Position: President of Avalon Consulting Group, a marketing company based in the District.
When she didn’t pass the Foreign Service exam, Allison Porter got job in public relations to earn a living while she prepared to retake the exam. She soon discovered a love for public relations and nonprofit fundraising. After co-founding a marketing company in 1997 with her former boss, she is now heading up the company.
What are some themes you see when looking back on your career?
I pride myself on being a good, strong manager. I’ve been lucky to be a manager for a long time. Even at a young company, it was part of my responsibility.
What is the secret?
Part of it is inspiring. How do you inspire people to do whatever it is that they need to do? As a manger you need to be part cheerleader and teacher. Part of what you do is you encourage people, build them up and provide critical and positive feedback.
What are some ways you inspire your team?
I give meaningful credit where credit is due. It’s important to do that on an ongoing business. People want to hear from their manager that they are doing a good job and that he or she recognizes what they are doing. Back when we were five people, it was easy for me to see what everyone was doing. Now I have to go look for it. I have to solicit feedback from people. I have to talk to people and see what they’re doing. When I see them do a great job in a meeting or produce a great report or I hear anecdotal feedback from a client, I’m quick to pass that along. If there’s a team that’s worked really hard to put on a presentation for a client, I make sure the whole company recognizes the work that they’ve put into it. I love when I get an email from a client commending a particular team. I love sending it around to the whole staff to say isn’t this wonderful? It makes everyone feel good.
You mentioned you have the right instincts as a fundraiser. How so?
Fundraising is one of those things that you can teach but you also just have to have a lot of instinct around it. Someone either has the instincts or not. I come form a family that is good at understanding the value of philanthropy. People should feel great about the donations that they’re making. It’s really easy to do that if you know how to do it right.
What is your fundraising style?
It’s a balance between communicating the emotional impact of an organization and evidence of what makes them successful or moments when they’ve been most successful. It’s providing the hard facts or proof that they are the best organization to be doing this work.
-Interview with Vanessa Small