FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 02.22.2022

In this week’s @AvalonConsultingGroup dispatch: the Avalon Olympics, 2021 benchmarks, client news, holograms, creativity, and more. Read it here!


Dear friends,

I hope you enjoyed the long weekend. Between the Super Bowl and the Olympics, I’ve been inspired by the season’s elite athletes. Special congratulations to speed skater Erin Jackson, USA gold medalist and first Black woman to win a gold medal for an individual Winter Olympics sport.

Speaking of elite, Avalon’s virtual gathering committee hosted our first ever Avalon Olympics! The evening included a ceremonial torch, four competitive events, and some nailbiter tiebreakers. Avalon-thletes competed in the hilarious and harder-than-it-looks QWOP, a typing test, Olympics trivia, and an Olympics-themed scavenger hunt. Congrats to top medal earner, Team Argentina—and thank you to Director of Client Analytics and Data Visualization Amy Escobar-Babb, who created a cool data viz of the standings!


A chart showing the medal results by country from the Avalon Olympics

It was a tight competition between Teams Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Mali.


We did not host an Avalon Super Bowl, but, in keeping with tradition, we loved the halftime show and, of course, the commercials. In addition to familiar brands, this year there was a big push by crypto-companies to educate and make the public more comfortable with crypto-currencies and NFTs. I hope you caught the Coinbase ad, which, despite crashing its servers, solidified the comeback of the QR code.

Elsewhere in the metaverse, a New York Fashion Week event replaced the traditional runway with 7-foot holographic models. The designer, Maisie Schloss, observed that the pandemic presented an opportunity for creators to explore new forms of presentation. In addition, some other designers are releasing NFT clothing alongside their physical products. It is fascinating to see how different industries are innovating with emerging technologies.

Closer to home, I am thrilled for Avalon client the Guttmacher Institute, which received a $15 million unrestricted gift from Mackenzie Scott. Their work on behalf of sexual and reproductive health and rights is vital, and I admire this response from president and CEO Dr. Herminia Palacio: “We are very grateful for Ms. Scott’s generous support for our mission at this pivotal moment when so much is at stake. We receive this support with a sobering sense of responsibility.”

In other news last week, Blackbaud released its 2021 Charitable Giving Report. They report an overall increase of 9% in giving, and a 10% increase in the overall average gift amount. Online giving grew by 9% as well, and it represents 12% of contributions (just under the all-time high of 13% in 2020). 28% of online gifts were donated through a mobile device. The report also confirms what Avalon has been observing around sustained growth post-pandemic:

In years past, it was common for overall giving and online donations to fall back to normal levels following major episodic events. That was not the case in 2021. Giving not only recovered but grew more than it has in a decade. Online giving also grew and remained near record highs across several metrics.

For more on digital, M&R published a December 2021 performance summary. Their findings include a 1.74% decline in online fundraising revenue vs. December 2020. They attribute this to a 10% drop in total gifts, most of which was offset by stronger average gifts. Isolating email, total revenue is up, but the trend of fewer donations and higher average gifts is still present. In addition, they report higher returns on paid search and lower returns on paid social.

Avalon trend analysis reflects similar patterns. According to VP of Analytics TJ Hillinger, our clients’ 2021 revenue was up 6% overall, but the month of December was an exception (down by 7%). In December, digital giving was mostly flat, but direct mail revenue was down. In some cases, mail results are complicated by mail date and keying delays, caused by supply chain and labor challenges beyond our control. So, we may see a longer tail for year-end direct mail. We will continue to assess that alongside December results. Understanding how these external factors impact the flow of donations will be important for 2022.

Behind these campaigns, of course, are great creative minds. And that includes you! If you don’t believe me, check out this helpful Fast Company post, shared by senior VP Margot O’Leary, on the myths that hold people back from being creative. The three myths are: “(1) creativity is genetic… (2) creative ideas have to be original… and (3) creativity arrives in a single flash of brilliance.” It’s an important reminder that everyone can be creative.

Finally, on a motivational note, the New York Times posted an article about behavioral activation, or the antidote to languishing. It’s along the lines of “fake it ‘till you make it” and sounded like good advice to me in this dreary month of February. “You may not feel like getting started, but get started anyway, then see what happens. Your doing influences your being.”


Take care,


Allison Porter headshot

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