FYI Blog

7 Steps to Giving Day Success

Looking for a way to fundraise off an event or milestone your organization is celebrating? Launch a digital Giving Day campaign to promote your event and bring in revenue at the same time—without breaking the bank. Here are some tips for designing a compelling and effective digital Giving Day campaign: 1. Set your Giving Day […]

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November 14, 2017

Case Study: Multi-channel Marketing Campaign for JFK’s Centennial

JFK Giving Logo v3OBJECTIVE: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a world-class arts and culture venue and presidential memorial. As JFK’s 100th birthday approached, the Kennedy Center tasked Avalon with creating strategies to leverage the Centennial celebration and events to help fund the Center’s programs, by celebrating JFK’s legacy and enduring impact on the arts.

STRATEGY/AUDIENCE: Avalon designed a comprehensive Centennial campaign spanning all channels, including on-site, social media, email marketing, the KC website and unique landing page, media outreach, direct mail, and telemarketing.

Billed as “35 Days of Giving,” the campaign, which celebrated the 35th president, led up to the 100th birthday of President Kennedy (May 29). The centerpiece of the fundraising campaign was a series of nine compelling emails that Avalon designed—each one building in urgency and with its own case for support. All of the emails also touched on common themes, including The Kennedy Center’s legacy as the nation’s performing arts center and how it has helped to shape the arts across the country and JFK’s legacy and ideals often attributed to President Kennedy: Courage, Freedom, Justice, Service, and Gratitude. The emails also promoted a generous two-to-one matching gift challenge by a Kennedy Center donor. And, as each fundraising milestone was achieved, the Kennedy Center released video content featuring performers highlighting the centennial celebration ideals.

For further branding and a broad reach, we designed advertisements for an online ad campaign that The Kennedy Center managed, and on-site materials, including a campaign brochure, collateral materials for giveaways/prizes (including buttons and tote bags), a banner, and a Playbill insert. We also conducted a telemarketing campaign to reinstate lapsed members, and we added an insert on the Centennial to direct mail gift acknowledgements. The brochure was also mailed to $1,000 current members who the Center could not email and would not be attending any performances during the campaign. Finally, as something new for the Kennedy Center, we coordinated a Thunderclap in the week leading up to the Centennial, in which supporters agreed to let Thunderclap auto-share an update about the campaign, amplifying the reach and visibility of the campaign.

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June 6, 2017

#17NTC All Hands on Deck! Managing a Rapid Response Campaign

Avalon staff who attended the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in Washington last week reported that, as usual, the conference didn’t disappoint. New ideas and trends, networking, and collaboration were the order of the day. We had the opportunity to visit with old friends and colleagues, and share with and learn from new ones.

Avalon’s session, All Hands on Deck: Managing a Rapid Response Campaign, was well received, with lots of great questions and discussion. Check out the slides below for some of the insights from our presenters (and Avalon clients): Sylvia Moskovitz (Farm Sanctuary), Sarah Stallings (National Geographic Society), Jack Mumby (Common Cause), and Avalon Vice President Anne Senft.

All Hands on Deck! Managing a Rapid Response Campaign from Avalon Consulting

We’ve put together some key takeaways from the conference:

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March 14, 2017

DMAW Marketing AdVents—November 2015


Check out the latest DMAW Marketing AdVents – and don’t miss Jamie Natelson’s “President’s Perspective” on page 3.

Jamie took the helm as President of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington in January. Jamie has been an integral part of the Avalon team since 2007, with more than 20 years of industry experience as consultant and client. Jamie’s forward-looking, creative, and strategic approach will serve the DMAW well, as she leads the organization in 2015.


