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Make Your 2013 Luxury Travel Packages Work Harder!

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

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

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

Here are some other ways you can get started today.

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

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

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

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

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

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2013 Donor Do’s And Don’ts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To leave a comment, please click here.

Tis the Season for Direct Marketing Appeals!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Package Travel: What’s New for Non-Profits

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

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

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

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SOLD! Ten 10 Steps to Your Most Successful Auction Ever

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

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

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

To leave a comment, please click here.

Veteran’s Day Thoughts on Giving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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