FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 06.06.2023

Happy Pride! 🌈 In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you’ll find client Pride news, strategies to counter distraction, the power of design, data and intuition in decision-making, and an exciting new benefit for Avalon employees…drumroll, please!


Dear friends,

Happy Pride! I hope that everyone finds fun ways to participate in this year’s activities. If you’re in the DC area, the Capital Pride Parade and Capital Pride Festival will take place this weekend. Or, check out this roundup of activities nationwide. If you prefer to celebrate online, don’t miss Avalon Analytics VP Sarah Birnie’s lesson on the history of Pride, which she wrote for the Avalon FYI blog.

I’m also excited to share that our client Rainbow Railroad partnered with Yankee Candles on a new “Love for All” scent. Rainbow Railroad is an incredible organization that helps at-risk LGBTQI+ people around the world escape state-sponsored violence. Great work on this creative campaign and collaboration!

Looking ahead, the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) will host a Young Professionals Happy Hour on July 13 from 6pm – 8pm in DC. The happy hour is free to DMAW members, and “future members” are also invited to attend for a small fee. We are encouraging the Avalon team to join, so please say hello if you see us.

Before happy hour begins, you might appreciate these strategies to counter distraction from Future Fundraising Now. Here are two sobering facts: The average person working at a computer is distracted every 40 seconds (!), and it takes an average of 23 minutes to regain focus after interruption. Analytics VP Sarah Birnie found these numbers so motivating that she looked up the original study and then found these additional tips from Duke University scholars. Sarah swears by this advice, in particular: “Leave yourself a clue, or landmark, to help yourself get back on task once you return.”

In other news, senior VP Jackie Libby shared a fascinating story about a design concept that is helping reduce fentanyl overdoses. Alec Manko, a Stanford senior studying product design, realized that fentanyl test kits weren’t being used at his school, partly due to design flaws. So, he revised the design to be simpler and to look like “a friend rather than an authority figure.” This makes using the kits an easier choice for college students at parties. It’s a great example of the impact of user-centered design.

For leaders, I recommend this article from Harvard Business School on data and intuition in decision-making. Author Marcy Farrell points out that we often treat data and intuition as a binary, but this strict division is unhelpful. To make good decisions, we need both. Research from HBS associate professor Laura Huang finds that trusting your gut is particularly helpful in times of uncertainty, when additional data either isn’t available or isn’t applicable. Also, strong intuition can help leaders make data-backed decisions more efficiently. When data and intuition conflict, researchers say, we must be willing to think critically about both. For example, we might ask:

Now that the data is in, I’m feeling a sense of discomfort. Could there be a reason to distrust the data? Or, could I be realizing that this decision is rooted in a bigger issue than I first thought….Might I be resistant to let go of my original hypothesis?

In addition, Seth Godin has a new book, The Song of Significance, which draws from 10,000 interviews with employees around the world. One interesting finding is the relative insignificance of salary, beyond a baseline of fairness. Rather, the top motivators for employees were “I surprised myself with what I could accomplish,” “I could work independently,” “The team built something important,” and “People treated me with respect.” Godin issues this bold call to action: “What if we created the best job someone ever had?”

Speaking of which, June marks a milestone for Avalon: the kickoff of our new sabbatical benefit! Employees with tenure of 10 or more years are invited and encouraged to take one month of paid sabbatical leave, in addition to their regular PTO. I’m thrilled that Avalon can offer this benefit, which so many people describe as “a peak life experience” and a boost to mental health. SVP Jackie Libby is our first sabbatical pioneer, and VP Dara Igersheim will soon follow in her footsteps. Thank you, Jackie and Dara, for your dedicated service to Avalon and our clients.

Take care,


Allison signature gray

Allison Porter headshot

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