FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 08.15.2023

This week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch is a don’t-miss! Get the latest updates on giving trends and sector stability—plus, what Avalon sabbaticals are teaching us, the importance of adapting with new technology, and more. Read it here:

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Dear friends,

I’ve been reflecting on a unique summer for Avalon. This year, we rolled out a new sabbatical benefit for employees with 10+ years of tenure. Five team members have taken their turn at this monthlong leave, and two more are scheduled for September and October. Early consensus is that it has been great! Though a full month seemed daunting before we got started, the time has actually flown by, and the renewed energy of the returning staff is palpable.

Not only do sabbaticals provide important time for long-tenured employees to recharge, but they also create opportunities for everyone. It has been exciting to see our team grow so gracefully into new responsibilities and decision-making during their colleagues’ sabbaticals. In addition, the entire company can see the value of truly logging off, whether that is for a long break like a sabbatical or simply a holiday weekend. COO Kerri Kerr observed:

My sabbatical was a welcome break to step away and come back to my role with a fresh perspective. I’m also thinking about how we can embrace elements of the sabbatical leave for regular vacations, so our full team has a chance to experience a true break. Our team is so committed to our clients and their work, and I’m deeply impressed by their loyalty. To sustain that, true and meaningful breaks are essential.

This is also a busy time for fundraising updates, to analyze data from 2022 and the first half of 2023. A big one was the recent Giving USA webinar, which presented key findings from the 2023 report (on 2022 giving). As you probably know, the main headline is that 2022 giving declined when compared to the pandemic highs of 2020 and 2021. While this is noteworthy, it is not a surprise. We knew that giving would settle post-pandemic and have been planning for exactly that. As The Nonprofit Times reported, 2022 donors and giving are lower than pandemic highs, but still trending up long-term. Avalon sees this trend across our client data as well.

In addition, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) released data on 2023 Q1 giving. They reported a decrease in both the number of donors and dollars given across all donor types, including major donors. FEP emphasized the vulnerability of nonprofits to large donors and the importance of diversified fundraising strategies. Direct response has such an important role to play here. GivingTuesday chief data officer Woodrow Rosenbaum advises:

The sector’s over-reliance on large donors has hit a critical stage. With major donors and donations now declining along with all other giving groups, trends are down across the board. But there is still an opportunity to create positive momentum and growth in 2023. Swift adoption of diversified fundraising strategies and broad engagement of grassroots givers can help ensure sector stability through the rest of the year while creating a stronger base for future cultivation.

From the world of donor-advised funds, Schwab Charitable released numbers on its fiscal year 2023, which ended on June 30. It reported total distributions of $5 billion, for an uptick of 8% over 2022. However, contributions to their funds declined, and 56% consisted of non-cash assets. On a positive note, 35% of contributions at Schwab Charitable were set up as recurring grants, for a 20% increase from fiscal year 2022. In an encouraging acknowledgement of nonprofit messaging, 71% of Schwab Charitable distributions were unrestricted.

In other news, marketing VP Barb Perell shared a viral story about a United Airlines passenger who located her lost luggage via AirTag and used her own miles to claim the bag in Chicago (nowhere near her origin in Baltimore or her destination in Denver). Bill Murphy, Jr. at Inc. explained that customers are using technology to solve their own problems. Organizations with outdated systems risk becoming obsolete. “Recognize and adapt, and you have a huge advantage. Ignore it all, and you’ll risk being left behind—like lost luggage.” This advice is good not only for companies serving customers, but also for nonprofits building relationships with constituents and donors.

Finally, senior director of HR Melissa Ferrell pointed out that last Thursday was National Spoil Your Dog Day. A recent report at NPR noted the health benefits of petting a dog, which include reduced stress and enhanced cognition. Research shows that both human and canine oxytocin increases after a brief positive interaction. That’s an easy win for dog lovers; I’ll take it!

Churchill, a large black lab-mix, is laying on a cushioned wicker chair with a parlor palm in the background. Cisco, a smaller yellow lab-mix, is laying on Churchill.Cisco and Churchill approve this message.

Take care,


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