FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 01.11.2022

Today’s @AvalonConsultingGroup dispatch takes on the January blues + how to message complex ideas, data storytelling, and our newest employee benefit! Read it here.


Dear friends,

Snow was the big story last week. In the DC area, it impacted many people with school closings, power outages, and a traffic nightmare. Meanwhile, Omicron is still a stressor, and the anniversary of January 6th was difficult. One thing made me smile, however: the delight of 16-month old panda, Xiao Qi Ji, at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

With on-point humor, Vu Le at wrote, “Today you may feel like a poked bear and dread doing anything productive.” I had to laugh! He then offered some encouragement:

Our work, as meaningful as it is, is not easy, and sometimes, on days like today, there’s no shame in admitting you don’t really want to do it… Try to remember that your actions, no matter how seemingly minor, create ripple[s] wider than you may ever see or know. Yes, you may be one person, but never underestimate your impact, especially when you work in unison with others in our wonderful, imperfect sector.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, Seth Godin broke down the difference between communicating simple and complicated ideas. He argues that it’s a mistake to pretend that complicated or complex things are simple. We’re better off connecting with audiences who want to come along for the ride. This echoes Avalon’s philosophy of getting the fundraising message right—to acquire and engage the best possible donors to support your cause.

Godin’s post sparked an interesting conversation around the difference between “complex” and “complicated.” This article from Inc outlines the difference. A complicated problem is intricate, but it can be solved with the right logic or algorithm. A complex one is fluid and unpredictable. It needs a different approach. According to Rick Nason, author of It’s Not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business:

When you are confronted with a complex issue, “think manage, not solve.” Use scenario planning and be prepared to adjust as you go in a try-learn-adapt process… Give people the time and leeway needed to come up with innovative solutions. Build diversity into the effort—the more different points of view, the better. And manage the effort with a playbook that uses broad principles to guide efforts, instead of rule books that hem people in.

I also recommend this video on data and storytelling from Steve Nouri, Chief Data Scientist at Forbes. It compiles a series of visualizations, all with the headline “If 100 People Lived on Earth.” The data points are interesting, but the presentation is what really stands out. It’s a great example of how we can use data to tailor information for an audience—and tell them a story in the process.

In remote work, Senior VP Margot O’Leary shared a helpful resource for improving productivity in Microsoft Teams. Avalon began relying heavily on Teams during the pandemic, and it has been a great collaboration tool for us. It’s a powerful software once you figure out how to harness its features. Shortcuts like these are a big help.

Also at Avalon, we’re hiring. We are currently seeking an Assistant Program Manager, a Digital Program Manager, and a Fundraising Copywriter. Please spread the word to anyone who you think would be a good fit. Be sure to let them know that we just added a benefit—a bonus birthday day off!

Finally, Avalon will be closed on Monday, January 17th for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This year, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is hosting History Alive! The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Last Five Years. The event features living history interpreter John W. McCaskill and will be free online. I hope you enjoy the day and feel connected to King’s inspiring work.

Take care,


Allison Porter headshot

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