FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 04.02.2024

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you will find questions to ask your donors, trust-based philanthropy, high-energy meetings, Avalon career opportunities, and more. Read it here!

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Dear friends,

It was shocking and very sad to watch the Francis Scott Key Bridge fall in last week’s shipping accident. I’m grateful that they were able to halt traffic and prevent an even greater tragedy. However, my thoughts are with the families of those who died and with everyone in Baltimore who feels the impact. As a Marylander, it is hard to imagine the city without this distinctive landmark and transportation link.

Before I dive into updates, I have a note of correction. Recently, I mentioned the Nonprofit Fundraisers Symposium and stated that The Nonprofit Alliance organized the event. This is correct, but I should also have named their co-organizers, the Direct Marketing Association of Washington. Both TNPA and DMAW do so much to support our industry and are good friends to Avalon. Thank you both for presenting this excellent conference!

In tech news, The Washington Post issued a caution against tax-prep chatbots. In a review of TurboTax and H&R Block software, journalist Geoffrey Fowler concluded that the products’ AI features are too experimental—and the consequences of bad advice are too severe—to be trusted. It’s a good reminder for consumers to be savvy about AI services. For these companies and all organizations using AI, it is a call to responsible use:

The good news is that you can completely ignore the chatbots and still do your taxes. My experience shows we should be especially wary of generative AI when there are real-life consequences to it being wrong. And we can’t necessarily trust companies experimenting with AI to make the right decisions to protect our interests.

In fundraising, NonProfit PRO outlined 3 questions to get to know your donor base better: “What motivates you to support our cause?”, “How did you first hear about us?”, and “What impact do you hope your donation will have?” They also recommend that all requests for donor feedback be thoughtful and intentional—and we agree! Make this part of your nonprofit’s communication strategy and not a one-off survey. Done well, these kinds of inquiry help to build relationships and strengthen the donor journey.

Related, Stanford Social Innovation Review published a special supplement on the rise of trust-based philanthropy. The big idea is to empower and trust communities and nonprofits to lead change, based on their ground-level expertise. This is a relatively new mindset—and a new power dynamic—for many philanthropists, but it has been gaining speed since 2020. MacKenzie Scott has been a notable influence, and “more philanthropic leaders are stepping up to the bold, rigorous, and infinitely more rewarding work of institutional change.”

For managers, “Leadership Freak” Dan Rockwell recently shared strategies to energize your one-on-ones. He recommends briefer, more frequent conversations and suggests that employees (not managers) set the agenda. No matter what, be present: “Give your full attention. Hide your cell phone. Put your computer to sleep.” This is more challenging—and more important—than ever in the remote environment.

On an HR note, Avalon is hiring! We are actively recruiting a fundraising program manager and a senior fundraising program manager. In addition to competitive salaries, we offer incredible benefits, including location flexibility, employer-paid health insurance, and generous paid time off. Thank you in advance for sharing these opportunities in your networks.

Finally, I know it’s spring break because my meeting schedule is a bit quieter than usual. This is a good time of year to regroup, and many families wisely take advantage of school breaks. If you need a creative idea, Delta is offering a path-of-totality flight for eclipse viewing on April 8! No matter where your next vacation takes you, I hope it’s a great one.

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