Drive-In Theater (located close to a cemetery, and said to have been visited by a faceless woman haunting the restroom), the 16th Avenue bridge (site of a hit-and-run, the victim of which still appears to some) and even the Green Lady, an apparition who has been spotted everywhere from Scotland to New England.

Want to send your donors on a wild ghost chase? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
Louvre, Paris, France
 
Paris Opera House
 
TCL Chinese Theater
 
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell at Chinese Theater


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Whats New for the Winter

October 21, 2015
Throughout the year, the staff of travel experts at Mitch-Stuart is busy setting up organizations with opportunities to raise funds using auction travel packages for non-profits. But during down moments, those same people are scouring the world, looking for bigger deals, interesting destinations and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

(Yeah theyre busy folks.)


For the October update of the Destinations of Excellence catalog, weve put together a plethora of new travel packages. Some go to our favorite spots, with new options. Others expand our footprint to new areas. But each one can help your charity bring even more money through a gala auction or a fundraising auction.

Some highlights:

One of the biggest updates to our catalog for the winter comes in lodging capacity. Weve expanded our villas and residencies offerings to offer more trips with larger living spaces. Send up to six people to Aspen, for instance, and stay in a three-bedroom residence at the North of Nell, right at the base of Aspen Mountain. Send a supporter and three family members or friends to a Tuscan villa, a luxury residence in Los Cabos, or even a two-bedroom residence in London. There are now more opportunities than ever to give your donors a chance to bring the entire family on vacation, organize a guys-or-girls getaway, or partake in any other group travel outing.

Of course, the winter catalog is always a great place to look to find trips that give donors a chance to sample the seasons charms. Whether its ski-in/ski-out mountain access in Park City and Deer Valley, Utah or snowmobiling and winter wildlife in Jackson Hole, even the most committed summer lovers will find reasons to head into the beauty of the winter snow.

Weve spoken at length before about why now is the best time to travel to Europe, and weve added three more opportunities to do just that. An arts tour of the French Rivera, a ride on the London Eye and a trip to the Van Gogh Museum are great reasons to head to Monaco, London and Amsterdam, respectively, and each package can bring in big bids to your fundraising auction.

Some of your donors may want to escape the winters chill a little closer to home, as well, which is why weve added golf adventures in San Diego, California and Scottsdale, Arizona, along with trips to the charming Asheville, North Carolina and the always-temperate St. Helena, California, near Napa Valley.

Want to check out all we have to offer? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert to talk about our new options, or register for online access to our catalog today!
Los Cabos Villa
 
Hyatt Escala Lodge at Park City
 
Napa Valley Cabin
 
Fairmont Grand Del Mar


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Auction Synergy

October 14, 2015
In this space we have talked about pairing trips with auction themes, with the season of the year and even with food menus. There are plenty of ways to tie a Mitch-Stuart non-profit charity auction package into a gala event, but the most meaningful for your biggest supporters may be to offer a trip that dovetails with your organizations goals, one that deepens their commitment to your cause or helps celebrate it.

This, of course, isnt easy, and it might not work for every organization. Few want to spend a tremendous amount of money on a trip that doubles as a lecture, and some charities dont lend themselves easily to travel-related celebrations. But for others, offering a cause-related once-in-a-lifetime experience will keep your efforts and work in the front of a donors mind, even as they enjoy the fruits of their generous bid.

Conservancy groups, for instance, have a great wealth of opportunities to send supporters on trips that pair well with their cause. This could take the form of a visit to an underexplored corner of this country, a place where outdoor activities are front and center; Jackson Hole comes to mind. But sending a donor to the Masai Mara Nature Reserve in Kenya, one of the worlds great animal sanctuaries, will bring into stark relief the important work that conservancy organizations do. Our Explore Kenyas Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife package will send your supporters to Masai Mara in style, with seven nights at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, a favorite of international travelers.

Educational charities have plenty of options when it comes to trips; almost every destination has a great museum, university or even historic library to see. But only Washington, D.C. has all of those in the kind of numbers that could fill an entire itinerary. The Exciting Downtown Washington, D.C. Experience trip pairs a three-day, two-night stay with an Old Town Trolley tour, which stops at places like the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and the myriad of museum options along the National Mall. Its the kind of trip that can ignite a love of learning in anyone, young or old.

Childhood obesity has been a cause in the spotlight over the last seven years, as Michelle Obama has spearheaded reform efforts. One of those programs that the First Lady has pushed is Lets Move, an initiative that helps convince kids to get outside and run around. Thats not bad advice for adults, either, and its hard to imagine a more beautiful place to do so than Colorado, on one of our trips (such as Breathtaking Allure of a Rugged Winter Wonderland or Mountain Village Enclave). The state has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country, and its system of trails, mountain bike paths and ski runs is one of the reasons why. Nothing reinforces the importance of physical activity quite like getting into the outdoors and trying it for oneself, and when your donors look at vacation photos taken from the top of Colorados breathtaking trails, theyll remember your cause, too.
Fairmont Mara Safari
 
Washington Monument
 
Lincoln Memorial
 
Little Nell


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Saving Summer

October 07, 2015
The transition between the summer and the fall comes with all sorts of lifestyle changes: The grill may get packed up for the season, windows that have been open since mid-May might finally get closed, and equipment from summer activities may get put into the far back reaches of the garage for their winter hibernation. Your organization, however, can help your supporters take those bikes out for one last spin, those clubs out for one last round or even those surfboards out for one last wave.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we help non-profit organizations raise money with consignment fundraising auction travel packages to all corner of the world and for all times of the year. One of the ways that charities and other groups can sell big-ticket travel at galas is by helping donors defeat the calendar and find parts of the country where their favorite summertime activities are year-round affairs.

For much of the country, golf is not possible for months out of the year; hitting a white golf ball into a snowbank certainly makes it difficult to find for the second shot. But the weather in Hilton Head is amenable to hacking through 18 holes at any time of year. The average high temperature there per month never gets below 60 degrees, and though it may get a little wet in the winter that certainly doesnt stop many golf diehards. If youve got donors who will play a round in rain, sleet, snow or any other weather, one of our trips to Hilton Head could be the excuse they need to donate big to your cause.

Of course, when the winter comes, mountain biking becomes much more difficult. But two-wheel enthusiasts can still find thrills, even if they dont come in the snow-covered Rockies or Cascades. Arizona may not be the first place that comes to mind when it comes to big peaks, but Sedona is one of the top destinations for downhill biking in the country. The West Sedona Tour is a local favorite, a 13-mile loop that joins together eight different trails and has tremendous views of places like Bear Mountain. And when Colorado and Wyoming are still snowed in during the late winter, the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival in March features bike demonstrations, live music and great riding.

One of these summer activities can actually improve in the wintertime. Surf towns are often overrun in June, July and August, but during the off-season, theres more room to maneuver. Spots like Southern California (especially in the San Diego area) and Hawaii (where the winter is more about rain than cold temperatures) go from being tourist magnets to having manageable crowds, which is better time for spent in the ocean and on the land. In fact, when Coastal Living named its top five winter surfing spots, places like Oceanside (in between San Diego and Los Angeles) and Kauai took up the top three spots.

Got some active donors who long to chase the sun in the winter months? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert about offering a trip to one of these destinations at your next auction or gala!
Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head
 
Sedona Mountain Biking
 
Huntington Beach, CA
 
Hawaii


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Dont Skimp!

September 30, 2015
There a lot of pressure placed upon fundraisers, especially event planners, to keep costs down when planning a gala or special evening. After all, the theory goes, the less money spent on the event, the more the organization will get to keep. But what if, by skimping in some areas, you were actually costing your organization money, rather than saving it?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. loves setting up its non-profit partners with consignment auction travel packages to raise money for worthy causes, and we particularly love it when they sell for the biggest amounts possible. In order to do that, though, its important to spend money in the right places and for the right reasons. Here are three places where a little extra investment at the gala can pay off in bigger bids and more donations.

If a live auction is a part of the program, make sure that a professional benefit auctioneer is in charge. While the job may look like just speaking fast and taking bids from the outside, an experienced auctioneer can bring in bigger bids and keep audiences engaged in ways that amateurs may not even be able to identify, much less duplicate. Everything from between-item banter to voice inflections when recording bids can help loosen up a room and encourage everyone to get involved, and the people who spend their lives doing this are naturally going to be better than a volunteer.

Yes, you could set up a playlist on a streaming website or through your phone. Or sure, you could get a particularly talented family member to play some piano. But good live entertainment at an event is a critical component to keeping attendees engaged, whether its a comedian doing a short set, a live musical performance or a DJ playing in the background during the dinner. Getting the audience laughing or dancing can be a big step towards getting them bidding, too, and the pros in these areas know how to read a crowd and tell the right joke or play the right song for the moment.

After a gala, theres still opportunities for fundraising, based on follow-up solicitations. Make those next-day and next-week emails look even better by having a professional photographer document your event. Hiring an experienced shutterbug will allow you and your staff to focus on connecting with donors individually, while the pro runs around (usually with camera equipment well beyond the price range of the average picture-taker) and makes sure that the memories created over the course of the evening are captured forever. Having these professional photos will help sell tickets to future events, as well, making it an investment that pays for itself.


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Fall-Infused Galas

September 24, 2015
The seasonal signposts are everywhere: Leaves are changing, days are getting shorter, and evenings are getting cooler. Fall is here, and with it comes a new color palette, a new climate and a new feeling.

Our specialty, of course, is setting non-profits up with once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for fundraising auctions, and we told you about some of the best ones for fall galas a few weeks back. But were also always here to help incorporate new ideas into your fundraising auctions and galas, whether its cuisine pairings or recycling themes and branding. If your organization has an upcoming event, here are a couple of ways to stand out by using the beauty and spirit of the season.

Fall galas have a full color palette with which to play, one that feels out of place at other points in the year. Soft oranges and browns, yellows and even forest greens are all in play, and can give an event a feeling of timeliness. From there, the type of gala will dictate the decorations, of course; a black-tie affair probably doesnt need cutout leaves (or real ones!) throughout the room. But even lining the entryway to a ballroom with lights and colors matching the season can put attendees in the right frame of mind for the evening.

One of the newest fall traditions for many is trips to the local chain coffee shop for "pumpkin spice infused drinks. And while that name is a misnomer 2015 is the first time that Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte will include any actual pumpkin theres no question that spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are essential to fall cooking. There are plenty of places for those fall tastes at your gala, as well. A dessert course is an easy place to start, with a traditional pumpkin pie or pudding. One fun idea: If your event will involve alcohol, there are several cocktails that involve combinations of pumpkin, maple syrup and whiskey or bourbon.

Finally, never overlook location when it comes to fundraising events. While it can be tricky to plan around seasonal weather, getting your donors outside for a fun twist on a gala can create lifelong memories ones that are most closely associated with your cause. How about an event in an actual pumpkin patch? Or maybe a traveling gala, one that rolls on hayrides? Even setting up in a local park, surrounded by the changing colors, even with a cold snap in the air, can brand a gathering in a way that will make supporters want to come back every year.


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Getting Off the Boat

September 16, 2015
There are plenty of reasons that travelers enjoy cruises: The open waters, the beautiful views, the amazing amenities. Theres so much to do on a modern ship that it can be hard to remember that these cruises also visit spectacular ports of call, all around the world.

We love setting up donors with non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that take them out onto the open seas. But what often catches our eyes when it comes to selecting cruises is not just the boat itself, or its amazing cuisine, but what opportunities there are for travelers to leave. Excursions are often considered optional by cruise lines, but theyre required to make the most of an adventure. Some of our favorites:

Standing on observation decks stories above the ocean is a great way to travel, but sometimes people want to get down into the water itself. Its icing on the cake if that water happens to be the Mediterranean Sea, and if the way to get to it is through a beach on Crete, or the red and black sand beaches of Santorini. Yes, the Savor the Majestic Mediterranean trip package involves plenty of amenities on its own, but adding some beach time on one of the jewels of Southern Europe can only result in happy donors.

Not every excursion needs to be water-based, of course. Swimming in the North Atlantic Ocean while cruising between Boston and Nova Scotia might be a bit cold for most, so your donors can stay dry and consider one of the trips walking tours. The best way to learn a new city is very often pounding the pavement, and trips through Bar Harbor, Maine and Saint John, New Brunswick will introduce travelers to the unique architecture and vibe of each destination. And if the walking gets to be too much, supporters can let horses do it, on a wagon city tour of Portland, Maine.

Of course, the most all-encompassing excursion might come with our cruise packages to the Bahamas, where Royal Caribbean has literally set up its own island. Meet Little Stirrup Cay or as it is now known, CocoCay. With snorkeling, swimming, parasailing and waverunner rides available to passengers, this miniature (less than a mile wide and only about 200 yards long) isle combines the curated experiences of a planned vacation with the adventure of regular off-ship adventures. It even has activities for the kids, as well, including Caylanas Aqua Park, a floating playground.
Cruise
 
Cruise
 
Celebrity Solstice
 
Coco Cay


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Falling For Travel

September 09, 2015
Kids are back in school, work is picking up and the holidays are not far off. It can be tough to clear a few days in the months of September or October to hit the road, especially for people who are either just coming off of a summer vacation or are planning to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But traveling in the fall has plenty of benefits, including less-crowded destinations, great weather, and the colors that only occurs with the change of seasons.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., weve got fundraising auction travel packages for every season. Caribbean beach vacations make great summer getaways (or snowbird escapes for the winter), and the Rocky Mountains are perfect for winter skiing excitement, but we never want to neglect the fall especially for those non-profits with galas during that time. Want to offer a great of-the-moment travel opportunity? Read on.

One of the first thoughts that many have when it comes to fall travel is New England. The tradition of leaf peeping, or visiting the northeastern states to see the leaves on the trees changing colors, has been around for decades and is an economic boon to the region; the picturesque vistas created by the season bring more than 2.5 million visitors to New England every fall, according to Boston Magazine. Our Boston-area trips, like The Best of Boston Revealed, make for excellent home bases to discover the fall foliage.

If seeing the seasons change in just one location seems limiting, donors can take in the views from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, as well. With stops in Boston, cities in Maine and the east coast of Canada, supporters can sit back and allow the captain to show the way to the most serene sights of fall. The Voyage Through the Vast Waters of the Atlantic trip package may be the way to cover the most ground from the epicenter of the season and when the day is over and the leaves have been peeped, donors can retreat to a veranda stateroom, 24-hour room service and daily entertainment.

The eastern seaboard doesnt have a monopoly on gorgeous fall weather and scenery, though. The Pacific Northwest can be a stunning region to visit in September and October, especially for donors who dont mind a little (or a lot of) rain. Whether its a trip to Washingtons Snoqualmie Falls with our Raise a Toast to the Pacific Northwest package or walking around Vancouvers Stanley Park (which, at more than 1,000 acres, is larger than New Yorks Central Park) while on our Sensational Seattle and Vivacious Vancouver journey, therell be plenty of gorgeous sights. The sheer number of trees changing color may be smaller than in the northeast, thanks to the prominence of evergreens, but mixing in aspens and birches make for a rainbow of natural hues.
Boston, MA
 
Nova Scotia
 
Nova Scotia
 
Snoqualmie Falls


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Introducing: Mitch-Stuarts Raffle Packages

September 02, 2015
Were excited to introduce a new way to incorporate Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s catalog of once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities into your non-profits fundraising plans. Now, along with adding excitement and the allure of a luxury vacation to your gala charity auctions, or selling multiple trips to the same destination via a buy it now option, we can also help you reach out to donors and supporters of all ages, income levels and even tastes with a raffle using our travel packages as grand prizes!

With a raffle, non-profits can get a larger percentage of their bases to buy in to supporting a cause, whether it is in person at an event, by mail or online. Instead of trying to get big bids out of a subset of your donors, organizations can get everyone to participate.

So, why create a fundraising raffle?

  • It allows supporters who may be able to attend a gala, but not be fiscally able to bid on a silent or live auction item, a chance to participate and give what they can. It can be easy to get caught up in the big ticket, big bid items at a fundraiser, but 100 people giving $20 is the same as one person giving 2,000.
  • It can be done in conjunction with an event, or separate from one. Now, charity auction fundraising doesnt have to happen once a year. Raffle tickets can be purchased by mail, online or in person, and it doesnt need to involve catering and theme decorations.
  • Its FUN! The anticipation, the chance to win, the dreaming of what one could do on a Caribbean cruise or a trip to the Super Bowl a raffle can add excitement to any auction event and get the whole room involved. Raffles help maximize results by getting people engaged while donating to your cause. They can even involve large target audiences like family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, as gala attendees often buy tickets for those not in attendance.
  • Raffles can raise incredible amounts of money for your organization. You can easily raise $10,000 and, when tied to galas and events, you can exceed $25,000 and raise as much as $100,000 or more all at no-risk!
  • Its easy. Give us your price range, and we can give you a list of trips that would be hits with your crowd. You can raffle off one trip or give your winner a choice of three different adventures, which will attract a broader audience and sell more tickets.
There are as many variations of a charity raffle as there are travel opportunities in our catalog to choose as prizes. For more information on this exciting new opportunity, reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!


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Labor Day: The Underrated Travel Holiday

August 26, 2015
Everyone loves Memorial Day. The final Monday in May marks the unofficial beginning of summer, and is one of the busiest travel holidays of the year; AAA estimated that more than 37 million Americans would use the three-day weekend as a chance to get out of town, while the U.S. Travel Association estimated that those travelers would spend more than $12.3 billion on their trips.

But the unofficial end of summer rarely sees such numbers and, accordingly, such hype. With families concentrated on getting school-ready and everyone else nursing sunburns, Labor Day is often used as a three-day breather before heading into the fall.

But it doesnt have to be that way.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we specialize in sending your organizations donors and supporters on once-in-a-lifetime trips with our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. That includes trips to celebrate Memorial Day, July 4th and even Thanksgiving or Christmas in far-flung locales. But we also love giving your donors the chance to win a summer send-off trip, a weekend away to gather thoughts and prepare for the upcoming seasonal shift. If youd like to offer such an opportunity to your supporters, may we suggest

Washington, DC? By the beginning of September, the worst of the summer humidity is over but the winter chill hasnt set in yet. Its a perfect time to walk around the monuments, catch a baseball game at the gorgeous Nationals Park or visit the Smithsonian museums. Even better, the DC area is home to several Labor Day events, including the free Labor Day Capitol Concert, which takes place on the lawn of the United States Capitol.

