What’s going on at Avalon and in the world of direct marketing fundraising?
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After a steep decline in October, the Consumer Confidence Index dropped yet again in November – now standing at 70.4 (1985=100), down from 72.4 in October. The Present Situation Index edged down to 72.0 from 72.6. The Expectations Index declined to 69.3 from 72.2 last month.– now standing at 79.7 (1985=100), down from 81.8 in August.
According to Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board: “Consumer confidence declined moderately in November after sharply declining in October. Sentiment regarding current conditions was mixed, with consumers saying the job market had strengthened, while economic conditions had slowed. However, these sentiments did not carry over into the short-term outlook. When looking ahead six months, consumers expressed greater concern about future job and earning prospects, but remain neutral about economic conditions. All in all, with such uncertainty prevailing, this could be a challenging holiday season for retailers.”
Our clients have some wonderful gift-giving opportunities that you will want to check out this holiday season! Here are just a few:
Proceeds from purchases made in Farm Sanctuary's shop directly support its lifesaving work on behalf of farm animals.
Be sure to check out all of the holiday performances happening at the Kennedy Center right now, as well as gifts in the Center’s online store for the holiday season.
Give the Earth the gift of trees! Celebrate Christmas, a birthday, anniversary, or other special event for a friend or family member… every dollar you donate will plant a tree in honor of that special person. In addition, Recipients will receive a certificate stating the number of trees planted in their name.
Visit the Museum’s annual Art Market Saturday, December 7, and Sunday, December 8, from 10:00 am - 5:30 pm to purchase traditional and contemporary works by some of the finest Native artists. Member preview day takes place on Friday, December 6, 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm.
Don’t miss the Museum’s Holiday Gift Market Monday, December 2 - Wednesday, December 4 in the Museum’s Great Hall for unique items and gifts made by women artists and designers. Members receive double discounts (20%)!
The Agitator’s Tom Belford is bullish on online charity videos in his recent blog: Charity Videos Get Viewed.
Although he admits there’s some skepticism in the market, Belford believes videos are another cultivation tool that will actually interest your supporters. He cites a study from Videology with two findings that caught my eye:
I agree with Belford that nonprofits should try this engaging cultivation tool – assuming you can inexpensively put together a video that tells your story, describes your mission, and/or reminds donors what their support has accomplished, then give it a test.
Here are three terrific examples of compelling nonprofit videos I’ve come across lately:
My last post on ethics, Fundraising’s Dark Side and What To Do About It, was written at the height of the 50 Worst Charities scandal. I was—and still am—concerned about the hard look in the mirror that both nonprofits and nonprofit service providers must take. Are we doing everything we can to lead ethical organizations? Are we training our newest team members on industry ethics? Are we holding our seasoned veterans accountable? Only then can we respond meaningfully to the legitimate concerns raised by the 50 Worst Charities investigation.
At Avalon, we have spent most of 2013 taking the hard look described above. This was fortuitously precipitated by our nomination for the National Capital Business Ethics Award (NCBEA). Participation required both reflection on and documentation of our commitment to ethics from a number of angles. To get an idea, consider this list of the topics covered in our application and interviews: executive commitment, corporate policies, training programs, employee satisfaction, community involvement, and, of course, specific examples of ethical decision making.
And, drumroll please…WE WON! Avalon was awarded the NCBEA’s 2013 ethics award in the small business category. The awards ceremony was a fun and inspiring event spent in conversation with other professionals who, like us, believe that good ethics make good business. Allison Porter and I were in attendance, and, as I’m sure you can imagine, it was a huge thrill to hear the judges call Avalon to the podium.
As fun as that evening was, the staff meeting that followed was even better. We shared a video of the judges’ remarks, which not only complimented Avalon’s managerial ethic, but also praised the entire Avalon staff for understanding and embracing it. Of course, we already knew that the Avalon team is comprised of honest and earnest fundraisers who are committed to our clients’ best interests. But we welcome the affirmation and the opportunity to say THANK YOU to each of them for their part in the honor.
