Business Traveler sits down with Philantopia founder Mike Hess to talk about how travel packages can help nonprofits improve fundraising
Philanthropic organizations are the backbone of nonprofit work in the United States, and their selfless work is key to solving social issues and improving the wellbeing of human beings across the globe.
Finding solutions to big problems is important, but it can cost a lot of money which is why fundraising is vital to the viability of any philanthropic organization. However, fundraising can also be a philanthropy’s biggest challenge which is why they must find creative ways to raise money.
Philantopia is one avenue for creative fundraising that merges vacation travel packages and fundraising events.
BT: Tell us something about how Philantopia works.
HESS: I started Philantopia because I wanted to help nonprofits raise money. How do we do that? By aggregating high-demand luxury travel packages which can be used in live, online, silent auctions, as well as sweepstakes and raffles around the United States. We help nonprofits by providing curated, high demand vacation packages used to help generate revenue in their fundraising efforts. With the help of our auction advisors, the philanthropic organization then gets to decide what vacation package best suits their needs and we provide them with all the marketing materials to successfully sell that package at their fundraiser. All philanthropies have to do is set their opening bid price at a profitable level above our reserve price and start their auction. If the opening bid price is met then your fundraiser makes money and your philanthropic organization receives all the profits above our reserve price. If the travel package does not meet your opening bid price then we take the travel package back at no cost to the nonprofit. It is a great way to raise funds since you can really entice all types of people with different vacation packages ranging from fishing in Canada to African Safaris.
BT: What gave you the idea to sell travel packages to philanthropies?
HESS: I started Philantopia in 2008 after previously working in marketing for the Telluride Ski Resort. I was the head of the donation committee, and everyone was always looking for lift tickets and ski packages for their fundraising events, so I thought we could use those packages as a donation tool. The success of that program made me realize there was an opportunity to start a unique business that helped nonprofits.
BT: What is the benefit of Philantopia to philanthropies?
HESS: Fundraising is tough for nonprofits and it can be hard to get enough people or the right people willing to donate money to your cause. Charity auctions are nothing new and we look at our travel packages as another opportunity to provide some benefit to a donor’s charitable contribution just like someone might donate for signed sports memorabilia. The difference, however, is that we are able to provide something more experiential. A lot of donors want something different and would get more out of a vacation package than they would a collectible. Philantopia can provide a nonprofit with travel packages that cater to the vacation needs of all types of donors. We want to be another tool in a nonprofits fundraising arsenal.
BT: COVID-19 put a halt to a lot of travel plans. How has the pandemic affected Philantopia?
HESS: The last year and a half has been the wildest ride we could have ever imagined. When the pandemic first started, a vast majority of our business went away and the success of outdoor travel packages such as golf trips helped us keep things together. The pandemic forced us to find new packages that could appeal to people in a pandemic world and changed the way we worked. We started to participate in numerous online auctions which allowed us to continue working with nonprofits still holding events. However, at the end of the day, we are all human and fundraising is best when it is a social activity. We are happy to be at in-person events again.
BT: How are things now?
HESS: It is like someone turned on a firehose. Nonprofits are out fundraising in full force and potential donors are looking to travel again. Mexico, domestic United States and Hawaii packages have been the most popular destinations since a beachside paradise is a pretty amazing experience after a year of not traveling. Ski packages and California wine trips have also been extremely popular. It is exciting to see the travel industry get going again since it will create more opportunities for Philantopia to help nonprofits across the country
For more information on Philantopia visit philantopia.com