FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 03.21.2023

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you’ll find donor advised funds, intelligent and inclusive copy, museum news, a peek backstage at Avalon, blue light filters, cherry blossoms, and more. Read it here!


Dear friends,

Happy spring! It has been chilly in Annapolis, but I’m enjoying the evening light. This week is peak bloom for cherry blossoms in DC. If you’re in the area, I hope you can enjoy them. As it happens, it is also peak bloom in Tokyo. I loved this photo collection of last year’s blooms in both cities. They are always so beautiful.

March has been busy, and not just for our fundraisers. Behind the scenes at Avalon, our finance team has just stewarded us through another smooth tax season. HR, admin, and tech are doing incredible work on hiring, onboarding, and our upcoming staff retreat. And, our marketing team is busy building relationships with new potential clients. Thank you, Kristina, Pam, Jamie, Melissa, Kelly, Alexis, Barb, and Mollie! You help everyone at Avalon—and our clients—to succeed.

In other excellence, COO Kerri Kerr authored an article on donor advised funds (DAFs) for The NonProfit Times. In it, she explains why DAFs are a great opportunity, how direct marketing can help secure these gifts, pros and cons for donors, and, on the backend, how to acknowledge and track DAF giving. I particularly like Kerri’s advice not to lose sight of the individual donors funding DAFs:

Do not let the vehicle of the DAF obscure the people behind these grants. Much of the advice on DAFs does the opposite. Experts focus on funds and depersonalize donors. Fundraisers must remember that DAF donors are human beings making personal giving choices. Fundraisers should build relationships with them directly.

In museum news, congratulations to Nancy Yao, who was just named founding director of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum. Yao comes to the Smithsonian from the Museum of Chinese in America, where she has been director since 2015. She is also a lecturer on nonprofit governance at Yale and serves as board secretary for Tessitura. This is such an important moment for the Smithsonian and for American women. I’m excited to see Yao’s vision come to life.

For messaging experts, Future Fundraising Now tackled readability by asking, “Are You Dumbing Down Your Fundraising?” I like Jeff Brooks’ answer, which spotlights accessibility and donor relationships. We aren’t “dumbing down” anything when we make a message widely accessible. Rather, we are being inclusive of people beyond the bubble of insider nonprofit jargon. This caution is so important:

If you think of simplifying your work [for] non-experts as “dumbing down,” your attitude will infect your communication. Your frustration and sneering contempt for your “dumb” donors will prevent making a meaningful connection with allies you need. Because you’ll be missing the whole point of talking about your work outside your organization.

Speaking of language, thank you to Eric Olson at Society for Science for sharing OxFam’s just-released inclusive language guide. I appreciate how OxFam leans into nuance, such as the problem with focusing on English when ”the Anglo-supremacy of the sector is part of its coloniality.” In addition, I agree that DEI efforts, even published guides, must remain open to feedback and improvement.

For wellbeing, thank you to senior digital program manager Caroline Crow for this healthy tech tip: how to enable blue light filters for Windows, smartphones, and tablets. Blue light from screen displays can harm sleep and even skin, so I’m glad we have tools that help limit those effects.

Finally, did you catch Ford’s clever International Women’s Day ad? They describe a “Men’s Only Edition” SUV without features invented by women. This imaginary vehicle would lack essentials like windshield wipers, heaters, turn signals, and GPS. Miller’s “Bad to Good” campaign is also great. They are making an impact by removing sexist beer ads from circulation and supporting women brewers. In my opinion, these are more engaging than any of this year’s Super Bowl commercials. What do you think?


Take care,


Allison signature gray

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