FYI Blog

Three Trends to Watch in Women’s Philanthropy

This is part two in a two-part series on women in philanthropy. Read part one here. Frequently, charitable giving by women, directly or through women’s funds, focuses on improving the quality of life and opportunity for girls and women. Women have long understood that the key to building and raising up communities is through empowering […]

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April 12, 2021

COVID-19 Response and Resources

  In this unprecedented time, Avalon is here.   Here for our staff.   Our first priority is the safety of Avalon staff and clients. On March 2nd Avalon ceased company travel, and on March 12th we shifted fully to remote work. We have been telecommuter-friendly for 20+ years, which helped make this a seamless […]

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January 27, 2021

Do you know the golden rule of ethical fundraising – and why it matters?

Avalon was recently surprised to learn that one of the digital partners for a client based their fees on a percentage of revenue raised for a client. I’ll start by saying I believe that leading a culture of principled decision-makers is more ethically robust than micromanaging a team of rule-followers. However, the “golden rule” for […]

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September 25, 2019

Perception vs. Reality in List Rentals

List Bazaar - DMAW 2014An important topic at this year’s DMAW List Bazaar was how to bring list industry guidelines and disclosure in line with actual practice… Despite setting Standards of Conduct for Non-Profit List Rentals & Exchanges back in 2008, the language in List Rental Agreements (LRAs) has not kept up with today’s commonly used industry practices. (Photo: DMAW website:

For instance, most LRAs expressly forbid the data from being transferred to a third party, or the retention of any of that list information by any party. In reality, lists are often sent to third party vendors for the purpose of additional demographic overlays or modeling. And the use of finder files and match-back files requires the data to be kept beyond the initial usage of the file – not to mention the fact that most merge/purge vendors often retain data files indefinitely. These practices make donor data more vulnerable – especially when written agreements involving data security are not part of the transaction.

Right now, penalties for violation of these terms are large – not to mention the damage and lack of trust incurred if your donors’ personal information made it into the wrong hands. So rather than risk non-compliance, it’s time for LRAs and disclosure language to catch up with actual practices. These techniques are critically important and valuable tools for nonprofits and should be encouraged with the right disclosure and security.

The DMAW is planning on putting together an industry group to update the standards to reflect current practices. This group will consist of all the people who use lists: list brokers, list managers, non-profit organizations, agencies, merge purge vendors, modeling/data vendors, and direct marketing consultants.

Avalon will be an eager participant in the DMAW’s process, and we are well in front of this issue internally – proactively ensuring that our clients aren’t over-exposed under the old guidelines and disclosure language. 

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July 15, 2014

And the Oscar Goes To…

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.


Avalon 2 and co-chairsAnd, 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.

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November 14, 2013

Giving Back at Avalon

Many of you probably remember the anxiety and excitement you felt when you graduated from college and realized you had to search for your first job. And, many of you were probably like me, unsure of what was out there for you and if you would be able to find that “perfect” job that would satisfy your career aspirations or at least steer you in the right direction. Your education, outside volunteer work, and internship experience, along with the hard work that came with them, were supposed to make it easy for you to choose the right setting and career path. 


But what if your major or your education didn’t leave you clear-headed about what you wanted to do for the rest of your life? What if you just weren’t sure if the path you were supposed to take was even plausible?


I debated this when I first graduated from the University of Georgia. After considering law school, I decided to explore the opportunities D.C. offered. Long story short, I got lucky. After a few bumps along the way, I landed my job at Avalon and have watched my goals and aspirations take shape as a passion for marketing.


This is the story I told to Give Back(packing), an organization started by Eli Harris to give college students and recent graduates a unique professional development opportunity. Participants visit four different U.S. cities to interact with professionals from different fields. In May, Avalon hosted a group of 12 Give Back(packing) participants, who came to learn about our agency and industry.


Four Avalon staff members gave presentations on various aspects of our business. Allison Porter spoke on the State of Non-Profit Membership Fundraising (below photo), Jackie Biancolli spoke on Production, Bill Tucker spoke on the E-fundraising, and Margot O’ Leary spoke on Budgets. We followed the presentations with a pizza lunch, at which Avalon staff met with participants individually, answering questions about our professional experiences.


Allison speaking at Give Back


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June 25, 2013

Fundraising’s Dark Side and What to Do About It

Today at 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?

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June 13, 2013

Avalon Gives Back: Turning the Page

Recently, Avalon staffers had the opportunity to do some spring cleaning while making a real difference in our community. Avalon’s office building in downtown Washington, D.C. was challenged to hold a used-book drive by the terrific local nonprofit Turning the Page. Turning the Page’s mission is to link D.C. public schools, families and our community so that, together, we can ensure D.C. students receive valuable educational resources and a high-quality public education.


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April 4, 2013

In Defense of Telemarketing

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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September 19, 2012

Avalon Gives Back

As a new school year began, Avalon and members of the staff were proud to support our office building’s Back to School Drive to benefit displaced kids who were victims of abuse or witnesses to violence. As part of this campaign, we delivered 5 backpacks filled with binders, calculators, notebooks, highlighters, pencils, pens, folders, and other school supplies.

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September 14, 2012