Napa or Sonoma Valley? Harvest season is in full swing by Labor Day, and the local wineries often have season-exclusive events that occur during prime picking time. Gatherings like the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend involve winemaker lunches, barbecues and the signature Taste of Sonoma event, with more than 200 wineries pouring thousands of wines. Its a great weekend adventure for parents looking for one last 72 hours of sanity before the fall begins.

Colorado?
Most people think of the Rocky Mountain State as a fantastic winter skiing destination, but those slopes also make for great hiking and mountain biking during the summer. Cities like Aspen and Telluride live the outdoor life year-round, but are much less crowded when theres grass on the ground rather than snow. Without skiing to draw people to town, many of these cities also offer more cultural events; Jazz Aspen Snowmass, for instance, is a three-day musical wonderland, this year featuring acts like indie rock favorite Hozier, disco kings Chic and even the Count Basie Orchestra.
Washington DC
 
United States Capitol
 
Napa Valley Sign
 
Telluride, CO


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Privacy, Please!

August 18, 2015
Most people love going on vacation, but thats not to say there arent annoyances that pop up while on the road. Whether its long security lines at the airport, navigating a foreign city in a different language or trying to squeeze one more stop into an already-packed itinerary, travel has its share of inconveniences. One of the biggest of those challenges is waiting in long lines at popular tourist destinations around the globe, sweating or shivering on a sidewalk while trying to get into an exhibit, a restaurant or a monument.

The good news: No matter how popular a destination, Mitch-Stuart can help. Our fundraising auction travel packages take donors around the world, of course, but they can also help supporters skip the lines for unique, private experiences in some of our favorite cities.

Some examples:

While the types of resorts with which Mitch-Stuart deal with arent the sort to have thin walls or other inconveniences associated with over-crowding, travelers still find it nice to be staying on their own on occasion. In two of our favorite international destinations, that privacy is also given a luxurious upgrade. The Under the Tuscan Sun package comes with a seven-night stay in a stunning, five-bedroom private villa in a restored 16th century Italian manor, along with a private driver and even one evening with a private chef. In Southeast Asia, meanwhile, the Balis Breathtaking Beauty package includes seven nights at the Bali Double V Villa, with three bedrooms and a private pool.

Getting away from crowds isnt just for retiring for the evening, either. Anyone who has ever stood in a long line at a tourist attraction knows that long wait times can cut into not just the enjoyment of the sight being seen, but also curb the number of sights that can be seen. In a city like Paris, it can be tough to escape the mobs of visitors unless traveling on one of our trips to the City of Lights. We can send your supporters on private, evening tours of the Louvre, led by guides who can transform a simple walk around an exhibit into an engrossing history lesson, all while checking out the works of da Vinci, sculptures from Greece and Rome and even early Egyptian art. For those more interested in getting outside, a private nighttime tour of the citys famous sights may be in order. It includes a cruise along the River Seine and a gourmet dinner, as well.

Along with long lines, the winery tours in Californias wine country can also involve some unfortunate encounters with those whom have overindulged. Cut them out of the picture with one of our private winery tours, available on several of our vino-based trips. Donors can ride in chauffeured luxury sedans between stops, and the entire itinerary can be based around their personal preferences. One of our favorite packages, Indulge in the Ultimate Wine Country Excursion, even includes a private lunch with some of the regions vinters themselves, meaning that supporters can combine drinking and learning.

Want to help your donors avoid the crowds? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
Bali
 
Louvre
 
Paris
 
Sonoma


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Hook, Line and Sinker

August 12, 2015
If people concentrated on the really important things in life, journalist Doug Larson once said, thered be a shortage of fishing poles.

For all that people do to try and slow down yoga, meditation, even gardening theres little that can beat standing hip-deep in a river, trying to hook a salmon or other dinner-appropriate fish. Mitch-Stuart, Inc., offers plenty of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to help donors relax, but not all down time needs to come with a massage or facial. Sometimes, supporters want to kick back on a boat or wade into a river and let the reel fly. For those potential fishers, we can offer destination choices from Alaska to the Caribbean.

Fishing along the Alaskan coast does not have to involve a days-long hike through the wilderness to arrive at a watering hole. Instead, let a Royal Caribbean cruise ship drop your donors off nearby. Fishing is a seasonal add-on excursion for the Alaskas Majestic Frontier trip, which takes travelers from Seattle up the Pacific coast, past the Tracy Arm and Fjord and the Hubbard Glacier and back to the lower 48 states. Of course, fellow guests can also choose from walking tours, salmon bakes and even tramway rides, as well.

For those whod rather leave the sea living to the fish, Mitch-Stuart can also plan an entire vacation around a fishing expedition. Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada takes both experienced and novice anglers to one of the Fairmont resorts in either Alberta or British Columbia, Canada, for a freshwater fly fishing experience. Everything is included the guides help, the boat, the gear, bait and even lunch. And if it gets a bit chilly out on the water, heading back to the five-star resort and soaking in a hot tub is a pretty good way to end the day.

Of course, fishing expeditions dont have to be out in the cold wilderness, either. They can be, for example, beachside in the Caribbean, with our All-Inclusive Fun Under the Sun Island Style package. Supporters can head to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for a four-hour salt-water fishing trip, aboard a 40-foot ship, trying to reel in mahi mahi, offshore tuna and more. For the aficionados, a full-day experience is available for an additional cost, as well. The best news: If the donor comes back empty-handed, the Lobster Grill at the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort can probably cook up a great bit of fish, too.
Canada Fly Fishing
 
St Thomas Beach
 
Bolongo Bay


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Choose Your Own Adventure

August 05, 2015
One donor loves the bright lights of New York City. Another loves the relative peace of Jackson Hole. One wants to take his son to Wrigley Field in Chicago. Another wants to see basketball played in the mecca of the sport, Madison Square Garden.

Get them all bidding on the same trip.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we pride ourselves in being able to help charities and other organizations select the perfect non-profit auction travel packages to offer at gala events, the type of trip that really brings the wow factor. But sometimes, donors love the freedom to be able to pick their own destinations, to choose from several options. For organizations willing to let their supporters take control of their own vacations, here are three of the ways that we can help.

  • Sports fans are a fickle bunch. While they love their specific team, many of them wont go too far out of their way to watch games featuring other squads. That can make picking a specific destination to attract donors who love a professional squad difficult: Your gala may feature fans of several, even dozens, different franchises in different cities. The good news: Our Go to Any Game in 50 Markets trip avoids having to make that decision. We can secure tickets to any game in any of the four major professional sports, so your Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers fans can all bid on the same travel package and more competition means more money!
  • Those who wish to be pampered know that theres no geographic bounds to luxury. Thats why donors looking for a high level of sophisticated service know to seek out resorts in the Fairmont Hotel family Fairmont, Raffles and Hotels and Resorts and Swissotel. And thats why your supporters can be guaranteed that pampered feeling with our Legendary Luxury Around the World package, which will send them to one of the aforementioned properties anywhere in the world. With destinations ranging from Seattle to Abu Dhabi, its hard to imagine a potential bidder who wont find a dream vacation location for this trip.
  • Of course, theres even a way to offer an auction item that opens up Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s entire catalog of more than 300 unique travel experiences: Let the donors choose with a gift certificate! Available in denominations of $500, gift certificates allow our organization the opportunity to make any once-in-a-lifetime travel dream come true for your donor, and it takes any of the guesswork out of picking the right auction option for your supporters.
Want more information on how to maximize bidding by letting donors choose their own destinations? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
Football
 
Baseball
 
The Fairmont Empress
 
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise


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Whats New at Mitch-Stuart

July 28, 2015
Each time the seasons change, we get ready for something new: New climate, new holidays, new activities, new dawns and dusks. At Mitch-Stuart, the new season also brings one of our favorite changes: New additions to our catalog of fundraising auction travel packages. We take a look at the best experiences from around the world, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that give your gala auctions that wow factor, and then find a way to offer them on a consignment basis to charities and other organizations the world over.

Whats new for the summer of 2015?

First, weve added even more options for those looking for unique, city-specific experiences in some of our favorite destinations in the United States. Experience a hop-on, hop-off trolley tour through American history in Boston (Explore the Oldest City in America), ride in a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park (An Exceptional Excursion Through Central Park) or visit the Alamo in San Antonio (Remember the Alamo). Weve even got a new take on the wine vacation, moving south from Napa Valley to stunning Santa Barbara, with tours of four wineries in four days and three nights, all while setting up home base at an oceanside hotel.

One destination that has been growing in popularity has been Costa Rica, with its bio-diverse jungles and gorgeous beaches. Two new trips can take donors on either a zip line adventure and horseback ride in Guanacaste (Embrace Costa Ricas Pura Vida) or stay in three different cities over the course of eight days, seeing the full spectrum of environments for which the nation is known (Discover Costa Ricas Paradise).

The neon signs and over-the-top lifestyle have long been the stars of Las Vegas, but your donors can now meet some new ones, with a trip to Sin City to meet the stars of the reality television show Pawn Stars. Get a tour of their Vegas, along with a two-night stay at Paris Las Vegas (Sin Citys Full of Paris, Poker and Pawn Stars).

For those looking at that Euro-to-Dollar conversion rate and salivating, weve added three European destinations, each remarkable for their history, their culture and their luxury accommodations. Whether its six nights at the The Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I in Barcelona (Ensconce Yourself in Spanish Exclusivity), a stay at the historic Hotel Orfila in Madrid (Fall in Love with the Beguiling Charms of Spain) or a four-star experience right in the heart of Rome (Discovering the Inspiring Italian Coast), Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to the most fascinating cities while putting them up in the nicest resorts.

And finally, not even the dog days of summer can stop the golf lovers among your donors. Weve added rounds of play at courses like Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Couse, Pasatiempo Golf Club and The Links at Spanish Bay to our already-impressive 18-hole inventory. Weve even added a trip that is sure to get the attention of the sports biggest fans: Four days and three nights at The Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, with three rounds of golf including one on Course No. 2, the host of the 2014 U.S. Open (Americas First True Golf Resort).
Horse Carriage in Central Park
 
Costa Rica Pinilla Canapy Tour
 
Puerta de Alcal
 
Pebble Beach Golf Links


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Thinking ahead: Trips by Season

July 22, 2015
Theres a point, usually sometime in February, when most of the United States is willing to spend any amount of money to get out of a cold, dark winter and spend a week warming up on the beach. Theres also a point, usually around August, when much of the country would give anything to sit in the snow at the top of a mountain.

When planning a fundraising gala, the calendar already plays a big role. But when thinking about which of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to offer, its also important to consider for when your supporters are planning. If its August, can they squeeze in a beach vacation before school? Or have they already set their sights on winter break? Picking a trip with luxurious accommodations and once-in-a-lifetime experiences is easy. Make sure you think about the season of your gala in order to pick a trip with maximum interest in that moment for the highest bids.


Fall: The leaves are turning, the heat is breaking and school is back in session. Your donors attending a fall gala are more likely to have just returned from a major vacation than at any other time of the year, and turning around and planning another seven-day excursion might seem like a lot. This might be a good time to schedule a winter or spring weekend getaway. Give your supporters a chance to do that with a three-day, two-night high roller experience in Las Vegas, featuring anything from show tickets to rounds of golf. Its just the energy infusion one would want, and even springtime in Sin City avoids the triple-digit temperatures, to boot.

Winter: Last year, Boston got 110 inches of snow. The last of that record-breaking snowfall finally melted on July 14. Needless to say, much of the country will be looking forward to sun and sand by the time the depths of winter hit. But also remember that those same donors may be starting to lock in summer plans at this point. It could be the perfect time, for instance, to auction off one of our eight-day, seven-night sojourns to Bali. Our summer is their winter, technically, but with its location being so close to the equator, the island never really gets cold by our standards.

Spring: In some ways, choosing trips to auction off in the spring can be the most difficult of the season-based decisions. Fall is a busy time of year for many donors, after all, with school resuming and the work schedule ramping up for many professionals. But if theres one national obsession that Americans always make time for, it tends to be football. With Mitch-Stuarts Go to Any Game in 50 Markets! package allows donors to pick the NFL (or, if they prefer, baseball, basketball or hockey) game of their choice for a three-day, two-night sporting experience. And if your donor base is still basking in the glow of post-Super Bowl glory (we see you, Bostonians), the spring might be the time to allow one to book a chance to see the local side repeat, with the Winner Takes All at the 2016 Super Bowl! package.

Summer: Remember when you were a kid, and you complained to your parents that it was too hot? Did they tell you to think of something cold to cool off? Booking a winter vacation to Aspen for skiing would certainly qualify as both cold and cool! The Aspen Winter Wonderland package sets donors up with a home base in the mountain resort town for five days and four nights of skiing, spa pampering and dining. Serve an ice cream dessert at your gala, and your supporters will forget about the shirt-dampening humidity outside.

Our Travel Experts have answers for all seasons. If youd like to offer one of these travel packages or any of the excellent options in our catalog reach out today!
Las Vegas
 
 
Bali
 
 
Football
 
 
Aspen, Little Nell


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Dont Forget the Where

July 15, 2015
There are plenty of decisions to make when planning a non-profit fundraising event: What should the theme be? What should be on the menu? Which Mitch-Stuart fundraising auction travel packages should you offer to the highest bidder (AHEM)? But one of the most important decisions is actually one of the most underrated: Where should all of this go down?

Picking a venue at which to hold a charity gala can be a stressful experience, but going into the decision-making process with a clear set of guidelines can help focus your organizations vision and make the pick an easy one. Here are some questions to ask before placing a deposit on that hotel grand ballroom:

Can my donors get there? If your donor base lives in the suburbs, the most beautiful downtown ballroom might be a bad fit, especially if the event is taking place on a weeknight. If youre throwing an event in New York or San Francisco, however, heading to the suburbs might eliminate supporters who live a car-free lifestyle. Getting to your event should be as easy as possible for the people looking to support your cause.

What facilities are available? Dont let the natural beauty of an open park space, for instance, make you overlook the lack of electricity or indoor plumbing. And that brilliant ballroom in the historic downtown district may not be up to code in terms of wheelchair accessibility not to mention its lack of parking. Attending a charity gala should, in most cases, be much easier to do than attending a summer music festival on a farm or in the desert.

Is it hot? The wow factor extends past auction items and celebrity appearances. Holding a gala at an architectural marvel, or a newly-opened facility, can let donors not only support a cause, but explore a new part of their city. Even smaller events can benefit from novel locations: A citys newest restaurant may be looking for new diners, and your supporters may want to try out the latest in local dining.

Is it on theme? If there are multiple facilities that check each of the boxes above, it might be time to move on to examining the atmosphere one is trying to create. That luau event might not feel right in an art deco masterpiece, and it is hard to hold an upscale casino night in a cavernous warehouse. Practical considerations should likely come first, but theme-based factors make for a great tiebreaker.

Can we stay here long term? Weve talked before about making gala planning earlier by repeating a partys most popular elements. It can be a source of comfort for donors and a sign of stability for an organization to have a yearly event that happens in the same location. If your group is at that point where settling into an annual groove with your gala makes sense, locking down a multi-year contract with a venue can reduce your yearly cost and create a lasting connection in your community.

Have any other tips for gala planners? Talk to us! Tell us on our Facebook page and our Twitter account.


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Spectacular Home Courts

July 08, 2015
London is synonymous with Big Ben. The first image of Paris that the mind conjures is the Eiffel Tower. There are some landmarks so well known that theyve become iconic, indelibly tied to their location. But its not just major monuments and structures that have those kind of geographic connections. It can be food and drink (champagne equals France, bourbon equals Kentucky), or it can be celebrations (New Years Eve is all about Times Square in New York City).


London is synonymous with Big Ben. The first image of Paris that the mind conjures is the Eiffel Tower. There are some landmarks so well known that theyve become iconic, indelibly tied to their location. But its not just major monuments and structures that have those kind of geographic connections. It can be food and drink (champagne equals France, bourbon equals Kentucky), or it can be celebrations (New Years Eve is all about Times Square in New York City).

Some of our favorite non-profit fundraising auction travel packages take donors to visit these destinations, so closely linked to their geographic homes. But weve also got ways to connect your supporters to the worlds great sporting events, contests that not only bring the best athletes to the field (or court, or course, or) but also become intertwined with the local fabric in a special way.

Next week, the eyes of the international sports world moves from England to its neighbor, Scotland, for one of golfs signature events. The British Open takes place at St. Andrews Links, sometimes referred to as the birthplace of the sport. While the Open Championship (as its formally called) is rotated between several courses in Scotland and England, its the Old Course at St. Andrews that is the most common host. While Mitch-Stuart doesnt have specific spectator packages for the Open, we can go one step further: Our Home of Golf travel package allows donors to play the Torrance and Kittocks Courses at the Fairmont St. Andrews, two of the most spectacular courses in the country!

There are several yearly events in France that people associate with the country (the clay courts of Roland Garros have made the French Open an iconic tournament of tennis Grand Slam), but only one covers a tremendous amount of the nations land and ends with an iconic trip down the Champs-Elysees. The Tour de France is a summer sports favorite, an event that attracts eyes from around the world and introduces everyday fans to some of the planets top athletes, who otherwise train in obscurity. The best part: Watching the Tour riders pass by is free for general spectators (though VIP tickets are available for those who dont want to line up and wait roadside), meaning that almost every trip Mitch-Stuart, Inc., offers to France can be a Tour de France trip with a little bit of planning and the willingness to arrive at the race course early.

Of course, in America were best known for one particular sporting event as well, even if it changes venues each year. The Super Bowl is a single-game experience like none other; for one afternoon, seemingly the entire nation stops to gather in living rooms, gorge on snacks and watch a lot of commercials (with some football sprinkled in). Its a true bucket list ticket for sports fans and one to which we have access! Our Winner Takes All at the 2016 Super Bowl! package can send donors to the 2016 Super Bowl at the new Levi Stadium in Santa Clarita, CA, with two tickets for the game and a three-night hotel stay, along with transportation to and from both the airport and the Bowl itself.
Fairmont St. Andrews
Tour De France
Tour De France
Super Bowl


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Independence Day Around the World

July 01, 2015
This weekend, Americans of all backgrounds will get together, listen to patriotic music, barbecue any foodstuff within sight, and watch fireworks explode in the night sky, all to celebrate Independence Day. Its a day, an event, for which people from around the world come to the United States to see.


But the United States is obviously not the only country that celebrates its independence, and the holiday activities in many other countries are not just fun, but perfect opportunities for visitors to get to know these destinations. If youve got donors who want to go on a Mitch-Stuart non-profit auction travel package trip, one of these celebrations could be the perfect excuse.

