FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 06.11.2024

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you will find direct mail in the news, donor advised funds, a leadership influencer’s mistake, CEO regrets, a go-to networking question, and ️‍🌈 PRIDE! ️‍🌈 Read it here:

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Dear friends,

🌈 Happy Pride! ‍🌈 I hope everyone is enjoying their local celebrations, and that this year’s events are especially vibrant. Avalon Analytics VP Sarah Birnie has graciously stepped up as our in-house Pride historian, and they wrote a great post last year on why June became Pride Month. Anti-Racism Daily also has a good resource on the Stonewall Uprising. I’m so proud that Avalon client SAGE, which does incredible work on behalf of LGBTQ+ elders, tops their list of organizations to support. You can join SAGE at an event in the NYC area, or via streaming at “Can’t Cancel Pride.”

At The New York Times last week, Ezra Klein discussed direct mail in a podcast with political historians Daniel Schlozman and Sam Rosenfeld. In a conversation about Trump and the Republican party, they noted the strategic importance of small donations via direct mail—and rightly criticized tactics that trade on fear and division. As always, I wish journalists did more to contrast problematic campaigns with responsible direct mail, for the sake of public trust. However, the history lesson and their analysis of the GOP were fascinating:

Small donors giving by direct mail…much more than the much-discussed Kochs and Mellons and Scaifes and Coorses, are the financial forces behind the Long New Right.

Speaking of public trust, leadership influencer Simon Sinek frustrated many nonprofit professionals by repeating the overhead myth in an interview with charity:water founder Scott Harrison. In a post for Future Fundraising Now, Jeff Brooks wrote about Sinek’s uninformed point of view, describing him as “the victim of bad storytelling.” Clearly, there is still a need for education and awareness in 2024. Fundraisers should be confident addressing it:

You can tell a different story and flip the script on the bad one: A story about donors putting their values to work changing the world in inspiring ways. A story where “overhead” isn’t a drag on getting the real work done, but part of the real work.

In other news, NonProfitPRO outlined 7 benefits of donor-advised funds (DAFs), beyond the initial value of a grant. I was especially glad to see #3: “the ability to steward donors across other channels.” There is sometimes a misconception that DAF donors are anonymous and therefore inaccessible for further cultivation. However, Fidelity Charitable reports that only 4% of their grants are truly anonymous. 15% of grants include names, and 81% include both names and addresses. There is so much we can do to analyze and build on DAF giving, so don’t miss the opportunity.

The slide below from Avalon Inquire™, our major findings analysis reports giving by channel for DAF donors. It demonstrates how one client’s donors transitioned to DAFs and how DAF revenue has increased overall. COO Kerri Kerr noted: “Donors ARE switching how they give and using DAFs to send renewal, appeal, and acquisition gifts—as well as upgrades to mid-level giving. And DAF giving is taking off, so you need to be tracking it as part of your direct marketing program’s revenue reports.”

A graph showing significant increase in DAF giving compared to other channels.Giving from DAF donors by channel, Avalon Inquire™.

On a leadership note, I was fascinated by new research on C-suite regrets from The Behavioral Sciences Lab at Boston Consulting Group. Researchers interviewed former CEOs, C-suite executives, and board chairs across diverse industries, asking about their leadership regrets. Responses fell into 4 categories: “Respondents said they regretted that they hadn’t (1) moved faster and more boldly, (2) built better teams, (3) fostered deeper relationships, and (4) been truer to themselves in making decisions.” The list is a good reminder that the deepest work of leadership is relational—both with other people and with oneself. I would love to see similar research focused specifically on the nonprofit sector.

Finally, for future networking, consider trying Esther Perel’s go-to question: “What’s on your unofficial resume?” Perel notes that the question transcends boring small talk, and it invites your conversation partner to share whatever part of their life they find most interesting. I love how this encourages people to open up without becoming too personal and without the pressure of producing a correct answer. I may try it this summer at Bridge!

Take care,
Allison signature gray

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Allison Porter, President
Avalon Consulting Group