FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 01.10.2023

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, a warm welcome to our new VP of analytics + why fundraisers love boring envelopes, digital trends to watch, a clever idea from Jerry Seinfeld, a good news roundup, and more. Read it here!

Dear friends,

Last week, Avalon welcomed Sarah Birnie, our new VP of analytics. I have been so excited to share this news with you and for Sarah to join our team. A highly skilled fundraiser and analyst, she most recently served as Director of Professional Services at ROI Solutions. Before ROI, Sarah spent almost 12 years at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), where she advanced from intern to Deputy Director, Analytics & Strategy. We are so fortunate to add her to the Avalon team as we help our clients navigate the potentially choppy waters ahead.

Meanwhile, I hope your 2023 is off to a good start. I really hope it has been smoother for you than it has been for House Republicans! Watching the Speaker disarray was by turns fascinating and concerning. One thing I know for sure: Americans deserve a fully functioning government. I thought Heather Cox Richardson did a good job putting the GOP’s obstruction into historical context and naming the incompetence.

If you’re still deciding on resolutions, COO Kerri Kerr shared good advice from Wired on starting and keeping good habits. The article includes a clever idea from Jerry Seinfeld for building momentum:

On the internet of yore, there was an apocryphal story about Jerry Seinfeld supposedly giving advice to software developer and would-be comedian Brad Isaac. Isaac asked him if he had any tips on becoming a comic. Seinfeld’s answer amounts to, well, build a habit of writing jokes.

That’s fairly obvious, but Seinfeld had a technique. He reportedly told Isaac to get a big wall calendar and said every time he sat down and did the work, he should make a big X over that day. “After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

At Future Fundraising Now, Jeff Brooks published a round-up of his most popular posts from 2022. I couldn’t help laughing at the top post’s title: Why Fundraisers Love Boring Envelopes. More importantly, I agree that excellent design doesn’t always scream “CREATIVE!” in the mailbox. Direct marketers’ priorities are different:

Don’t feel bad about being “uncreative” or “illogical.” Those things aren’t the job for direct mail envelopes. [Get] people to open them so they get the chance to interact with all that material inside you worked so hard to create.

For fundraising online, NonProfit PRO outlined three digital trends to watch: (1) digital-first social fundraising, (2) capturing recurring gifts (an Avalon specialty), and (3) personalizing the donor journey. The author points out that these trends may be in tension with some established wisdom because they focus less on traditional practices and more on “tapping the unique, inherent powers of social media — friction-free giving, easy repeatability and second-gift encouragement, and personalization — to drive real value.” Avalon is ready to help you develop, test, and evolve your digital strategies for this emerging environment.

Finally, I loved this collection of 22 things that made the world a better place last year. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but did you know about Europe’s subsidized culture passes, the nations banning conversion therapy, or the previously considered extinct (but very much alive) black-naped pheasant-pigeon? These bright spots make me feel hopeful for 2023.

Take care,


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Allison Porter, President
Avalon Consulting Group
202-429-6080 ext. 102