Started in the late 18th century to celebrate the start of the French Revolution, Bastille Day brings the people of France together each year for parades and fireworks. The largest military parade in all of Europe occurs on July 14 each year, along the Champs-Elysees in Paris, and fireworks often frame the Eiffel Tower. Any of our ten trips to France can take donors to a Bastille Day celebration, but the Enjoy Paris Joie de Vivre package is the one that can put supporters closest to the Tower or the Arc de Triomphe, with hotel options like the MonHotel and Le Marquis Eiffel.

In Italy, Republic Day is the yearly celebration of the vote in which the Italian people chose to transition to a republic rather than a monarchy after World War II. A major parade, watched over by the countrys president, goes by the Roman Forum and military bands play at the presidents residence. In addition, the Italian version of the Blue Angels fly in crazy patterns over Rome, leaving trails of red, green and blue (the colors of the Italian flag) smoke. Send a donor to Italy with our Fall in Love with Italy or Roman History, Cuisine and Enotecas packages, among others, and they can schedule their trip around the holiday.

If the quasi-militaristic nature of the European celebrations is off-putting to your donors, it might be time to consider a trip to the Caribbean (in fairness, though, isnt it always time to consider a trip to the Caribbean?). One of our favorites is Independence Day in Barbados, not just for the beautiful blue-and-yellow lights that illuminate everything from government buildings to roundabouts, but also because it is celebrated yearly on November 30th, the perfect destination for those looking to avoid those late fall cold snaps. With our Timeless Caribbean Elegance package, donors can stay in the luxurious The Fairmont Royal Pavilion, check out the parade and the lights, and still find time to get to the beach.
eiffel tower paris
Italy
Fairmont Royal Pavilion
Fairmont Royal Pavilion


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Popular Destinations for Popular Auctions

June 23, 2015
With over twenty years in the non-profit auction travel business, and more than $1 billion raised for charities around the world, weve accumulated a good amount of knowledge about what donors and supporters like. Donors heading to Hawaii want to go to the beach. Donors heading to Colorado want to either go hiking (the summer) or skiing (the rest of the year).


But some of our destinations are so multi-faceted that they appeal to a wide range of bidders and so popular that demand has dictated giving them multiple itineraries. Thats why our catalog with more than 300 travel packages available offers multiple options for many of our favorite destinations. These popular locations attract all sorts of different bidders, making them great additions to any auction.

Theres an experience for everyone in New York City, which is why Mitch-Stuart offers 17 different trips to the Big Apple. Sports fans will enjoy the chance to take in the U.S. Open, one of tennis great tournaments, while foodies will love the Nosh Your Way Through Three New York Delis that includes gift cards to Katzs, 2nd Ave. and Carnegie Delis. Theres Shop Til You Drop and Worldwide Passion for Fashion for the fashionista bidder, and even a package with tours of the citys historical landmarks, New Yorks History in the Making. A fan of New York could attend your auctions for years and never see it all!

As a region, Southern California may be as diverse a block of land as can be found in America, from the San Diego Zoo to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Fittingly, Mitch-Stuart offers a diverse list of travel experiences in the Southland. Whether its golf in Carlsbad or Indian Wells, luxury on the beach in Laguna Niguel, or attending an award show like the Peoples Choice Awards or ESPYs in Los Angeles, there are plenty of ways to play in the California sun.

American destinations are not the only ones with a wide range of available adventures, either. Mitch-Stuart has nine separate trips to Paris, to celebrate the citys art, food and joie de vivre. Send your donors to some of Paris greatest museums with the Paris as an Art History Destination Magnifique! package, or make a couples anniversary dream come true with The City of Lights is Yours to Love itinerary, which includes an evening private illuminations tour. Mitch-Stuart even offers two tour that split time between Paris and Rome, for the indecisive donor, based around either landmarks or food.

Need help picking a package for one of our most popular destinations? Talk your decision through with a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!
Fashion Week in New York
Walk of Fame Hollywood
Paris
Rome


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Around the (Art) World: Our Favorite Museums

June 17, 2015
Even in an age where most important works of art can be seen with a quick Internet search, theres something special about seeing paintings and sculptures in person. Standing in the same room as a canvas that once stood in front of Picasso, or standing under a ceiling on which Michelangelo created one of the worlds enduring wonders, is an almost-spiritual experience for fans of either art or history.


Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can create non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to beautiful beaches around the world, send donors to the great restaurants and events of our time, but there may be no more culturally important trips than those that take people to see our shared artistic history. Here are some of our favorite itineraries that feature stops at the worlds great museums:

Even Americans with an aversion to the French language know how to pronounce Louvre or, more importantly, know what the museum means to the art world. Our Paris as an Art History Destination Magnifique! package gets donors inside the 650,000-plus square foot museum to see everything from the Mona Lisa to tremendous collections of Greek, Roman and Islamic art. But to see just the Louvre on a trip to Paris is akin to seeing just the White House in Washington, D.C.: Theres so much more to explore! Thats why the Mitch-Stuart, Inc., charity auction travel package also includes tours of the Musee dOrsay and the Centre George Pompidou; the former is a repository of impressionist art from masters like Monet and Renoir, while the latter has one of the largest modern art collections in Europe.

For fans of the Renaissance, it shouldnt be a surprise that Italy is where to go. But where in Italy (or, the place surrounded by Italy, to be precise) may be unexpected: The museums of the Vatican are, combined, one of the most often-visited collections of art in the world. Works by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael are highlights, but what rightfully comes to mind for many is the Sistine Chapel, the ceiling of which was one of the greatest works of Michelangelo. With so much to see in one place, taking a tour (like the one that comes with our Discover Romes Eternal Charm package) is a must.

Your donors dont have to cross an ocean to visit a great museum, of course. There are plenty of fantastic choices in American cities, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the brand-new The Broad in downtown Los Angeles, coming in September of 2015. But not even the biggest cities have a monopoly on great collections: Our Santa Fe is the Perfect Getaway trip includes admission to the Georgia OKeeffe Museum (the world-famous painter passed away in the New Mexico city in 1986) for two. Exhibits draw from the 1,200-plus collection of pieces to showcase different aspects of OKeeffes life and work, along with the work of fellow American modernists.
Louvre
Orsay Museum, Paris, France
Sistine Chapel
Vatican Museums


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Destinations Near Destinations

June 09, 2015
The trips that make up Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s catalog of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take donors to some of the most glamorous, the most remote and the most beautiful destinations on the planet. Supporters can never run out of amazing vistas, exciting activities and first-class luxury options everywhere from Bali to Paris.


For some, though, one destination simply isnt enough. Rather than sending one of these bidders to a remote location, why not pick one where, within a half-day or less drive, (s)he can be in a new place, with different activities and a wholly unique vibe? If your donors want to hit the road even after hitting the road, consider sending them to one of these great destinations.

Amazingly, a city known best for its neon lights and man-made volcanos and lakes is the perfect home base for an outdoors adventure in the Great American West. Las Vegas might be filled to the brim with entertainment and diversions, but it also is only a short drive from some of the most beautiful natural vistas available. Of course, the Hoover Dam is a short drive (or helicopter ride) to the south of the city, but also within a reasonable distance lies both the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.

History buffs love heading to Washington, D.C., with its museums and monuments. But the city also makes a great departure point for several different adventures. Travelers looking for even more history can make the short drive to the Revolutionary War battle sites in Virginia and Pennsylvania, hitting cities like Williamsburg, Va. And while D.C. doesnt have any beaches of its own, coastal towns like Rehoboth Beach, Del. and Virginia Beach, Va. are popular summer getaways for both residents of the nations capital and for tourists who want to get some sun in between Smithsonian visits.

Travelers who want to drive to multiple tourist destinations on one trip, however, may love Florida most of all. Anyone whos ever visited the Sunshine State can testify that Orlando, Miami and Key West each have different vibes, from the family-friendly fun of Disney World to the nightlife of South Beach. What fewer people consider, though, is that all of those different vacation profiles happen within short distances: According to Google Maps, it is only 238 miles from Epcot Center to Crobar, one of the hottest nightclubs in Miami. And Miami is within shouting distance of natural beauty as well, as tours of the Florida Everglades are just down the road.
Grand Canyon
Gettysburg Battlefield
Epcot Center
Florida Everglades


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Farm-to-Table Galas

June 03, 2015
To raise the most money during a gala auction, it helps to sell items that play on the events theme. Its one reason why our trips to locations like Las Vegas are popular with organizations who throw casino night parties, or that sophisticated travel packages to places like Paris and London go well with black-tie affairs.

But an often-neglected way of pairing auction with event can be literally served up on a plate: Creating a menu for the evening that goes well with a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. non-profit auction travel package can be a fun way to highlight a nights aesthetic while also making supporters hunger for a trip out of town. Some of our most popular trips include lots of exposure to local cuisine, and that means plenty of unique dishes to spice up your get-together.

One of the many traits New York City is famous for, of course, is its food. If you doubt that, ask any native New Yorker you know about where in the city to get the best slice of pizza or best bagel but only do so if youve got a couple of hours to kill listening to the response. If a non-profit is offering one of our Big Apple trips like perhaps the Savor New York Deliciously! package, which includes a food tour through either the Lower East Side or NoLita? a fun way of drawing attention may be to set up a faux-hot dog stand on the premises. While donors wander around and mingle, they can grab a dog as well. This works especially well at fancier parties, believe it or not, as theres no better conversation starter than the shared danger of trying to eat a hot dog with ketchup and mustard while wearing formal clothing.

Want to go quirkier? Fans of the southwest will enjoy our Sophisticated Southwest Style trip, which takes donors on a four-day, three-night trip to Santa Fe, NM, to explore the culture of one of the regions most artistically-forward cities. But Santa Fe is also a capital of southwestern cuisine, and to get the attention of your supporters, there is but one dish to serve: The Frito pie. The casserole-esque dish is said by some to have gotten its start in Santa Fe at a Woolworths lunch counter and even spawned a mini-controversy when chef and critic Anthony Bourdain insulted it during his CNN show. It works as a side dish or, maybe even better, as a passed hors-d'oeuvre; simply cut open a small bag of Fritos lengthwise and top with chili, cheese and anything else that would go on, say, a taco.

Tacos arent a part of the menu at most places in New Orleans, but if your organization would like to offer trips to the Crescent City there are plenty of culinary delights to pair with the travel package. Adventures like our Discover New Orleans Celebrated Downtown and The Home of Jazz both offer donors a chance to take a cooking class as the famed New Orleans School of Cooking, and it is almost a guarantee theyll learn to whip up a beignet while in the city. The pastry makes for a perfect breakfast when in New Orleans, but load it up with powdered sugar and it can make an excellent dessert course. Dont forget to add a strong cup of coffee and some live Dixieland jazz.

We dont have a test kitchen, but we do have more suggestions reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert to talk about offering one of these trips!


Carnegie Deli in New York
Santa Fe La Casa Sena
New Orleans School of Cooking
Louis Armstrong statue in New Orleans


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Go Big in the Summer

May 27, 2015
Whether its our muscle memory from scholastic days, the longer periods of light or the beautiful weather, summer is embedded in our minds as the season to travel. It feels almost like a biological response: The calendar hits June, and people are ready to hit the road, head to the airport or even get on a train and get away.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together travel packages for all times of year, going to beaches in the summer and ski slopes in the winter. Some are short weekend-style getaways, while others are tied to a specific event. But during June, July and August, when travelers seem the most willing to free up extended periods of time, we find that they want to really escape, taking longer trips in terms of both time and distance away.

Want to send your donors on a summertime getaway that takes advantage of the seasons longer vacation windows? Here are a few ideas.

If your donors have the time to take a week-long vacation, many of our trips to Europe will allow them to explore the continent at their own pace. This can come by settling in to one city on a trip to a single destination, or through one of our multi-stop adventures. Voyages like Hit the Road, Jacque! or Indulge in the City of Light and the Eternal City use the longer time frame to take your donors to multiple landmarks across the European Union (like Paris and Rome, in those two examples), while still experiencing local culture along the way.

If a slower pace is more in demand for your supporters, think of a trip to Bali. It may take almost a full day to get there from the west coast of the United States, but the islands gorgeous vistas and hospitality have made it a very popular vacation destination anyway. Four of Mitch-Stuarts five trips to the Indonesian paradise are for a full seven nights (with one shorter getaway being for a six-night stay), meaning plenty of time to get there, settle in, cope with the 15-hour time difference from the Pacific time zone, then start enjoying scuba lessons, beach time and pampering luxury.

There may be no more interesting combination of luxury and wilderness, though, than the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in Kenya. Surrounded by the Mara River and on the edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve, the Club is remote; it can take more than a day to even get here from the United States, with connections in mainland Europe being almost standard. But the time it takes to get here will be worth it once your donors head on a game drive, bush walk or any other of a number of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And with the weeklong stay being a part of our Explore Kenya's Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife package, therell be plenty of time to shake the jet lag, too.


Paris
Bali
Bali
Mara Safari Club Kenya


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Summertime is Disney Time

May 19, 2015
There are some brand names that are so synonymous with an activity or product that the proper, trademarked noun replaces the common descriptor. We Xerox pages, rather than photocopy them. We use a Kleenex, rather than a tissue. We dont search for something online we Google it.

The word Disney is not quite to that level of usage saturation, but Mickey Mouse and company are nearly synonymous with quality family entertainment. A trip to either Disney World in Orlando or Disneyland in Southern California can be more than a vacation for a youngster it becomes a goal, something to look forward to for months in advance (and something, accordingly, that parents can use as a great motivator to get young ones to do chores and behave).

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we offer non-profit auction travel packages to destinations around the world, with trips to far-flung corners of the world and once-in-a-lifetime events. But ask any pre-teen, and the stars of our catalog are the journeys to hang out with Goofy, Mickey, Minnie and company in sunny Florida or California.

Why Disney for your donors?
  1. Kids obviously love the attractions of the Disney parks, but parents should love them as well, as so much of the experience is designed for and based around the needs of families. Theres never a desperate rush to find a changing table in a Disney park, and no concerns about children being exposed to inappropriate material. Taking the family to a destination aimed at families means less time adapting a setting to a family-friendly zone and more time enjoying a vacation.
  2. The Disney parks arent just teacup rides and princesses. Theres plenty for adults to do, as well. A restaurant like Victoria and Alberts, with its chefs table and massive wine list, is definitely a grownup affair, while the surrounding Orlando area has become a hot-spot for wine, as we mentioned on our Twitter feed.  And Disneyland has a House of Blues concert venue and a ESPN Zone sports bar in its Downtown Disney area, both of which cater to adults (even if the latter features sports arcade games, as well).
  3. Going to Disney World or Disneyland doesnt just involve going to either of those parks. If your donor takes advantage of our Happiest Place on Earth and More! trip, (s)he will also spend a day at nearby Knotts Berry Farm, while our three trips to Orlando and Disney World include options like excursions to SeaWorld or Universal Studios.
Want to send donors to Disneyland? Reach out to one of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s travel experts for more information!

Disney
Disney
Disney
Disney


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Vacations Under One Roof

May 13, 2015
Anyone whos ever traveled with a close friend or family member and spent the trip arguing about when to wake up, when to hit the city and when to relax knows that there are as many types of travelers as there are destinations. For some, sleeping is for plane rides only: There are sights to see, activities in which to partake, and nightlife to enjoy. For others, though, the chance to go elsewhere is also the chance to relax, to kick off shoes and grab a drink by a pool, or enjoy a five-star meal and only have to waddle back to a hotel room.

For the latter, Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can help. While we love sending your non-profit fundraising auction winners to major events like the Kentucky Derby or the Tonys, and we love sending donors to far-flung destinations like Bali for once-in-a-lifetime adventures, we also get that sometimes, vacation is just a chance to sit in one place for an extended period of time, maybe get a nice spa treatment, eat (and drink) well and sit by a pool.

For those travelers who get to a destination and dont want to leave the hotel, weve got a great selection of charity auction travel packages:

Want a view of three different countries, all from one rooftop? The Fairmont Monte Carlo (home base for our A Royal Retreat and Bask in the Glory of the French Riviera trips) affords sights of France, Italy and Monaco, all without leaving the hotel. And once sightseeing is done for the day, it also has its own Nobu restaurant on premises, and the Willow Stream Spa offers treatments for pairs (with two couples experience suites) and singles alike.

Some hotels double as historical sites, meaning that staying there is like seeing a citys past. The Savoy Hotel of London (Stay at the Most Iconic London Hotel) has more than 125 years of history, including being the home of performances by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Bette Midler. Its also one of the original centers of cocktail culture; The Savoy Cocktail Book has been republished and updated multiple times since its 1930 debut. Today, the Savoy also is home to Savoy Grill, Gordon Ramsays ode to glamorous and opulent fine dining. On this side of the pond, the Plaza in New York (Exquisite New York Dazzles Like Never Before and Perfect Moments at the Plaza) covers food and drinks as well, with its stunning Champagne Bar overlooking the historic Grand Army Plaza and Pulitzer Fountain.

Of course, for travelers who like heading outdoors as long as they dont have to travel too far to get there, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort (All Inclusive Fun Under the Sun Island Style! and Escape to the U.S. Virgin Islands Sun, Sand and Sea) has its own cove on St. Thomas, with access to some of the most beautiful sand available to the Caribbean traveler right there on property. And for when your donors get thirsty, Bolongo Bay also has Iggies, which has been voted Caribbeans Best Beach Bar by a local publication multiple times. Dinner, drinks, sun and sand who needs to explore?


Fairmont Monte Carlo
Savoy London
Bolongo Bay Beach Resort
Iggies at Bolongo Bay


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Summers in Europe

May 06, 2015
Weve written before in this space about the relative weakness of the Euro against the dollar, but it bears repeating: Your money has not gone further on the European continent than it does right now. Depending on the expenses, some voyages to countries like France, Spain or Italy will likely be hundreds of dollars cheaper this summer than last, just because of the fluctuation of the currency exchanges.

How can your donors take advantage? Glad you asked.

France
Plaza Puerta del Sol in Spain
Sistine Chapel
Cooking in Italy
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. puts together once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for non-profit auctions, the types of items that bring the wow factor to any gala and send supporters to all corners of the globe for all sorts of memory-making activities. Right now, some of our most popular itineraries take advantage of the exchange rate and the upcoming summer season to send supporters to gorgeous European destinations, like

France: Non-profits and charities can send their donors to several different parts of France with a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel package. Trips like A Decadent and Delicious Parisian Experience couple city exploration with cooking class and a champagne cruise, while art lovers can see the Louvre, Musee dOrsay and Centre George Pompidou with the Paris as an Art History Destination Magnifique! package. Those looking for a coastal experience instead can head to Cannes for the world-famous film festival and some much-needed beach time.

