FYI Blog

Avalon Weekly Dispatch 7.21.20

Dear friends,

Last week was special for us, as we marked Avalon’s 23rd anniversary. In 1997, Ann Herzog and I founded Avalon to meet a growing need for comprehensive direct response fundraising strategy. Of course, in 1997 “comprehensive” included only mail and phone! Fun fact: at the time we had a single AOL email address for the entire company. Can you imagine?

Speaking of digital, Avalon saw off-the-charts returns for June e-fundraising. In particular, membership months and urgent e-appeals performed well, in some cases out-earning 2019 by multiples. One client’s membership month landed at 469% of 2019 revenue! Taken together with strong second quarter revenue and steady direct mail acquisition, these results make me cautiously optimistic about how nonprofits will weather this challenging year.

That being said, I remain aware that a recession or worse will impact not only nonprofit organizations, but also the constituents they serve. This report from NPQ on the impact of the last recession brought this home for me in stark terms: “The nonprofit sector, as a collection of institutions, fared well, while its most vulnerable constituencies lost ground—and that should raise questions about this sector’s function and focus in society, even given that not all nonprofits work on issues of equity, justice, and democracy.”

In legislative notes, COO Kerri Kerr recently reported back two key issues from a recent ADRFCO meeting. First, Bob Tigner once again reassured fundraisers that the USPS is not running out of funds; it is simply in a political battle for stimulus relief. Its package business continues to boom, which helps offset lost revenue from other mail.

Second, donor-advised fund (DAF) banks have been encouraging stockholders to fund their DAF accounts. This has raised flags at the state level around capital gains tax evasion, resulting in proposed DAF regulation, particularly in California. For fundraisers in the trenches, be aware that DAF giving has increased significantly in 2020. Now is a good time to clarify how you handle DAF gifts, including acknowledgments. And don’t forget to promote DAF giving on your website.

Finally, I recently announced that Avalon will continue to work from home through January 1st. This allows some certainty for planning, supports stability during fall and year-end fundraising, and helps our parents of children to juggle school schedules. An internal survey helped to confirm that our distributed team is working efficiently; however, it also confirmed that we miss one another and you. We will continue to monitor the science and will reevaluate as the situation evolves and our clients make re-opening decisions.

Since all this change can feel heavy, I will close with a suggestion for some nature therapy. The comet NEOWISE will pass closest to Earth tomorrow (July 22nd) and will be visible overhead. It won’t be back for another 6,800 years, so don’t miss it!

Take care,