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October 28, 2015

Key Takeaways from DMAW Digital Day 2015

2015 Digital Day header(Photo Credit:

I recently attended DMAW’s annual Digital Day here in Washington—always a great opportunity to hear smart people talk about new technologies and products that can improve our marketing programs. Here are a few key takeaways:

    • List hygiene isn’t sexy, but it is super-important to the productivity of your email list. You need to have a protocol in place to systematically scrub your email list; for example, removing people who haven’t opened an email in 12 months. You can make a last-ditch effort to re-engage them first, with links and downloadable content. But if that doesn’t work, you will have to delete them. If you don’t, your un-engaged emails start to infect the good, responsive email list. One option for strengthening your email list is to use a double opt in. This ensures that you’re signing up and retaining good subscribers, to keep your email list clean and healthy.
    • Google Analytics is an easy way to track events and segments of your website visitors. Start by gathering information, then determine what actions you want to take. For example, you may want to target male donors with a higher ask, because they have a higher average gift. You can track form validation errors, capture which pages users are printing, see what users are highlighting, find out what forms they’re abandoning, track form timings, etc. This will help you find and eliminate the choke points on your donation forms. Google Analytics also lets you create dashboards showing metrics like total errors by browser, so you can pinpoint and address specific Safari issues, or total errors by screen resolution, so you can address issues on different devices.
    • Beaconfire RedEngine suggested running an A/A test to show variations that occur naturally in data and how tricky a proposition testing for statistical validity can be. If you don’t have enough traffic, you can boost your numbers by testing across thank-you pages and emails.
    • The Human Rights Campaign rewrote the book this year on grassroots organizing and communications with the marriage-equality victory. HRC’s Digital Day presentation was a reminder that every organization should be ready to capitalize on its moment in the spotlight—and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to do it. The key is to have fundamental best practices in place so you’re ready to deploy when the moment strikes. (For more on this, revisit my colleague TJ Hillinger’s blog on rapid-response campaigns.) One of the most effective things HRC did to make people feel involved in the marriage-equality movement was allowing them to easily highlight their Facebook profile photos with a red equal sign to show their support of marriage equality. HRC first introduced this campaign two years ago, and it still had legs this year as HRC’s online engagement ramped up to change hearts and minds.
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October 26, 2015

DMAW Marketing AdVents—August 2015


Check out the latest DMAW Marketing AdVents – and don’t miss Jamie Natelson’s “President’s Perspective” on page 3.

Jamie took the helm as President of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington in January. Jamie has been an integral part of the Avalon team since 2007, with more than 20 years of industry experience as consultant and client. Jamie’s forward-looking, creative, and strategic approach will serve the DMAW well, as she leads the organization in 2015.


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August 7, 2015

Tracking How Social Change Gains Traction

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Allison Porter - 2015 New Headshot

All the jubilation surrounding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges underlined how quickly hearts and minds changed on same-sex marriage as the issue gained traction across the country. Of course, the LGBT movement has been fighting for marriage equality for years, but once laws started passing state by state, change seemed to happen very quickly.

We came across these fascinating graphs in Bloomberg Business recently that track the time arcs of social change movements in the United States, including women’s suffrage, Prohibition, interracial marriage, abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and recreational marijuana.

It’s inspiring to consider the impact that so many nonprofit organizations and their supporters have made in bringing these issues to the forefront of debate—including the fundraisers and donors who fuel the grassroots operations. These days, social media takes a leading role alongside on-the-ground organizing in mobilizing advocates and activists, and adding voices to the national dialogue on a range of issues.

At Avalon, we’re honored to work with some of the most respected and effective organizations that are creating change at the local, state, and national levels—to make a difference on real quality-of-life issues like marriage equality.



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July 7, 2015

How to Fire Up Your Progressive Donors

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After much posturing and positioning, the 2016 presidential primary season just kicked off, with Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio entering the Republican field.

Hearing these candidates’ positions on issues that matter to progressives—like increasing the minimum wage, addressing climate change, and promoting equality—can be upsetting to your donors, because far-right positions are so contrary to progressive sensibilities.

The good news is that, when these candidates describe their platforms, they draw a sharp and focused contrast between their views and those of progressive candidates and nonprofits. Making sure that contrast stays top of mind for donors can boost progressive fundraising.

Progressive donors and voters are easily fired up by Cruz, Paul, and Rubio…other presidential hopefuls like Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Carly Fiorina…not to mention GOP talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly. As the candidates jockey for position, consider how you can make sure your donors hear exactly what they’re saying. Their words will light a fire under progressives who see where the GOP wants to lead this country.

So how should fundraisers respond to the parade of GOP candidates?

