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Thank You, 2019!

December 26, 2019
It’s the time of the year for those year-end (and, as a special treat for 2019, decade-end) lists. But while we might not be able to tell you what was the best movie or best album of the decade, we can look back at what the 2010s have meant to us, and what we look forward to in the future.

The world of fundraising has changed a great deal over the course of the decade. The 2010s started in the midst of a questionable economic recovery, which created a need to reach out to smaller donors. The internet helped with crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter, but it was still a tough time in philanthropy.

However, as the economy recovered, so did the giving. Organizations raised more than $425 billion in 2018, up more than 45 percent from the 2010 number. Online giving has seen an increase as well, making it a great place for small donations in particular – the average online gift was $128 in 2017, and 47 percent of Millennials gave through an organization’s website.

As we end our 25th year, we’re proud to look back on this decade, yes, but we’re thankful most of all. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., it has never been about us, but about building a business that does a world of good for all. Together, with our friends in the non-profit world, we’ve raised over a billion dollars for charitable causes all over North America.

As we think about our future endeavors, goals, and direction for 2020, and commit to our resolutions, let’s collectively focus on spreading goodwill and fundraising success all over the world. Thank you for a fantastic 2019, and we wish you and your families a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

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Five Reasons Why: Amsterdam

December 18, 2019
Six years ago, Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, ranked eighth in Europe in terms of popularity among tourists. It was behind some of the most famous cities of the Old World – London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona, for examples.

And while those rankings haven’t changed much, the numbers behind them have. In 2018, almost 17 million tourists came to the city in 2018, a massive amount considering that Amsterdam itself has less than a million residents. And those visitors aren’t just Brits looking for a good time in the city’s “coffee shops.” There’s plenty for those interested in art, culture, and history to see.

Looking to send donors to Amsterdam? Here’s five reasons why they should want to go.

…the Art: It shouldn’t surprise you that the home of the Vincent van Gogh Museum has both tremendous art collections and a host of new artists pushing their mediums forward. Rijksmuseum has a massive archive of works – more than 650,000 pieces! – from creators like Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer. The Van Gogh Museum has the largest inventory of works by the painter in the world. On the more modern side, the Moco Museum has an exhibit of Banksy’s street art, and small galleries throughout the city are wonderful stops along walks.

…the Cycle Culture:
There are more than 320 miles of dedicated cycle lanes in Amsterdam, and more bicycles in the city than people. Visitors would be remiss to not set out on a bike ride to see the city at ground level. Rental bicycle shops are plentiful, and there are even motorized bikes for those who might not have the stamina of a two-wheel regular.

…the Canals: Often considered some of the most beautiful views in the city, the three main canals that form four half-circles in what UNESCO named a World Heritage Site in 2010. Those canals have been a sort of outline along which the city has built for more than 300 years. Plenty of cities have been described as “the Venice of the north” before, but in few of those towns are the waterways as important as they are here.

…the Architecture: The houses along those fantastic canals are often from the 17th and 18th centuries, but there are plenty of interesting buildings throughout in the city. That includes Amstelkring, a “hidden” church in the “red light district,” preserved to look like it did in the 1700s, and Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest church and a Gothic stunner that sits practically next door.

…the Beauty of the Netherlands: With buses and trains able to take visitors around the country, the city makes a great home base for tourists who want to take in all of the sights. From the country’s national parks to the world-famous windmills of Kinderdijk (and, really, all over Holland), beauties both natural and man-made make for wonderful adventures – and jealous friends and family back home.

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On Giving

December 12, 2019
The end-of-the-year fundraising sprint has begun. Non-profits all over the country are sending out email blasts, running raffles, holding galas and doing everything under the sun to get the final donations of the year during what is traditionally America’s most giving year; an estimated 30 percent of donor gifts come in December, much larger than the share of any other month.
But rather than zoom in on what to do to supercharge your fundraising this month, or even look at year-end donation trends as a whole, let’s go back to basics: Why do donors give? And what do their donations mean to us, both in the non-profit sector and as a society as a whole?
For your supporters, there are plenty of reasons to give. For some, especially at this time of year, it might be tax-related, like to offset income somewhere else. While it might not be the most romantic of notions, it certainly helps boost that year-end budget.
But for the vast majority of donors, the biggest reason to give is the cause. The non-profit world in America is indispensable, and one of the reasons is that it does more to zero in on one particular problem, one riddle to solve, better than any government agency or free-market for-profit company. Your supporters want to help right that wrong, to be a part of the solution. And they’ll help through any vehicle they can – direct donation, silent auction bids, raffle tickets, and plenty of others.
Of course, in order to donate, they want to know that yours is the non-profit to which to give. Your track record, your history of success, can be the most eye-catching element of your appeal.
And what do charities do with that money? In 2015, the non-profit sector made up almost a trillion dollars of the U.S. economy (more than five percent of the overall total. More than a trillion dollars of revenue went to the more than 38,000 non-profits in the health sector – what would America’s health care system look like without charity? Three in ten donations went to religious non-profits; if churches could not declare themselves non-profits, how many would be able to stay open?
Of course, charities should be measured less by the money they draw and more by the good they do. Food banks (here and abroad), refugee resettling, water testing, animal protection, and so many more good works are made possible by giving. The world is a better place because of the work done by non-profits around the worlds, filling in the gaps created by neglect in one form or another.
For some, fundraising is a little more of a chore than a joy. But without auction committees, board members reaching out to donors, and every other action taken in pursue of funding, charities couldn’t do their work. Giving – and motivating giving – is where it all starts.

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Why Holiday Travel?

December 04, 2019
When it comes to travel, December is best known for going home. Clichés like “home for the holidays” and “home is where the heart is” get worn out on local news broadcasts, and local bars fill with returning out of-towners for drinks and mingling with faces from the past.

But today, trends are changing. Now, many are seeing the end of the year as a prime opportunity to get out of town to travel somewhere new. And with those trips come fundraising possibilities, by auctioning off one of our no-risk travel packages at your gala event.

The key is coming up with the right one, and this is where talking to big donors before an event is important. Some may already have a destination picked out, which makes your job easy. Others, though, may have a reason to travel, but not a place to travel. For those less decisive, ask them why they want to go on an excursion over the season. We’ve got some suggestions, based on the most common answers.

If your supporters want to travel…

…for culture: No matter the weather, it’s tough to find a time of year during which New York is not an attractive option. Broadway often hits its peak attendance during the holiday season, but our VIP packages for shows like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Hadestown” not only get your donors through the door, but also can let them dine with some of the stars! Stay away from patio seating, though.

…for education: There’s only one day out of the year on which the Smithsonian museums of Washington, D.C. are not open, and it’s December 25. But other than allowing for a Christmas Day break, these institutes welcome guests throughout the season. For families in particular, it’s hard to run out of amazement walking from exhibit to exhibit, building to building, along the National Mall. The kids (and the parents, too!) will learn a lot in an atmosphere that still feels far from school.

…for sun: Miami can be rough on tourists during the summer, with high temperatures and humidity. But by the time December rolls around, the daily temperature averages 76 degrees, and only loses about ten degrees at night. In addition, December is one of the city’s driest months, with only seven days on average featuring rain (compared to 18 days in September). For the sun-starved, it’s an oasis.

…for shopping:
Beverly Hills is synonymous with designer stores, and our trips to the city-within-a-city includes gift cards for one of several favorite shops. During the holiday season, those stores are filled with pre- and post-Christmas sales, meaning those vouchers go a lot further in terms of purchasing power.

…for nature: They’ve got big coats, and they’re not afraid to use them. If you’ve got donors who are the sturdy, outdoorsy types, the winter wonderland of Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies should be on their holiday lists. Skiing and snowboarding are obvious draws, but the tremendous hiking, helicopter tours and gondola rides are breathtaking (and make beautiful backdrops for next year’s holiday cards).

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Taking the Family on the Road

November 27, 2019
Tomorrow, families across America (related by blood or by choice) will settle in for Thanksgiving dinner, enjoying both a copious amount of food and the company of their loved ones. And while the coziness of home can be tough to beat, there’s a good argument to be made that a week of travel with the entire family is as good for the soul as staying put. While there will be 31 million people in airports this week, less than four million will be heading abroad, according to Travel + Leisure.

That means that Thanksgiving week is a good time, for instance, to head to Italy. Our “A Transcendent Taste of Tuscany” package includes a super-sized villa that can host up to ten people. And while the winter in the Tuscany region is known for getting chilly, the average lows tend to stick around 40 degrees – perfect weather for bundling, but not for freezing. And if the outside is too cold, the entire extended family can stay in and enjoy a warm meal prepared in-villa by a master chef.

Want a destination a little warmer? Try Costa Rica! The Central American country features highs in the mid-80s and lows in the low-70s during late November, making it great weather for exploring. And with an eight-person villa through our “Revel in the Wonders of the Rich Coast” package, the entire family can go on a hike, ride bikes together, and even explore volcanos. (For those less adventurous, there’s also relaxing at the beach, or enjoying a meal in the villa, cooked up by a private chef.)

We also love St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, as a full family getaway. If the idea of playing touch football during a snowstorm doesn’t motivate the donors, how about having a catch with the kids (or grandkids) on the white sand beaches of the largest of the Virgin Islands? The eight-person, four-bedroom villa has its own pool, for casual relaxation, and is near several unique experiences, like the Soggy Dollar (where guests have to actually swim to the restaurant – there’s no dock for this island bar) and the reef that nearly surrounds the uninhabited Sandy Split Island.

Finally, if distance is no obstacle during the holiday week, there’s an adventure down under waiting. November is in the build-up to southern hemisphere summer, and in Queenstown, New Zealand that means temps in the mid-60s during the day – perfect for a stroll around neighboring Lake Wakatipu, a tour of a local winery (the region is becoming known for its Pinot Noir), or a round of golf. Back at the three-bedroom villa, there’s a private tennis court and a private lake jetty to enjoy.

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Five Reasons Why: Chicago

November 20, 2019
New York was the most popular travel destination in the United States in 2018, according to the Huffington Post and TripAdvisor. Beaches (Maui at #2, Oahu at #4), gambling (Las Vegas at #3) and Mickey Mouse (Orlando at #5) came next. But sixth on that list was a city without any of those built-in advantages: Chicago, the City of the Big Shoulders, the Windy City.

There’s so much to do here that culling the list to just five entries feels like underselling the city. But we’ve narrowed it down so that you can use these as talking points to sell your donors on big bids for a trip to see all Chicago has to offer.

The Sports: Some of the country’s most iconic sports franchises represent the Windy City, and those teams play in some of the best-known arenas and stadiums, as well. Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, has also become a regular venue for major soccer matches, while the United Center was home to one of the best basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan. But the jewel in the city’s crown is Wrigley Field, the 105-year old mecca to baseball and home to the Chicago Cubs. It’s a bucket list destination for fans who love sports’ histories.

The Shopping: The Magnificent Mile, a stretch of Michigan Avenue that is home to massive stores and numerous places to shop, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s (our “Chicago’s Shopping or Sensational Entertainment!” package includes the option of a gift card to one of those three retailers). Designer stores like Armani and Burberry sit alongside popular brands like Nike and Apple – and there’s still room for quirky outlets like Tails in the City, a “luxury pet boutique” for dogs and cats. If you can buy it, you can probably buy it on the Magnificent Mile.

