FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 10.03.2023

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, Allison Porter weighs in on sector uncertainty and the importance of responsive budgets. You will also find a legislative update, a reminder to keep testing, and a more accurate map of the world. Read it here! 

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Dear friends,

Welcome to October and the fourth quarter of the calendar year. Every fundraiser I know is in high gear, working hard to make the most of year-end giving. It’s a big push, and I’m so proud of the Avalon team for the strategies they have developed with our clients and the many logistics they manage seamlessly. Well done and thank you!

As I’ve shared before, Giving USA reported a decline in total U.S. giving for 2022. This context is significant as we move into year-end and plan for 2024. Macroeconomic factors beyond our control—the pandemic, inflation, social movements, and a presidential election—will continue to shift. Responsive budgets and strategies are a must. Every nonprofit needs a unique and adaptable plan that incorporates both sector trends and the organization’s specific needs, history, and audience.

This is uncharted territory, but the sky is not falling:

A slide from a presentation: "Keep Calm, the Sky is Not Falling"An excerpt from a recent Avalon presentation.

Fundraisers have successfully navigated uncertainty before—many times. Most recently, during the pandemic, our industry built stronger muscles for assessing and responding to change in real-time. Senior VP Jackie Libby’s July 2022 advice for The Nonprofit Times, Seven Steps for Staying Ahead of What’s Next, is evergreen:

The best fundraisers will understand trends, consider economic and social conditions, and regularly update their assumptions. In addition, they will be experts on their organization’s history, its donors, and important benchmarks. They will learn from the work of sector peers and share their own findings. Throughout, they will educate and collaborate with their leadership and boards.

In other news, The Nonprofit Alliance released a September legislative roundup. The big headline is that California passed SB 362, which includes a provision for donors to remove their data from all 500+ California-registered data brokers with a single click. TNPA had advocated against this bill and will now focus on the rulemaking process. Governor Newsom is expected to sign the bill into law, after which it will take effect August 2026. Beyond California, the roundup also covers donor privacy in New York, the Universal Charitable Deduction, and TNPA’s advocacy to avoid a federal government shutdown.

For direct mailers, analytics VP Sarah Birnie shared a roundup of appeal ideas from Jeff Brooks at Future Fundraising Now. He criticizes what he calls the “default” appeal formula: #10 outer envelope with a teaser telling the recipient what to expect inside + 1-page letter + reply device with a coupon or bangtail + #9 reply envelope + optional brochure. The problem, of course, is that organizations should be testing package variations for performance lifts, not simply mailing the same appeal again and again. Avalon teams are always innovating for our clients for this exact reason! But it’s still a good reminder never to let your mail go stale.

Finally, COO Kerri Kerr shared a fascinating and important perspective shift with our team. As you may know, the Mercator projection map we grew up with distorts the true size of land masses to make North America and Europe more prominent on world maps. This is a huge problem because it reinforces biases around the relative importance of those regions. These corrected maps show the extent of the distortion and the true size of each land mass. It’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it. “In a more globally connected world, geographic literacy is more important than ever.”

Take care,


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