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Displaying Posts by Category: Avalon Insights

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the Avalon team’s discussion on significant challenges facing the direct marketing and fundraising industries now and over the next five to ten years, and how to address those challenges.

As with the direct marketing challenges, we had a spirited discussion at an Avalon staff meeting when I posed these same questions to my team regarding the online marketing and fundraising industries, and how we can tackle those challenges. We agree that now and in the future, no matter the direct marketing challenge, integrated marketing strategy supported by robust analytics will be part of the solution. But more specifically, here’s what we came up with:

Challenge: How can non-profits make sure their marketing emails stand out in increasingly cluttered inboxes?
Solution: Since all you have to stand out in email is your sender name and subject line—and possibly your preview pane message—the answer is multi-channel outreach. Layer on the messaging across communications channels. Emails may not be the best way to drive online giving, so put specific URLs in mailed appeals, follow up mail pieces with an email reminder, and use Google Ad Words to make sure your organization pops up first in a search.


Challenge: How can organizations realize the full potential of CRM and Big Data to develop stronger relationships with their donors and members?

Solution: We must fully leverage the myriad of data and technology available to us, to target stronger donors and forge more meaningful and lasting relationships, and ultimately create higher donor value and donor satisfaction. Modeling, targeting donors on past behavior, and developing segmentable personas or behavioral clusters, would enable deeper understanding of our donors and their motivations, while still allowing for the benefits and efficiencies of mass segmentation. Such rich, multi-dimensional targeting will leverage transactional donor data, behavior, demographics, psychographics, commercial data, member research, and more, providing a step up on traditional RFM. Online and offline targeting, plus more customized tone, messaging, creative, and offers will result in increased conversion rates and donor satisfaction.


Challenge: How can non-profits ensure email deliverability?

Solution: As competition in the inbox increases, it will become even more imperative that organizations employ smart segmentation, testing, and re-engagement strategies with their lists—and keep list hygiene a priority.

Today at CNN.com and tonight on CNN's AC360°, fundraising is taking some heat. The national media outlet is reporting on recent investigations from the Tampa Bay Times and Center for Investigative Reporting, which reveal outrageous ethical breaches in our industry. Closer to home, The Agitator’s Roger Craver issues a tough call to action for fundraisers—and Avalon is glad to see it. He writes:

We must ask questions and offer advice.

  • What additional roles should and can professional organizations like the DMA and AFP play?
  • Should we mount a campaign to arm the regulators with more teeth? To demand swifter, more meaningful enforcement?
  • Why do the truly clean and transparent charities, agencies and consultants stand by in silence as others steal their names and reputations

Why? Why? Why?

In these days of tight budgets and belt tightening, all nonprofits are looking for ways to squeeze every last dollar out of their house files. We’ve found that one of the most effective best practices is to dig deeply into your data to uncover trends and early warning signs that things might be off track.


Avalon VP of Analytics Rick Malchow created an ingenious tool, called Avalon VitalStatsTM (Key Performance Indicator Dashboard), to uncover donor-level trends. A valuable management tool, the Dashboard provides at-a-glance summaries of your program’s current performance metrics compared to prior years, enabling convenient program status monitoring and communications. The summaries include donor counts, giving statistics (overall and by donor type), donor retention rates, and program financial performance.

NTEN Conference Wrap-up 2013

Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:34

I had the opportunity to attend this year’s NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) Conference recently, along with my colleagues Barb Perell and Jamie Natelson. As usual, the Conference was a stimulating mix of best practices discussions, new ideas, and strategies for how nonprofits can take advantage of technology. Some highlights:

MailSmart Logistics is out with a terrific blog called How Can Mailers Prepare for Five Day USPS Mail Delivery? Since they posted this piece, some members of Congress have introduced a bill to keep six-day mail delivery, and as I write this, we don't know if this legislation will be successful. What we do know is that five-day deliver will affect all mailers (catalogs, magazines, nonprofits, etc.), so in the event that it becomes reality, we need to be prepared. The MailSmart blog describes how the volume of mail people receive each day will increase with five-day delivery, so we will all need to find a way to make our mail stand out even more. Here are MailSmart’s recommendations for getting ready for five-day delivery:

DMA Conference Highlights

Friday, 22 February 2013 16:49

I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Direct Marketing Association (DMA) annual conference recently with my colleagues Rick Malchow and Jackie Biancolli. Some of the key takeaways for us:

What Motivates Arts Donors to Give?

Friday, 22 February 2013 15:19

One of the puzzles that keeps us all guessing in the field of nonprofit fundraising is what it is that motivates donors to give. Long or short letter? Benefits? Envelope teasers? Institutional messaging? Unfortunately, as we all know, the only way to find out is through consistent, ongoing testing.


Any marketer who’s tried guessing which test will outperform the control knows that in reality, no one can say every time what motivates donors. Not even donors! But we can make some educated guesses, especially when it comes to arts donors.

As usual, the commercial world is probably a few years ahead of the non-profit world. The myriad of consumer and psychographic data collected from the Internet, catalogs, and retail stores — Big Data —may or may not prove invaluable to nonprofits. Some of the pioneer donor co-ops are extracting effective models from this mound of raw data (see Jeff Mello’s FYI piece about co-ops and compiled lists), but the fact remains that in the nonprofit arena, there is no variable more predictive than the fact that an individual has recently given a philanthropic gift.

Online Fundraising Year-end Review

Tuesday, 15 January 2013 10:39

As we continue to draw conclusions from Avalon clients’ online fundraising year-end results, here are some overall impressions:

In Defense of Telemarketing

Wednesday, 19 September 2012 14:35

From the recent Bloomberg article, to the feature on the Today Show to the cover of the Washington Post Business section, it’s clear that telemarketing is under attack – more specifically, the ethics of telemarketing fees – and this issue is not going away.

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