The Lake: Lake Michigan, the only of the Great Lakes to be entirely on the United States’ side of the border, is a defining figure of the city’s geography. It’s what provides the otherwise-landlocked Chicago its beaches, the scenery for the wonderful drive along Lake Shore Drive, and the Navy Pier, an entertainment complex along the water. In fact, one could have an exciting, itinerary-filling vacation in the city without ever being more than a couple of blocks from Lake Michigan!

The Blues: Muddy Waters. Howlin’ Wolf. Buddy Guy. Chicago is one of the most important blues cities in the country, and the sound has influenced musicians around the world (The Rolling Stones started thanks to a shared love of artists like Waters, for instance). Music-loving donors can check out some of America’s most-beloved blues venues, take one of many tours that lead visitors to the genre’s historical roots, or dig into the stacks at one of the city’s great record stores.

….and Pizza!
Chicago deep dish pizza is one of the best-known iterations of the Italian dish in the world. But the city has plenty of pizzaiolos making pies from around the world, too. Our “Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago” travel package includes an Original Pizza Tour, which will allow your supporters to get a wide sampling of what Chicago has to offer aficionados. No matter an auction winner’s favorite varietal of pizza, they’ll find a great version of it here.
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End-of-Year Donation Drive? Let Us Help!

November 13, 2019
According to Charity Navigator, a staggering 31 percent of the money donated to non-profits online in 2017 came in the month of December, and 12 percent came in the final three days of the year. Your charity’s end-of-year fundraising could be an important part of next year’s budget. And we can help with that.

Our non-profit fundraising travel packages are perfect for the holiday season and can make both great gifts and enticing warm-weather getaways for your donors. Incorporating them into your final fundraising plans for the year can help supercharge giving during this critical time.

Our trips are likely best known as lots in fundraising auctions, and at the end of the year, their power becomes even more evident. Take an audience in the holiday spirit, add the chance to fulfill a lifelong travel dream, and top it with a partial tax deduction, and the recipe is there for big, big bids. To raise even more money, reach out to some of your big donors in advance and see where they’re thinking about traveling in 2020. Matching the trip you offer with the biggest desires of your supporters means guaranteeing that there’s plenty of action at the gala auction!

Anyone who has received scratch lottery tickets as a gift knows that fun games of chance can make excellent stocking stuffers. But it doesn’t have to be gas station scratchers, either; by holding your own raffle, you can encourage your donors who might be on the lookout for last-minute gifts to give more to your charity. The chance to win a sum of money is great, of course, but the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a dream destination? The chance to meet the stars of a favorite musical, or seats at a big sporting event? Those may be even more fun to think about.

(Please note: Check local and state ordinances on raffles to determine legality.)

No matter which way you use a Mitch-Stuart travel package during the holiday season to turbo boost your fundraising, the time to act is now! Reach out to a Travel Expert today to get started.

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The Holidays, Deconstructed

November 08, 2019
The fake cobwebs have been packed away, the candy has been eaten (and the following sugar rushes have crashed), and the pumpkins have been thrown out or smashed. It is now time for the cold-weather holidays, those associated with the end of the year.

But while many might associate Christmas with snow and Thanksgiving with cuddling up on a couch under several blankets for that tryptophan-induced nap, there are other elements to each holiday that combine to create the whole experience. And as your donors are preparing for their own gatherings, you can offer them travel packages at your non-profit fundraising auction or raffle that will highlight their favorite parts of the upcoming celebrations.

For some, time off at the holidays is the first chance in weeks to decompress. Whether it’s younger people with school finals or end-of-year rushes for professionals, November and December can feel like too little time for too much work. For them, a trip available at auction with a strong spa component might get their attention. So many of the accommodations in our Destinations of Excellence® catalog have on-site spas, but trips like “The Essence and Spirit of Aloha” and “Ultimate Desert Oasis” include gift cards as well. If the goal of taking time off around the holidays is to relax, there are few better places to do so than on a masseuse’s table.

For others, the chance to relax means the chance to watch some sports. The NFL has a monopoly on Thanksgiving, for instance, with three games, while the NBA’s Christmas Day slate has become appointment television for many. And New Year’s Day has long been the traditional date for some of the best of college football’s bowl games. With one of our sports packages, your donors and fanatics can go from the couch to the game, with tickets available for any regular season NFL or NBA game, or admission to any bowl game.

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Five Reasons Why: Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Falling into Fundraising

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

So, why hold a fundraising auction in the fall?

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

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

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

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

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

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Staying Green on the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fall Crusin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Falling for Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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Five Reasons Why: Montreal

September 25, 2019
It’s often said that Vancouver, by proximity, feels a lot like Seattle. Toronto is sometimes used by film production companies as a stand-in for New York City. But there may be no American equivalent for the beauty and the culture of Montreal. There’s no match for its bilingual nature, either, nor for “The Main,” which is what locals call Boulevard Saint-Laurent and where Francophile Montreal once met Anglophile Montreal. It’s a beautiful destination to visit, filled with attractions, gorgeous city walks, and great food and drink options.

Want to offer your donors a trip to Montreal? Here are five reasons why they’d be lucky to bid on such a prize.

History: Montreal has a well-earned reputation for feeling like a European city plopped down in North America. Founded in 1642 by French colonists, the occasional cobble-stone streets and the stunning, Old World-esque churches give a feel that is as much Paris as it is Toronto. It was home to the 1967 World Expo and the 1976 Olympics. Combine that with Montreal’s bilingual leanings, and it’s the closest one can come to Europe without leaving the continent.

The Underground City: How can you get your donors to go to a city that might be defined by cold weather? The Underground City is a shopping favorite, but it’s also a great way of getting around the downtown area in the winter. It runs more than 20 miles, including several subway stations and even the Bell Centre, home of the NHL’s Montreal Canadians. When those temperatures dip below 0 degrees Celsius, any visitor can find refuge – and still get around – by going underground.

Festivals: Each year, Montreal hosts scores of street festivals (as many as 90, by some counts). Whether its local art, theater, comedy or music, aficianados of nearly every strip get a weekend or a recurring night to shine somewhere in the city. Some of the biggest include POP Montreal, a five-night music affair that is headlined this year by artist Laurie Anderson and gospel singer Mavis Staples, Montreal Jazz Festival (considered by some to be the biggest jazz fest in the world) and Just for Laughs, a comedy festival that brings in performers from around the world and features a large number of free shows.

Public Art: In terms of Canadian cities, Montreal may be the street art capital. There’s an annual mural festival that brings artists from around the world to the city, but Montreal is open for new art all year, and street artists like D*Face and others come here to take advantage. Walking tours of the city’s major mural spots are easy to find. It’s also become a way of memorializing the city’s greats, like…

Leonard Cohen: The legendary poet, writer and musician was raised here, and many of the city’s sights made their ways into his songs; when he sang about how the sun poured down like honey on the “Lady of the Harbor” in his classic “Suzanne,” he was talking about the angel above Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. He maintained a house here along Boulevard Saint-Laurent, otherwise known as “The Main,” until his death, and was a regular at local bagel shops and delis. And his visage can be seen on the sides of two different buildings in the city. Both before and after his death in 2016, Cohen’s home has had nothing but love for its son.

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Harvest Season

September 18, 2019
The changing colors of the leaves is one of our favorite sites of the fall. But when it comes to travelling during the season, it’s important to think about the other senses – specifically, taste.

Fall’s eye candy may be nice, but farm-to-table restaurants, food festivals, and even wineries show that the taste of fall comes from the harvest. Those crops that have grown throughout the spring and summer are ready to be plucked, picked or otherwise gathered, and in some regions that means celebrations as big as any national holiday.

If your donors want a fall escape, offer them a non-profit fundraising auction travel package to one of these harvest-happy destinations.

Maine should be on all the must-see lists for the fall as it is; the foliage views in the state are spectacular. In addition, though, Portland hosts one of America’s best harvest festivals each year. Harvest on the Harbor takes place each fall, usually in October, just an hour and change away from Boothbay. Kicking off with a chef and farmer harvest dinner, the event includes oysters, spirits, and a ten-course lunch to determine who is the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year. Go hungry!

Harvest on the Harbor is not the only place that offers travelers the opportunity to eat the bounty. A trio of our favorite southern destinations are perfect to do just that, with farm-to-table restaurants leading the way. In Asheville, The Dining Room at the Biltmore Estate not only received a coveted rating of Four Stars from Forbes Travel Guide, but also operates its own field-to-table program, growing vegetables and ranching cattle on site. In Charleston, restaurants like Husk and Fig change menus regularly depending on what’s in season and what can be sourced locally. And in Music City, 5th & Taylor, 2|22 (the restaurant of the Country Music Hall of Fame), and the aptly-named The Farm House bring the food of the farms and fields surrounding Nashville straight to diners’ plates.

And while your donors won’t be able to, say, harvest grapes and immediately drink their alcoholic final forms, harvest season – both here and abroad – is a great time to visit wine country. In Napa Valley, grape picking and stomping let your supports get a hands-and-feet-on experience, while the area’s restaurants are flooded with local produce.  In France, there are harvest festivals throughout the country; it seems like every winery of any size has their own!  Be careful, though, as some wineries are so small as to need all hands picking during September, meaning there’s no one left to pour wine tastings to visitors. If your donors have a particular region in mind, they’ll want to do their homework to see who’s open for business during this very busy season.

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Ditch the Thermometer

September 11, 2019
Before a vacation, there are two websites that become “must check” for travelers: The airline’s home page for travel delays, and a favored weather forecast. Worrying about the weather before hitting the road is a regular feature of travel, and with good reason: Spend a beach week indoors because of rain or a ski vacation at the chalet because there’s no snow, and it’s easy to believe that the trip was a waste.

There are ways, though, of avoiding weather-based anxiety before you travel. Some destinations work year-round, unfazed by atmospheric concerns, for multiple reasons. If you want to save your donors this one type of pre-trip stress, offer them a chance to head to one of these great destinations with one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages.

People connect New York City with the outdoors in two separate ways: Central Park, and the busy city sidewalks. But beyond that, what draws tourists to the Big Apple each year is a full roster of indoor activities. Most theater (aside from Shakespeare in the Park), museums and other artistic spaces don’t suffer from bad weather, and the city’s amazing restaurant scene features few patio meals. And with the omnipresent taxis and ride share vehicles, New York – even in the gloomiest of weather – is navigable. Whether it’s the middle of a muggy Manhattan summer or a snowy winter day, the city is a destination unlike any other.

In other locales, the seasonal weather change can alter the itinerary of a visitor – but for the better. In Telluride, Colorado, and other skiing locations, a winter down the powdery white slopes can turn into a summer of hiking, mountain biking, and camping. Telluride, in particular, displays different sides of beauty throughout the year, with green summers (thanks to the snow runoff), colorful falls and then snowy winters. All of that comes with a low amount of rainfall, too; the ski town only gets 2.7 inches of rain at its heaviest, and June in Telluride might be the most gorgeous month to go; it has an average high temperature of 72 and only four days with precipitation.