Spain: Whether its a flamenco show in Barcelona or the gardens of Madrid, theres plenty to see on a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. excursion to Spain. The country may be best explored through its cuisine, with tapas and wine tours in Barcelona. And with accommodations in Madrid near so many of the citys famed landmarks everything from Puerta del Sol to Teatro Espanol within walking distance! donors can see it all at their own pace.

Italy: There may be no more popular European destination in our catalog, however, than Italy. Mitch-Stuart offers more than a dozen trips to the Mediterranean jewel, with activities like cooking classes, wine tasting, museum tours and more. The Discover Romes Eternal Charm package may be the highlight for those who enjoy interacting with history while on vacation, thanks to tours of the Sistine Chapel and the Roman Forum, while oenophiles will love the Roman History, Cuisine and Enotecas itinerary, which includes a private, secret wine bar tour. Under the Tuscan Sun is also a favorite: The trip includes seven nights in a five-bedroom villa, with one private villa feast prepared by an Italian Master Chef.






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Recycle Your Gala

April 29, 2015
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we like making non-profit fundraising auctions easier. Whether its offering great charity auction travel packages to organizations on a consignment basis or setting up a group with our partners to help with everything from running the auction to collecting bids, we want to help make event planners lives simpler.

One of the best ways to make the year-over-year process of pulling off fantastic non-profit fundraising events less stressful is to avoid reinventing the wheel. Each year, there are several major decisions that an organization has to make in terms of promotion, of theme and even of location. But why go through all the effort to do that each year, when you can make the same decision work for years to come? Here are three ways in which a recycled idea can make the yearly work of planning that gala a little easier.

A Visual Brand:
Yes, you can certainly use your organizations logo on promotional materials for your gala event. But developing and then reusing a special image for posters and flyers about the fundraiser not only pops off of advertising, it also lets donors and supporters know that something special is about to occur. It separates this one event, this one moment, from all the other marketing collateral you might send over the course of a year.

Go All-In on a Theme:
Developing a brand for your event can save a lot of effort each year. If your home city knows that, each spring, youll be throwing a beach party by a local pool, or that ugly sweater parties around Christmas are your thing, then crowds will be on the lookout for the yearly invite. And dont worry about being repetitive: There are countless variations on a theme that can differentiate this years event from prior editions. For example, if youre throwing a casino night, gambling in Las Vegas is very different from the gaming of, say, the French Riviera. Both, however, will utilize the same basic equipment (roulette wheels, poker tables, etc.) and fall under the umbrella of what youve established your event brand to be.

Lock Up the Location:
In some cases, the venue for a charity event is as iconic as any theme and as dazzling as any auction item. If your non-profit has found a home for its gala fundraiser in a historic, grand or just special location, theres no need to shop around every year. Make your event into THE event at the historic opera house, mansion or even park picnic area. Giving predictability to a galas location can help brand your fundraiser in the publics mind, and make people from the outside want to find out about that great night out that happens in that gorgeous venue each year.


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More Vendors, Less Work

April 22, 2015
There are seemingly a thousand moving parts when it comes to a non-profit fundraising event, from catering to theme selection, from invitations to decorating and from entertainment to auction set-up. Getting a gala off the ground and ready to entertain guests can be a tremendous amount of work.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. certainly knows how to help provide your charity event with no-risk auction travel packages that can add the wow factor to any gala. But did you know that our network of partners can help make the burden of planning and pulling off a fundraiser easier in several other ways as well? One call to us can get the ball rolling on

Filling out the auction list:
Obviously, we can send your donors on once-in-a-lifetime adventures from Boston to Bali, and to events like the Super Bowl or the Tony Awards. But our partners at Grandstand Sports and Memorabilia can add more lots to your auction, with everything from sports gear to platinum record plaques and rare film items, signed and presented with certificates of authenticity.

Getting the biggest bids:
Yes, you can get a volunteer to act as auctioneer over the course of an evening. Yes, they can get to live out their dream of saying things like, I see $500, I see $500, can I see six? as quickly as possible. But if you do, you will be leaving money on the table. A good auctioneer is like a good emcee or host: You may be able to do without one, but youll notice their absence. For more, check out our blog post with reasons to hire a professional auctioneer.

Organizing the auction:
So youve got a list of items, youve got people who want to bid on those items and youve got someone to sell them. Whos going to be in charge of collecting payments and distributing the items? Dont make a volunteer sit in the back of the room with a credit card reader attached to an iPad, swiping cards and handing out envelopes with certificates. Leave that to a company like GiveSmart, which along with mobile bidding (another item to incorporate into your auction with little effort!), also offers check out services. Allow winners to pay without standing in a long line at the end of the evening, and know immediately who has paid and who hasnt.

Want more great tips on how to get help planning and running your gala auction? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. expert today!


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Supporting Without Attending

April 16, 2015
We at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. love a fancy party. We love the gala atmosphere, the food, the camaraderie and, of course, the bid-inducing non-profit fundraising travel packages available for auction. And we especially love the results of fancy parties for our customers: Fundraising success, translating into money going toward worthy causes.

But we also recognize that not everyone feels the way we do about galas and other events. Whether its scheduling, geography or just a really good night of television, some supporters wont be able to make it to your charity fundraising night. The good news: Its still possible, thanks to technology, to keep those donors engage and involved in your big night. Here are some examples:

Mobile Bidding: Yes, we love it when two people in the same room bid each other up (over and over again!) over a special trip or other auction item. But the more people who have the ability to bid, the more bidders will actually put money on the line. Companies like Mitch-Stuart partner GiveSmart allow your auction to be open not just to those at the gala, but to those all over the world.

Go Digital:
Is the head of your organization giving a state of the charity speech? Have you scheduled an amazing, inspirational keynote speaker? Make sure to get a good quality recording of the address even if its a one-camera shot from a table on the gala floor. With a quick upload to YouTube, you have another reason to send an email to your donors and supporters, and one more reason for your supporters to be thinking about you.

Participate Without Participating: For donors who cant be there live, there are ways of allowing them to support you in advance. Whether its the chance to save a virtual seat (have a table set up in the back with name placards for donors who couldnt attend), the opportunity to put their name on something (a special cocktail, perhaps?) or even letting them buy mementos from the night, there are plenty of ways for a traveling donor to still be an active donor.

Just make sure to send the absent supporters lots of photos.


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Spring Into a New Trip!

April 07, 2015
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., were proud of the catalog of non-profit auction travel packages that weve put together over the years. Whether its a deli tour of New York, a trip to the Masters or even a stay at a castle, weve got something for every donors desire.

Still, every few months we get the chance to try and one-up ourselves, to create great new options for charity organizations to add to fundraising auctions and give supporters those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Whats new for the spring at Mitch-Stuart?

  • Three new trips take advantage of the dollars current strength against the Euro by taking donors across the pond: Look for great food and flamenco dancing in Barcelona, wine and treats in Tuscany, and luxury in London.
  • Lots of normal trips involve tour boats. Very few, like our travel package to San Francisco, involve a hands-on sailing experience aboard an Americas Cup yacht. For those who have fantasized about taking to the open seas or just want a good excuse to wear a captains hat this is the chance.
  • If you think your donor base could use chances to de-stress, weve got both domestic and international opportunities to do so. Send supporters on a wine tour through Napa Valley by horse and carriage (much less stressful than driving!) and keep them in the States, or fly them overseas to Bali, an in-demand destination, and let them find bliss on the sand of Sanur Beach or in a truly indulgent villa (set up for ten guests!) with a private chef and barman.
  • New ways to see two of our favorite U.S. destinations: Send friends of your organization to Miami Beach and put them up at the Art Deco boutique Courtyard Cadillac Miami Beach/Oceanfront Hotel, or put them in the middle of it all at the Grand Hyatt in Times Square, with passes to see everything via the popular Gray Line bus tour.
  • And two more opportunities to run screaming from this winters chill, with adventure in Nassau and an all-inclusive stay in Jamaica. Whether its drinks in Montego Bay or a spa day at Baha Mar, shoveling snow will be the furthest worry from your donors mind while warming up in the Caribbean.
These trips, along with scores more, can be found in the spring version of the Mitch-Stuart, Inc. catalog. Reach out to one of our Travel Experts for more information and to find out how to add that wow factor to your fundraising auction!

Tuscany
Americas Cup yacht in San Francisco
Bali
Miami Beach


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Trip of the Month: St. Thomas

April 01, 2015
Mitch-Stuart, Inc., is the industry leader in non-profit auction travel packages, with a worlds worth of options from which to choose from Boston to Bali, from Las Vegas to London and from Palm Springs to Paris. With such a massive catalog, choosing a trip to offer to your donors at your gala fundraising auction can seem overwhelming, so each month were going to highlight a top-selling adventure available through Mitch-Stuart, including its accommodations, its draws and ways that we can even sweeten the deal.

The Trip: All-Inclusive Fun Under the Sun Island Style!

The Destination: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

The Reason: After a tough winter across much of the country, anything with a beach view is going to get the attention of a prospective bidder/donor. And there are few places that scream beach view quite like the Caribbean.

The Hotel: The all-inclusive resort Bolongo Bay Beach Resort caters to almost every whim of its guests. A regular fixture on best beachfront hotels lists, Bolongo Bay offers gratis meals and drinks yes, unlimited cocktails to those staying on the property. This means everything from eggs and OJ in the morning to lobster and wine in the evening is pre-paid. There are no pockets for your wallet in those swimming trunks anyway.

The Add-Ons: Lounging on the beach all day while sipping colorful frozen drinks is one way to do a trip to the Caribbean. But another is to get active and this package includes an introductory SCUBA lesson in the Bolongo Bay pool, along with a half-day snorkeling trip for an up-close-and-personal encounter with the local turtle population.

And More!: St. Thomas is known to be the most cosmopolitan of the Virgin Islands, and theres as much to do here as any other part of the Caribbean. The Mahogany Run Golf Course features a three-hole run called the Devils Triangle, which awards a certificate to any player who can simply get through them without taking a penalty stroke. After 18 holes, it might be time to get a massage; there are day spas all over the island for relaxation. And though the resort dining is spectacular, those looking to head off into the island for different fare can look up Old Stone Farmhouse, where diners meet with the chef before the meal to prepare their own, personal menu.

Want to find out more about this trip? Want to get the rundown on the rest of our catalog of once-in-a-lifetime travel packages to offer your donors? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart Travel Expert today.

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Guest Post: Dont Get Dumped by Your Donors

March 24, 2015
(Were happy to turn over our blog to Christie King of cKing Benefit Auctions and the Benefit Auction Institute this week. It can take a lot of effort to attract a new supporter, but just a little more work can turn a one-time donation into a long-term relationship. Read on to find out more.)

Many donors only give once. This may be a shocking statement, but its true. One thing almost all nonprofit organizations have in common is the issue of how to keep donors engaged and giving year after year. Here are a few suggestions to help with donor retention.

After each event, print the list of donors who attended, then pick up the phone and call them. Do not go this alone. Divide the list among your board members and have them assist in making these calls I already know what youre thinking Were going to get our board members to do this? Yes! As leaders of your organization it is critical that they make these calls. And their part is easy, rewarding and fun. All they need to do is thank your donors for their support. If the donor does not answer the phone, they can simply leave a message of thanks. Ideally these phone calls should take place within 24 hours of your event, but no longer than 48 hours afterward.

This simple gesture conveys to your donors that they are appreciated and that they matter. This is critical because nonprofits are often competing for the same dollars, causing donors to become more strategic in their giving.

Keeping donors engaged and informed is also important in donor retention. I suggest you reach out to them via a special email every quarter sharing progress of various activities their money has supported. This tells your donors that you respect their investment enough to share its impact over time. And, of course, time builds trustcritical to building long-term donors.

Develop a Donor Retention Plan and follow it. Dont leave this very important step to chance.

Thanks for the tips, Christie! To find out more about cKing Benefit Auctions, find it on the web at ckingbenefits.com. For the Institute, head to benefitauctioninstitute.com.


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Get Warm, Get Active!

March 18, 2015
Were big fans of the outdoors at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., and you can see that in our non-profit auction fundraising travel packages. We send donors to Jackson Hole, to Aspen and even to Quebec for winter adventures.

But when the sun comes out, some people default to lounge chairs, tall drinks and beachside reading. Dont get us wrong, we love heading to the shore for a day of relaxation, and we certainly love our beachside resorts and bars. There are some activities, though, in which it makes a lot more sense to engage during the warmer months. If your donors are looking for a warm-weather retreat, maybe its time to look into one of these activity-based consignment travel packages.

Theres a reason that NASCAR takes the winter off: Driving at triple-digit speeds through snow is not an appealing thought. But its not just the professionals that get back in the drivers seat after a few months off for holidays and cold temperatures. Winners of our Its Just You and the Speedway package can get in a real life racecar and take it for a spin with the Mario Andretti Racing Experience. In a three-hour experience, the driver gets a meeting with a crew chief, two-way radio communication with a spotter for tips while out on the track, and personal racing instruction from the experienced Andretti crew. Available in four different states (Arizona, Illinois, New Hampshire or North Carolina), the Experience is also convenient for the donor who may not know where (s)he wants to go, or would rather stay closer to home.

For those who really want to get away, though, theres the Great White North. While there may be a form of romance to roughing it while ice fishing in the wilds of Canada, the slightly-warmer climes of the spring make wading out into a river a lot more comfortable. Making the process even nicer: Unwinding at a Fairmont resort afterward. With our Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada package, your donors could find themselves at one of four different Canadian resorts, spending time with a guide during a private freshwater fly fishing experience (and yes, the bait and gear are included) and trying to catch that nights dinner. Dont worry about a donor going hungry, though: Each of the Fairmonts have fantastic dining options, too, if your charitys supporter wasnt able to reel in the nights entre.

With the skies clearing a little, now might also be the time to get in the cockpit. Yes, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors into the sky with a Top Gun package, available to any one of twenty-five different cities. Your donors will fly on a fighter pilot mission experience, practicing formation flying and basic maneuvers before engaging in a few dogfights. Multiple cameras in the cockpit will capture the experience for posterity and give friends a chance to be jealous (or maybe a good laugh!) back on land.

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Holiday Globe-Hoppin

March 11, 2015
For many, the first thought of Independence Day involves fireworks over the National Monument in Washington, D.C. When Thanksgiving comes up, invariably so does the tradition of watching the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade, live from New York City. New Years Eve? Its hard to separate the day from the ball dropping in Times Square, isnt it?

One can celebrate a holiday anywhere, of course, but there are some places that have become ingrained in the culture as the home base for a certain day of the year. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors to some of the worlds most interesting destinations with our non-profit auction travel packages, but one trait that some dont realize is that there are few to no blackout dates on these trips. So, if youve got a donor itching to go to the Big Apple for Thanksgiving, we can make that happen.

Here are a few other places that we can send your donors who want to celebrate specific holidays:

When thoughts turn to St. Patricks Day, many immediately think of two east coast cities where many of the Irish who came to America settled: Boston and New York. But only one major metropolis go so far as to dye a natural resource green. Yes, Chicago may be better known for pierogies and deep dish pizza than shamrocks, but Irish-Americans are the citys largest ethnic group. The citys St. Patricks Day Parade is one of the countrys grandest, and the dying of the Chicago River has to be seen to be believed: Thousands line up and watch a boat dispense the green-colored dye into the river each year.

Unlike St. Patricks Day, Labor Day doesnt lend itself to massive celebrations on its own. The commemorating of the labor movement in America is important, sure, but its often conflated with its place on the calendar and the changing season; Labor Day is much more about the end of summer than overtime laws. For that reason, thousands flock to Las Vegas every year to get that last bit of consequence-free Vitamin D before hunkering down for a long winter. From massive pool parties to decadent (and celebrity chef-filled) restaurant scene, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the excess of summers freedom in Sin City.

Other holidays have become synonymous with the cities that recognize them the loudest. Patriots Day is the third Monday in April, and was set aside to celebrate the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Technically, its recognized in Maine and Wisconsin, but it tends to be known around the country as a holiday specifically for Boston, where its a day off from school and work, along with a chance to relax (hopefully) in the spring sun. For Beantown, its a big sports day, too: The Boston Marathon is run in the morning, and the Boston Red Sox have had a home game at Fenway Park on nearly every Patriots Day since 1959.
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Destination Spotlight: Costa Rica

March 03, 2015
When one thinks about vacations south of the border, Mexico is often the first destination that pops to mind. For others, a cruise around the Caribbean may be in order. But the travel experts, those whose passports are running out of room for new entry stamps, know that Costa Rica, even with its upswing in ecotourism over the past couple of decades, is the hidden jewel of the equatorial Americas.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has non-profit fundraising travel packages ready for destinations all over the world. But while cities like London and Paris attract a lot of attention, Costa Rica is sometime overlooked. This is great for the knowledgeable traveler: It means fewer tourists and more space to explore all the country has to offer! In fact, Costa Rica has something for every type of vacationer.

Costa Rica
Pinilla Canapy Tour Costa Rica
Los Sueos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort
JW Guanacaste Resort & Spa
For the beach-comber: With coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the nation has almost 300 beaches, with more than a handful sure to suit the personality of any sun worshipper. The Papapgayo Gulf is a favorite for those visiting the resorts of Guanacaste, while the isolation of Uvita makes it a perfect place to hide out from the world. The youth and culture surrounding Montezuma make it the equivalent of a Southern California coastal community, and its impossible to take a photo of the white sands of Nosara that is less than postcard worthy. With such a diversity of experiences, one could spend a whole week in swim gear.

For the jungle explorer: Around 25 percent of the land in Costa Rica is in either a national park or other protected area, but the best to explore might be Corcovado National Park. Once called the most biologically intense place on Earth by National Geographic, Corcovado contains endangered species like the Bairds tapir, a sort of pig-hippopotamus hybrid, and the Central American squirrel monkey. The stars of the show, though, are the two- and three-toed sloths. Other smaller parks and rainforests are scattered throughout the country, and tour operators take visitors sightseeing using everything from cars to zip lines.

For the luxury lounger: While the outdoors are attention-grabbing, theres plenty of beauty to be found indoors as well. The view of the ocean from the room balconies at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa is tremendous, and the on-site spa includes saunas, pools and even palapas, or thatched-roof huts, to mix clean air with a massage. In San Jose, the Cala Luna Boutique Hotel and Villas features a poolside dining experience unrivaled, with local flavors and farm-to-table foods. Visiting the city is no excuse to skip finer living, either: The Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose is a converted Victorian mansion, with a secluded rooftop Jacuzzi terrace that has to be experienced to be believed.