It’s the time of year when Americans count their blessings and gather together to give thanks. And in the world of nonprofit fundraising, let’s focus on just how incredibly powerful that small gesture of saying “thank you” is.
Perhaps the ultimate cultivation device, a simple “thank you” conveys appreciation for the donor’s thoughtfulness and financial contribution, but also encourages loyalty, further donations, and other ongoing involvement with your organization.
Besides being the right thing to do, systematically thanking donors also improves donor retention and future giving. Just remember that direct mail is not your only option. One study suggests that a thank you call to a new donor can significantly increase that donor’s subsequent giving – a good investment in professional telemarketing, or a productive use of volunteers’ time.
You can also train telemarketers who are calling on a specific appeal, to pivot from a refusal to a sincere thank you, making mention of the donor’s previous contributions. You can turn the point of refusal into a positive conversation just by thanking the donor and recognizing his or her past support. That positive contact is what’s important.
Similarly, you can make any non-donation auto-responders you use online more meaningful. Whether thanking the supporter for joining your email list, submitting an idea/opinion, or taking another action, a heartfelt thank you in these cases is yet another opportunity to provide a positive touch point with your organization.
Some reminders on how to thank your donors:
Ready for 2014? Mike Haskell at SourceLink.com surveyed 10 professionals for their takes on where marketing will go in 2014 – he’ll devote a blog post to each in the coming weeks. For a preview, visit SourceLink, but in the meantime, below are some highlights we think are relevant to the nonprofit fundraising market:
• Few nonprofit organizations were as visible and effective during the recent partial government shutdown as the National Parks Conservation Association. NPCA mobilized its supporters, wrote Op-Eds, and informed the public about the serious effects of the purely political shutdown: 21,000 national park staff were furloughed, and local communities lost as much as $30 million every day the parks were closed. The 401 national parks were already deeply underfunded before the shutdown, so now that they’ve reopened, NPCA is turning its attention back to pushing Congress to appropriate more funds for national parks. For more information, visit NPCA’s media center on its website.
• We’re thrilled to report that the League of Women Voters’ donor/supporter file is at its highest count since 1992! This is great news, especially since so many voters are discouraged about government gridlock, dissatisfied with the job Congress is doing, and disgusted by the spate of voter suppression laws recently enacted. Clearly, Americans trust the League to help improve the situation! The League reached this impressive milestone by bucking the trend of declining supporters through its use of best practices and continuing its donor acquisition investment during challenging times.
• The American Film Institute is gearing up for its spectacular AFI Fest in Hollywood from November 7-14. Visit AFI’s website to learn more about the Festival and to watch trailers from movies that will be screened. Tickets and airfare to this annual and popular event were given away as part of AFI’s Red Carpet giveaway, giving one special member a trip to remember!
• With Thanksgiving fast approaching, Farm Sanctuary is once again marking the holiday with its Celebration for the Turkeys. Visit Farm Sanctuary for information on this and FS’s other unique November events. We’d also like to give a shout out to Farm Sanctuary for winning Special Mention honors in Fundraising Success Magazine’s 2013 Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence.
• Looking for a fun, cultural lunch hour in Washington, DC? Throughout the fall, the National Museum of Women in the Arts holds brief, free gallery talks at lunchtime. Next up on November 18: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Visit NMWA.org for more information.
• The National Women’s Health Network holds its 6th-annual Barbara Seaman Awards for Activism in Women's Health dinner on November 20 in Washington, DC. This year, NWHN honors Nancy Boothe, who works on the front lines of women’s health care, and political analyst and writer Zerlina Maxwell. For more details, go to: http://nwhn.org/event2013
In the words of Robert S. Tigner, General Counsel for the Association of Direct Response Fundraising Counsel (ADRFCO): The struggle continues. Tigner issued an action alert recently, reminding us that the tax deduction for charitable gifts is once again on Congress’s budget chopping block, and calling on nonprofits to lobby their members of Congress, in person, on November 20.