Of course, the easiest way to weatherproof a vacation may be to head to a place where the weather doesn’t change. Southern California cities like Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego are relatively consistent year-round: the wine country of Santa Barbara averages 283 sunny days a year, L.A. comes in at 284, and San Diego has 266. Those aren’t the highest totals in the country, but unlike cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, heat rarely gets oppressive in Southern California. These three cities are 365-day outdoor destinations, and they make perfect antidotes for the summertime and wintertime blues.

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Travel-Worthy Rivalries

September 04, 2019
Looking at the schedule, one might reasonably believe that the college football season builds to a crescendo in late December and early January, with the four-team playoff and the national championship game. But to jump forward to the best four teams is to miss the best part – the rivalries.

There may be no more intense set of rivalry games than those involving college teams. With not just students, but alma mater so passionate about their schools, the intensity is unmatched. These are the types of contests for which alumni travel.

Our “The Best of NCAA Games” package can get your donors in to some of the biggest rivalry games in the country. But whether or not they attended one of the schools in question, these five matchups will attract big bids from supporters.

Auburn-Alabama: There may be no better rivalry game in terms of skill level than the Iron Bowl. Nine of the last 11 games played have been one by a team ranked either the second-best or best team in the nation (the others were won by Auburn, ranked fourth for one and sixth for the other). At the ESPYs, the 2013 game was named Best Game of the Year, and its last play (a 109-yard missed field goal return) was named Best Play of the Year.

USC-UCLA: The crosstown rivalry has not been as important in terms of national standings for the past few years, with USC not threatening for a national championship during the decade – and UCLA sometimes struggling to stay above a .500 record. But it’s rare for one city to have two high-profile Division I teams, and it’s even rarer to have important games played in the sunny, late-November weather of Southern California.

Army-Navy: The intra-military game has been contested 119 times, with the first coming 1890 (the Midshipmen among your donor base will be quick to point out that Navy won that affair 24-0). But wins and losses are secondary to most of the country; the yearly celebration is a chance to thank these students for their upcoming service.

Michigan-Ohio State: It’s been one-sided in recent years, with Ohio State winning 15 of the 19 games contested this century, but what is simply known as “The Game” in the upper Midwest still might be college football’s literal biggest rivalry; the teams’ respective home stadiums combine for more than 210,000 seats for spectators.

Harvard-Yale: There are few traditions in college football older than the one between these Ivies. Former presidents have been involved, both on the field and off (most recently, George W. Bush was a cheerleader during his time as a Yalie). The game itself has been one-sided recently, with the Crimson taking 15 of the last 18, but that includes two Yale wins out of the last three games played.

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Five Reasons Why: Washington D.C.

August 28, 2019
The word Washington carries a terrible connotation right now. It’s the hometown of corruption, of division, of what’s wrong with this country.

But for savvy travelers, Washington D.C. is also about what’s right with this country. It’s filled with monuments to difference-makers from history, art of all kinds, protected open space, and even community in the form of live theater.

Want to send your donors to the nation’s capital? Make sure they know at least these five reasons why they should bid on a fundraising auction travel package to Washington D.C.

The Monuments: The National Mall is likely the best-known collection of monuments in the country, but by no way is it the only place in the metro area to pause and to reflex on a life or lives given to service of this country. Across the river in Arlington is the famous U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, depicting the Battle of Iwo Jima, and the African American Civil War Museum and Monument is located almost on top of a Metro stop near Howard University. There are dozens of sculptures, plaques, and other such attractions throughout D.C.

The Museums: There are 17 different Smithsonian museums in the city (including the National Zoo), with 11 centered on the National Mall. The “Castle,” formally named the Smithsonian Institutional Building, is a gorgeous work of architecture along with being the visitor center. The institutions off the Mall are worth seeking out, too, including the Anacostia Community Museum, which covers urban areas, and the National Portrait Gallery. And while it’s not a Smithsonian (which means it does have an entry fee), the International Spy Museum is both fascinating and fun; a gift shop stop here is essential.

The Park: We’ve written about Rock Creek Park before, in our post on urban parks, but it deserves every bit of attention it gets! At twice the size of Central Park in New York, Rock Creek runs from the Maryland border down to the National Zoo. It’s got a little bit of everything: a golf course, a tennis center, a concert space, trails for hiking and biking, and so many picnic areas that a resident could eat outdoors every day for weeks and still not dine at all of them.

The Food: D.C. is a city with great food of every sort. There are big steakhouses, where lobbyists spend big money to buy big influence, sure, but there’s another side to dining here. Because the city attracts people from around the world, the variety of quality dishes is something to behold. Two stand out in particular: D.C. is likely the best place outside of El Salvador to eat pupusas (a flatbread filled with combinations of meats, cheeses and beans), and the Ethiopian restaurants are both authentic and delicious.

The Theater: Ford’s Theatre is a place of solemn history, of course, but it’s also still a working theater space. It’s only one place, though, to take in stage productions in one of the country’s best cities for quality theater. National Theatre tends to produce Broadway touring shows, while Studio Theatre puts up an eclectic mix of new works and Pulitzer-winning classics. One of the city’s best spaces, though, is the experimental Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, which both bring plays from and sends new works to off-Broadway stages regularly.

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Your Regional Labor Day Getaway

August 21, 2019
We’re just a few short days from the final three-day weekend of summer, and it can feel like the last chance to catch a breath before the fall begins. But while that may sound like a good reason to stay home and stumble around the house, instead airlines are expecting record crowds.

Labor Day has grown as a travel holiday over the last few years, but like other long weekends, trips tend to be on the shorter side. And that means that travelers are less likely to want to fly across the country (or across an ocean!) to get to a destination.

The good news: If your donors are looking for a weekend getaway, whether it’s this fall or next year, we’ve got a lot of weekend (or weekend-plus) trips from which to choose. And to make that vacation commute a little shorter, we’ve likely got one in your region of the country, meaning that your supporters will spend less time on the road and more time having fun in one of our great destinations. If they’re looking for ideas, here’s our region-by-region breakdown.


The Big Apple can seem like an overwhelming place to navigate, especially for someone staying in the city for just a long weekend. But having only three days can be beneficial, if your donors plan their itineraries right. By focusing on just one aspect of New York – say, pizza, or delis, or Broadway – your supporters can get a good feeling for what the city has to offer. And when they go home, donors will be able to say, with confidence, where the best slice or sandwich is a city that has perfected both.

MIDWEST: Chicago

Like New York, your supporters could spend a week or longer exploring the big city. But in late August and early September, Chicago shines for an additional great reason: baseball is approaching the playoff race, and that makes for a wonderful time to visit Wrigley Field. Getting some sun while watching the national pastime in one of baseball’s historic stadiums is the epitome of relaxation.

SOUTH: Charleston, South Carolina

If your donors haven’t been to the city that Travel and Leisure has named its top U.S. destination for seven straight years (from 2013 on), late summer is a great time. Yes, it’s still hot, but Charleston has that laid-back southern pace, meaning your supporters can stay cool with a stop at a café, a restaurant or even its beaches. And with another favorite destination, Hilton Head Island, a daytrip away, Charleston is a two-for-one vacation.

ROCKY MOUNTAINS: Telluride, Colorado

It’s known for its snow-related activities (along with its film festival), but Telluride is simply stunning during the late summer and early fall, as well. Topping out at around 70 degrees, the town has perfect weather for hiking, and it’s much easier to get a reservation at Telluride’s top-notch restaurants without the competition from all those skiers.

WEST COAST: Napa Valley, California

It’s the beginning of the peak season in America’s best-known wine region, when the harvest starts to come in. The temperature is still a little high (August and September highs average right around 80 degrees), but when your donors find themselves in a tasting room or a barrel with grapes under their feet, they won’t mind the extra couple of degrees.

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California Dreaming

August 14, 2019
The Mamas and the Papas once sang it loud: “California dreaming, on such a winter’s day.”

But what does that really mean?

California is the third-largest state in America (the second largest in the lower 48), and that means a diverse range of experiences. Want a ‘60s throwback adventure? A beach vacation? A celebrity sighting or two?

If you’ve got supporters who want to take in the Golden State, you want to get them to be more specific. And once they are, you can use this guide to figure out which California destination to offer at your fundraising auction.

Beach Living in San Diego

The California coast is 840 miles long, but some of our favorite beaches are in the San Diego area. It’s a place where each sandy front has its own personality; Mission Beach, for instance, is a little more family-friendly, while Pacific Beach is a great place for younger folks (with an abundance of walkable nightlife options). And with beaches stretching from the U.S.-Mexico border all the way up to Carlsbad within a short drive, your donors will never run out of options.

The Stars Come Out in Los Angeles

The state’s largest city has a lot going for it, but what separates it from the others is its star power. Los Angeles has plenty of ways to see and, in some cases, interact with the celebrities of film, television and music. It’s why so many of our L.A. travel packages focus on awards shows like the Grammys, Emmys, American Music Awards, and even the ESPYs. And with some of your donors’ favorites performing on local theater and comedy stages, they’ll be sure to come back with photos and memories of a lifetime.

Put on Your Ears for Anaheim

There’s plenty to like about Anaheim, sure, but the main reason think of the Orange County city as a tourist destination is Disneyland. The park’s appeal doesn’t lessen with age; big fans of The Mouse can get married on site, too, and there are even special anniversary celebrations. And with the newly opened Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge adventure open, there’s rarely been a more popular time to travel to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Napa, America’s Wine Capital

Get north of San Francisco, and the local economy is seemingly based around wine. Whether it’s Napa or Sonoma, you’re talking about wine country, and traveling to the region means jumping from winery to winery, trying all sorts of different varietals. Make sure to eat beforehand (the amazing restaurants in the region will help with that), and utilize the private drivers offered in many of our area packages.

Seek the Desert Sun in Palm Springs

No city in California screams “winter escape” quite like Palm Springs. With an average January temperature high of 71 degrees, it’s a magnet for people from colder climates who need a week of defrosting. As such, golfers love the city, and Palm Springs has noticed; there are more than 130 golf courses in the general Palm Springs area.

The City by the Bay

If your supporters prefer a more urban experience on vacation, San Francisco may be their spot. The Bay Area’s focal point is much closer to an east coast urban experience than the more sprawling Los Angeles. It’s the most walkable major city in California, and its public transit – including the world-famous cable cars, captured in film and on television too many times to count – makes it navigable for anyone. Find great Golden Gate Bridge views, dine at a tremendous Michelin-starred restaurant, or just walk through the lively streets and explore without an itinerary. With so many options, there is no way to do San Francisco wrong.

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Go Private!

August 08, 2019
The first line, while traveling, is at the airport, waiting to either be dropped off or to park. Then, it’s the security line and the line to board the plane. After the flight, there’s a line to disembark, then a line to rent a car (or to catch a shuttle to public transit), and maybe even a check-in line at the hotel.

By the end of all of it, travelers are done with lines.

That’s just one of the reasons that your donors may want to find a non-profit fundraising auction travel package that goes somewhere without lines, without crowds, and in some cases, without people.

If isolation is what your supporters want, we can help. Some of our favorite travel packages involve privacy in different ways – at attractions, during activities, even at the accommodations. These travel packages “skip the line” in a whole new way.