Beach, jungle and luxury Costa Rica has it all! Let your donors bid on a once-in-a-lifetime trip at your next gala auction. Contact a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. Travel Expert today to get started!


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Top of the Lux

February 24, 2015
There are lots of little touches that make a vacation a relaxing experience. Someone else makes the bed in the hotel. At most places, its impossible to cook, which means theres no dishes to do. But one of the best for many is the ability to forget about bills and finances for a few days. Whether its that extra drink at happy hour or the bottle of wonderful wine, its easier to indulge miles away from home.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love sending your donors on all sorts of adventures with our non-profit auction travel packages. Some of our favorite ones are those loaded with the sort of indulgences, those luxurious extras on trips to destinations both common and once-in-a-lifetime, which make long-lasting memories and add the elusive wow factor to an auction lot list. Whether its four-figure gift certificates to glamorous jewelers or the poshest accommodations, some of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s biggest selling itineraries are all about living the high life.

The Plaza in New York City has defined luxury in the Big Apple for more than a century. A favorite of Hollywood filmmakers looking to capture Manhattan extravagance in a single shot (films from Barefoot in the Park to American Hustle have featured the hotel), The Plaza is a favorite for everything from afternoon tea to late-night drinks in the Champagne Bar. It also features 24-hour butler service and some of the citys best concierges. Our Exquisite New York Dazzles Like Never Before package, however, doesnt stop at Central Park South, though; we also include a $1,000 gift certificate to Tiffany and Co., the centuries-old jeweler and tastemaker. Donors who win this package can both relax and shop in style, picking up memories for a lifetime and maybe even an heirloom set to last even longer.

What The Plaza represents to Americans, The Savoy is to the British. Its guest rooms feature panoramic views of the River Thames and underwent a 220 million pound renovation that was completed in 2010. The Stay at the Most Iconic London Hotel The Savoy package highlights the propertys extensive list of charms the close location to all London has to offer, the afternoon tea overlooking the Thames, the white-glove services and top-notch butler and concierge staffs. It also includes a $500 gift card to visit the hotels restaurant, Gordon Ramseys Savoy Grill, which features all of the genius of the titular chefs creations with none of the berating that comes from his television appearances.

Of course, there are few more luxurious places on the planet than the French Riviera. The southern French coast has been a resort escape for Europeans since the 1700s, and now attracts celebrities from around the world (musicians like Elton John and Bono have flocked there, along with movie stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). But travelers dont have to buy a second (or thirdor fourth) home along the coast to enjoy the regions spoils; our Bask in the Glory of the French Riviera package includes a suite at the Fairmont Monte Carlo and a $1,000 gift card for sightseeing tours but make sure to get in some relaxation at the Fairmonts Willow Stream Spa and grab a meal at Nobu Fairmont Monte Carlo, the Riviera outpost of famed chef Nobu Matsuhisas global cuisine empire.



The Plaza
Tiffany
The Savoy
The Masters Golf


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Guest Post: On Consignment

February 18, 2015
(From Mitch-Stuart, Inc.: Word is spreading about the advantages of auctioning consignment items at charity galas! Our friends at Scott Robertson Auctioneers recently wrote a blog post on the topic, and we love their enthusiasm for getting the best possible travel packages for non-profit fundraising auctions into the hands of bidders. That post appears below, with their permission.)

Seemingly every day I receive a message from a client asking How do we secure great items for our fundraising auction? Does this question sound familiar to you and your committee? You are not alone in this quest to find high profit items that will excite your guests and get them to bid.

Experience has taught me that in order to have a successful fundraising auction you need the following four components in place.
  1. The right people in the seats. These guests must believe in your cause, have the financial resources to support the cause, and the desire to help.
  2. Great items for the attendees to purchase. Everyone is strategic in their bidding and will not bid on items they dont intend to use. Pre-event promotion is always a good idea so attendees arrive ready to bid on items that excite them.
  3. A great ambassador like a fundraising auctioneer. He or she will be the glue that holds the other components together and motivates the audience.
  4. A cause that people can easily support. Those donating their money at a fundraising event want to make sure their donation will make an impact on the lives of others.
If you have three of the four components in place then great, youre almost there. But the component Ive seen left out most often is #2 great items. If the right people are there, the right auctioneer is there and the cause is right, but the items are wrong, a charity will leave so much money on the table because they werent strategic in their item procurement.

I hear from many charities throughout the year. They tell me they would love to have better live auction items but dont have the resources. I totally understand. In fact, getting the right items for a live auction is more challenging than ever for some.

One possible solution for these charities may be and I stress may be consignment companies, great businesses that are totally focused on putting together trips and experiences that make unique and wonderful top-shelf items.

These companies purchase items at volume wholesale prices, mark them up a little, and then provide the item or package to not-for-profit organizations at no initial cost. The charity only pays for the item after it is auctioned and sold at the charitys gala. Rest assured a good fundraising auctioneer never sells an item below the cost of the package.

Another advantage of using consignment is that the packages can be sold multiple to times to several bidders, a donated item typically can only be sold once.

When the auction is over the charity contacts the consignment company, informs them which item was purchased, provides them with the funds and then gives them the contact information of the person who won the item.

The consignment company will act as the concierge and contact the bidder directly and work with them all the way until the bidder utilizes the trip. Typically quality consignment companies can be flexible, if needed, to modify the trip to meet the needs of the buyer (its important the consignment company acts as the concierge so the buyer receives the personal service they deserve and the charity can focus on other matters).

Another great point about these companies is that they often under promise and over deliver and that will make the winning bidder feel even better about the item they purchased. Thats pretty rare in todays world.

I do have one caution. There are a lot of consignment companies out there. Do not go with one you just found on the Internet or the cheapest. You need to use a company that has an outstanding reputation and a great track record for delivering what it promises.

I hope this helps those charities looking for unique items and experiences their guests will truly love to bid on. Sure, there is a cost involved. But even with the cost big dividends await.

(We want to thank our friends at Scott Robertson Auctioneers for the great summary of why non-profits should work with consignment sellers to help give their auctions that wow factor. If youre ready to send a donor on an once-in-a-lifetime adventure, reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today!)

Scott Robertson Auctioneers
srauctioneers@gmail.com
239-246-2139


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Travel for Two

February 11, 2015
Travel is inherently romantic. It pushed people out of their comfort zones and into new experiences, often requiring assistance from others (directions on the subway, translation of a menu in another language). It makes people vulnerable, a state which can help forge stronger, closer connections. Its also been a trope in books and films for as long as theres been fiction; movies like Lost in Translation and Before Sunrise are based around the idea of finding love in the midst of a trip.

Hawaii Wedding
Fairmont Mayakoba
Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa
The Plaza Hotel
But the act of going somewhere is not, all on its own, romantic. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. sends donors around the world with its charity auction travel packages, and a big part of the appeal is the destination itself. But it is often the experiences during these once-in-a-lifetime trips that make the most lasting memories. If you want to set up your donors with an adventure for sweethearts, look to these travel packages for inspiration.

There are plenty of romantic adventures available in Hawaii, of course, but the grandest gesture may be taking your relationship back to the day you said I do. Our Hawaii is a Lovers Paradise package sends a pair of donors to Oahu for either the wedding of a lifetime or a renewal of vows ceremony, beachside at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort. Choose from one of three different island beaches, and well do the rest provide an ecumenical minister, take care of any and all fees, and even give the ceremony that extra island flair with a pair of leis. Theres even a gift certificate to be used on champagne and fruit back at the hotel.

The vineyards and restaurants of Sonoma have their own romantic pull, as well. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers seven different trips through that part of Northern Californias wine country, and all of them have one amenity in common: A stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa. Its the spa part that should be of special interest to lovebirds; the Willow Stream Spa is ranked in the top 25 of Travel + Leisures spa list, and includes mineral baths and a huge list of treatments. There are four different couples experiences on offer, including massages and other body treatments.

Even trips to a city known for romance, like New York, requires some advance planning. Thankfully, staying at The Plaza can make those plans easier. Between its room package ideas like the Bubbles and Baubles getaway (which includes jewelry, champagne and chocolates) to its Valentines weekend restaurant menus with names like Champagne and Canapes, The Plaza has made itself a major destination for once-in-a-lifetime romance. And with some of the top concierges in New York in its employ, The Plaza can help round out a sweetheart getaway with tough-to-procure tickets or reservations nearly anywhere in the city.

Want to send your donors on a romantic getaway? Want to add touches of Cupid to another package? Get in touch with a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today!


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Destination Spotlight: Augusta

February 04, 2015
There are a lot of signs of spring beyond longer and warmer days. For some, its the first day of baseball season. For others, its the return of music festivals, or maybe the first barbecue invite. But one of our favorite rites of the season is The Masters, one of golfs oldest and most prestigious tournaments. Each year, the planets best golfers descend upon Augusta, Georgia for four days that could make or break a professional players career.

But while the biggest action may take place at the Augusta National Golf Club, the city and surrounding area has attractions for both golf aficionados and everyday travelers alike. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we pride ourselves on creating once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for non-profit fundraising auctions, so our trips to Augusta features day badges to either one or two days of The Masters. But those hours on the golf course arent the only reasons to head to the city.

Thanks in part to Augustas age, there are plenty of fascinating architectural elements to explore. The Lamar Building, in the citys Downtown Historic District, was built a century ago, but its rooftop glass enclosure was designed in the 1970s by famed architect I.M. Pei (he designed the pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris). The entire district, in fact, is on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks in part to its diversity of building styles; everything from Art Deco pieces to Craftsman homes can be found by discerning eyes.

That type of range can also be seen in local cuisine, where southern comfort food can be found steps away from white-cloth, upscale restaurants. High-end eateries like Le Maison are in major demand during The Masters; reservations are often made months in advance and credit cards are used to hold spots. But down-home diners like Ruths Family Restaurant have an appeal all their own, as well, with locals gossiping over biscuits and gravy during the breakfast rush.

But one of the best-kept secrets about the Augusta area is its natural beauty. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors (and maybe work up the appetite for those biscuits and gravy!) at local parks and other sights. Take a stroll along the Augusta Riverwalk, for instance, and stop and smell the flowers at its various gardens, along the Savannah River. Or rent a bike (or, for the more adventurous, a canoe) and explore the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. Keep an eye on the boat tour schedule, too; the canals Music Cruises are popular ways to both experience the scenery and local culture, with bluegrass and beauty in equal measure.

The 2015 Masters start April 9 and weve still got time to help you send a donor there! Contact a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today.

The Masters
The Masters Golf
The Masters Golf
The Masters Golf


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Silver Screen Travel

January 28, 2015
This is the time of year when even those only minimally interested in movies have one eye on the silver screen. The major award shows seem to come every weekend, and the multiplexes feature many of the previous years best releases. Of course, when minds turn to cinema, they often also turn to Los Angeles or New York, the great centers of American film. But making movies is no longer just the province of the two largest cities in the country and that means that your donors can make a cinema-themed adventure out of a trip to several different locations.

The Mitch-Stuart, Inc. catalog of non-profit auction travel packages includes trips all around the world, for all sorts of occasions. Some of our favorite destinations can make a film lovers dream come true, all while experiencing a luxurious vacation and benefiting your charity.

National Mall
National Mall
Wrigley Field
Biltmore in Asheville
A major reason for a film to shoot outside of Los Angeles or New York is when its setting is so iconic that it cant be faked. Since even a major movie studio likely doesnt have the space to reproduce the National Mall, Washington D.C. sees more than its fair share of productions. While the actual halls of power the Oval Office, the Supreme Court chamber, the House of Representatives and the Senate are reproduced on sound stages far away, other city-specific locations like the Kennedy Center (seen in State of Play and All the Presidents Men), the Lincoln Memorial (Wedding Crashers, Election and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, among others) and the National Mall (Three Days of the Condor, Dave and National Treasure) have all made for important backdrops. The city has loaned more than just federal monuments to the silver screen, too: Local culinary favorite Bens Chili Bowl shows up in The Pelican Brief and State of Play, along with many television shows.

Chicago may be best known for its lively theater scene (especially improvisational comedy factories like Second City and iO), but its also been the setting for some of cinemas most beloved stories. In particular, director/writer John Hughes set most of his films in and around the Windy City, and many of the locations seen on the screen can be seen in person, as well. Ferris Bueller and his co-conspirators take in the Art Institute of Chicago and Wrigley Field during his day off, Northbrook Mall showed up in Weird Science, though many of the stores have changed, and churches like Glencoe Union and Trinity United Methodist hosted scenes from Sixteen Candles and Home Alone, respectively. Private tours from companies like Viator take tourists around the city on a regular basis, either for general film tours or for movie-specific experiences (The Blues Brothers is a popular one).

Not every city with a thriving film industry is a major metropolis, though. For a mix of movie magic and a small-town feel, head to Asheville, North Carolina. Films like Forrest Gump, The Hunger Games and Dirty Dancing made use of the city for locations. One setting in particular has become a favorite for Hollywood scouts: The Biltmore Estate has shown up in the aforementioned Gump, the film version of Hannibal and more than a dozen other recognizable titles. The best news: Visitors can see the estate, tour its vineyards, have a meal at its Dining Room (featuring estate-raised beef and lamb) or even get married on the grounds.


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The Newest of the New

January 20, 2015
Part of making sure that were offering your organization the best charity auction travel packages is updating our roster of once-in-a-lifetime trips. Each quarter, we put together new ideas, new adventures and new luxury experiences for non-profits to use as fundraising items at gala auction events. Whats new in the Mitch-Stuart catalog? Let look at some of the latest and greatest options.

Fittingly, our winter update features several new options for your donors who love the rush of skiing. Send them to Colorado with our Aspens Winter Wonderland package: A four-night/five-day stay at Little Nell Resort and Spa with gift certificates for the spa and dining. Little Nell sits at the base of Aspen Mountain resort, one of the top ski destinations in the country.  Just down the road in Crested Butte, our Crested Butte Promises a Superb Alpine Adventure package puts the donor at the base of the towns ski resort, and gives them access to a VIP members lounge and even a bonus adventure, like snowmobiling, hiking tours or even horseback riding.

If your donors like runways more than ski runs, the starring edition to our catalog comes from the Big Apple. Get Caught Up in Couture sends your donor to New York City for a three-day, two-night jaunt during one of the citys two 2015 New York Fashion Weeks. Along with the de facto exhibitions happening on the sidewalks of Manhattan each day, donors/winning bidders will also get two premier tickets to a Lincoln Center fashion show, where exhibitors like Prada and Marc Jacobs show off their collections for the next season. Your donors can be on the cutting edge of the fashion industry, all while supporting your cause.

Of course, some of our favorite trips every year involve wine, and weve added some great vino-related adventures, both domestic and abroad. Our Raise a Toast to the Pacific Northwest Coast package focuses on the vineyards of the region, with tours of Chateau St. Michelle and a second boutique winery to be named. For those looking for an international, big-ticket experience, theres the Indulge in the Italian Culture and Countryside and Wine, Dine and View Art So Fine packages, both of which involve Florence, Italy-based adventures and tastings in some of the countrys great wine cellars. Each package offers additional fun as well a tiramisu tasting, a visit to the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, or the sights of the Snoqualmie Falls and a tour of Boehms Swiss Chocolate Factory.

Want to hear about the latest and greatest once-in-a-lifetime adventures available from Mitch-Stuart, Inc.? Call or email a representative today!

Little Nell Resort and Spa
Little Nell Resort and Spa
New York Fashion Week
Chateau Ste. Michelle


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Super Travel

January 14, 2015
The sporting world turns its eyes toward the Super Bowl every winter, as the months-long NFL season reaches its apex. For this years edition, the league returns to warmer weather (the 2014 game was held in New Jersey): Glendale, Arizona, home of University of Phoenix Stadium and the Arizona Cardinals. But whether its the rare cold-weather host like in 2014 or the southwestern flavor of the Grand Canyon State, its a sure bet every year that the championship game will be played in a great travel destination.

With our catalog of consignment, charity auction travel packages, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to any one of a number of the Super Bowls former host cities. Whether its an area thats hosted a big number of big games, or just a football-mad metropolis that can turn high school contests into major events, these destinations are perfect for the pigskin fanatics in your donor community.

Miami has hosted the Super Bowl ten times over the years, with games split between the Orange Bowl and Sun Life Stadium. The former was the home of the University of Miami before its demolition, while the latter holds the Miami Dolphins. But the game is only part of the spectacle in the jewel of South Florida. For one thing, the Super Bowls early February placement on the calendar means that all of the tourists flock to the beaches with the kind of intensity only match by children escaping school for spring break. Local sports watering holes tend to show respect to local football favorites; Bokampers (named after linebacker/defensive end Kim Bokamper) and Brus Room (named after linebacker Bob Brudzinski) are perennials on any best sports bar list.

The Big Easy has hosted the Super Bowl on numerous occasions, and its obvious why there may be no city in America that can become one non-stop party quite like New Orleans. The Saints run this town in terms of rooting interest, but fans of all allegiances can feel at home in the French Quarter. Sports bars like local favorite Cooter Browns combine sport and cuisine as well as anywhere in the country; Browns features boiled crawfish and raw oysters along with po boys and other, more traditional bar dishes. And of course, if its not football season, Mardi Gras and New Orleans Jazz Fest are pretty good excuses to end up in the Crescent City, as well.

But for the bidder that wants to feel like he or she is in football country, heading to Dallas might be the best option. The area has only hosted one Super Bowl to date 2011s showdown between Green Bay and Pittsburgh but the sport is an integral part of the citys life, at all levels. Friday nights are as often about high school football as they are about any other entertainment, while it seems like the entire city is in silver and blue on Sundays to cheer on the Cowboys. For the true fanatic, take a day trip south to Waco for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, which is heavy on pigskin-centric exhibits.

Want to send your donors on a Super adventure? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert for more information.
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Destination Spotlight: Hilton Head

January 06, 2015
Certain destinations are synonymous with their biggest attractions. Its nearly impossible to think about Orlando without conjuring images of Disney World. A visit to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower is unimaginable. And when one thinks about Hilton Head Island, the resort community in South Carolina, golf is the first word to spring to mind. In the past, weve written about the amazing opportunities for golfers at Hilton Head. The town has one of the highest concentrations of course available in the world, with difficulty ranging from professional-level to links appropriate for amateur hackers.

Hilton Head
Hilton Head
Hilton Head
Hilton Head
But Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s charity auction travel packages to Hilton Head are about more than just putters and drivers. The city has plenty for the non-golfer, whether its natural beauty, culture or fine dining. Whether its waiting for a family member to finish up a round, or looking for a refueling stop after 18 holes, Hilton Head Island has a lot to offer.