Use the power of the GOP’s platform and soapbox to your advantage. Draw the contrast and ignite the progressive base. The more GOP candidates explain their stances, the more they validate progressive cases for support.

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April 17, 2015

Freeing the Internet and Digital Predictions for 2015

staff placeholderHere’s what we’ve seen and heard online recently:

Writing in the Agitator, Tom Belford jumps into the conversation started by Jeff Brooks at Future Fundraising Now—where to focus your fundraising? “Or should I say, on whom?” writes Tom. Because there’s a lot of hand-wringing going on these days about how to best communicate with all the different generations of donors and potential donors. Tom and Jeff break it down for us: stop worrying about Millennials—wait a few years (decades?) and they’ll show up and give. Your focus should mainly be on Boomers. Jeff lays out how he would allocate fundraising focus:

§   40% to Silent Generation (born before 1946)

§   50% to Boomers (born 1946-1964)

§   8% to Gen Y (born 1965-1980)

§   2% to Millennials (born 1981-2000)

Back to Tom, who wonders if we should worry about generational fundraising at all, and instead continue our focus on multi-channel efforts. He sums it up this way: “I, for one, do try to keep abreast of media usage and media device data. And that tells me even if I want to chiefly focus on Boomers (and older), I had better figure out how to do so via digital media, to balance out and complement my workhorse direct mail.”

  • Facebook recently (and quietly) made a change to how much organic reach companies and organizations can get through the New Feed on Facebook, come January. In short, Facebook is trying to limit the blatantly promotional messages in News Feeds so people don’t have to sift through what FB considers to be so many unpaid ads, to get to the meat of the updates they want. On the surface, this sounds good, but it will also mean that once this new policing is in effect, it will be more difficult for organizations to organically spread the news about events, offers, and other engagement tools. A recent piece in Target Marketing pushed back at Facebook, called 2 Tips for How to Handle Facebook Killing Organic Reach. Bottom line: If your digital outreach and website are in good shape, how much should you rely on (or pay for) Facebook to engage your supporters?
  • Net neutrality is a hot topic in Washington these days—the concept that the Internet should remain free and accessible for everyone. In mid-November, Edward Wyatt reported in the New York Times on President Obama’s call for, “…the Federal Communications Commission… [to]…adopt the strictest rules possible to prevent broadband companies from blocking or intentionally slowing down legal content and from allowing content providers to pay for a fast lane to reach consumers.” We wholeheartedly agree with the president, and intend to stay tuned to see how this issue works its way through the FCC, Congress, and (inevitably) the courts—while keeping an eye out for ways we can make our voices heard in support of net neutrality.

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  • Writing in AllFacebook (the unofficial Facebook blog), David Cohen reports on how coordinating marketing emails with Facebook ads boosts email response. He writes, “A study in which a leading U.S. retailer targeted 565,000 email subscribers with both its regular emails and coordinated Facebook News Feeds ads found that subscribers who received both were 22 percent more likely to make purchases than those who only received emails.” This might be a fruitful test for your year-end digital plan, to see if these impressive numbers translate to nonprofit marketing/fundraising.
  • As a founding partner of #givingtuesday, Blackbaud recently announced the release of its free For Goodness Shake app. Madeline Turner writes at npEngage, “With For Goodness Shake, you can search for a cause you are passionate about and immediately view details about the organization, including their mission statement. Tap their location on a map to get directions instantly, or tap their phone number to call them! Visit their website to donate and support their cause. Use the history feature to see the organizations you recently viewed and visit them again.” Could be an interesting way for potential local donors and volunteers to find and get involved with less well-known organizations.


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December 11, 2014

Avoiding Landing Page Mishaps and Protecting Internet Freedom

Barb-PerellHere’s what we have seen and heard online this month:

First up, a wake-up call from blogger Frank Barry at npENGAGE called Donation form optimization stats you’ll wish you’d known yesterdayBarry’s got a great infographic with helpful reminders, and he also calls out a few glaring missteps that, apparently, most nonprofits are making – for example:

    • 72% of organizations put buttons, menus, or other elements on their landing pages to give potential donors the ability to “click-away” to other pages on their website.
    • Over 80% of landing pages are not optimized for mobile.

Clearly, lapses you can – and should – take care of right away! 

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September 23, 2014