FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 05.04.21

Dear friends, Last week I got to see my mom and stepfather and my favorite uncle and aunt for the first time in over a year. Cheers to my entire family being fully vaccinated. It was incredible to gather with them again. Speaking of which, Happy Mother’s Day to all the fundraising families out there! […]

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May 4, 2021

DMAW AdVents Feature: Testing Informed Delivery

Of all the shiny, new things in the world of direct marketing, the United States Postal Service’s Informed Delivery is one that shows real promise as a new way to make your mail stand out in the crowd.      

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February 18, 2020

Hot off the Presses…

Avalon President Allison Porter and writer Faith Brown Kerr have authored a chapter in the brand-new book: Sustainable Revenue for Museums: A Guide, edited by Samantha Chmelik. Dedicated to “…the volunteers, staff, and board members at museums, historic sites, zoos, aquaria, botanical gardens, and nature parks,” the guide presents a survey of the best practices being […]

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October 25, 2019

Fasten Your Seatbelts…

Let’s face it: we’re in for another roller coaster year. We know that. What we don’t know is what the high and low points will be; what will trigger or suppress giving; what the political landscape will look like in a year—or tomorrow. As an industry, we need to collaborate more than ever, sharing strategies […]

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January 31, 2018
October 4, 2017

Avalon’s Top 20 Best Practices

With Avalon hitting the 20-year mark, we’re reflecting on the tried-and-true fundraising and business best practices that have contributed to our success, some intuitive, some learned the hard way.

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July 6, 2017

20 Staff Summer Industry Reads

As you may have heard, Avalon is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year! We consider ourselves an open book when it comes to our company culture in the direct marketing industry. But as we kick off our anniversary festivities, we wanted to share 20 Things You Don’t Know About Avalon so you can get to know us even better.

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June 30, 2017

Case Study: Match vs. Challenge: Can You Guess the Winner?

 NPCA Matching Gift vs Challenge Collage v2

Challenge: At a time when many direct marketing fundraisers are looking for the next silver bullet, Avalon is constantly challenging ourselves to find ways to reliably boost appeal revenue and response for our clients. Recently, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) sought a way to ramp up an appeal without breaking the bank. We decided to test a tried-and-true strategy to show that sometimes the best approach is to re-use a tactic that’s been successful year after year.

Strategy: For NPCA’s spring 2016 appeal, we conducted a head-to-head test of a matching gift vs. a challenge gift.

For the match, the letter explained that “A generous group of NPCA supporters has offered to match contributions to our work, up to a total of $150,000.” We showed donors the math—how a gift of $50 would grow to $100, a $75 gift would become $150, etc.—and added urgency with a request to respond within 10 days.

For the challenge version, the letter read “A leading group of NPCA supporters has challenged us to raise the ambitious sum of $150,000 to invest in our work,” thus encouraging donors to “rise to the challenge” within 10 days—the classic thermometer approach.

Results: The results were tremendous—and very clear. The matching gift version raised 67% more revenue than the challenge, with a 57% higher response rate. These results echoed the success we’ve had with matching gift appeals for other Avalon clients.

While raising the funds for a match can be a challenge in itself, the promise of doubling the donor’s gift makes a tangible difference in response and revenue. Even though a matching gift strategy has been used for years, it remains a dependable means of engaging donors and improving results.

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July 20, 2016

The Numbers Don’t Lie


“We should just do this all online.”

“Major donors need to be protected from a direct mail program.”

We are mailing too much.”

“We need to target Millennials.”

Do any of these comments sound familiar?

We get it from all sides — questions rooted in good intentions, but lacking specific industry knowledge.

How can we, as development professionals, dispel these stubborn direct marketing fundraising myths that keep coming up, time and time again?

One word: data.

At Avalon, we’ve found that the analytical approach works best to counter these simplistic “solutions” to fundraising challenges. We dig deep into our clients’ data, using hard facts and sharing our expertise to help them understand what does and does not work.

To demonstrate how this analytical approach works, this month we’re launching a blog series called “Dispelling Myths” by TJ Hillinger, Avalon’s vice president and director of analytical services.

TJ will explain how data and evidence can correct misperceptions about how to achieve real success in fundraising. And she’ll give real-world examples of how to use data to rebut mistaken assertions and protect your program from amateur (albeit good-intentioned) meddling — one metric at a time.

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March 28, 2016