FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 08.30.2022

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you will find joy in fundraising, performing arts trends, Apple Pay news, a retro ad for Microsoft Excel, and more! Read it here:


Dear friends,

Back to school is in full swing, and both my boys have resumed classes. Alex is a senior in high school, and Luca just started his junior year at the College of Charleston. I don’t know about you, but I’m torn between looking forward to the new schedule and new beginnings and lamenting the end of summer. With my youngest child in his final year of high school, I have many teary “lasts” ahead of me this year, so bear with me. I know many of you have and are going through the same thing, and I know you understand.

For fundraisers, fall is a busy and exciting time. This year, I propose that we also claim it as a joyful time. I was recently inspired by Vu Le’s post on how fundraising can be truly, authentically joyful. He challenges fundraisers to reconsider how we define joy in our work and to make deeper connections with justice:

I think fundraising can be joyful. Genuinely, authentically joyful. A sort of joy that embraces the full complexity required for our sector to achieve its primary [sic] goal of creating an equitable world. But to get there, we have to reexamine our current definition of joy, align our words and actions with our values, support one another to work as a community toward a shared vision, genuinely engage with our donors including having some very uncomfortable conversations, and push ourselves and our world toward justice whenever we can.

In that spirit, I am joyful that direct response can support more inclusive fundraising. Direct response gifts, like votes or individuals at a protest, find strength in numbers when organized to support a cause. This is a stark contrast to recent news of a single $1.6 billion gift to Marble Freedom Trust, which will set a conservative agenda from the top-down. While it’s fun to dream about the good we could do with $1.6 billion for progressive causes, I am even more proud to support campaigns and nonprofits that encourage broad, grassroots participation.

On a technical note, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that 75% of iPhone users and 90% of U.S. retailers have adopted Apple Pay. The service was first introduced in 2014, and usage grew slowly but steadily over the past 8 years. Apple Pay for Donations became an option for nonprofits in 2016. Given the current level of adoption, it’s a good time to feature this form of payment, if you don’t already.

In arts news, The New York Times reports that performing arts attendance is low compared to pre-pandemic levels. The article has great data on sales trends and notes a few successes: “Plaza Suite,” “The Music Man,” “Into the Woods,” and “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” Live music is also drawing bigger crowds. Overall, however, the assessment is blunt: “Artistically it was a great year. Financially, it was a different story.”

Also from the NYT, I was fascinated by this article on the return of looted art to Benin, Africa. It’s a complex issue that many cultural institutions must confront as new information on their collections comes to light. It is good to see institutions in possession of pieces like this finally doing the right thing and returning them. According to Beninese sculptor Mr. Ahanhanzo Glèlè, the impact is powerful: “The artistic awakening of our population was switched off from the end of the 19th century to 2022. We are now waking up.”

Finally, data manager Chris Stalowski shared an incredible retro ad debuting Microsoft Excel in 1990. The video has been a hot topic at Avalon’s virtual water cooler, where VP Rebecca Shapalis observed, “Those guys would flip if they saw what Chris can do with it now!” Indeed. Thank you to Chris, who creates your Merlin reports, and to the many Excel experts at Avalon.

Take care,


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