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Case Study – Robert F. Thomas Foundation

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

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

But not even Dolly can do it alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Case Study – Scottsdale Cultural Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Concierge Services to Die For

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

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

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The Importance Of Being Different

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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