For instance, not all sand in Hilton Head belongs to a formidable golf course hazard. Coligny Beach is a lovely oceanside walk, with public access and nearby shopping and dining, while the Mitchellville Freedom Park features hiking and a look at the interesting history of Hilton Head Island. Theres a beach for every type of vacationer on the island, and they each can make for a great post-golf relaxation spot, an easy way to forget about that hooked drive or terrible three-putt.

In addition, Hilton Head has a lively arts scene, especially for a city of less than 40,000 residents (according to the last Census report). Touring Broadway musicals come to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina; shows like Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash and Gypsy are on their way to the ACC in the first half of 2015. The Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra is also highly rated, and features Maestro John Morris Russell, a Conductor Designate of the world-renowned Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. For a less-formal cultural experience, the annual Hilton Head Island Arts Festival and Craft Marketplace allows visitors to both see beautiful works and take home a memento of the trip.

After a day on the golf course, frolicking on the beach or checking out the local art scene, travelers can have their pick of the islands restaurants, spanning the world of cuisine. An eatery like A Lowcounty Backyard Restaurant replicates family cookouts convincingly, while Alexanders Seafood is a white tablecloth experience with a wine list in the triple digits and a surf-and-turf-inspired menu. And throughout the year, Hilton Head plays host to a tremendous number of food festivals, like the Seafood Festival (held March 1-7 this year), the Wine and Food Festival (March 9 through 14) and the Beer, Bacon and Music Festival in May.

Ready to send a lucky auction winner to Hilton Head? Reach out to one of our representatives today!


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Travel to the New Year

December 30, 2014
Resolutions, champagne toasts at midnight and Kathy Griffin harassing Anderson Cooper on CNN: There are plenty of New Years Eve traditions, some better than others. But one of the most heartwarming is that of the party, the gathering where we all look forward to the new year with hope (and, in some cases, plenty of alcohol). Some of your donors may prefer to ring in the next revolution around the sun at home, with family and maybe a couple of friends. But others may be looking for that reason to celebrate with thousands, that excuse to head out into the world and welcome a new year in a new locale surrounded by new people.

You can make that happen.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., most of our flexible charity auction travel packages can be used at any time of the year. That can mean summer trips to the Caribbean, Spring Break sojourns to Southern California, or even once-in-a-lifetime tours of Europe. It also means the chance to be one of the thousands celebrating New Years Eve on television, rather than watching the revelers from home. Here are some of our favorite NYE destinations, and how we can help send your donors there.

Everyone knows about the celebration in New Yorks Times Square, of course. But if hanging out in a quasi-confined space with hundreds of thousands of fellow partygoers and a ton of confetti sounds overwhelming, there are plenty of other places to watch the clock count down. Whether its the Harbor Lights cruise and its views of the Manhattan skyline or the open bars at clubs around the city, New York has a party for every partier.

In Las Vegas, the Strip shuts down for New Years Eve, becoming a packed pedestrian plaza, with fireworks being shot off from the roofs of the casinos lining Las Vegas Boulevard. But the real shows are inside the citys nightclubs and on its stages, with star DJs, rock bands and even comedians playing in Sin City for the evening. For the best view, the LINQ High Roller will take riders 550 feet above the Strip for great views, champagne toasts and, in VIP pods, premium bar service.

Those looking for a warmer clime can also head to the Big Easy for the holiday and enjoy the Fleur-de-Lis Drop from Jackson Square. The city also has its own firework show over the Mississippi River as well, but the biggest draw to the Crescent City as usual is the French Quarter, where clubs and concert halls give visitors the chance to dance the night away. The day after, make sure to stop in to Emerils Restaurant for the traditional good luck dish, black eyed peas.

No matter where you or your donors ring in the New Year, we hope its filled with good works, great trips and the discovery of new cultures around the world. May all of your galas run smoothly, all of your auction items sell and your charitable deeds help make the world a better place.

Happy New Year!





Statue of Liberty
New York Times Square
House of Blues New Orleans
Las Vegas


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Ho-Ho-Holiday Travel

December 24, 2014
Christmastime is here, and if youre not already at or on your way to your preferred vacation spot for the holiday, it might be too late for 2014. Thankfully, youll get a chance to do it all again next year, and weve got you and your donors covered. No matter where your supporters would like to spend the holiday season, one of Mitch-Stuarts charity auction travel packages can put them on a plane to a relaxing, wonderful time, from the white Christmas of a ski slope to the white sand beaches of the Caribbean. Need some ideas especially for a Christmas in July-style gala auction? Why not think about

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Disneyland California
Philadelphia: Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, the Christmas tree lighting, the store window displays, reenacting scenes from Miracle on 34th Street on 34th Street itself the reasons to seek out New York City for Christmas are mostly well-known. Thats why tens of thousands of people go there every year. For a more relaxing experience, think about staying a short train ride away in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia has its share of seasonal fun to explore, like the Christmas Light Show at Macys and the RiverRink at Penns Landing, with its views Delaware River and the Ben Franklin Bridge. Plus, day trips to Manhattan are a snap; travelers can head into the city by train during the day, then escape it when the hordes of tourists become too much.

British Columbia: The Western Canadian getaway is not only a wintery wonderland, but our package to Whistler is also great for a family, with a one-bedroom condo suitable for two adults and two children. The areas skiing is on par with the best of Europe, and Whistler averages almost 40 feet of snow per year, meaning that a December trip will very likely yield great conditions for downhill, cross-country or snowboarding. Back at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, meanwhile, even the pickiest eaters in the family will find something to love among the resorts culinary offerings, like The Grill Room and The Mallard Lounge. Of special distinction: the Portobello Market and Fresh Bakery is a great quick-stop for families, while the Spirit Room inside the Mallard Lounge is where the liquor connoisseurs congregate.

Southern California: The lower half of the Golden State has a combination of traditional-style celebrations and warm weather seen in very few other places. Those looking to escape the biting cold can stretch out on the beach (and take pictures that will make friends at home jealous!), of course. But there is also seasonal fun to be had; Disneyland in Anaheim offers a snowy Christmas parade every day, and fireworks light up the night sky on a regular basis as well. In Los Angeles, the shopping centers combine the outdoors, the spirit of the season and the consumerism of the season to bring patrons events like A Hollywood Christmas at the Grove and the Rodeo Drive Holiday Lighting in Beverly Hills. And the traditional house-lighting shows in Altadena along Christmas Tree Lane will remind anyone of Christmases past just ignore the illuminated palm trees in the other parts of the city.


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Cruising Cuisine

December 17, 2014
For some, going on a cruise represents the chance to smell the ocean air and lounge in the beautiful weather of the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. For others, its the chance to visit either multiple islands at once or see wilderness only described in adventure novels (like the wilds of Alaska). Many enjoy the family bonding available on a cruise; the ships are great places for the entire family, with plenty of diversions for kids.

Still others, though, are there for the food.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for every type of traveler. Weve got several great trips to explore the cuisine of big cities like New York City and smaller towns like Asheville, North Carolina. But some of the best food available to a traveler can be found aboard cruise ships, which combine a number of influences to provide a wide range of tastes and dishes to their clientele.

On each ship, the main room dining options are vast and the elegance is astounding especially for an experience whose price is already baked in the price. The main dining rooms on the ships of Royal Caribbean deliver tremendous menus and great wine selection, all in an atmosphere that is upscale without feeling intimidating (as in, bring the kids!). As for the ships of Celebrity Cruises, the dining rooms of the Solstice and the Equinox were recognized by Travel + Leisure in 2009 as the Best Cruise Ship Dining Rooms, thanks to beautiful two-story wine towers and dishes like roasted California quail.

Main dining areas are only a few of the places where a cruise ship traveler can sate his or her hunger. Specialty restaurants serve fun takes on Italian, Mexican and seafood-based cuisine aboard most ships. And despite having to cater to a wide variety of tastes, ship cuisine can have some idiosyncratic fun, as well. At the Lawn Club Grill on Celebrity Cruises Silhouette and Reflection ships, diners get in on the action by grilling their own steaks. Each party gets to pick a Grill Master, who gets a lesson in open-flame cooking by helping one of the boats chef in preparing the main course. The Lawn Club Grill also offers classes on both grilling and pizza-making for those who would rather separate learning from dining.

But the newest highlight of the open water may be upping the bar for dining options. Royal Caribbean Internationals Quantum of the Seas features offerings from superstar chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz amid an 18-restaurant menu. Whether its top-notch bar food, Japanese small plates or even what RCI has taken to billing as the first-ever food truck at sea, the SeaPlex Dog House, every culinary itch can be scratched on board.

Celebrity Cruises
Sushi on a Celebrity Cruise Ship
Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises


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Destination Spotlight: Chicago

December 10, 2014
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love working with non-profits to provide charity auction travel packages as fundraising tools. One of our favorite destinations is the Windy City, the one that gave the world the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Bill Murray and numerous politicians, athletes and influential figures. More than 30 million people visit Chicago as tourists each year, and with our travel packages, some of your donors can stay and play there, too.

Why send a supporter to Chicago?

Spacca Napoli Pizza Parlor in Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Wrigley Field
Chicago has a lively culinary scene, with fascinating new restaurants opening on a weekly basis. But even with the diversity of options available, the city will likely always be known as the home of deep-dish pizza, the pie-like creation of Pizzeria Uno. Stuffed with cheese and overflowing with toppings, the pizza is popular enough with Midwesterners that its comparing it to New York-style pizza is a nationwide debate on the level of Pepsi versus Coke. Tours of area pizzerias (like the one offered with our Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago read it aloud package) take on the feel of a Napa winery expedition, with different varieties of not only the famous deep-dish, but also tavern-style and the more familiar Neapolitan styles.

For those seeking a vibrant downtown center, Chicago provides urban travelers a cityscape filled with cultural monuments. Take an architectural tour of Frank Lloyd Wrights home, for instance, or explore the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. After taking in works of art all day, indulge in purchasing a work of art for your home (or your body!) on Magnificent Mile, the citys premiere shopping destination with more than 3 million square feet of retail, restaurants and hotels.

But if one asks 100 people on the street to name a Chicago landmark, its quite possible that Wrigley Field may be the top answer. The home of Major League Baseballs Chicago Cubs, Wrigley was built in 1914 and has hosted All-Star Games, World Series (though never a championship for the Cubbies) and other major events. While the Cubs arent much of a threat to bring home a title any time soon, checking out a game either from inside the park or, as one Mitch-Stuart travel package offers, VIP rooftop seats across the street is a wonderful way to pass a summer afternoon.


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Tis the (Shopping) Season

December 02, 2014
Nothing says the holidays quite like packed shopping mall parking lots, fights over the last toy-of-the-season and long, impossibly-slow checkout lines.

Ugh.

Somehow, the stockings have to get stuffed, the boxes have to get filled and wrapped, and that gift list has to dwindle. Wouldnt it be nice to combine one of the most stress-inducing tasks of the holiday season with a relaxing trip out of your town? Better yet, wouldnt it be nice to give that opportunity to your non-profits biggest supporters, all while raising money for your cause and programs?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together destination travel packages for charity auctions that take donors all around the world for all sorts of purposes, whether its an awards show in New York City or a museum tour of Paris. We offer plenty of shopping of trips to the Big Apple of course; the allure of walking past the artistic window displays of Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and Barneys New York sells itself. But for those who arent up for the hustle and bustle of a New York excursion to take care of that present list, there are plenty of other great cities to which to travel.

Combine shopping with sunshine in southern California with trips to either Los Angeles or Palm Springs. Angelinos love to combine purchase power with solar power, and whether its strolling down Rodeo Drive, breathing the ocean air on Santa Monicas Third Street Promenade or taking the trolley at the Grove, the options are plentiful. A couple of hours east, Palm Springs is home to outlet shopping, independent stores filled with the works of small artisans, and year-round sunshine.

Those willing to chance a bit more inclement weather would do well to head to Chicago and the world-renowned Magnificent Mile. A 13-block stretch of Michigan Avenue, the Mile is home to homes, museums, nightlife and, most importantly, a massive collection of retailers, spanning from national chains to small boutiques. Browsing and buying are such integral parts of the strips experience that it hosts a yearly Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival, with pop-up stores, a food fair and even a half-marathon.

Holiday shopping sprees dont have to be confined to this country, though. If there are particularly fashionable people on your gift list, think about a trip to Italy. The fashion industry in Milan is almost unparalleled, but cities like Venice (with its signature masks and glassworks) and regions like Umbria (known for textiles and chocolates, among other artisan goodies) also provide access to plenty of potential presents. Even better: Travelers can finish a day of shopping with some of the best cuisine in the world.

Ready to send a donor on the shopping adventure of a lifetime? Reach out to Mitch-Stuart to talk about adding a trip to Chicago, Los Angeles or even Italy to your non-profit auction!

Nordstrom
Macy's
Galeries Lafayette


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Turkey Day Travel

November 25, 2014
AAA projected that more than 43 million Americans took to the roads, flooded airport terminals and even stood in long, snaking lines at train stations to get out of town for Thanksgiving in 2013. For many of those who traveled over the holiday, the trips were to see relatives, all gathering around a table somewhere for turkey and pumpkin pie.

Tiffany & Co
Rockefeller Center
The Fairmont Royal Pavilion
Skiers at Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Next year, help your donors make that somewhere a little more exciting.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., pairs with non-profit organizations to offer alluring charity auction travel packages to destinations around the world. Those can be used at any time, which means that when everyone else in the airport is schlepping to the same small towns they go to every year, your supporters can be heading to holiday fun in

New York! Dont make your donors watch the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade on television next year. Send them to the Big Apple instead to celebrate the holiday in style, staying at the Plaza (in a Rose Suite, no less!) and shopping at Tiffanys with a $1,000 gift card. For supporters whove already taken care of Christmas presents, there are NYC packages that include brewery tours, Broadway show tickets, and even trips through the citys delis.

The Caribbean! If the first blasts of winter have left donors depressed, tell them to leave the galoshes behind and find sand between their toes rather than snow. Mitch-Stuart offers trips to locales throughout the region, but all-inclusive resorts like Bolongo Bay in St. Thomas will take care of everything from dinner to entertainment, while those looking for luxury can find it in Barbados at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion or the old-world charm of The Buccaneer in St. Croix.

The Rockies! For those who seek out the cold of winter to experience the thrill of careening down a mountain, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to hit the slopes of ski resorts in Colorado and other regions. Send donors to any resort in Vail or Keystone, Colorado, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, or Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A day of negotiating double black diamond ski runs will burn off any caloric surpluses from a massive Thanksgiving dinner.

Getting ready for spring galas? Want to add that wow factor to your non-profit benefit auction? Reach out today to a Mitch-Stuart rep!


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Museum Oddities

November 19, 2014
The Louvre? Nice enough, sure. The Guggenheim? Alright. MOMA? Of course. When one travels, its easy to head to one of the celebrated homes of high-minded exhibits and historically-important collections.

But sometimes, its more fun to be surrounded by plush bunnies. Or massive neon lights.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can send the winners of gala auctions to destinations far and wide with its nonprofit charity auction travel packages. Some of those places, like New York, Washington D.C. or Paris, are known in part for their vast collections of art, scientific touchstones or even sporting memorabilia. But not every museum is a depository of important cultural or scientific artifacts. Some are homes to strange blocks of curios, while others are repositories for the unloved or unappreciated pieces of lives past. When in one of these top tourist destinations, look out for these off-beat museums.

It should surprise no one that the Los Angeles area, home of the human oddities on Hollywood Boulevard and that repository of quirks and quacks, the movie industry, features two of the strangest museums around. On Venice Boulevard in Culver City, the Museum of Jurassic Technology features exhibits like The Stink Ant of the Cameroon and The Horn of Mary Davis of Saughall, though theres still a debate as to whether the museum itself is a serious endeavor (and of what theme?) or a parody of private-collection museums. On the other side of the L.A. basin, the Bunny Museum in Pasadena contains a collection of more than 30,000 rabbit-related items, including stuffed animals, collectible figures and even a small crew of house bunnies, pets of the owners.

In Boston, the Museum of Bad Art features anywhere from 50 to 70 pieces at any one time, each showcasing what happens when the best of intentions meets the worst of talent. Works like Lucy in the Sky with Flowers and Mama and Babe quite obviously come from a good place, but also can be tough to look at. The museum ends up being a tribute to good intentions as much as a place to critique the less-talented, though theres plenty of opportunities for the latter, as well. Now with two locations in the Boston area to visit, MOBA (as its abbreviated) draws fans of the off-beat and outright awful year-round.

Las Vegas is underrated in terms of its high art scene (any city with as much money as Vegas will have a collection or two worth seeing, like the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art), but its two best museums have more to do with the citys history than any imported idea of art. Downtown Las Vegas is home to the Mob Museum, a collection of exhibits that trace the rise and fall of organized crime in America. It is home to, among other artifacts, the actual wall where the St. Valentines Day Massacre took place (the massacre involved Al Capone-hired killers in Chicago) and is housed in the former Las Vegas Post Office and Courthouse. Up the road is another Vegas-centric collection, the Neon Museum, which hosts almost 150 of the citys signature neon signs from casinos and other businesses. Guided tours take visitors past signs as old as the Moulin Rouge, which was billed as the countrys first interracial hotel in 1955, and as recent as the OSheas Casino signage removed during the LINQ renovations on the Strip.

Want to give a donor the chance to visit a unique collection for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative today!


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Destination Spotlight: Colorado

November 11, 2014
The northeast is known for its foliage during the fall. Southern California and the Florida coast is known for sunny summer days and boardwalks. Washington D.C. is known for its springtime cherry blossoms (and government bustle). But when the snow starts to come down in earnest, Colorado gets its chance to shine.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s charity auction travel packages can take donors all around the world, but there are few destinations that group luxury, natural beauty and outdoor activities quite like the Rocky Mountain State. Take a look at the options that are available to the traveler:

Skiing: Almost 20 percent of U.S. ski resort visits happen in the state of Colorado (more than the second- and third-place states combined), at one of the more than 20 resorts that belong to Colorado Ski Country USA, the non-profit organization that represents the states skiing community. It is big business for the state its estimated that skiers and snowboarders contribute nearly $3 billion annually to the local economy so its not a surprise that so many mountain towns are based in large part around resorts. And when it comes to skiing in Colorado, downhill may be king but cross-country skiers have almost as many options, both at resorts and at specialized Nordic centers in places like Aspen and Crested Butte.