Whether it’s wineries in Northern California, theaters in New York, or even the Louvre, private tours are great ways to get to know some of the world’s most iconic destinations and attractions, without dealing with the crowds. We’ve got tours of everything from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to Arnold Palmer’s office in Orlando for enthusiasts of every stripe. That means more time with the docent or tour guide to answer questions, more unobstructed photos, and a closer understanding of the environment.

While there usually aren’t “lines” to wade into a river, fewer fishers can often mean more fish. Two of our packages to the Canadian Rockies include private guided fishing experiences. Your donors can spend a half-day out in the water with a local, who will be able to assist both beginners and advanced fisherpeople alike. And if there’s ever a time where privacy or isolation is desired, isn’t it with a fishing rod in hand?

Privacy can extend to the accommodations, as well. In destinations like Belize, Bali, Thailand, and New Zealand, private villas will guarantee that your donors don’t hear any footsteps from above or banging on the wall next door. And since some of these trips also include private chefs preparing meals and/or on-call private drivers, your supporters can spend large swaths of their vacation removed from anything resembling a rat race.

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Five Reasons Why: Australia

July 31, 2019
Every country has its own unique qualities, of course, but there is no place in the world quite like Australia. The extremes are breathtaking; the island nation has some of the most desolate land in the world, alongside cosmopolitan big cities like Sydney. It is mostly a desert, but parts in the winter see snow -- and there are even ski resorts in the southeastern corner of the country. It’s a land of natural beauty, of architecture (the Sydney Opera House has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site) and of friendly people.

Want to offer a trip to the land down under at your fundraising auction? Here are five – of many – reasons why your donors should want to bid on a travel package to Australia.

The Reef: What can be said about one of the world’s greatest natural wonders? The Great Barrier Reef is a coral reef system that’s large enough to be seen from space. It’s a bucket-list item for many travelers, both experienced and novice. And, due to weather conditions and other problems, it’s in danger of being lost forever. That being said, tourists can still visit, snorkel and dive there, as long as they’re responsible: Don’t destroy anything that comes in contact and wear the appropriate sunscreen for diving (some sunscreens are toxic to the coral).

The Views: Ever seen a pink lake? Australia’s got that. The Twelve Apostles are a series of limestone towers found on the beach, right off of Great Ocean Road; it’s a great stop along the scenic road-trip favorite. Australia’s wildlands are some of the most beautiful, interesting, and untouched by people on the planet. Your donors will see things here that they’ll never see elsewhere.

The Serenity: Because of its isolation from the population centers of the world, Australia never feels too crowded. In 2018, the country welcomed 9.2 million visitors; for context, the United Kingdom saw 39.2 million tourists arrive on its shores. Take a trip to one of the island nation’s natural beauties, like King’s Canyon (essentially Australia’s answer to the Grand Canyon), and you’ll be amazed at how few tourists line the perimeter.

The Animals: A quick trip to Kangaroo Island will make any kid (or “adult kid”) happy. Forget zoos; Kangaroo Island is practically a habitat; with so few predators there, it’s possible to see kangaroos (hence the name), koalas, and others here, in the wild. And for those “adult kids,” Kangaroo Island is also the home of 12 different wineries, many of which specialize in Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Harbour: Cliché? Maybe. It’s possible that your donors could trace the outline of the Sydney Harbour skyline from memory, just from seeing it on television, in movies or in photos online. But to be there, in person, and to look upon the Sydney Opera House at sunset? It’s one of the most beautiful tableaus in the world.

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Follow in Their Footsteps

July 24, 2019
There are plenty of ways to create an itinerary while travel. You can follow in the footsteps of the travel journalists who have been there before, seeking out the newest and the most interesting. You can follow in the footsteps of the crowds, seeing the major monuments and tourist areas (they’re usually popular for a reason).

Instead … how about following in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh?

There are some cities that are so synonymous with a local celebrity that the entire town becomes a living shrine. Pubs, cafes and even streets are named after native sons and daughters. Childhood homes are preserved. For the more recent deified, there are photos behind bars or counters of fan interactions.

If you want to see a destination through the eyes of the city’s favorite son or daughter, we’ve got tours built into several of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that allow you to do exactly that.

Barcelona has quite a few different locals worthy of acclaim, be it artists, musicians, or even soccer players (trust that there will someday be a tour called “Lionel Messi’s Barcelona,” based on the local team’s world-class striker). But touring the life of Antoni Gaudi also means getting to see the works of the architect. The biggest proponent of what was known as Catalan Modernism (think gothic revival mixed with medieval styles), Gaudi has seven works that have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Barcelona is ground zero for his buildings.

While Gaudi is very closely associated with Barcelona, Van Gogh counted plenty of cities as home during his life and career. But one has a tremendous walking tour that we’ve included as a part of a travel package. Amsterdam is the home of the Van Gogh museum, and a guided tour following in his footsteps also can take your donors to Nuenen, a town very important to his early career.

There’s one destination, however, that’s built around its most famous resident at any given moment. The Vatican is the home of the Catholic Church, which makes it a living monument to the current Pope and those that came before him. Tours of the Vatican invariably teach visitors not just about the space itself, but its former occupants. Going back to the official creation of the Vatican in 1929, Catholic history has been inexorably tied to this parcel of land, less than 125 acres in size.

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Summer Beach Reading

July 17, 2019
There are plenty of ways to relax on the beach, whether it’s jumping into the ocean, getting in a game of beach volleyball, or simply walking along the tide line. But at least since The New York Times published a “Vacation Reading List” in 1976, the act of reading on the beach has become not just popular, but commercially important. Publishers up and down Manhattan work to make sure they’ve got splashy beach reads timed for release either during the summer or in the near runup to it.

But beach reads, just like films or music, can also inspire. So not only can your donors head to the beach with great entertainment, but certain books can also inspire them to want to travel, based on gorgeous word pictures and descriptions of a locale’s energy.

Here are some of our favorite beach reads in 2019, each one set in one of our favorite destinations.

“The Last Resort,” by Marissa Stapley: Picked by O magazine as one of its “28 Best Beach Reads of 2019,” Stapley’s follow-up to the well-reviewed “Things to Do When It’s Raining” takes place in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera (think Cancun), at a resort for couples trying to save their marriages. It’s a story of secrets, of storms and of a Mexican paradise.

“Park Avenue Summer,” by Renee Rosen: Another book from Oprah’s 2019 list (what can we say – she has good taste!), it’s a semi-fictional version of Helen Gurley Brown’s term as the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Essentially, think of the New York of “Sex in the City,” then turn back the clock and make it even more glamorous. It’ll make you feel like New York is a city of unending possibility.

Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain: It’s been mentioned by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the top summer reads of 2019, and it will make you book a flight to Paris immediately. A group of four near-strangers share a bottle of wine, and the next morning wake up in 1954 with the chance to explore the Paris of Piaf, Brassai, and some of the best jazz bars to ever exist.

“The Golden Hour,” Beatriz Williams: Head to the Bahamas of 1941 with Williams for a tale of a journalist covering the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during World War II. It’s a Good Housekeeping summer book pick, and it’s received good reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Bloomberg.

“Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes: No, it’s not new. But if you’re going to go to Tuscany, there may not be a better appetizer than this story of renovation and rejuvenation in the Italian countryside. And those who might have been spoiled by the movie, know that the film goes a whole different direction than the book.

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Nature in the City

July 10, 2019
Central Park in New York City is technically not the oldest urban park in America; that honor goes to Boston Common, which was established in 1634. But Manhattan’s 800-plus acre oasis is likely the first that comes to mind when thinking about travelworthy city green space.

But while there’s a lot to do within Central Park, it’s not the only urban park that should be going on your donors’ itineraries. In fact, several of our favorite non-profit fundraising auction travel package involve destinations with wonderful open spaces that are attractions on their own. If your supporters want to find a trip where there’s a temporary escape from the concrete jungle, they should consider one of these cities.

The most famous open space in Washington D.C. is likely the National Mall. But while the city is not large geographically, it still features Rock Creek Park, which runs through the center of town and is twice the size of Central Park. It’s the home of the National Zoo, the city’s planetarium, a concert venue, tennis courts that host the Citi Open (previous winners have included Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi, among other superstars) and a variety of hiking trails.

The car-centric culture of Los Angeles would make many assume that every inch of the city is paved over for roads. But then there’s Griffith Park, with its 4,000 acres – much of which are wildlands. A hike through the park can make your donors feel like they’re far away from civilization, until they come across one of Griffith’s attractions; it’s the home of the Griffith Observatory, the Greek Theatre and the Autry Museum of the American West. One of the most interesting attractions, though, isn’t even open for business, per se: The Griffith Park Zoo closed in 1966, but its ruins remain, and it’s become a favorite picnicking spot for Angelenos.

A drive north from L.A., San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is only a quarter of the size of Griffith Park, but it makes up for its smaller stature with a tremendous number of attractions, like the Japanese Tea Garden, the De Young Museum, the city’s botanical garden, a bison paddock, and the National AIDS Memorial Grove. It’s also home to one of the country’s biggest yearly music festivals, Outside Lands, which traditionally takes place in August.

In New Orleans, the city’s aptly named City Park is also home to a travelworthy music event: the yearly New Orleans Jazz Festival at the end of April and the beginning of May. But City Park isn’t alive just for two weekends in the spring. It’s got options for golfers (two full courses and even 36 holes of mini-putt – one of which features a giant pot of gumbo!), art fans (the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden), and plenty for kids, like the Carousal Gardens Amusement Park.

Finally, Vancouver also gets in the act with Stanley Park, which has plenty of natural features. The seawall is the longest uninterrupted waterfront walkway in the world, while hiking trails are abundant. The park has been preserved in its wild state as much as possible throughout the years, so it’s perfect for donors who might prefer interacting with nature as much as possible when escaping city life.

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The Great American Burger

July 03, 2019
The hamburger may not technically be an American invention – it’s lineage is disputed thanks to a lack of detailed historical accounts, and its name very likely has some connection to Hamburg, Germany – but every July 4th, it certainly feels like it’s perfected by the good ol’ US of A.

Foodie supporters will go a long way for a Michelin-starred meal, or a celebrity chef. But they’re also as likely to want to travel for a good brewery, the best slice of pizza, or, yes, the best hamburger they’ve ever had. If you’ve got donors who love to travel for great food, these burger-friendly cities could be memory-making destinations.

New York: When foodie website The Daily Meal ranked the best 101 burgers in America last year, the Big Apple placed three in the top 10 and five in the top 15. And that doesn’t count the legendary burger at Raoul’s: Only 12 are made per night, and if you’re not there when the kitchen fires up for dinner, you’re probably not getting one. It almost feels like cheating to say that New York has some of the top burgers in the country, considering that there are so many options, but the proof is in the patty.

Chicago: Like any other major metro area, the Second City has its share of hamburgers with interesting ingredients, secret recipes, and the highest of high-end meat. But Chi-Town also has some of the great diner burgers of the country. This includes the one at Billy Goat Tavern; the restaurant was the inspiration for the classic Saturday Night Live “Cheeseburger” sketch.

