FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 02.06.2024

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you will find resources for Black History Month, “the generous ask,” a growing demand for soft skills, advice on building trust, the importance of using vacation time, and more. Read it here:

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Dear friends,

February is Black History Month, and we are so proud of the many ways our clients are showing up. This week, I want to highlight the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), where the 2024 theme is “African Americans and the Arts.” NMAAHC’s Black History Month programming will teach and celebrate the impact of “artists who used their crafts to uplift the race, speak truth to power, and inspire a nation.” If you can’t make it to the museum in person, be sure to explore NMAAHC’s Black History Month digital toolkit.

And kudos to all our friends at the Smithsonian Institution for making the Forbes list of America’s Top 100 Charities! In their analysis of this year’s list, Forbes emphasized the power of brand names in the nonprofit sector. They also shared this noteworthy statistic:

Overall, the nation’s top 100 charities received more than $61 billion in private donations in their most recently reported fiscal years, a 4% increase. That bucked a 3% decline in all charitable giving among the country’s one million-plus nonprofits, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

In fundraising last week, senior VP Margot O’Leary shared an inspiring post from Jeff Brooks at Future Fundraising Now: Fundraising Is Not “Asking.” In it, Brooks refers to Seth Godin’s advice on “the generous ask.” The big idea is to reframe asking as an opportunity to help your audience. Where fundraising is concerned, this means providing a way for donors to connect with causes they care about and to make a real difference.

Senior VP Jackie Libby shared research from Fast Company on soft skills in an AI-powered economy. As AI can increasingly perform tasks, workplaces are evolving—and human contributions like ethics, communications, and emotional intelligence are in demand. I agree with author Peter Cardon’s observation that “in the future, each of us will need to become a mini ‘AI ethicist.’” And we know that emotional intelligence and communication are essential to good leadership. Cardon ends on a hopeful note:

A renewed focus on soft skills could result in vastly improved workplaces where human connection, strong values, rich communication, and dynamic innovation abound. AI is challenging us to confront many complex workplace issues—and the possibilities for success and new opportunities are endless if we handle this with care.

Speaking of soft skills, senior director of HR Melissa Ferrell recommends building trust through emotional bank accounts. The idea comes from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and it’s a great framework for professional relationships. According to Covey, we should make six kinds of “deposits” to build trust: (1) understand the individual, (2) attend to the little things, (3) keep commitments, (4) clarify expectations, (5) show personal integrity, and (6) apologize sincerely when you make a withdrawal. I’m proud to say that COO Kerri Kerr has led with, coached, and incorporated this framework into Avalon’s culture for years!

Finally, did you celebrate National Plan for Vacation Day on January 30? If you missed it, don’t worry. It’s never too late to plan your next vacation—and to encourage your team to plan theirs. To support that, here’s an oldie but goodie from HBR on How to Get Your Team to Use Their Vacation Time. I second this good advice: “Remember that you need to be a model for the use of real, full, disconnected vacations—because they’re good for you, for your team, and for your company.”

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