Hiking and Mountain Biking: One doesnt have to strap wood to ones feet in order to enjoy those peaks, however. Many of the states 30,000 acres of skiable land, when not covered in snow, are open to hikers and mountain bikers. Beyond that, though, there are a staggering 58 mountain peaks in the state that break the 14,000-foot elevation barrier. There are hikes for the novice and the expert, whether its the short ascent to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs or longer, more challenging climbs, like the 500-mile Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango. There are even mountain biking trails that ride along the Continental Divide (Monarch Crest) and to the top of mountain passes (Kenosha Pass).

Food and Drink Adventures: While the mountain communities have a long way to go before matching, say, Kentuckys Bourbon Trail, the microdistillery scene is alive and well in Colorado, stretching from Stranahans in Denver over to Woody Creek Distillers in the mountains outside of Aspen (the only distillery in America with control over every step of the vodka creation process). Microbreweries also dot the landscape, starting with the famed New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins (with an outlet in Snowmass, outside of Aspen).

Thinking of sending donors to the Mile High State? Reach out to your Mitch-Stuart rep to find out how to offer a consignment, charity auction package sure to add the WOW factor to your gala!
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Christmas at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Hiking at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Crested Butte, Colorado


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Footloose and Fancy Car-Free

November 05, 2014
See a city by car, and youll get introduced to its traffic patterns, its street signs and its preferred obscene gestures. See that same city by foot, and youll get introduced to its people, its places, its sounds and smells.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors all around the world via our charity auction travel packages, each one tailored to fit a specific destination. In cities like Los Angeles or in more rural locales, that might mean setting up a rental car or shuttle services for a traveler. But for those looking to leave the automobile behind, these trips can also take people to cities and attractions best seen on foot.

New York
London
Napa Valley
When one thinks of exploring a city on two legs rather than four wheels, its hard not to start in New York. The Big Apple may have the most thorough public transit system in America, with local subway lines snaking through the boroughs and dropping tourists off at landmarks everywhere. In fact, some of its best vistas like Central Park, the parks that line the East River with magnificent views of Manhattan, and even the High Line are either off-limits or severely restricted to automobiles. Ferry rides are also popular ways to get unique angles on landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. Let the cabbies do the (insane!) driving on the isle of Manhattan and take the train.

International travel can often become more complicated when factoring in car rental, which is just one reason why a trip to London can be so appealing. The citys Underground system has more than 250 stations and stretches throughout the city and out into neighboring counties. Well over a billion people take the Underground each year. The system also connects to Eurostar rail, which can take passengers to Paris or Brussels and, from there, to the rest of Europe, all by train.

But traveling by foot isnt just the best option in sprawling metropolises. In Napa Valley, the combination of alcohol-based tourism and relatively open roads has led to people avoiding their cars and the development of a thriving bicycle culture. Tourists can rent bikes by the day or week, and some enterprising tour companies offer Napa-by-bicycle tours, as well. Shuttles are also often available to and from wineries, as the proprietors of the establishments want everyone to get home safely as much as the patrons do. In addition, the train trip to Grgich Hills Winery must be experienced to be believed; a gourmet three-course meal is served on board en route to the winery, with desert served on the homeward leg of the trip.


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Terrified Travel!: The Best of Halloween

October 28, 2014
Its okay to be scared when flying. Its okay to be scared when spotting twin girls in the hallway of your hotel, asking you if you want to go and play with them forever. But would you travel solely for the purpose of frights?

Its Halloween time, and that means ghouls and goblins. But whether the holiday means haunted houses or costumes and libations, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has a charity auction travel package that can send your donors to a great Halloween destination. Celebrate in whichever way you like in one of these cities:

If New York can claim New Years Eve as its own and Boston gets St. Patricks Day, it may be fair to give Halloween to Los Angeles. It should be no surprise that a city filled with young people who want to play dress up and tell stories in front of cameras would celebrate the holiday with such enthusiasm. The walk down West Hollywoods Santa Monica Boulevard on Halloween night is almost a rite of passage for newcomers, but for tourists (and those traveling with families), Universal Horror Nights at Universal Studios and Knotts Scary Farm are favorites. And just down the road in Long Beach, the docked, 12-deck Queen Mary hosts Dark Harbor, with mazes, rides and ghost hunters.

Travelers looking for more of a party atmosphere wont be surprised to find out that Las Vegas throws its share of Halloween celebrations. Nightclubs like Hyde at the Bellagio and Drais at the Cromwell will fill dance floors with zombies and superheroes, respectively, while Tao will go with a Great Gatsby theme (along with a guest appearance by Snoop Dogg). Circus Circus, meanwhile, will again turn its amusement park into the Fright Dome, with haunted houses and live entertainment. Even just walking up and down the Strip, however, can be an eye-opening experience on All Hallows Eve; the entire casino district turns into an open-air masquerade.

Of course, for sheer numbers of revelers it is hard to beat New York and its Village Halloween Parade. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2014, the parade weaves through Greenwich Village and attracts a reported 60,000 or more participants each year. And with the holiday falling on a Friday this year, visitors can expect celebrations to last long into the night (and the next morning!) at bars and restaurants throughout the five boroughs. For those looking for a spookier experience, the Wall Street Walks Ghost Tour takes participants through the haunted alleys and graveyards of lower Manhattan. It combines frights with history to both inform and scare.


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Relationship Building is Year Round

October 22, 2014
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we excel in providing organizations with consignment charity auction travel packages. But while having the right mix of items (including trips that can bring the wow factor) at an auction is important, those packages are only worth as much as donors are willing to bid. And in order to get more bids, it helps to get more people in the door and have more friends and supporters ready to buy.

How does a non-profit do that? To paraphrase Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: Always be talking.

Disappearing for months at a time, only to pop up with an invitation to a party can make an organization look like it only wants to involve its supporters when there are bank accounts to fill. But whether its before the gala, during it or the aftermath, theres always reason for a charity to reach out and chat with its biggest backers.

Approaching donors to try and sell gala tickets can feel intimidating, especially if its the only time you communicate with them throughout the year. In the months leading up to a big benefit event, reach out to your contributors and allies with news about your organization. Win an award? Send out an email, thanking everyone for their support which allowed you to achieve this honor. Through social media, engage your friends with both cause-related content and behind-the-scenes information on how their money is helping others. And when it is time to send out invitations to the gala event itself, reach out individually to the donors whom you really want to see on the event night.

Once the doors are (finally!) open, it might be tempting to sit back, relax and enjoy the show, but this is the time when you have your biggest supporters all in one room at the same time. Get out and meet them! Mingling with your biggest supporters is a way of making them feel welcome at your event, while getting to personalize your mission and fundraising messaging. If youre shy or reserved, just remember: These are your friends. These are the people willing to buy tickets, to donate their time and their money, to support you and your cause. Youre among compatriots here.

After the decorations are put away, the silent auction items are distributed and the last of the leftover food has been packed up, the job is not over. Its time to reach out to donors and thank them. But while your parents may have taught you that proper etiquette involves sending a note, the thank you phone call gives you a chance to not just relay your appreciation, but also interact with the donor. Find out how the event went from the point of view of an attendee. Learn what drew someone to your cause in the first place. Many times, such conversations can even lead to an extra donation or two and it certainly allows a supporter to feel heard and cared for.


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Destination Spotlight: Bali

October 14, 2014
Many of the trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog take donors on dream vacations, to the types of destinations that occupy the covers of travel magazines and the forefront of our travel thoughts. Sending contributors to New York City, Las Vegas or even Europe can fulfill wishes while also bringing in sizeable donations.

For some travelers, though, the expected may not be enough. Maybe they are seasoned travelers who have been all over the country. Perhaps theyre looking for a trip that can set them apart, one thatll get the attention of everyone to whom the bidder tells the story. Or maybe the donor is shopping for a younger family member, one who may be more interested in a trip that doubles as an adventure.

If thats the case, it may be time to talk about Bali.

An island in Indonesia, Bali has become a hot destination for travelers over the last few years. Prestigious travel magazine Travel and Leisure gave Bali its Best Island award in 2010, and it is regularly singled out for its stunning beaches in different guides. Being used as a setting in 2010s Eat Pray Love film adaptation certainly hasnt hurt its reputation, either.

Of course, as someone taking advantage of one of Mitch-Stuarts charity auction travel packages, though, its about the wow factor. So what is it about Bali that can get an audience to gasp?

The culture: Art galleries like the Agung Rai Museum of Art in Ubud and the more abstract art-minded Randelli Gallery in Seminyak feature tremendous collections of both local and international works, and Balinese music has an interesting diversity, from traditional gong compositions to jegog, played on large bamboo instruments. But a cultural tour of Bali has to include checking out a barong dance performance. A traditional, sacred ritual, the dance centers on the mythical Barong, a lion-like beast and represents all that is good, in battle against the evil Rangda.

The outdoors: Snorkeling and diving? Check out Pulau Menjangan, a neighboring island accessible from Bali that features a nearly-unparalleled (in the region) coral reef. Hiking? Get to the village of Munduk, where waterfalls and lakes are only a short walk (or long walk, if youd like) away. Want to run away from lava in slow motion like in an action movie? Dont do that! But you can climb to the top of one of the islands volcanos and pretend. There are plenty of ways for visitors to interact with nature in fun, active manners.

Its beauty: Its easy to describe almost anywhere in the world as beautiful; if one searches a country long enough, the land is sure to yield a stunning vista or two. But just look at the photos to the side, here. Between the lush green grasslands and the aqua blue Pacific Ocean drifting up on shore, postcard-worthy views are everywhere.

Want to hear more? Reach out to your Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative today!
Bali
Bali
Bali
Bali


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Go Euro

October 07, 2014
There are plenty of reasons to head to Europe: The culture, the beaches, the history. For the first time in years, though, we can add an economic one, as the dollar is currently stronger against the Euro now than it has been in the last twenty three months. For American travelers, that means their money goes further now than almost ever before.

Paris
Paris
Paris
As of October 1, the American dollar is worth .79 Euros, while one Euro fetches $1.26 American. Those figures havent been this promising for American currency holders since November of 2012. The trend in 2014 has been promising, as well; the dollar has gained almost .05 Euros since the beginning of the year, with the growth being fairly steady since May.

How do these small numbers practically affect travelers? Even a .05 difference in Euro rates, when multiplied by a trips expenses, can pay off big. Take, for example, a trip to Paris. For a couple, lets assume a 5,000 Euro budget. On October 1, that converts to around $6,300. Just one month earlier, those same 5,000 Euros would cost $6,560, and in March it could have been as much as $6,960. Over the course of the last six months, the cost of an identical vacation has dropped by $660 thats nearly 10 percent!

Do those numbers seem out of line? Light lunch at that gorgeous caf you walked past on the way to the Eiffel Tower likely runs around 20 Euros. Dinner with a view? Le Jules Verne will seat you inside the Tower itself for a five-course dinner at 185 Euros per diner. A trip through the Louvre: another 16 Euros per person. Thats more than 200 Euros spent in one day by one person. Double that for a couple, multiply it by five days, then consider that hotels dont tend to be free (the Hotel Plaza Athenee, which just reopened in August, can run up to 1,000 Euro per night!). Its easy to see how two people can hit 5,000 Euros in costs for five days in the City of Light.

What could saving an extra $660 get you while on vacation? In Paris, that could be two tickets in fantastic seats to see Paris Saint-Germain, one of Europes great soccer teams, live (with money left over for concessions). It could be two Eurail passes to head to Spain for a vacation-within-a-vacation. It could even be a shopping trip through the Faubourg Saint-Honore district, with its streets lined with designer shops.

Currency conversion rates arent always the most entertaining of reasons to head out of the country, but in addition to all of the fun and relaxation of vacationing in Europe, getting a good deal is a solid rationale to head over the Atlantic Ocean in the near future.


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Lobby Libations

October 01, 2014
Delayed flights. Lost luggage. Fellow passengers reclining practically into your lap. Long security lines. While in transit, it can be hard to remember why we travel in the first place.

At Mitch-Stuart, we specialize in setting up trips of a lifetime, the types of charity auction travel packages that will wow gala attendees, draw in big bids and leave your donors with a satisfied feeling whenever they think of your cause and organization. Unfortunately, we dont have the magic power to make the actual airport experience any easier.

The good news: At many hotels, including our partners, theres always the hotel bar. The perfect destination for the traveler stressed from a day of lines and flights (and maybe a touch disoriented from time zone-spanning travel), a quick drink after checking in can help someone transition from travel mode to vacation mode. Whether its a fancy cocktail, a drink and a show or a stunning view, there are as many different types of hotel bars as there are hotels themselves.

Some of the fanciest hotel bars in the country can be found in New York, a city which elevated the lobby watering hole to an art form.  At The Plaza are two favorites: The Rose Club overlooks the hotels restored lobby and features live jazz, while the Champagne Bar boasts a bubbly-infused cocktail list alongside excellent appetizers. For the teetotalers in the party, both venues also offer non-alcoholic mixed drinks like the Ginger Peach and the Shirley Temple, meaning that everyone can get in on the fun. Best of all: Both make excellent perches from which to indulge in that great New York tradition of people watching.

It almost seems like cheating to include a Las Vegas hotel bar in this list; the city long ago realized that giving patrons a drink or two may help them be a touch more generous at the roulette or blackjack table. But Parasol Down at the Wynn is nowhere near the Sin City norm. The drink list features modern takes on classic drinks, like the Sinatra Smash, alongside a varied list of wines and spirits. But the star of the show is on the patio: The view of the Lake of Dreams, Wynns manmade waterfall. During the day, its a tranquil respite from the energy of the Las Vegas Strip, and at night the thrice-an-hour shows include everything from projections to a massive inflatable frog that lip-syncs to Friends in Low Places, among other songs. It works as a destination for a welcome-to-town drink, a meeting place before heading out into the city or an end-of-the evening stop for a relaxing nightcap.

Of course, while the Wynn and The Plaza both have bars with great views, neither of them may be able to match that of a beachside hotel. In the Caribbean, places like the Cabana Bar at the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda or Iggies Beach Bar and Grill at Bolongo Bay in St. Thomas boasts views seemingly ripped from postcards and tropical-themed drink menus. There may be no better way to shake off a long travel day and get acclimated to island air than standing on the beach, sand between your toes, while sipping a Mai Tai or a Dark and Stormy. Youve got plenty of time to see the sights later.
The Plaza
The Wynn
Fairmont Southampton
Bolongo bay


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Choosing a Theme for Your Gala

September 24, 2014
Its possible that your non-profit or charity is so connected to its donors and to the public that all you have to do is swing open the doors, plate some appetizers, and ask for cash. Its possible but unlikely (not to mention way less fun).

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has a variety of charity auction travel packages available for non-profits to offer (always risk-free, of course), but its even easier to work with groups that have picked a strong theme for their event. Here are some tips on how to come up with that perfect atmosphere and setting for your soiree, in order to give your donors the fondest memories possible:

Dress to Impress (Or to Not Impress): The day-to-day grind is often about finding comfort: People seek comfortable modes of transportation, comfortable temperatures and, certainly, comfortable clothing. But pushing donors out of their comfort zone can be all it takes to transport them from the daily routine and into a new world. The easiest way to accomplish that? Dress codes. Making a party a black tie affair works, but experiment with other ideas, too: Costume or masquerade balls are popular, as are white parties (everyone dressed in the palest of pales) and even beach attire soirees (sunscreen is optional).

How to Play: Once everyone is dressed to the nines (or roaming around in flip-flops, depending on the theme), its time to get them mingling. Introducing donors to each other (and to your non-profits enthusiastic volunteers) helps them forge new connections, share experiences related to your charitys mission and generally makes for a livelier, lighter atmosphere (the type of feeling that can help boost auction returns). Try putting people together through games; talking with fellow faux-gamblers around a roulette wheel or bean bag tossers can be easier for the shy, and theme-dependent games contribute mightily to the mood of the room.

From the Floor to the Block: Finally, a theme can help focus your auction item procurement efforts. Of all of the different no-cost, no-risk consignment travel package options available, wouldnt it be easier if there was a linking idea, a mood to set or a locale to match? For instance, a theme like Casino Night is begging for a trip to Monte Carlo or Las Vegas. Taking your donors to a faux-beach? How about a trip to the Caribbean or a seaside picnic package? So much of the process of putting together a charity auction becomes easier when the planner can focus on one idea.

Combine a dress code, games and selected auction items, and youve got a theme. Black tie, roulette and craps tables and trips to Monte Carlo add up to Casino Night. All-white dress, horseshoes or croquet and a trip to New York gives you A Hamptons Summertime. Beach gear, beanbag or Frisbee tossing and trips to Florida or Southern California? Welcome to Beach Night. In each situation, youre giving your donors a curated, thought-out party experience that will give them a chance to interact with you and your cause in a fun, light-hearted manner, all while supporting your good works.

Got your own gala theme ideas? Share them with us on Twitter @MitchStuartInc and at our Facebook page.


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Get Awayand Get Active!

September 17, 2014
There may be few places as depressing as a mediocre hotel gym. Often a lobby-adjacent afterthought, the collection of treadmills and one Nautilus machine that passes for a workout room may not feel sufficient for those vacationers seeking a sweat while on the road.

Colorado
Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe
Alisal Guest Ranch
While Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s charity auction travel packages dont include gym memberships (yet!), we can help those in search of a great active vacation, one that stimulates the imagination and the circulatory system. For some of our trip packages, exercise options are built in to the itinerary.

Colorado is one of the American states best known for staying active; all that exercise has helped the city of Boulder lead the country with the lowest obesity rate, and three of the countrys ten thinnest cities are in the state. A big reason why is the number of options available to locals for exercise. The Rocky Mountains hold ski resorts in the winter and mountain biking opportunities in the spring and summer. Take advantage of those opportunities like a local with a trip to Beaver Creek, Crested Butte or Telluride for downhill fun.

Nevada, of course, may be better known for neon and cheap shrimp cocktail than mountain biking and skiing. But if one can look away from the spectacle of Sin City, the northern part of the state has plenty of opportunities to get outside. One of the best of those chances is at Lake Tahoe, with the day-long Adventure Experience. Available through our Splendid Alpine Setting package, donors can choose between horseback riding, hiking tours and mountain biking around and through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Those whod prefer a little less legwork can also choose ATV, snowmobile or Jeep rides, as well.

For those who like their activities a little slower-paced, theres the beauty of Solvang, California, and the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. Visitors have the entirety of the outdoors at their disposal, and that can mean guided mountain or road biking tours of the Santa Ynez Valley, a day of fishing at Alisal Lake (or archery with the lake in the background) or even horse-riding lessons. Off the resort, meanwhile, lies some of Californias most scenic hikes; the Santa Ynez River Trail, for instance, offers a good workout and watering holes for swimming.

