FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 05.23.2023

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you will find giving trends, help with testing, cybersecurity, mental health resources, and more. Read it here!


Dear friends,

This is always a fun time of year, and 2023 is no exception. Here in Annapolis, I had both my sons at home for a few days, which was a special treat (photo below). Luca was visiting from college, and Alex is finishing up his senior year of high school. Miraculously, they both found time in their busy schedules to hang out with their mom!

Luca, Allison, and Alex relax on a deck after golfing.

At Avalon, we are beginning to roll out an enhanced training strategy that we call Avalon University. This bold step has been part of our strategic vision for years, and it gained exciting momentum this year. We will continue with hands-on training that is personalized to each staffer, but Avalon University will strengthen it with curriculum, a library of content, and clear learning outcomes. Thank you to the “Avalon U” Committee: Nova Cohen-Prohow, Rebecca Shapalis, Barbara Carey, Melissa Ferrell, Alexis McInnis, and Kaitlyn McHale. Your hard work has brought many years of dreaming to life!

Speaking of learning, analytics VP Sarah Birnie suggested a great resource to deepen your knowledge of direct response testing: Future Fundraising Now’s 7-part series on smart testing for nonmathematical fundraisers. The series provides a great overview and will help you assess what, when, how, and why to test. If you’re wondering whether your universe is large enough for a test to be valid, ask your Avalon team! We use a proprietary sample size calculator, developed by our Avalon Analytics experts.

In sector news, senior VP Jackie Libby shared a Forbes Nonprofit Council report on macroeconomic trends in charitable giving. As I’ve noted before, overall philanthropic participation is down, but strong average gifts help offset the impact on revenue. The Council expresses concern that this trend narrows nonprofits’ donor portfolios and, by doing so, increases their financial vulnerability. On the mission side, concentrated philanthropy can also disempower local communities who are closest to the issues. The Council calls for a comprehensive response that includes not only policymaking, but also debunking the overhead myth and embracing inclusive philanthropy—two strategies that, I’m proud to say, direct response supports well.

Jackie also circulated a helpful explainer on cybersecurity from Fast Company. Through the lens of Star Trek: Picard, the article explores real-world cyber threats and strategies to reduce risk. The author concludes that, when it comes to technology, “humans remain the weakest link.” Consider this a gentle nudge to complete whatever cybersecurity trainings your organization has to offer!

For your wellbeing, May is Mental Health Awareness month. Senior director of HR Melissa Ferrell shared a list of resources with our staff. These include free and confidential online screenings by Mental Health America, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (phone), and Warmlines, a trained peer network for mental health support. If you prefer texting, both 988 Text and Chat and the MHA Crisis Text Line are easy to use. Reaching out for help is an act of strength.

Finally, Avalon will be closed on Friday May 26 and Monday, May 29 for Memorial Day. I hope the weekend is a great start to the summer season for everyone. If you’re in the DC area, here’s a fun round-up of affordable happy hours. Each one offers something tasty for $10 or less. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could try a new restaurant every day!


Take care,


Allison signature gray

Allison Porter headshot

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