New Orleans: The Crescent City is another place where the burgers don’t have to be fancy to be tasty. Neighborhood joints like GB’s Patio Bar & Grill are mentioned in the same breath as fancier establishments. But The Company Burger has been one of the talks of the town since the eatery opened almost a decade ago. It’s mix of Angus beef and homemade buns elevated what looks like a simple diner burger into what food website Serious Eats called a “game-changing cheeseburger.”

Los Angeles: When chefs started to re-examine the burger in the late 1990s, refocusing their efforts on making the best version possible, L.A. and New York were at the forefront. In Los Angeles, chef Sang Yoon’s Office Burger, served from his restaurant/bar Father’s Office, was one of the first “great” burgers to get national press, and it is still beloved today (just don’t ask for modifications – none are allowed). Of course, both before and after the burger renaissance, Southern California is also the home of In-N-Out Burger, which is so popular with visitors that one of the store’s busiest locations is just blocks from Los Angeles International Airport.

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Five Reasons Why: Orlando

June 26, 2019
Orlando is known for one big attraction, and with pretty good reason: Disney World welcomes more than 50 million visitors per year, thought to be the biggest average yearly draw in the world.

But to reduce the city to just its mouse-based adventures is to miss out on several other reasons that Orlando is a worthwhile destination. We’ve got five of them here – offer a trip to this Florida jewel, and your donors can do all of this and more.

The Amusement Parks:
Yes, that’s plural. While the city is maybe best known for Disney World, and you could certainly spend a week exploring it and all of its sister parks (Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, and more), there’s also Universal Orlando Resort (which hosts The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida Resort. It’s a perfect place for both children and adults’ “inner children.”

The Golf: There’s a plethora of courses available for everyone from the golf-obsessed to the golf-curious. The highlight is the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, the host course of the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational (depending on which of our travel packages you offer, your donors can either play the course or watch the Invitational). But Orlando and the nearby suburbs have so many courses available that the dedicated hacker can fill a week with tee times. It’s especially popular for golfers over the winter months; the average high temperature in January, the city’s coldest month, is 71 degrees, which is balmy for a donor looking to escape the snow.

The Food:
Donors better travel to Orlando hungry; the city is consistently considered one of the best spots for foodies in the country. This year alone, Southern Living magazine named it the best in the South, while it consistently finishes high in WalletHub’s best foodie city rankings (including topping the list in 2016).

The Nature: Ziplining through forests, swimming in natural springs, hang-gliding and even airboat rides all add up to an itinerary-filling lineup of outdoor activities. Take an airboat to the Florida Everglades, starting in Kissimmee (a short drive from Disney World). Or start in downtown Orlando and take a hike on the Cady Way Trail, which is both fun and family friendly.

The Center of It All: Going to Orlando makes many of the state’s best attractions only a short drive away. The Space Coast is an hour east by car, as is spring break favorite Daytona Beach. Tampa is about 90 minutes to the west. The Everglades and Miami are each less than a morning’s drive. This can be especially useful for donors who want to go to Orlando during baseball’s Spring Training; draw a line of best fit from Cape Canaveral to Tampa and there will be seven stadiums along the path.

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The Longest Day

June 19, 2019
The summer solstice is upon us, and with it comes a little more of something most travelers love – sunshine. It’s the longest day of the year and the technical beginning of what might be America’s favorite season for travel.

In some of our favorite Destinations of Excellence, the solstice is also an attraction all on its own. With the night sky only making a cameo appearance – if at all! – those looking for a Vitamin D-heavy trip can seek out daylong sun to celebrate the summer.

One of the most northern destinations in our catalog is Anchorage, and it really shines in the summer. It shines, in fact, nearly all day; 2019 estimates are that the biggest city in the 49th state will get 19 hours and 21 minutes of light.  With dawn and dusk included, that number jumps up to 24 hours – there’s literally no “night sky.” Go ahead and make those 11 p.m. tee times – you’ll still be able to get in eighteen holes. Just make sure to pack an eye mask for sleep.

For the destination in our catalog that has the longest day, though, your donors will have to head over the Atlantic Ocean to Reykjavik, Iceland. The island capital gets more than 21 hours of direct sunlight and, combined with dawn and dusk, zero darkness. It and Alaska both experience what is called “midnight sun,” where the sun can be spotted at the literal end of the day.

Some countries in the northern parts of Europe might not get midnight sun, but they certainly get their share of light. In Dublin, Ireland, the day lasts 17 hours, while Amsterdam falls just 12 minutes short.

Nothing in the continental U.S. can match those numbers, but Seattle is a place to go for those chasing sunlight. At just a minute less than 16 hours, the view from the Space Needle will extend from the coast to Mount Rainier that much longer. And just up the coast in Canada, Vancouver gets 15 more minutes of sunshine.

Finally, there’s New York and Las Vegas. Do they have particularly long days? Not really – although more than 15 hours and 14 hours, respectively, is nothing to sneeze at. But if days are measured by when people go to bed, both cities have 24-hour days all year – and when spending time in a casino or a Broadway theater, your donors won’t be thinking about that blazing orb in the sky.

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See the Coast by Car

June 12, 2019
Starting with the traffic-jammed Memorial Day, the summer season is a favorite for many to go on road trips. There’s something about the windows down and wide-open road that calls to Americans to get out on the highways.

We’re big fans of road trips ourselves, with a twist: We love sending donors to places where driving is a sight-filled treasure. Someone in Chicago might not want to drive all the way to California for a view, but give them the chance to win a travel package at your non-profit fundraising auction to Los Angeles or San Francisco, and they can rent a car and take an oceanside route without any hassle. Some of the best coastal road trips in America can easily be accessed by setting up a supporter with one of our trips.

The state of California alone represents more than 800 miles of coastline, and the Pacific Coast Highway takes drivers near some of the most beautiful seaside views. Your donors can start anywhere from San Francisco to Santa Monica and get on the PCH and see state beaches, rolling countryside and dramatic cliffs. To the north, Carmel-By-The-Sea and Monterey are definitely stops worth taking, while those coming from Los Angeles might find the trip along the coast to Santa Barbara and its wineries to be a perfect day.

On the southern end of the east coast, meanwhile, it’s hard to get more “by the sea” than the Overseas Highway, which runs through the Florida Keys. Long after hurricanes and other storms washed away parts of the railroad that ran the route, the state would take the rail’s right-of-way and turn it into a two-lane (and now, in some parts, four-lane) freeway to connect to the mainland. It’s a favorite journey of visitors to the Keys and South Florida, including Miami.

“Long road trips” probably don’t spring to mind when you think about Hawaii, but there’s a path on the island of Maui of more than 50 miles that has made it to bucket lists for many travelers. The Road to Hana has it all: windy roads, cliff views of the ocean and even a waterfall or two. It can take longer than one thinks, thanks to Hawaii’s famous “relaxed” culture, which translates to slower drivers, but it’s worth a full day of stopping and sightseeing along the way.

The northeast has some travel-worthy drives, as well. First among equals might be the road that runs through Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Route One is an adventure that alternates between sea-side views and travel-worthy oddities; look for the massive orange dinosaur at the Route 1 Miniature Golf and Dairy Castle, or stop in at Kowloon, sometimes described as the country’s largest pan-Asian food court, under the neon triangle in Saugus.

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A Summer of Seafood

June 05, 2019
According to a 2016 story in trade publication Travel Weekly, nearly 70 percent of tourists are “food and cuisine driven travelers.” And a near-unanimous 95 percent of travelers want to have some sort of unique food experience when they hit the road. And with millennials (who are slightly more likely to pick a trip based on its cuisine) spending more on travel each year, this is not a trend as much as a way of the business.

One of those “unique food experiences,” especially for those who don’t live on a coast, can be the freshest of fish, found in harbor towns up and down each coast. With different local emphases and cooking traditions, seafood dishes in one community may look nothing like those in another.

If a few of your donors are sea-crazy when it comes to the dining room table, here are a few suggestions of destinations from our catalog that have different takes on, but the upmost respect for, fish, shrimp, oysters and everything else seafood-related.

The most famous tourist attraction in Seattle is the Space Needle, of course. But second place is likely Pike Place Market, where fish are literally tossed around to customers, and a bevy of eateries serve the freshest of the sea to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year (the outdoor rooftop views from Place Pigalle is a favorite). This is a city that’s in love with its fish, but it’s also one of the country’s favorite homes for oysters; the state of Washington is, according to SeattleMet magazine, maybe one of the only places in the world that’s home to all five edible oyster varieties.

On the southern edge of the Pacific Coast, there’s San Diego and its greatest contribution to cuisine: the fish taco. It’s a staple of fast casual restaurants in the border city, and it’s the subject of several foodie tours. The fish taco began just south in Baja California, but it made its way up the coast; local eatery Las Olas claims to have “pioneered” the favorite, but its lineage in the States is still up in the air.

Where the mighty Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico meet, your donors will find another seafood haven – even if the city is best known for its drinks than its food. New Orleans is not only a great place for fresh fish, but when seafood is combined with Cajun cooking, your supporters will get a culinary experience that can’t be duplicated. Look for gumbo, crawfish etouffee and shrimp po’ boys to get that Crescent City flavor.

The northeast is not to be ignored when it comes to seafood options, as well. While coastal towns in Maine (lobster!) and elsewhere may be the sources for much of the daily catch, Boston is where those fish and crustaceans find their ways into a wide selection of dishes. It’s the place, unsurprisingly, for New England Clam Chowder, but make sure your donors grab a Lobster Roll (or several!) before skipping town.

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Five Reasons Why: Los Angeles

May 29, 2019
More than 50 million people visited Los Angeles last year, according to the city’s convention and visitor bureau. That’s 50 million trips to the beach, walks along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and meals at In-n-Out Burger (at least!). But L.A. has much more to offer the traveler than crowded tourist traps. For your donors whose most recent interaction with the city was watching Steve Martin’s satirical “L.A. Story,” here are five reasons why today’s Los Angeles is a top travel destination.

The Weather: Yes, it really is that nice in Los Angeles. Highs in the winter are in the high 60s, with average summer highs never topping 85 degrees. It’s consistent enough that much of what people do in the city is outdoors, whether it’s the dozens of farmers markets, the outdoor malls, and even outdoor movie screenings at places like the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The Stars: Of course, the center of the film universe is where to go to spot celebrities, at famous haunts like The Ivy restaurant or the hottest nightclubs. But it’s also a place where the stars can be seen doing what they love in smaller spaces; the Largo, a comedy club and performance space, is famous for having celebrities drop in as “special guests” for their shows to either do stand-up or music. And with the Grammys, the Emmys, the Oscars – even the ESPYs! –held either every year or, at least, often in Los Angeles, even out-of-town superstars find their way to the City of Angels.

The Food: Don’t look now, but modern-day L.A. can stand toe-to-toe with any other city in America when it comes to culinary scenes. Superstar chefs have restaurants here, and the sheer volume of international cuisine on offer is astounding (Asian food in the neighboring San Gabriel Valley might be the best this side of the continent itself). It’s also a scene that prides itself on the best of more common fare, as well; stop at any taco stand or burger joint for the type of quick-and-easy meals that are both inexpensive and satisfying.

