FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 07.25.2023

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, look for analysis of the challenges facing nonprofit theaters, a preliminary forecast for nonprofit marketing mail, a human-robot joint press conference, our new favorite Excel hack, and more. Read it here!

Dispatch Banner 25th
Dear friends,

I’m still enjoying the glow of Avalon’s anniversary and well wishes from staff, clients, and partners. Thank you! I feel so proud of the company we are today and what we have built. As I look at our new sabbatical benefit celebrating people who have been with Avalon for 10+ years (several more than 15!!), I am in awe of and grateful for the team that has made this possible. EVERYONE at Avalon contributes to our success and to the incredible work we do for our clients. This has created growth and opportunity for every one of us, and for so many clients and partners. Cheers once again to 26 years of Avalon!

Speaking of awesome clients, Myles King, VP of strategic communications at the Kennedy Center, shared a thoughtful recap of challenges facing nonprofit theaters. In it, he links to a New York Times op-ed by Isaac Butler, which calls out a “smoldering crisis” and calls for federal investment through the Creative Economy Revitalization Act, the Promoting Local Arts and Creative Economy Workforce Act, and increased budgets for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The following call to action, which was written into law with the 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act that established the NEA, is timeless:

An advanced civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone. Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster and support a form of education and access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.

Want to learn more about how you can leverage giving from donor-advised funds (DAF) for your organization? Then check out the DMFA’s webinar this Thursday, July 27, at 1 pm Eastern featuring Avalon’s Jackie Biancolli Libby and Friends of the Smithsonian’s Colleen Morith. They’ll share information about the rise in DAF giving and tips on how to promote this type of giving as well as track these gifts.

In direct mail news, Avalon production project manager Mike Schweikart noted that the Postal Service plans to continue increasing rates through at least 2026. We have come to expect these escalations and know how to use schedules, segmentation, and list strategies to mitigate the impact on our clients’ programs. Based on conversations with our production partners, we are using the following preliminary forecast for nonprofit marketing mail. These increases are subject to change, but this list is a good start for long-term planning:

  • January 2024: 1.5-2.5%
  • July 2024: 6-7%
  • January 2025: 1.5-2%
  • July 2025: 5-6%
  • January 2026: 1-1.5%
  • July 2026: 3-4%

Mike also shared a fascinating report on the first human-robot joint press conference. Earlier this month, at the “AI for Good” conference in Geneva, nine humanoid robots and their creators discussed the potential for AI to help solve global problems, such as hunger and disease. They also addressed the unease some feel around the rise of AI. The good news is that robots do no plan to “steal humans’ jobs or rebel against us,” although there was open debate about whether regulation should limit AI’s reach. It is hard not to read this and feel like a character in a sci-fi novel, but here we are.

For Excel power users, director of client reporting and data management Kate Cecchini Beaver taught a great tip that I wanted to pass along. If you know the frustration of merged cells not playing nicely with the rest of your spreadsheet, there is an alternative approach to this common formatting hack. Instead of the dreaded merge, “center across selection” will help you retain full functionality. This explainer will walk you through it. Author Ali Levine warns, “Friends don’t let friends merge cells!”

Finally, I came home from being away last weekend to a lovely little harvest of my container tomato patch. Anyone have good recipes for cherry tomatoes? I love throwing chopped tomatoes into this lemon shrimp pasta, but I’d also like to try some new dishes.

(L) A metal container with three tomato plants loaded with ripe red tomatoes. (R) A metal bowl full of cherry tomatoes sits on a stone counter in front of a stack of cookbooks.

Take care,


Allison signature gray

Allison Porter headshot

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