FYI Blog

Avalon Weekly Dispatch 7.28.20

Dear friends,

Summer at Avalon involves fun activities like vacations and early Fridays, but it also means proactive preparations for our busiest season – fall and year-end fundraising. This year, we are also taking care to ensure that our plans integrate the unique challenges and opportunities of pandemic fundraising. I would love to hear how that is going in your organizations as well, and how Avalon can support you.

Along those lines, I recommend checking out the fantastic content from DMAW’s recent BridgeTalks virtual conference. I gave a talk on post-9/11 and 2008 recession data – the most significant takeaway being the importance of maintaining acquisition investments. Kudos to the Bridge 2020 leadership team for their pivot to a substantive alternative to the in-person conference we all love!

For more on the importance of acquisition, I recommend The Agitator’s recent post on donor acquisition in the pandemic. It’s imperative that we continue to have these conversations with our leadership about the importance of investing in new donor acquisition – even in these challenging times.  I particularly like Roger Craver’s straightforward approach to helping boards understand the critical concept of lifetime value. I couldn’t agree with this more: “The issue of ‘value,’ especially long-term value, in fundraising is grossly neglected. In my experience, many bad decisions and missed opportunities could be avoided if only fundraisers would explain and regularly review basic metrics like Lifetime Value and Retention Rates to the leaders of their organizations.” Both of these metrics underscore the long-term impact of acquiring new donors. I always like to equate the investment in new donors to buying an annuity for an organization. And I appreciated Roger Craver’s illustration of planting an apple tree and understanding that it can take three to six years to produce fruit.

On the tactical side, Avalon is talking about the idea that we spend a lot of time thinking about the carrier and letter in direct mail, but those pieces typically end up in the trash. Often, the reply form is the piece donors hold onto, so we will continue to make sure your reply device stands out on its own.  For digital, the equivalent to the mail reply is the donation page, which needs to capture donors in the moment. Here are some donation page optimization tips from NextAfter.

Also, we have learned from our partner Production Solutions that BRE processing has changed in a way that now requires nonprofits to pay postage for every return, whether the donor applies a first-class stamp or not. They tell us that some organizations may be able to submit stamped envelopes for a refund on the backend of the process, but the caging facility must handle this manually. This is something to verify with your caging company, and, if applicable, we will ensure you remove BRE teasers that are no longer relevant.

Finally, I have been thinking about the importance of a growth mindset not only for our fundraising work, but also for civic participation. As I continue the journey to educate myself around systemic racism and lead Avalon to a more robust response, I have found the New York Times’s Race/Related newsletter to be a good source. I am also learning more about policy avenues into the changes we want. As one example, the City of Boston just declared racism a public health emergency and announced that it will redirect 20% of its police overtime budget to addressing the city’s institutional racism. As the mayor said in the article, this is only the beginning and certainly not enough. But I am impressed by their leadership and efforts to find a place to start.

On a closing note, here are two light items that Avalon has been loving – some nonprofit haiku and this video, which is technically an Apple ad, but also a funny commentary about working from home.

Take care,