Happy new year! I hope that everyone found meaningful ways to enjoy the December holidays, and rest. It was a low-key Christmas here, but I have begun to appreciate the beauty of a quieter schedule. And it is always a treat to spend time with Luca, Alex, and my canine children, Churchill and Cisco. Before I took some time off, I made one last trip into DC to check on our office. I miss it and look forward to returning when we can.
December 22nd sunset from the Avalon offices.
As we begin 2021, I am eager to move forward with purpose. Yet, if we learned anything last year, it’s that the best laid plans in January don’t always work out. And we certainly know that our most serious challenges persist. So, how should we incorporate that into our missions, visions, and strategies?
Faced with questions like this, I feel lucky to be a direct marketer – because we hold a similar tension all the time. As an industry, we understand that continuous, incremental improvement yields big results over time. We know that success comes when people both move towards innovation and understand what has already happened.
In that spirit, I want to use this first Avalon Dispatch of 2021 to share my top five learnings from 2020 – and begin to translate them for the road ahead.
First, we took a giant leap forward into technology integration for workflow and communication. This will continue to revolutionize how we work – and how nonprofits engage their donors. There is much debate around whether these changes bring us together or cause division and isolation. Nonprofits and mission-minded companies have an opportunity to harness the incredible capacity of communications technology for good. We should make the most of it.
Avalon’s annual holiday party, now a holiday Zoom happy hour!
Second, we learned more than ever that giving back provides solace and hope. Your donors show us time and again that they share your values and want to support your missions. In over 20 years of fundraising, last year was the most inspiring swell of collective philanthropy that I have ever witnessed. It has truly kept me going during this pandemic. I hope we all carry forward this moment of recognition that fundraising is an important and honorable profession.
Third, we responded to the call to action to address systemic racism in our world, our lives, and our organizations. At Avalon, we helped encourage individual learning journeys, created a task force, and found two amazing partners who are helping us navigate our process. As an industry, many organizations are engaging in parallel work – all of which, ultimately, is about living up to the ideals that we promote through our missions. It is good work, yet imperfect – but I am very proud of the effort. We must continue.
Fourth, we have been proactive about helping each other. We share tips, we provide space and grace for folks to adjust, and we have doubled down on taking care of people’s needs. Perhaps most importantly, we stepped up to manage shared stress and anxiety. Stress management becomes urgent during a crisis – but, the truth is, it is always critical. As we transition to a post-COVID and post-Trump “normal,” let’s embed these practices into what we build.
Finally, we learned that all disasters are not alike, and that monitoring real-time performance is the closest we get to a crystal ball. We started this pandemic with core lessons from post-9/11 and 2008-2009 recession fundraising, and we built on them as new information emerged. Now our playbook is more nuanced – and we know how to apply it dynamically. I am so proud of how quickly Avalon built the tools it needed to guide our clients into opportunity, while also protecting them from undue risk. This approach – and the powerful creative and strategic pivots it enabled – are part of our company’s DNA now. I am excited to build on this hard-won confidence and crisis-tested process to deliver even bigger impact for our clients.
Our new our new Avalon Analytics Digital Dashboard!
Those are my top five! I would love to hear what insights you are excited to incorporate this year, so hit reply if you feel like sharing. Whatever your goals, Avalon is – and I am – proud to support them.