Let’s all show how our industry can make a difference for our donors, by participating in this event and making our voices heard.
The following is Tigner’s rundown of the steps we all must take to ensure that our donors continue to receive tax deductions for their charitable giving – and where to get more information about this effort.
You can help by inviting your nonprofit clients to join the Charitable Giving Coalition effort [on November 20]. Many of the organizations you belong to or work with are active participants, including ADRFCO, DMANF, AFP, and NCDC to name a few (see www.protectgiving.org for more info).
The immediate business: the Coalition’s second annual “Protect Giving Day” is an all-hands effort to bring the flesh-and-blood nonprofit world en masse into congressional offices on November 20th. So far, representatives of over 100 organizations have agreed to participate. The Coalition wants 100 more in order to make the largest impact. ADRFCO strongly encourages you to help make this happen.
Here’s what you can do: borrow the attached invitation, create your own brief, encouraging covering email, and send ASAP to all your nonprofit clients.
The dreaded Zombie Budget is a lazy, lifeless estimate that plods along, never challenging cost efficiencies and eating up your resources – and your brain – causing you to retreat in panic over rising production costs!
But don’t be spooked – there are concrete steps you can take to bring your budget back from the dead – even if it’s been submitted already – and give it a tune up so that it won’t walk the earth in limbo, sucking the life out of your fundraising program. Focus on the parts of your budget that you can control. Like your per-piece cost. At Avalon, we’ve got some no-brainer ideas for keeping costs low, and scary zombies away.
The key is to plan ahead with these tried-and-true strategies – and you’ll notice that we always recommend testing how these ideas will work on a segment of your file before rolling out any changes:
• Test using less color for more impact. While four-color might seem to attract more attention, test using two-color monotones instead for a less expensive option. You’ll still highlight your main points, but at a much lower cost.
• Here’s a great plan-ahead idea. Test using the same standard-sized envelope across the board for all of your mailings – if the test is successful, with a little planning, you can gang print all of your envelopes at once. Larger print run, lower per-piece cost.
• See if you can reduce the personalization and resulting matching costs by testing a drop-cut format instead of a separate reply form, and test a window carrier instead of a closed-face envelope.
• Design appeals and acquisition creative at the same time, to take advantage of similar specs for gang printing, and to reduce creative fees by developing alternate versions instead of brand-new packages each time.
• Paper costs rise and fall, and your production company knows what’s cheapest right now. So consult with them on which paper stocks are most easily available – and therefore less expensive.
• Yes, postage is a fixed cost, but if you commingle whenever possible, (use a mail house that can sort your mail along with other clients’ mail, to reach quantities that can be sorted by SCF and BMC) you’ll qualify for more postage discounts.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Avalon Wins the 2013 National Capital Business Ethics Award
Washington, DC - (October 25, 2013) – We are proud to announce that the Avalon Consulting Group, Inc. is winner of the 2013 National Capital Business Ethics Award in the small business category. The award recognizes an organization that exemplifies a strong commitment to business excellence and to the highest standards of civic and social responsibility, integrity and ethical conduct.
Ethics are integral to Avalon's mission: connecting great people with great causes. We work exclusively with clients and campaigns whose missions are compatible with our commitment to progressive change—because making a difference and creating positive social change are the reasons we got into this business in the first place. Accordingly, we view our clients' long-term thriving as our top priority.
In addition, Avalon adheres to the codes outlined by our industry associations, we support our clients in the implementation of ethical fundraising, and we have adopted an environmental policy to address the inevitable tension between direct marketing and environmental stewardship. Within our company, we are committed to fair compensation, generous benefits and a positive work environment for our employees.
We are honored to receive this prestigious award, and we pledge Avalon's continued commitment to ethical consulting, ethical fundraising and ethical management.