FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 05.14.2024

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you will find “the new IQ,” digital benchmarks, equity in leadership development, client news, a code-a-thon, and more. Read it here!

Dispatch banner


Dear friends,

It’s mid-May, and that means we’re in the home stretch for clients with July 1 fiscal years. Not only are we achieving and tracking FY24 goals, but we are also hard at work on budgets and strategies for FY25. These activities are good examples of what knowledge work expert Cal Newport calls “deep work.” According to Newport, sustained focus is a worthwhile challenge that creates value and meaning. This makes deep work “a superpower” and “the new I.Q.” Go, team!

Speaking of budgets, M+R released new digital benchmarks. Participating organizations report an average decline of -1% in 2023 online revenue, compared to -6% in direct mail. One bright spot is monthly giving, which improved by +6%. In digital advertising, nonprofits increased spend by +13% and invested most heavily in search and social media. The strongest return on ad spend (ROAS) once again came from paid search, at $2.70, which mirrors what we’re seeing with Avalon clients. Clients that are partnering with Avalon to increase their investment in digital channels beyond just email (i.e. robust digital ad, web, and SMS strategies) are standing out in the crowded digital space. This helps them bring in more new donors, and generate a true surround-sound experience for supporters and donors that lifts response across all channels.

In client news, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum named Kentucky Secretary of State Michael G. Adams the 2024 Profile in Courage Award Honoree. Adams, a Republican, was chosen for “for expanding voting rights and standing up for free and fair elections despite party opposition and death threats from election deniers.” The library will livestream the award ceremony on Sunday, June 9.

Around the industry, DMAW Creative Day will take place on Wednesday, May 22. The in-person event is scheduled for 9:00am-4:30pm in Washington, DC, and there is a remote option for the morning sessions. You can expect to leave with plenty of campaign inspiration and updated best practices. In addition, there will be 2 panels on ethics, including a morning session on AI and an afternoon session on community-centric messaging. It should be a great event.

This comes right on the heels of DMAW’s List Bazaar (May 9). VP Nova Cohen-Prohow reported back, and I was happy to hear that DEI was a central theme. One firm shared findings from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, who tested strategies for reaching Spanish-language households. While their English-language control won with test audiences, the test itself opened an important conversation about expanding where they source outside lists and how their content can be more inclusive. Ivan Leon of the Kerux Group built on this by explaining the difference between basic translation and “culturalizing the creative.” He recommends the latter, which translates not only words, but also turns of phrase, imagery, and voice. Doing so deepens multicultural fluency and better ensures that your message will connect. These recommendations align with Avalon’s approach to DEI-informed list strategy.

On an HR note, Fast Company recently covered equity in leadership development. Author Neena Newberry explains a common dynamic in which leaders who already stand out receive investment for deeper learning, whereas others, who could become equally strong with the right support, do not. This both undermines diversity and diminishes team performance. A better alternative is leadership development for all, which creates a win-win for employers and employees:

As we look ahead, let’s challenge ourselves to rethink what leadership development looks like. It’s not just about selecting a few for the fast track; it’s about recognizing and nurturing the leadership potential in everyone. After all, in the unpredictable race of business, your organization has a better chance of winning when everyone is set up to reach the finish line.

Finally, I’m excited to share that the Avalon Analytics team is holding a Code-a-Thon! On June 4 and 5, they will focus entirely on building new and exciting tools for our staff and clients. Analytics VP Sarah Birnie put it like this: “We will be heads down and nerding out on development projects, new programming languages, and more.” I love the idea and can’t wait to see what comes from these inaugural “Development Days.” Your Avalon teams will ensure that all deliverables remain on schedule.


Take care,
Allison signature gray

Allison Porter headshot

Allison Porter, President
Avalon Consulting Group