FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 06.25.2024

In today’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, discover LGBTQ+ leaders in American history, year-round Pride, responsible AI, ethical storytelling, better small talk, and more. Read it here!

Dispatch banner


Dear friends,

As we close out Pride 2024, I want to thank you for rolling out the rainbow carpet! In addition to inspiring events, I have enjoyed learning how LGBTQ+ history, art, and activism connect to your missions. This week, I recommend resources from the Smithsonian’s two newest units. The Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum helped fund and amplify projects across the Smithsonian that feature LGBTQ+ women, including Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Gertrude Stein, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. And, the National Museum of the American Latino highlighted LGBTQ+ leaders in its ¡Presente! exhibition, including San Francisco drag performer and activist José Julio Sarria and Lorena Borjas, “mother of the transgender Latinx community in Queens, New York.”

I am also deeply grateful to organizations that support LGBTQ+ issues year-round. In the Avalon client family, SAGE supports LGBTQ+ elders with advocacy, housing, and services, including cultural competency training for over 250,000 staff members at care facilities. In Boston, Pine Street Inn works to address inequities in housing, including the alarming problem that LGBTQIA+ individuals are “almost twice as likely to experience homelessness as their cisgender, heterosexual peers.” And, Rainbow Railroad helps LGBTQI+ people around the world find safety through relocation, crisis support, and other assistance. This month, Rainbow Railroad is celebrating the marriage of a couple they helped relocate from Kenya to Germany—congratulations to Rama and Nic!

Avalonians have been discussing themes across industry events, including DMAW’s List Bazaar, DMFA’s AI Fundraising 101, and DMAW’s Creative Day. Big picture, speakers reinforced Avalon’s approach to responsible AI: test often, be methodical, and always center ethics. AI opens a myriad of possibilities when it comes to automation, analyzing campaigns, and building audience models. However, fundraisers should continue to be mindful of what information is used to train AI systems, not to rush the training process, and to be wary if an AI-enhanced process doesn’t incorporate human judgment. In addition, ethical storytelling was front and center, which I’m happy to see. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s good for fundraising: Donors can tell when there’s an authentic connection between your message and your mission. Thank you to everyone who organized and taught at these events. We love learning from our peers!

Speaking of conferences, I spoke with the latest class of athletes at the Pro Athlete Community’s Finance and Business Leadership Conference in New York. I reprised my talk on Building a Lasting Legacy, speaking in a timeslot between the former CEO of Yahoo and Valerie Jarrett. (!!) My session focused on developing a vision for pro athletes’ philanthropic work, defining values and purpose in philanthropy, providing resources for starting a 501c3, and building a sustainable fundraising program. I’ll continue to mentor some of the players on their philanthropic involvement and have enjoyed this really different work.

I am also preparing for my upcoming sabbatical by completing what I can, delegating essential work, and creating as much space as possible for my team. I am so grateful to everyone at Avalon, who makes this possible by being THE BEST agency staff in the business—and especially to my leadership team, with COO Kerri Kerr at the helm. I’ll be out on sabbatical July 5 – 27, with a plan for regular check-ins to ensure continuity and address urgent issues, should they arise. I know the time will fly by for all of us.

To support trust and collaboration, senior director of HR Melissa Ferrell shared advice on fostering connection through better small talk. There’s a temptation to dismiss small talk as lacking substance or wasting time, but it is actually an important opportunity for engagement. According to Karin Hart and David Dye from Let’s Grow Leaders, two easy ways to connect are to ask follow-up questions and to share a personal story. “The key is to show up interested and interesting.” Here are three areas to explore:

  • Who are the important people (and pets) in their lives? (how about in yours?)
  • What do they do for fun outside of work? (do you have anything fun you like to talk about or any interests in common?)
  • Do they have any big projects they’re working on outside of their day job? (what are you up to that might be of interest to them)?

Finally, Avalon celebrated Pride last week with a fabulous virtual gathering—Drag Queen Bingo with Chacha! We played fun variations like the Shakira (whenever, wherever 5 in a row) and the Tina Turner (5 across, 5 down to make a T), to name a couple. Congrats to winners Nova, David, Jamie, Kris, and Birnie for bringing their Bingo A game. And thanks to Chacha for keeping the games entertaining!

Take care,
Allison signature gray

Allison Porter headshot

Allison Porter, President
Avalon Consulting Group