The Beaches: From the packed sands of Santa Monica up to the more secluded dunes of Malibu, there’s a Los Angeles area beach for every donor. Public transit can now take visitors right to the Santa Monica Pier, with its iconic Ferris wheel and great views from local restaurants. A walk south takes supporters to the slightly more bohemian Venice Beach – your donors can even work out on Muscle Beach, the famed spot where a young Arnold Schwarzenegger used to pump iron.

The Architecture: Yes, Los Angeles used to have a reputation for tearing down its history (leading to the sarcastic line in the aforementioned “L.A. Story”: “Some of these buildings are over 20 years old.” But thanks to the work of local conservationists, the Art Deco and Beaux Arts history of downtown Los Angeles is more accessible than ever, and the remaining Googie buildings are being saved.

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Race Through Memorial Day

May 22, 2019
There are any number of ways to celebrate Memorial Day. For some, it’s the first weekend of the summer and therefore is best spent at the beach. For others, it’s a solemn occasion worthy of a trip to pay respects. But Memorial Day is also one of the busiest days on a runner’s calendar, with fun runs, 5Ks, and even marathons taking place across the country.

We love Memorial Day races several reasons, but the biggest one might be their support of causes. For most of these competitions, either the entrants fundraise themselves or the organizers set aside the proceeds for worthy non-profits, especially those dealing with veterans’ issues. If you want to make your Memorial Day count for those in need, and you’ve got a set both of good knees and good lungs, consider traveling to one of these cities and taking on a challenge.

Chicago celebrates the start of summer (and the end of what can be an unpredictable spring) with the Soldier Field 10 Mile, which starts and ends at the titular stadium. Runners take off down the Lake Front Trail, essentially turn around and come back, finishing on the 50-yard line of the home of the Chicago Bears. Like the other events listed below, the fun might actually start after crossing the finish line; the post-race party takes place just outside the stadium with live music, concessions and a free “recovery beer” for each participant.

Not every race has to be road exclusive. In Austin, the Cap Tex Triathlon starts with a swim through Lady Bird Lake, bordering on downtown Austin, then switches to a bike course that heads straight through the Texas capital. Finally, the running shoes go on for a jog (or sprint) to and through Butler Park, ending on Vic Mathias Shores, along the banks of the Colorado River. If that sounds like a lot, there are three different races to try and accommodate everyone looking to try: The International competition is at standard triathlon distances of .93 miles of swimming, 25 miles of biking and 6.2 miles of running, while the SuperSprint cuts those down to a quarter-mile swim, 6.3 mile bike ride and a 3.1 mile run.

If your donors want a huge challenge, however, point them towards Maine. There, about an hour inland from Boothbay Harbor, is the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival. Your supporter can take those running shoes off the hard concrete and race through the gorgeous hills of New England. Saturday features 5Ks, 10Ks and even a 5K “Canicross” run, where participants bring the dogs. But on Sunday, the effort goes through the roof, with three options – 25K, 50K and a 50-mile run that will test even your fittest donors. At those distances, there’s no doubt they’ll have earned their post-race barbecue and beer.

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Summer Golfing

May 15, 2019
Golf is often thought of as a summer sport, one that can be played by cutting out of work early and taking advantage of the late-day sunshine only afforded during the season. But many of golf’s most hallowed destinations in America, places where there are as many courses as residents (think Palm Springs, Hilton Head, or several Florida cities), will test a player’s anti-perspirant as much as any swing in June, July, or August.

If you’ve got donors who want a golf-centric vacation but also want to keep the temperature cool, there are options. Some of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take supporters to courses where summer might be the optimal time to play – or even the only option.

One place that combines stunning views with temperate summers is Monterey, California, which is just south of San Francisco. Our “Spectacular Coastal Golf Experience” package sends your auction winner to play the Del Monte Golf Course, which is not only beautiful, but also the oldest course still running west of the Mississippi River. In 2017, GolfAdvisor.com rated it third in the country for best off-course amenities, too, so if the golf gods aren’t being kind to a supporter’s game that day, there’s plenty else to do.

Quebec City averages in the 70s throughout the summer months and has plenty to offer everyone. But with our “Quebec’s Peaceful Soul and Picturesque Wonderland” package, it’s a city just up the coast that delivers the fix that golf fans need. Tre trip includes a stay at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in Charlevoix, along the St. Lawrence River, and the home course there features 27 holes of world-class golf. The three nine-hole courses run along the river, meaning scenic views for those walks in between strokes. And of course, summer is the best season to play it – because it’s nearly the only season on offer (unless snowshoes are the favored footwear).

But if there’s one summer golf “bucket list” trip, it’s to St. Andrews, Scotland. The town is often referred to as the “home of golf,” thanks to the historic Old Course at St. Andrews, thought to be the oldest one on the planet. The average high temperature there only breaks 60 degrees during the summer months, so even in July, it tends to boast perfect golfing weather. And our “Home of Golf” travel package will give donors the chance to play two different courses along the St. Andrews Bay. The trip also comes with an element of chance: the Old Course has a daily drawing for tee times. If your donor gets lucky, he or she could play what might be golf’s iconic links.
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Traveling With Mom

May 08, 2019
Flowers die, chocolates get eaten, and knick-knacks end up in the backs of closets. So, what does your (and your donors’) mother want for Mother’s Day? It’s likely quality time. A 2018 survey taken by Peanut, a mom matching app, indicated that the plurality of mothers would like a “break from the mama routine,” with “a cool experience” coming in second.
Unless you’ve got some very wealthy children in your donor pool, the break may be less necessary by this point – most of your donors aren’t waking up in the middle of the night and yelling for mom to make the monster under the bed go away. But the cool experience? Your donors can give that to their mothers with a travel package they win at your gala fundraising auction. The gift of travel together is one of quality time and of memory making.
An international trip can be a wonderful bonding adventure for a mother and an adult child. And with so much history on display and Europe, your donors will have plenty to discuss along the way. See the sights of London, taste the wines of France, or savor the foods of Italy. And don’t forget other destinations, like Vienna or Budapest; once in Europe, all of the continent is on offer thanks to networks of trains crisscrossing the Old World.
Want your donors to be able to make the trip as stress-free as possible for mom? Think about offering an all-inclusive trip, like some of our adventures in Mexico. There’s no arguing about splitting the bill at an all-inclusive resort, because there is no bill; food is factored in to the auction price. Many activities are included too, so if mom wants that jet ski ride, she can do it.
Finally, cruises take the all-inclusive model and makes it mobile, taking passengers on all kinds of trips. As we mentioned last week, there are plenty of different destination options; if mom wants a truly relaxing experience, a Caribbean cruise might be the trip. If mom wants to take in some culture, your donors can take her through the southern Mediterranean. And if mom marvels at the wilderness, the scenic trip to Alaska has some of the most gorgeous scenery available. Mom can also go at her own pace; cruise ships themselves are delightful, so if one more excursion seems exhausting, there’s plenty to do on board.

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Cruising for Culture

May 01, 2019
Bring up a cruise to a regular traveler, and the images are clear: Sunny skies, sunbathing on deck and wandering beaches on Caribbean islands.  But while the cloudless sky and poolside lay-outs can happen on any ship, it should be noted there are plenty of boat tours that don’t involve a beach, routes that take tourists to a variety of cities and even countries on a more cultural path.

We love both types of cruise at Mitch-Stuart, and if your donors are devoted beach-seekers, we’ve got plenty to options to satisfy them. But we’re equally infatuated with our options, both domestic and international, to send supporters to some of the world’s most interesting cultural sites via the luxury of a ship.

Just like several of our Caribbean cruises, we have offerings that stop in different countries throughout the old world. Our “Savor the Majestic Mediterranean” trip takes donors on a tour of Europe through its southern ports, stopping at places like Barcelona, Rome, and Monaco. In fact, the itinerary sometimes extends to countries like Croatia and Greece, as well! Between the top-notch accommodations and creature comforts of a Royal Caribbean International ship and the amazing works of architecture, art and natural beauty on offer during off-ship excursions, any passenger will find their schedules packed.

If the sights in France are calling your donors the loudest, there’s a cruise that will take them from city to city without ever leaving the country. France’s Rhone River is the setting for our “Luxury Cruising in Heavenly Provence and Camargue” package, which takes passengers to where Vincent Van Gogh painted 300 canvases in 1888, to Le Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct, and even to the cowboys of Camargue. Seeing as it’s a trip in France, there is also an expedition to a wine cellar on the schedule. Your supporters can even take a bike ride through Aramon, a literal ride through the French countryside.

Not all culture comes from Europe, though. With our “Alaska’s Majestic Frontier” cruise, your donors can explore the fishing villages along the Canadian coast, the dance halls of the gold-rush town of Skagway, and the history of Tlingit tribe in its ancestral home of Ketchikan. Add in the mix of cultural sights in Seattle or Vancouver, two of the most common embark ports, and there’s plenty to learn along the coasts of the Pacific Northwest (and points north).

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Five Reasons Why: Las Vegas

April 24, 2019
Las Vegas is a favorite of our non-profit fundraising auction travel package destinations for some of our partner organizations, and it’s easy to see why: With its reputation as “American’s Playground” and the sheer number of activities on offer, it’s an easy sell. Coming up with five reasons why your donors would want to travel to the Nevada desert is easy. But, as you’ll see below, the Las Vegas Strip, while awe-inspiring on its own, isn’t the only game in town. Here’s a look at five reasons why your supports should want to head to Sin City – including some you may not know.

The Spectacle: It’s what makes Las Vegas famous, after all. There are the greatest hits of world monuments (Statue of Liberty! The pyramids! The Eiffel Tower!), all replicated along the Strip and lit up at night. There’s the Fremont Street Experience, a 1,500-foot long screen made of 12.5 million LED lights. And there’s the High Roller, the mid-Strip observation wheel that takes visitors more than 500 feet above it all.

The Food and Drinks: It’s no longer a secret that Las Vegas has a tremendous culinary scene, ranging from the Strip’s superstar cook-led eateries (look for big names like Gordon Ramsey and Giada De Laurentiis, for instance) to one of America’s best Chinatowns for Chinese cuisine. White tablecloths? Sure, but you can also get an award-winning slice of pizza. We’re long past the era of the questionable 99-cent shrimp cocktail.

The History: Sin City isn’t exactly Europe when it comes to its age, but Las Vegas’ founding and culture has created both stories and artifacts worth exploring. At the Mob Museum, exhibits on everything from Prohibition to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre tell the story of the mafia’s influence in southern Nevada. Down the road at the Neon Museum, the history of Las Vegas is told through its distinctive signage, and a light show brings these artifacts back to life.

The Shopping: Outlet malls sit right across the street from Fendi stores in Las Vegas – shopping may be the leading sin in Sin City. Donors who bring an empty suitcase can fill it with clothes from world-renowned designers, stunning jewelry, and even desert knick-knacks from the local creators at the Downtown Container Park, an outdoor mall with stores in shipping containers (and, since it’s Las Vegas, a little spectacle – a giant fire-breathing mantis sculpture out front).

The Pools: It makes sense that a city which sometimes reaches high temperatures of 120 degrees during the summer would live by its pool scene. But there’s a manmade body of water for everyone on the Strip, whether it’s the family friendly MGM Grand Pool or the wild party of Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Grab a poolside drink, get some reading done in a cabana, or splash around with people from all over the world.

