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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.

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.

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.

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.