Whether its urban hiking and exploring, cliff-side yoga classes or some other form of exercise, your vacation can get your heart pumping for reasons beyond stunning scenery. Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative for more information.


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Destination Spotlight: The Caribbean

September 10, 2014
The average high temperature in Aruba peaks at 91 degrees in September, and falls all the way to 80 degrees in January. In Bermuda, the highs run from 70 in the winter to 86 in the summer. Consistency is the norm for Caribbean weather, where any time of year is beach time.


No matter what style of vacation your donors seek, though, they can find it in the Caribbean. A consistent favorite for both travelers and auction organizers, travel packages for non-profit auctions that involve islands like the Bahamas, St. Croix and St. Thomas can fetch big money and really impress gala attendees. When a potential auction bidder sees the words Caribbean vacation on display, he or she may be thinking about several different types of trips.

Postcards sent home from Caribbean sojourns, of course, tend to emphasize beautiful beaches and with good reason. The sands of Aruba, the Bahamas, St. Thomas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others, are all welcoming to beachgoers of all ages and stripes. For those who want to interact with the environment rather than pull up a chair and relax, theres plenty of opportunities for everything from swimming with the dolphins to sailing or paddleboarding across the tops of the waves.

Theres more to island life than beaches, though. Head to Bermuda, for instance, for an adventure that includes art galleries and horseback rides. Tour the Cruzan Rum factory on St. Croix, or hike through the islands rain forest. Pull out the credit card on St. Thomas for what many describe as the duty-free shopping capital of the world. Hit the hot spots of Aruba, with restaurants and bars in the resorts that line the beach. Not every Caribbean expedition requires sunscreen and bathing suits.

For the island-goers interested in sampling the entire region, the Caribbean Sea has, at any individual moment, one of the highest concentrations of cruise ships in the world. Make stops at all of the above islands and more, with excursions for beach lounging, shopping and exploring. Along the way, enjoy the luxuries of cruise travel, from expansive staterooms to all-you-can-eat meals and on-board entertainment. Its like a Whitmans Sampler of some of the most gorgeous travel destinations on the globe.
The Buccaneer
The Buccaneer
Isla Mujeres Palace Resort
Celebrity Solstice, Virgin Islands


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Choose Your Own (Travel) Adventure

September 03, 2014
All of the choices available in the Mitch-Stuart, Inc. charity auction package catalog can make it hard to pick just one to offer. Do you send your donors to New York? How about Las Vegas? Or maybe to Paris, or London, or any of practically countless other options?

Pedicure
Fairmont Empress Hotel
Hyatt San Diego
But for those hearty few who want even more choices, even more destinations, there is a cornucopia of options available with a Choose Your Destination package. Whether its the perfect match for your non-profit auctions theme, a sentimental choice for a subset of your donors or any other reason, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can set you up with options around the world.

How can you best take advantage of the opportunity to build your own travel package?

Think Thematically: If your gala or charity auction event has a theme, theres a destination somewhere that would make a perfect match. Popular themes like casino night may conjure obvious trip partners, but a more subtle through-line for an evening could require a more tailored adventure.

Dont Forget the Hotel: While many planners focus on the city (or country) of the destination, the hotel itself can be a major draw for donors, too. Hotel chains like the Fairmont and Swissotel have worldwide reputations for luxury, meaning that a trip to Peru or Ecuador can be both about exploring a country and reveling in five-star service and amenities. Machu Picchu and mani-pedis in the same package? Why not? Or how about a visit to the world famous Pikes Place Fish Market in Seattle, followed by a tremendous dinner at the Fairmont Olympic Hotels in-house restaurant, the AAA Four Diamond-earning The Georgian?

Travel for the Cause: Are there major events involving your charity on a yearly basis? A conference open to the public to discuss the issue for which you advocate? With the larger number of options available via the Choose Your Destination category our The Journey of a Lifetime! trip can send a donor to a Hyatt anywhere from Seattle to Boston and San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale its easy to send a supporter to a destination or conference that deepens his or her connection to your cause.

For more ideas, or to get the lowdown on the (literally) hundreds of choose-your-destination options available, contact your Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative today!


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Winter is Coming

August 26, 2014
Theres a reason that the end of August is often referred to as the dog days of summer, and its not that people have overwhelming love for them like we do our pets. Its hot across most of the country, kids are getting restless as school is approaching, and everything from the sports world to summer television seems to be saying, talk to us again next month.

In the non-profit world, however, many organizations spend August gearing up for fall fundraising, and in particular, yearly gala or auction events. That means reaching out to us to talk about partnering for including consignment travel packages to destinations around the world, but it also means thinking about what will be on the minds of donors come the fall.

Let us help: Snow.

Offering the right trips that will garner the most interest is an important part of putting together a charity auction, and we can help. For your donors who love winter wonderlands, heres a small sampling of the type of vacations you can offer (risk-free to your organization, of course!) by partnering with Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

When thoughts turn to winter, the mind almost immediately conjures images of snow, be it on city streets or mountaintops. While the former condition may be as annoying as beautiful, a peak covered in snow is an opportunity for high speeds and downhill thrills. Whether in the Canadian Rockies, the American west or even the mountains of Vermont, skiers can bid on perfect winter vacations when your non-profit pairs with Mitch-Stuart on a nonprofit travel package or experience. Resorts like the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in British Columbia and the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Nevada are known for their luxury services for the indoorsy types, as well, with spa packages and great dining.

The winter also has its share of gift-giving holidays, including Christmas and Valentines Day. Shopping malls get extremely crowded and browsing on the Internet can be more difficult than browsing a stores selection in person. Why not make a vacation out of the experience of finding that perfect present for a significant other, family member or even for the entire office? One of our most popular packages, the to-the-point-named Shop Til You Drop!, combines four nights at The Plaza in New York City with a $2,000 shopping spree at either Bergdorf-Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue or Bloomingdales. Take the trip in December and revel in the splendor of a city preparing to celebrate the holidays, while crossing off errands from your to-do-when-I-get-home list.

When its time for those holidays, the stress levels increase. As families return to a home base, theres cleaning and cooking to be done groceries to be bought and sets of the nice dishes to be broken out. Donors can skip every one of those steps by bringing the family aboard either a Celebrity Cruises or Royal Caribbean International cruise ship for a trip through the tranquil waters of the Caribbean or Bahamas. Guests aboard each are treated to gourmet meals and 24-hour room service (no more standing in front of the refrigerator, picking at leftover turkey) along with state-of-the-art fitness facilities to work off all that food. With the entire family aboard, your donor can even take his or her photo for next years holiday cards..
Skiing the Rockies
Bloomingdales
The Plaza New York
Celebrity Solstice, Virgin Islands


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Learning on the Road

August 19, 2014
In the next couple of weeks, kids will go back to school, picking up a bag full of textbooks on the first day to learn about everything from the founding of the United States to the creation of the worlds great works of art. Theyll be presented by teachers as words on the page, artifacts of history that have long since been left to the passage of time.

The National Mall
Lincoln Memorial
Gettysburg Battlefield
Louvre, Paris, France
But those seminal events, those works of art, that meaningful history, doesnt have to be left behind. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for any number of different reasons: Relaxation, excitement, a change-of-pace or even an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But some of our favorite vacations involve opportunities for donors to bring their families along and make history come alive. Give your donors the gift of education with one of these great travel packages.

Washington, DC is a living, breathing civics classroom, and a trip there can give life to an otherwise dry subject. The National Mall is filled with museums (almost all Smithsonian institutions feature free admission) and monuments, but with a little advance planning, travelers can also see the halls of power as they operate today. Reaching out to the local representatives office can produce anything from a Capitol Hill tour led by a staff member to gallery passes to watch the House or Senate in action. Especially worthy of attention: The tour of the monuments at night is breathtaking.

To go a little further back in American history, a trip to Gettysburg immerses the entire family in the Civil War. The turning point of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest of the war, and because of that the city was also the site of President Abraham Lincolns famous Gettysburg Address. Send a donor and his/her family here for bus tours, museums and reenactments. For when the history gets to be too much, visitors can retreat to the 30-acre nature reserve and relax.

Not all forms of history are about war, though. For those of a more artistic sensibility, Paris is one of the worlds leaders in galleries and art history, with museums like the Louvre and the Musee dOrsay. One of our trips to the French capital includes half-day tours of each of those, plus the Centre George Pompidou, home of the Musee National dArt Moderne, the largest modern art museum in Europe. Works of great historical significance to the world are located in each, including those by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Vincent van Gogh and, of course, Leonardo da Vincis Mona Lisa. Its practically a full AP Art course masquerading as a city.


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Summers Last Hurrah

August 13, 2014
Shopping carts filled with pencils and folders, registration days and What I Did During My Summer Vacation reports: While parents everywhere get ready to send their children back to school, those kids are desperately trying to hold on to their last days of freedom and escape the onset of the school year.

Help them.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together great charity auction travel packages for any occasion and with any combination of family members. Sometimes, that means romantic getaways for parents, and other times it means event-based itineraries to awards shows or sporting events. But in August, many families are looking for one last, great adventure before the school year begins, the type of experience that will make the other kids on the bus jealous when junior recounts his/her summer exploits. Give your donors those opportunities with one of these trips.

Of course, when one thinks of trips for families, the first idea often involves Mickey Mouse. Whether its Disneyland in Southern California or Disney World in Orlando, adventures to either coasts Magic Kingdom are fun for the whole family. For either, though, Mitch-Stuart can round out the trip with some great options. Our package to Anaheim also includes a trip to Knotts Berry Farm and a dinner at Medieval Times, along with a suite for four as accommodations. If Florida is the choice, trips can include excursions to everything from SeaWorld to Universal Studios.

If neither California nor Florida are in the cards, though, Mitch-Stuart can still help send a donor and his or her family to any of 50 different waterparks in the country. Whether its one of the Great Wolf Lodge waterparks in destinations like Kansas City or the Pocono Mountains, or perhaps CoCo Key Water Resort in the Boston area, there is family-friendly fun in 22 different states and even Ontario, Canada to be had. Each park has its own signature slides and amusements, and each package also includes quad-room accommodations and breakfast buffets.

Of course, the simplest way of bidding adieu to the summer is to find a beach and spend those last days of freedom running through the sand. Weve mentioned our beach trips on this blog before, but one in particular is worth highlighting: The family-friendly confines of an all-inclusive Palace Resort in Cancun. With clubs and lounges for kids, separate pools for youth and even nighttime movie screenings, theres plenty to distract children from the upcoming school year and with swim-up bars and pampering spas, theres plenty to distract parents, too.
Disneyland
Seaworld
Great Wolf Parks
Palace Resort


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Getting Ready for the Fall

August 08, 2014
August is upon us, and the weather across much of the country is helping the month live up to the phrase the dog days of summer. But as heat drives people to the beach (or, at a minimum, to air conditioning), charity auction planners have to start thinking about the fall, to galas and fundraising events. What will be the trips and travel opportunities that will bring in the most revenue for a non-profit?

This time of year is a favorite of ours at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., because we get to help pair non-profits with great charity auction travel packages for the fall season. One of the questions were asked consistently is, whats popular right now? At this time of year, here are some categories to think about when deciding what to offer to donors.

When it comes to fundraising packages, it is hard to go wrong during any season with offering trips to places like New York City, Napa Valley and Las Vegas. The Big Apple is popular at all times of year, to people from around the world (ask anyone who has ever been in Times Square!). Trip packages there include foodie adventures, shopping sprees and even tickets to attend the Tony Awards. For the oenophile, Napa Valley involves wine tours, along with culinary delights. And Las Vegas, the City of Sin, is exactly what one would expect: Bright, flashy, with big-name chefs, live entertainment and even year-round chances for golfers to get in a few swings.

When the fall comes around, families start thinking about places to go for the holidays, as well. Give your donors a chance to include their families with trips to a place like Disneyland, which includes a stay in a hotel suite big enough to give everyone a chance to spread out. For those who might be looking to get the family outside, a trip to Buena Vista, CO could be popular, as well; our package includes a full week for two adults and two kids on a dude ranch, for an all-inclusive adventure involving hot springs pools, hayrides and horseback riding.

Not everyone is a fan of the fall, of course and certainly those in snowy climes may do some dreaming about being beachside as fall gives way to winter. Those planning for a gala later in the fall could do well by offering a sunny giveaway to the Caribbean. Whether its the thrill of a waterside casino in Aruba, a cruise with an ocean-view stateroom or the ease of an all-inclusive resort in St. Thomas, your donors will thank you for giving them the snowbird trip of a lifetime and youll thank them for their generous contribution to your fundraising efforts!
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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 doesnt 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 whats 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 shouldnt 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 photos object, whether its a huge waterfall or a downtown art sculpture.

Turn Off the Flash: In most circumstances, the light generated from the flash on your camera wont 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 youre 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 Fodors 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, its 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 Fodors, 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, Frogs 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 its 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, therell 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 its 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 citys 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, theyre 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 its 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 hotels 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 its 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 sports 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 franchises 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 citys hottest destinations.
  • The Classics: For those who want a connection to the history and heritage of Americas 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 baseballs 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 arent 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 Americas 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, childrens 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 Coasts 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 Macys 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 LHotel de Paris to the open kitchen at superstar chef Joel Robuchons 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 worlds most famous car races, having been run 72 times since 1929 and being one of the three races to make up motorsports 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 worlds biggest and most important film festivals. Winners of the top prize at Cannes, the Palme dOr, 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 worlds 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 dont 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. Its 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 worlds 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 Hawaiis capital, Honolulu, and about 75 percent of the states population. Its also home to one of Hawaiis 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 worlds 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 Fathers 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 Fathers Day, and hopefully one that does not involve another necktie or barbecue grill gadget. One of the most common types of Fathers Day gifts is golf paraphernalia, be it a new oversized driver or a set of golf ball cufflinks. Theres an entire industry dedicated to creating golf-nut knick-knacks, and Fathers Day is that sectors equivalent of Christmas.

It may be too late for Fathers Day 2014, but Mitch-Stuart offers several charity auction travel packages that make perfect gifts for fathers, whether its 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 its little wonder that the area is one of the countrys premier golf destinations.  Each of Mitch-Stuarts 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 cant 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 worlds 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-Stuarts 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 its 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., weve put together a wide range of culinary experiences, both domestic and international, for use by non-profits as charity auction travel packages. Whether its gumbo and crawfish in New Orleans or pasta and wine in Italy, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to sample some of the worlds great cuisines and put some extra cash in your non-profits 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 LAtelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris with our Parisian Culture and Cuisine package. Participants will get a hands-on experience in either schools kitchen, learning from master instructors. Travelers wont 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 days 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 citys 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.

Its 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 Europes 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. Peters 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 its the modern art pieces of Capris 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 donors 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 its 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 stones 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 its 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 Americas 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, theres 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 Diegos stunning Mission Bay, culminating in an afternoon experience aboard a racing class yacht. Climb aboard the Stars & Stripes, which competed in the 1995 Americas 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, Mothers 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 Mothers 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. Jacksons 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 Rustics 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 shes 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 thats where I started using [Mitch-Stuart].

Mitch-Stuart has provided auction-ready travel experiences for the Thomas Foundations 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. Theyve 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.

Ill have people call and say, Do you have any trips this year? Because I would like to go to...and if Im going to go there anyway, Id 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 countys must-attend social event, meaning big funds for an incredibly important cause.


Its really nice to know that every year, no matter what our other items are, were always able to go and pick out whatever I want from anywhere in the world out of Mitch-Stuarts 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 Kingdoms 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 countrys best-known teams play in London, like Chelsea and Arsenal, and six teams overall competed in the top flights 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 worlds foremost theater districts. Almost 15 million tickets were sold to productions there in 2013, including shows like The Mousetrap (the worlds longest-running show), Les Miserables, and The Phantom of the Opera. In all, more than 40 theaters make up the citys 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, its 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
Shakespeares Globe
Changing of the Guard Buckingham Palace


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Getting Away: Vacationing In Nature

April 16, 2014
Theres 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, its time to celebrate those outdoor destination vacations, those locations where we can go to get out of the office and commune with nature, whether its 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 ones vacation in a city of less than 4,000 people, according to the 2010 Census, and being close enough to one of the California coasts 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 its 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 Inns 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., cant 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 its 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 contributors 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, theres 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! Lets 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. Its the type of trip for which sports fan donors will go wild and with a stay at one of Chicagos 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 Londons 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 Ramseys 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 shows 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 castles 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 donors 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 evenings 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 organizations 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 GiveSmarts silent auction technology and Mitch-Stuarts 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 dont 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-profits friends. If you cant 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 its a proud parent who was looking for a graduation gift for a daughter or son. Maybe its an anniversary surprise. No matter what the reason, your donors may be in the market for a vacation and surely theyd like to help your non-profit at the same time.
  • All it takes is an excuse. Its 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 theres 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 doesnt sell, it doesnt sell. But like the oddly-philosophical Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100 percent of the shots that you dont 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 doesnt 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. Theres 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 Americas capital of magic, for instance, so seeing a performer like Mac King at Harrahs 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 doesnt 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 countrys 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, theres 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. Its 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 parks gardens, art and iconic views, among other topics. Theres even a seminar on bird-watching, designed specifically for families and led by members of the citys Audubon Society. Meeting places and reservation information is all available on the Conservatorys 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 Yorks newest urban parks is stealing its older brothers 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 arent 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 citys newly revitalized downtown district. A daylong walk of the area can take tourists to the park where Zooey Deschanels Summer and Joseph Gordon-Levitts Tom bonded (Angels 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 films 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 cemeterys 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. Johnies 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 its not still slinging cups of joe and diner food, Johnies 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 caf 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 Vancouvers 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 worlds 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 birds-eye view starting in April, when the ArcelorMittal Orbit, an observation tower with two platforms that, combined, overlook the enormity of the space.

Its 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 its 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 vacations 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. Its 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.

Its important to remember, though: These people are at the event to support the non-profit. They want to help. They are an organizations biggest backers, and offering them a chance to contribute in a larger mannerespecially when it comes with the trip-of-a-lifetime as a bonusis enticing.

Hassle-Free, Risk-Free Consignment Selling: Like an exotic trip or a fantasy experience, theres no risk when selling a package put together by a trusted charity consignment auction travel company. You dont pay for the trip until you collect payment from the donor. If it doesnt sell, theres no harm. Its 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. Theres no limit to the creativity when theres no risk to the selection.

Whats your reason for enticing donors with travel?