Business Traveler sits down with Philantopia Founder Mike Hess to discuss how travel packages can help nonprofits improve their fundraising
Philanthropic organizations are the backbone of nonprofit work in the United States, and their selfless work is essential to solving social problems and improving the well-being of human beings around the world.
Finding solutions to big problems is important, but it can be expensive, which is why fundraising is essential to the viability of any philanthropic organization. However, fundraising can also be a philanthropy’s biggest challenge, which is why it must find creative ways to raise funds.
Philantopia is a creative fundraising avenue that merges vacation packages and fundraising events.
BT: Tell us a little of how Philantopia.
HESS I launched Philantopia because I wanted to help associations raise funds. How do we do that? By bundling high-demand luxury travel packages that can be used in live, online silent auctions, raffles and raffles across the United States. We help non-profit organizations by providing curated, high-demand vacation packages used to generate revenue in their fundraising efforts. With the help of our auction advisors, the charity then decides which vacation package best suits their needs and we provide them with all the marketing materials to successfully sell that package at their fundraiser. All the philanthropies have to do is set their opening bid price at a profitable level above our reserve price and start their auction. If the auction’s opening price is reached, your fundraiser earns money and your charitable organization receives all profits above our reserve price. If the travel package does not reach the price of your original offer, we take over the travel package at no cost to the non-profit organization. It’s a great way to raise funds because you really can attract all types of people with different vacation packages ranging from fishing in Canada to African safaris.
BT: What gave you the idea of selling package tours to philanthropists?
HESS I launched Philantopia in 2008 after having previously worked in marketing for the ski resort of Telluride. I was at the head of the Donations Committee, and everyone was still looking for lift tickets and ski passes for their fundraising events, so I thought we could use these packages as donation tool. The success of this program made me realize that there was an opportunity to start a single company that helped non-profit organizations.
BT: What is Philantopia’s interest in philanthropy?
HESS Fundraising is difficult for nonprofit organizations and it can be difficult to find enough people or the right people willing to donate money to your cause. Charity auctions are nothing new and we view our travel packages as another opportunity to provide a benefit to a donor’s charitable contribution, much like someone might donate signed sports memorabilia. The difference, however, is that we are able to provide something more experiential. Many donors want something different and would get more out of a vacation package than a collectible. Philantopia can provide a nonprofit organization with travel packages that meet the vacation needs of all types of donors. We want to be another tool in a nonprofit fundraising arsenal.
BT: The Covid-19 has put an end to many travel plans. How Does the pandemic affected Philantopia?
HESS The past year and a half has been the craziest ride we could have ever imagined. When the pandemic started, the vast majority of our stuff disappeared 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 might appeal to people in a pandemic world and changed the way we work. We started to participate in many online auctions, which allowed us to continue to work with non-profit organizations that still organize 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 you doing now?
HESS It’s like someone lit a fire hose. Nonprofits are fundraising in force, and potential donors are looking to travel again. Packages to Mexico, the United States and Hawaii were the most popular destinations, as a seaside paradise is quite an incredible experience after a year without travelling. Ski passes and wine tours in California have also been extremely popular. It’s exciting to see the travel industry restart as it will create more opportunities for Philantopia to help nonprofits across the country.
For more information visit Philantopia philantopia.com