FYI Blog

You Are Not Average

As a consultant, I love a good benchmark. Give me a hot-off-the presses report and I devour it immediately. But as a savvy fundraiser, I must share this PSA with the nonprofit world: You are NOT average. You MUST dig into the data behind industry benchmarks. The problem with averages is that they aggregate performance […]

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March 10, 2021

How do you define creative thinking?

To approach thinking about creative in a different way, Avalon developed a Thinking Creatively: Streaming Series. This group participates in sessions curated by our former Chief Strategy Officer and frequent collaborator, Jenny Phillips. We meet quarterly and review content ahead of time like short videos, documentaries, brief articles, and thought pieces. The group comes ready […]

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March 5, 2021

Choose Your Friends Wisely

My preteen son is 12—staring down (and trying on) his teenage years. Since he’s my oldest and this is a bit of uncharted territory, I’ve been reading up on how to best support him through this tumultuous time. If you Google teens and peers, you’ll get findings and advice from thousands of sources, from WebMD to […]

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February 19, 2019

donorCentrics™ Index Shows Continued Atypical Growth for Third Quarter

donorCentrics is out with its always-fascinating index of direct marketing giving for the first three quarters of 2017. The headline tells the story: Post-Election and Disaster Giving Drive Strong Growth in First Three Quarters of 2017. It covers gifts from direct mail, web, telemarketing, and other direct marketing channels to 70 organizations comprising more than […]

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January 30, 2018

The Importance of Volunteering

As direct marketing fundraisers, we’re always keenly aware of the impact our clients have on the world around us and eager to support them in multiple ways. While our support is usually provided in the form of fundraising strategy that produces critical revenue needed to achieve their missions, we also frequently volunteer with our clients […]

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September 1, 2017

Making Democracy Work…For All at the League of Women Voters’ Convention


kerrik-newAvalon was proud to be a sponsor of the League of Women Voters’ National Convention earlier this month: Making Democracy Work…For All.

In this particularly volatile political environment, the League of Women Voters stands out as a hugely effective, nonpartisan champion of informed and active participation in government. And it was quite an honor for me to attend the convention and see its 800 leaders put those principles into action.

Making Democracy Work…For All was a wonderful mix of grassroots organizing, networking, leadership training, and in-depth discussion about priority issues—all carrying forward the League’s 96-year history of fighting to improve our government and engage all citizens in the decisions that impact their lives.

Arising from the movement to secure the right to vote for women, the League remains dedicated to expanding participation and giving a voice to all Americans. With the rise of dark money in politics, restrictive voter ID laws, and other tactics designed to disenfranchise voters, Avalon is pleased to play a small role by standing with the League as it works to ensure that all Americans have a voice in our democracy.

If you’d like to learn more about the League’s vital work and how you can get involved, visit the League’s website.

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June 27, 2016

Big Ideas From AMMC

 AMMC 16 Chicago image

At this year’s American Museum Membership Conference, we had the opportunity to participate in a fun and incredibly informative general session: Big Ideas for Museum and Membership Fundraising.

The ideas presented in this rapid-fire panel discussion ranged from game-changing innovations for fundraising programs, to testing strategies, to partnerships, etc. Here are some of the big ideas Avalon staffers shared that have had a significant impact on our clients’ success:


  • Launch a Membership Month to engage current and prospective members. It’s a proven winner time and time again.
  • Join a co-op and use co-op overlays on large lists (commercial, buyers, or nonprofits/museums). This is an effective way to make an unproductive list productive.
  • If your ask string is in ascending order, switch the first and second ask. We recently tested this with a client and found a 20% increase in average gift — with no impact on response.
  • Add a “Reply by [date]” or “Respond within 10 days” teaser to acquisition and additional gift carriers or reply envelopes. Urgency always helps lift response.
  • Use a plain white carrier to improve response and lower costs for acquisition and additional gift mailings.

Additional Gifts:

  • Add $1,000+ members/donors to your direct mail and email fundraising efforts. The majority came from the direct marketing program and will continue to be responsive to direct marketing efforts.
  • Use matching gifts! Those of us in the business may tire of them, but donors never do! They lift response rates every time.

New Channels:

  • Use crowd-funding for designated asks. One of our performing arts clients just ran a very successful crowd-funding campaign to raise money to buy 1,000 schoolchildren tickets to a performance.
  • Our analysis shows that one sustainer is about three times more valuable than a regular donor. So focus on sustainer conversion via email, phone, and direct mail
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May 4, 2016

Case Study: Building Engagement Before the Museum Opens


How do you build engagement and loyalty for a museum donors can’t visit yet? During the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s long funding and construction phases, Avalon helped the Museum generate excitement, build support, and recruit valuable Charter Members to fund the pre-opening phases of this institution, through consistent branding, multi-channel direct marketing campaigns, and best practice efforts. Read more here.




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September 30, 2015

Connecting the Dots from Advocacy to Giving

kerrik-newSo you’ve built a large pool of online activists and digital petition-signers—now what? Good news: It’s time to reap the rewards—revenue and ROI.

Advocacy image - March 2015Avalon’s research and experience prove unequivocally that donors who are also activists are much more valuable to your organization, across a variety of metrics. We define activists as people who have taken an action on behalf of your organization, e.g., signed a petition, written a letter, attended an advocacy event, etc.

For one Avalon advocacy client, our testing validated the strength of current, lapsed (25-60 months), and deeply lapsed (61-120 months) activist members, with all segments showing stronger revenue per member and a renewal/reinstatement rate as much as 50 percent higher than non-activists. In some segments, the average gift from donor-activists was up to 25 percent higher than that of non-activists.

Once activists make a contribution, they are also more likely to stay on your donor rolls than non-activists, which is a huge incentive to turn your activists into donors. (On the flip side, encouraging your donors to become activists will also strengthen their commitment to your organization and increase their long-term value.)

To harness this potential, cultivate first, then ask. Because activists already have a relationship with your organization, they are excellent prospects for donor conversion. Your first job is to cultivate them and move them along a continuum of involvement.

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March 16, 2015