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Tax Refund Travel

April 17, 2019

Tax season (for most of us) is in the rear-view window. Now, avoiding the temptation to sprint to the mailbox each day to look for your tax return is the task (if you’ve got one coming, it’ll be there soon!). However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan for what to do with that return now. And if your donors are looking at getting back some money from the government, they might be ready to go on vacation – and help their favorite charity at the same time!

Tax refund travel is popular as a way of utilizing what some see as “bonus money” towards an experience that your donors may never forget. And even those who get smaller refunds can find a great getaway in our Destinations of Excellence® catalog.

Offer one (or more!) of these trip ideas at your upcoming gala auction, and you could send your supporters on an unforgettable adventure – with refund money.

For those of your supporters who plan their taxes out to minimize their payments during the year, refunds can seem too small to go anywhere beyond the local mall. But our “Outstanding Resorts in Mexico” travel package is set up exactly for those who want to support their favorite non-profit but may not have the vast resources to do so. The package can start as low as $499, with four nights at a four- or five-star resort; it’s a perfect way to reserve a home base for a trip at a price that can’t be beat.

Those who get slightly larger refunds might think about using that for some boat time. Partly because of tax refunds and partly because of the season, cruises are big this time of year. Whether it’s the southern Caribbean, the Mediterranean Sea or even the waters of Alaska, cruises can combine the best of creature comforts with sight seeing in multiple countries. It can be a relaxing trip, or a sampler platter with which to explore future vacation ideas. With so many customizable options, your donors can take control of the itinerary, all for the cost of this year’s tax refund.

Do your donors want the feeling of going abroad on a domestic budget? Consider some of our favorite Canadian destinations. A trip to Montreal (like our “Canadian Luxury on the St. Lawrence” package) feels very close to a trip to France, with its Francophile culture and Old World architecture. Meanwhile, though it has the nickname “The Canadian Rockies,” the area around Baniff makes you feel like you’re in the Swiss Alps as much as possible (without taking a very, very long flight).

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Stretch Your Donor’s Dollar

April 10, 2019
We want your donors to feel as free as possible to bid big when one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages comes up for bids at your gala auction. But we also want to help you offer your supporters trips to stunning locales with luxurious touches.

The good news: There are plenty of ways to help your donors stretch their dollars without compromising how much you raise. It’s not about offering “inexpensive” or “budget” vacations as much as it is where the bids are going; your donors would rather have that money flowing directly to you, to help you in your worthy cause. And one of the ways of assisting with that goal is to offer trips with savings opportunities at the destination.

For example, now is the time for Americans to head abroad, if exchange rates are the metric. The U.S. dollar is especially strong currently against the Euro, with one dollar fetching .89 Euro, which is one of the best rates since 2003. This makes trips that can be costly on the ground (think expensive cities like Paris) pack a little less of a sticker shock when your supporters arrive in a European country. Strong exchange rates against the British Pound and the Canadian Dollar also open possibilities in cities like London, Toronto and Vancouver.

Also, some destinations have a winder variety of free activities and sights on offer. Cities like New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are famous for this; it costs nothing to wander Times Square or walk under the LED show at Vegas’ Fremont Street Experience. But searching for free entertainment doesn’t mean having to stay in an urban area; in Costa Rica, for instance, all of the national parks offer free entrance, giving visitors a chance to explore the wonders of the rainforests there without pulling out a wallet first.

Finally, one way that donors who don’t want to lay out too much more money at a destination can keep their wallets closed is by paying up front, via an all-inclusive package. We’ve written about these kinds of trips before, but a quick summary: All-inclusive travel packages roll the cost of food, drinks and other amenities all into the original price. Whether or not it actually saves a supporter money, the freedom of not worrying about paying for the day-to-day life on the road often feels like a better value.

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The Luxe of the Luxe

April 03, 2019
Luxury can be tough to define. The cut-off line between a four- and five-star hotel is murky, and with the word bandied about in advertising at a constant rate, “luxury” isn’t an easily definable concept – most of the time.

But there are some properties, some activities, and even some cities for which the word seems to have been invented. Offer one of these destinations or accommodations at your next big event, and you don’t even have to use the word “luxury” to describe it.

No community in Southern California says luxury quite like Beverly Hills. The city, surrounded by Los Angeles and West Hollywood on all sides, features the world-famous Rodeo Drive, with shops like Burberry, Fendi and Gucci, among many others. And with $1,000 in shopping spree money from our travel package to the 90210, your donors are on their way to even bringing some of that luxury home – if they can fit it all in the overhead compartment. Some of the Los Angeles area’s best restaurants are here as well, like Mastro’s Steakhouse and CUT by Wolfgang Puck.

For accommodations, there’s been one name burned in American’s heads when it comes to luxury: The Plaza. The five-start New York landmark opened in 1907, and it’s been one of the city’s most desirable stays ever since. It’s been an official National Historic Landmark since 1986, and one step inside shows why; with so many of the original details preserved, it’s like walking directly into “The Great Gatsby” (no coincidence, of course: the hotel is a character within F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece).

An ocean away, the Brits have their own revered hotel: The Savoy. After a 100-million-pound renovation at the beginning of the decade, the five-star head turner is back to its former glory, which dates all the way to 1889. Afternoon tea is a luxurious must here, both for the event itself and the gorgeous view of the Thames River in the appropriately-named Thames Foyer. And being located less than 10 miles from the Theatre District means dinner at the Savoy can easy transition to box seats for a theatrical experience unlike any other.

If your donors’ view of luxury doesn’t involve this many people, though, we’ve got the perfect trip: How about a weeklong stay on a private island off the coast of Belize? A 3,000-square foot villa waits for your supporters, with its own private chef and sommelier. But when not in service, the team leaves the isle, and your donors can be enjoying a luxurious stay, as far from the city life as possible. (For those who want at least a little interaction, the island is a short boat ride away from Placencia Village, with restaurants, bars and a casino.)

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Five Reasons Why: Italy

March 27, 2019
On some level, a standout destination like Italy can almost be easy to overlook. The boot-shaped country is so well known, so closely associated with vacations, and such a part of our cultural fabric that it gets overshadowed on occasion by newer, trendier places to visit.

However, with so many landmarks to see, Italy has something many destinations do not: repeatability. It would take a huge number of trips to see it all. For some people, it practically becomes a second home, the type of country where families (and maybe some of your donors?) take yearly vacations.

There are countless reasons to visit Italy – we’ve tried to narrow it to five.

The Food: Yes, the pasta. Yes, the pizza. But Italy is home to several different cuisines, including the seafood-forward food of the south. Tuscany’s ribolitta, a root-vegetable-laden soup, is a must have. And this is not a place for those on a diet; any trip that doesn’t involve the decadent tiramisu missed on something truly special.

The Wine: Italy produces more wine than any other country in the world, which is why so many of our travel packages to the nation involve either tours of or meals at a winery. With a vast variety of blends and varietals on offer throughout the country, it would take a lifetime of visits to try them all, but Italian grapes like Sangiovese and Canaoilo come to the top of the mind.

The Heritage Sites: Italy has more UNESCO Heritage Sites than almost any other country in the world, including almost 70 that are considered culturally important (as opposed to being about nature). Historic gardens, town squares, churches and even entire cities (hi, Verona!) are represented, with another 42 being considered. That means there are sights to see for multiple trips to The Boot.

The Vatican: Technically it’s not Italy, but the independent nation of Vatican City is culturally of the Italian people. It’s also home to some of the most interesting museums in the world, not to mention the Sistine Chapel. With a guided tour of The Vatican, your supporters can not only take in all the artwork, but also learn about the history and story of individual piece.

The Soccer: Calcio, as it’s known in Italian, is the nation’s passion. Italy’s national team is one of the most decorated squads at the World Cup, with four victories, just one behind leader Brazil. At the professional level, Serie A (Italy’s top division) is considered by many to be one of the best in the world; its top teams, like Inter Milan and Juventus, often advance to the later rounds of the Champions League, the world’s most prestigious tournaments. And the gameday atmosphere from the local fans has to be seen – and heard – to be believed.

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Blooming Season!

March 20, 2019
Flowers taking bloom are quintessential signs of the rise of spring. Each year, everything from television weather reports to social media feeds are filled with splashes of color in the desert, valleys, or even mountain peaks.

While so many of our non-profit fundraising auction travel destinations offer monuments or attractions that can be seen throughout the year, a few of these places can be experienced in a different manner during these first few weeks of spring. Think of it as a new spin on some urban locales – a tribute to the wildlife just off of the concrete jungle paths.

Let’s start with the destination that might be the most famous for seasonal blooms: Every spring, thousands descend upon Washington, DC, for the Cherry Blossom Festival, which starts today. The city’s trees were sent by Japan in 1912 as a gift of friendship, a gift that has lasted more than a century along the Tidal Basin. It makes for an interesting view both of the trees and the monuments; the basin is surrounded by the Roosevelt, Jefferson, and King memorials. Combine an early-morning walk through the basin with a night tour of the monuments (available as a part of some of our travel packages to the capital) for peak DC sightseeing.

Los Angeles is supposed to be the home for stars shining, not necessarily flowers blooming. But a short drive from the city is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, and it is jumping this time of year. Visitors from all over the state make the trek to Lancaster to see the rolling hills of poppies in bloom – on weekends during peak season, there are lines of cars waiting to get in! But it’s that way at different places throughout the L.A.-adjacent desert; Anzo-Borrego Desert, Malibu Creek, and Point Mugu State Parks all get quite colorful during this part of the calendar.

It’s a desert city, sure, but Marrakesh, Morocco still has a colorful spring. It’s not hard to see why: there are more than 50 public gardens in the city and surrounding area, meaning that the well-manicured flowers are ready each spring to show off. Outside Marrakesh, Atlas Mountain and the surrounding valleys also get the chance to shine while flower blooms are out – and with our “Discover Marrakesh’s Mesmerizing Medieval Marvels” package, you’ll get plenty of chance to explore that open space, with a guided day trip.

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The Spirit(s) of Traveling

March 13, 2019
St. Patrick’s Day is our chance to celebrate all things Ireland, and to do that many will lift a pint of beer over the course of March 17th (our “Dublin is Eclectic and Delightful” travel package caters to that, too, with the Guinness Storefront represented). But for those who don’t care for beer, there are plenty of other “spirited” options for destinations, spiritual homes for certain types of drinks, that can make for a bucket-list experience for an aficionado.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take your donors around the world in search of their favorite tipple. If your supporters are interested in any of the following spirits, give them the chance to bid on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with one of these trips.

There are versions of whiskey made all over the world, but only the spirit coming out of Kentucky gets to call itself bourbon. With our “Tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Then Batter Up!” package, your donors will get to help design their own seven-hour tasting tour, based on their preferences. Some of the country’s most well-known distilleries are a part of the trail, including names like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. (And don’t worry – the tour comes with a chauffeur, so that your supporters can drink responsibly.)

Like bourbon can only be produced in Kentucky, scotch can only be made in Scotland.  And our “Explore Scotland’s Heroes, Castles and Historical Highlights” trip is both educational (learning about the different types of whiskey created, based on the region of Scotland) and fun (tasting the scotch!). Your donors will test their sensory perception as they “nose” (or smell) a brand-new batch of the “water of life,” and they’ll even get a three-course meal at the end of the class.

