FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 05.21.2024

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you will find gender equity in nonprofit leadership, advice on collaboration, fundraising in an antiracist age, Mental Health Awareness Month, summer schedules, and more. Read it here!

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Dear friends,

Summer is coming! Avalon will be closed for Memorial Day on Friday, May 24 and Monday, May 27. Your teams are prepared and will keep all deliverables on schedule.

At Avalon last week, DEI partner Alex McNeill led an all-staff training on Direct Marketing Fundraising in an Antiracist Age. He emphasized conscious effort and likened the process to growing a garden—as we learn, nothing is wasted and everything can yield unexpected fruits. Specifically, we reviewed white supremacy cultural values, considered how they show up in direct marketing, and discussed how to shift and challenge those norms. In addition, Alex led us through an assessment of our Fundraising Choice Points testing to-date. Even where a test didn’t win or was inconclusive, having the data gives our clients more agency to support DEI in their programs. I continue to be impressed by the depth of this approach and am excited by the potential for impact. Thank you, Alex!

On a client note, senior VP Mary Meredith and VP Bill Tucker traveled to Los Angeles for leadership meetings with our clients at Society for Science. And, senior VP Jackie Libby, VP Aly Wells, senior graphic designer Scott Cannon, and production project manager Kathy Criser attended an incredible Wine at Wolf Trap event. It is always so rewarding to visit our clients in person and to see you at work for your causes. Thank you for having us!

Eric, Bill, Michele, and Mary smile for a selfie in a conference area.Bill and Mary with Society for Science’s Eric Olson (left) and Michele Brenner (second from right) in LA.

Scott, Jackie, Aly, and Kathy are dressed in their finest and standing in front of a sign that reads "The Barns at Wolf Trap"Scott, Jackie, Aly, and Kathy all spiffed up for Wine at Wolf Trap.

In sector news, marketing VP Barb Perell shared Harvard Business Review coverage of the gender gap in nonprofit leadership. According to research from Candid, women account for 69% of nonprofit staff, but only 67% of senior staff, 62% of CEO/ED positions, and 52% of board seats. The gap widens when you account for nonprofit size, and it translates to a 27% compensation advantage for men in CEO positions. Making matters worse, there is also a racial gap; men of color do not see the same advantages as white men. Experts at Candid call this phenomenon “the glass elevator” and recommend the following strategies for equity:

  • Check for biased language and treatment in the hiring process.
  • Track demographic data.
  • Be transparent about pay.
  • Create clear career matrices.
  • Have explicit conversations about career goals.
  • Sponsor women and give them challenging opportunities. 

Senior VP Jackie Libby shared Apple founder Steve Wozniak’s 2024 commencement speech for the University of Colorado at Boulder. Not only did he share his personal formula for happiness (“happiness equals smiles minus frowns”), but he also offered perspective on collaboration. Drawing from his experience with Steve Jobs, he emphasized the importance of valuing each person’s contributions. Where there is conflict, explore differences, but don’t argue or blame. “It’s incredibly rare for one person to be fully right and another person to be fully wrong.”

From Avalon HR, senior director Melissa Ferrell noted that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In addition to reviewing Avalon mental health benefits with our staff, she highlighted free public resources. Please consider sharing these with your teams to support awareness and wellbeing at your organization:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: 800-950-6264 or text “HelpLine” to 62640.
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988 if you are in distress, or call 1-800-273-8255 to be connected with a crisis counselor. Crisis counselors who speak Spanish are available at 1-888-628-9454.
  • The Trevor Project provides 24/7 crisis support to LGBTQ+ young people.
  • helps people seek treatment for mental and substance use disorders.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741-741 to be connected with a crisis counselor.
  • Warmlines are staffed by trained peers who have been through their own mental health struggles and know what it’s like to need someone to talk to.

Finally, as we head into summer, I’m looking forward to upcoming long weekends and vacation plans. I’ve been encouraging the Avalon team to schedule time off. Regular breaks are essential for everyone—and they’re especially important for fundraisers during summer, in the lead-up to our busy season. Even just the planning stage has benefits!


Take care,
Allison signature gray

Allison Porter headshot

Allison Porter, President
Avalon Consulting Group