Wine is technically not a “spirit,” but it too often gets overlooked on March 17. The good news: It certainly isn’t overlooked in our Destinations of Excellence catalog. Whether it’s champagne or pinot noir, Italian or Californian, if your supporters have a specific wine region they love, we can likely send them there. That’s true for the go-to destinations for wine and some lesser-known (New Zealand? Ston?) oenophile spots, too.

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Planning the Perfect Spring Gala

March 06, 2019
Maybe it’s the sun, peeking out from behind winter’s curtains of white clouds. Or maybe it’s wildflower blooms, or even baseball scores showing up in the paper. The signs are starting to show that spring is on its way. For some of you, that might mean that planning for a springtime gala is heating up.

We enjoy helping non-profits reach their fundraising potential with our auction travel packages at any time of year, but we’ve also picked up an idea or two over the course of 25 years of working on galas with organizations. If your big yearly event happens in the spring and you’d like to infuse it with the spirit of the season, here are some ways to bring that freshness, that sense of renewal, to your night.

Spring can be a choice for any decision at a gala. American diets get lighter as the seasons get warmer, so maybe your food options include fish and aren’t as steak-heavy. Or maybe it’s as simple as getting good seasonal, blooming flowers for the tables. Spring, thanks in part to Easter, is also often associated with pastel colors, rather than those shades that may be a bit more “dramatic.” The season can touch so many different small decisions (down to the garnish of a cocktail) that it’s worth keeping in front of mind throughout the planning process.

The rising temperatures can make it tempting to hold your springtime gala outside. After all, there are so many cute themes that are best created under the stars. But that beautiful weather can turn on a dime, especially in those early months of the season. Any outdoor event should always have a weather plan, in case of rain (or snow, depending on where you are), but one in spring is essential. As much as we love the season, its downsides must be taken into account.

As far as what fundraising auction travel packages to offer at your auction, the data and responses you get from your biggest donors should still be guiding your choices. But, if there aren’t clear preferences, consider that most winners might not be able to drop everything at a moment’s notice to leave on vacation. For spring galas, that might mean offering destinations that are popular during the summer – ones that don’t get too hot, or are best navigable during June and July, rather than November and December.

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Five Reasons Why: New Orleans

February 27, 2019
Next week, Mardi Gras is unleashed on the streets of New Orleans, with its special blend of ridiculousness and costumes. It’s the biggest such party in the country, and the city does it up every year.

But there are 364 other days on a calendar, as well, and New Orleans certainly never closes for tourism. Whether your supporters want the dinner of their lives, a bucket-list music experience, or just a day wandering the streets and admiring the buildings, one of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take them to a city where all of that and more seems possible.

Here are just five of many reasons to offer your donors the chance to go to New Orleans:
The Music: The city speaks a few languages, depending on where you are, but music may be the most universal. The Crescent City is home to some of the best jazz shows and clubs in America, many of them centered on Frenchmen Street. It’s hard to find a bar in some quarters without a jazz combo playing; it’s easy to end up with more new CDs than drinks after a bar crawl. And even the bigger venues, like Tipitina’s, have so much music history to them that they act both as venues and museum spaces of their own.

The Food: Creole, Cajun, seafood and soul food – New Orleans has an eclectic, delicious food scene that makes it one of America’s foodie capitals. Check out high-end eateries like Commander’s Palace and Mr. B’s Bistro, grab a beignet from Café Du Monde or go hunting for the best seafood in the city. It’s possible you’ll find your new favorite dish coming from one of the kitchens once occupied by great chefs like Emeril Lagasse.

The Museums: New Orleans is a city that celebrates its history, with museums and historic home tours throughout the city, ranging from the expected (The New Orleans Museum of Art) to the otherwise (The Museum of the American Cocktail). From military tributes to plantation tours, learn about the city’s past through its museum collection.

The Architecture: Spend a day walking the Garden District, and you’ll be exposed to gorgeous examples of American townhouses. Head uptown, and it’s Southern mansions. Thanks to the city’s eclectic mix of residencies, there’s everything from shotgun homes to Victorian houses throughout the city. One can get a full lesson in the history of American architecture within a short walking distance.

The Parties: Yes, Mardi Gras is an incredible draw, and for fans of mayhem, it has to be experienced at least once. But Shrove Tuesday is hardly the only party in town. Music fans likely have their eyes set on New Orleans Jazz Festival, or perhaps Voodoo Festival in the fall. The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is an annual foodie draw. And every night is a party along Bourbon or Frenchmen Streets.

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The Splashiest Destinations

February 20, 2019
We love our hidden gems in our Destinations of Excellence catalog, those locations that your donors don’t know as well, but are perfect places to see. But sometimes, supporters want to take the big trips, the ones with the name recognition. They want to be able to get recommendations from friends who have already been there, they want to be able to watch travel television shows to get ready, and they want an experience where they know at least a little of what they’re getting into.

We can help with that, too.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take your donors to some of the most popular spots in the world. And as we leave the Polar Vortex (hopefully?) behind, those top destinations are going to look a lot like beaches. Here are three examples from our catalog of where we can send your supporters – and on what beaches they should be resting or playing when they arrive.

When it comes to postcard-worthy beaches, Hawaii may lead the league. Pick an island, any island, and you’ll find gorgeous sand, blue waters and a laid-back atmosphere that makes for a relaxing vacation. On Kauai, seek out the north side of the island, where locals and a few visitors relax and wind down. But there is energy to be found on the islands, too; Waikiki Beach on O’ahu is known for its surrounding nightlife and, therefore, is a favorite of the younger age brackets.

While it may be too sizzling during the heights of summer, beaches in Miami and the Florida Keys are some of the nicest in the continental 48 states. South Beach gets lots of attention due to its adjacent nightlife, but the North Shore Open Space Park Beach is every bit the stunner as its more famous sibling. On the Keys, the Sandspur beach is gorgeous, but out of the way enough to keep crowds small. If energy and crowds are desired, Smathers Beach may be just the spot.

Looking to send your donors to an international destination? The sands of Monaco are calling. Larvotto Beach, sometimes referred to as the most glamorous beach in the world, is within the province itself, but Monaco is just steps from some of the most beautiful oceanfronts in France, as well. The Billionaire Bay is a stunning collision of forest and sand, accessible by a small hiking trail, while Mala Beach is incredibly popular stop. Bring sunscreen and your best bathing suit!
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Romance on the Road

February 13, 2019
Travel, on its own, is incredibly romantic. Going on vacation with a special someone can strengthen bonds, can reinvigorate a life worn down by the daily grind, and can even remind each other why they fell in love in the first place. Heading on the road on Valentine’s Day? It’s hard not to be shot by Cupid’s arrow in that case.

Mitch-Stuart offers trips to romantic destinations both close by and far flung as non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. For tomorrow’s holiday, we picked three of our favorites and created romantic itineraries for the day. The best news: None of these are Valentine’s-specific – your donors can follow these tips year-round!

Paris: It’s hard to put together a non-romantic itinerary for the City of Light, but we’re got some favorites. Start at the Wall of Love, which features tiles with the phrase “I love you” in 250 languages. (It’s neighborhood, Montmarte, was a big favorite of artists during the Belle Epoque; it’s worth a wander, as well.) From there, take a sunset cruise down the Seine River (we love it so much that it’s ended up in two of our trips) and, if there’s no dinner aboard the boat, head to the Hôtel Plaza Athénée for one of Paris’ greatest meals at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée. A post-meal cocktail at Verjus Bar a Vins puts a perfect bow on top of a Valentine’s Day in, arguably, the world’s capital of love.

New York: First, if your donors have a chance to stay at The Plaza New York (like with our “A Suite Taste of the Big Apple” trip), they should do it. There’s no more romantic place to rest one’s head than the hotel that’s welcomed countless celebrities and appeared in everything from “The Great Gatsby” to “Almost Famous.” From there, if the weather is aggregable, take in one of the city’s many park attractions (we’re partial to the Bow Bridge in Central Park or the High Line). If a show is in your donors’ plans (and it’s Broadway – a show SHOULD be in their plans), then a pre-show meal at Joe Allen is a great choice. It’s proximity to the theaters means that your supporters will only be a short walk away from their production of choice, and its brick interior and strong martinis give it a New York feel that’s hard to duplicate outside the five boroughs. At the end of the evening, luxuriate in the lights of Times Square. It’s a tourist trap by day (and still busy at night!), but in the late evening visitors have a little elbow room and can move at a slower pace.

San Francisco: On the nose? Perhaps. But the Cupid’s Span sculpture along the Embarcadero is a beautiful way to kick off a romantic day in the city by the bay. From there, it’s a short walk to Ghirardelli Square; the actual chocolate factory is not operational, but the company’s flagship store is there, along with other boutiques. Grab a pre-dinner beverage at Top of the Mark, which sits high above the city and boasts the best 360 view of San Francisco available. It’s less than a mile – and downhill – to Bix, a restaurant that serves up both American-French fare and nightly jazz music.

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The Sporting Season

February 06, 2019
Next week, the pitchers and catchers of the Oakland A’s report to the team’s spring training in Mesa, Arizona. Yes, despite how it has felt across much of the country, spring is coming – and it brings one of the most crowded sports calendars of the year.

Between now and June, there are huge sporting events each month, and Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that can send your supporters to see them in person. If you’ve got donors who are nightly “SportsCenter” viewers, you’ll have a big audience for these upcoming trips.

If some of your supporters are sports fans and you ask them what comes after March, they might say “Madness” instead of “April.” The NCAA basketball tournaments are some of the most popular sporting events in the country, running for three weekends and drawing enough viewers on its weekdays that CNBC estimated the tournament cost companies $4 billion in lost revenue during the 2016 outing – just for the opening weekend. We can take them to a weekend of the tournament, all the way through the Final Four.

For other sporting donors, they’ll know April comes next because it’s the month of the Masters. The tournament is the first of golf’s four yearly major tournaments, and it’s the most prestigious; the green jacket awarded to the winner is one of the most iconic awards in sports. Golf fans around the world follow along at home – but your supporters can walk through the galleries and check out the views from ground level.

Showers in April (hopefully not on Masters’ weekend!) bring May flowers, but the sporting world will keep their eyes on the track at Churchill Downs, thank you very much. The Kentucky Derby is colorful both in its infield and in the stands, with pastel colors and large hats being themes every year. Clubhouse seats will put your donors as close to the action as anyone but the jockeys, and the traditions of the day will leave lasting memories.

Finally, if your donors’ appetites for football weren’t satiated by this past weekend’s Super Bowl, they can watch the first steps of next season take place – in one of our favorite destinations! The NFL Draft takes place in late April in Nashville, and we can send a pair of your supporters to see the best and brightest of the college football ranks find out where they’ll be plying their trade for the next few years. It’s a great trip for the pigskin diehards, but everyone will enjoy setting up shop for the weekend in Music City, with its history and vibrance.

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Five Reasons Why: Portugal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When Spring Springs…

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

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

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

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

Are there major events on which to piggyback?

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

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

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

What have my donors said?

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

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Winter Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Travel Trends for 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Say Thanks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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