March 2, 2021

Telling stories

One of the most meaningful and important insights for life … and for fundraising, too.

First, a comment from author  Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“Everything is a tale. What we believe, what we know. What we remember, even what we dream. Everything is a story, a narrative, a sequence of events with characters communicating an emotional comment. We only accept as true what can be narrated.

This statement means so much to me…And to you, too?

Isn’t life a story? A series of stories? Isn’t every experience described via a story? How do you share your life experiences and moments in your job and narratives of your life moments?

Now think about fundraising. How do you invite gifts to your cause? You tell a story about the children you serve, the trees you save, the horror stories about injustice…

Think about the emotional content that connects people together. Honor and respect emotions … the feelings expressed through stories.

What story would a donor tell you about his/her/their gift … responding to that story about the charity you fundraise for? Think about the emotional content that connects to others and to each other.

Everything is a tale. And, a tale depends upon emotions.

Yes, emotions. Emotions are the key decision makers.

Carl Gustav Jung told us, “There can be no transforming…of apathy into movement without emotion.” And Canadian neurologist Donald Calne tells us that neuroscience and psychological research prove this “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leaders to action, while reason leads to conclusions.”




February 16, 2021

Opinion…Expertise…Nonprofits…For profits

Sometimes it feels like an endless fight…Ah tristesse…

You’re the fundraiser. You study and study and read and and … But your boss keeps telling you that you’re wrong.

That big donor (so often a wealthy white guy) wants to share some thoughts and give you advice about how to be a better CEO. “Well, Missy…”

And seeminly everyone is singing the same refrain: “If only you nonprofits would just behave more like the for profits. Then everything would be fine.”

Hmmmm….. Check out these resources.

  • “What Business Execs Don’t Know – But Should – About Nonprofits” Authors: Les Silverman and Lynn Taliento, Summer 2006. Stanford Social Innovation Review. 
  • Good to Great and the Social Sectors, a monograph by Jim Collins
  • Small Change: Why Business Won’t Change the world, Mike Edwards

Next step after your reading: Graciously anticipate that these peeps (board members, donors, business execs, etc.) are going to tell you (albeit graciously maybe) that you, the fundraiser or nonprofit exec, are wrong. Anticipate! Then pre-empt their comments by sharing research and articles and and and … So those non-experts just might stop themselves from intruding inappropriately.

By the way, check out my new resource on my website…focusing on the CEO’s role (job description) and the distinctions between governance and management. The document is called: “Just another resource tool…Focused on governance and management“.

Now get back to reading that article about what  business execs don’t know – but should know – about nonprofits.

February 7, 2021

A fundraising checklist

What if we developed a checklist for fundraising? Or a different checklist for different angles of fundraising?

Let’s see…what could the angles be? Hmmmm…

Donor newsletter checklist

First solicitation letter to qualified prospects

Direct mail solicitation letters

Personal solicitation checklist

And and and…

Oh, here’s an idea!! Checklist for what words we will never every use in our organization. Maybe the formal title is: Forbidden words!?

Checklist for what we will do every single year with donors … no matter how tired we are or the boss is or anyone else in the organization!!

I could go on and on and on…

I think I’ll start with the Forbidden Words Checklist. Or maybe it’s actually Forbidden Concepts and Words Checklist. So here goes:

  1. Evil concept: That some donors are more important than others.
  2. Forbidden words: Major donor. Major gift.
  3. Evil concept: Most important fundraising measure is “How much money did we raise?”
  4. Evil concept: Recognizing donors by the size of their gifts.
  5. Evil concept: Give – Get – Or get off!
  6. Evil concept: Recruiting board members because of socioconomic status (GIVE). Recruiting board members because of their connections (GET). The only value a board member has is giving and getting money. And gosh…Those are often white males. To hell with the value of diverse life experiences. So just get off!

Let’s see. Let’s try to focus, for a moment, on the Forbidden Words. Hmmm:

  1. Forbidden words: NOT using “you” enough.
  2. Forbidden words: Any word that’s informal. For example – Wow! Soliciting a gift is a formal business letter. Proper grammar. Proper verbiage. Etc. etc. (I’ll bet you’ve heard this often enough to bore you by now! Read more from Jeff Brooks and Tom Ahern. Share Jeff Brooks’ blog with your boss and your board members.

A final thought for this moment: Always remember, fundraising leaders must be gracious teachers. You’re teaching your boss and other staff and the board and board members.

A key job as a fundraiser is to anticipate and pre-empt. You anticipate that your boss or a board member(s) will not know this stuff. And that’s okay. They don’t have to know the body of knowledge and research and and in fundraising. That’s our job as fundraisers. But they do have to listen to us!!!

So what do you suggest? What other checklists do we need?

January 19, 2021

Just silly & stupid. So don’t read if you’re not in the mood!

I’m the eldest of 6 kids. My mom’s last pregnancy was twins – girl and boy. Geez!!!

About 15 years ago or so, the female twin started sending me hysterical birthday cards. Absolutely hysterical. Herare are some of my favorites:

Cover: Sketch of a snarky cat wearing a birthday hat. The cat is saying: “Don’t worry just because it’s your BIRTHDAY and I’m YOUNGER than you! Who cares? I guess what I’m trying to say is…”

Inside: “Nyah nyah nyah nyah  nyah.”

Cover: Snapshot, 2 women chatting over coffee. Once says “Where’s your birthday party at?” The other responds “Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.”

Inside: The 1st woman responds: “Where’s your birthday part at, bitch.” And the caption says :”Hope your birthday is a one big party.”

Cover: Sketch of a woman with big glasses, big earrings, high-heeled shoes. And she says, “I have just one word of advice as these birthdays keep pilin’ up on ya’, honey…”

Inside: “MOISTURIZE!!?

Cover: Sketch of a very grumpy cat with a birthday party hat on. “Happy Birthday. Or Whatever. Now make yourself useful and feed me.”

Inside: Just a handwritten note from my sister.

Cover: “Oooh, it’s your birthday.” (With a stack of pancakes + birthday calendar below.)

Inside: “Big deal. I’ve had plenty of birthdays.”

And a silly one from a silly friend:

Cover: Drawing of the Eiffel tower with a ribbon wrapped around it … and a little sign that says “Happy Birthday.” The the text: For your birthday, we bought you the Eiffel tower! Then, in your name, we donated it back to the French! They love you France now!

Inside: Vive You!


Okey dokey. No more playing! Get back to work!!!

Filed under: Just for fun

January 13, 2021

An idea I have

I’m reflecting on my 32 years as a full-time consultant. (On January 1, 2021, I started by 33rd year as a full-time consultant.)

Wow! How marvelous have these working years been!!!!

So I have this idea: I’ll compile lots of my writings over the years… And then post bunches of pages in a “compilation” book… Online.

The compilation will be posted on my website and announced in my newsyletter and on this, my blog.

Different articles and resources from different years…on different subjects…

I’ll probably even recruit someone to do a really cool cover.

But the document itself will be a downloadable PDF. And I’m thinking for free…As a gift to everyone I’ve learned from, worked with, whatever…

What do you think?


January 4, 2021

Sometimes only music helps

Sometimes I list a few fun items in my monthly newsyletter. You can subscribe to my monthly newsyletter, delivered monthly through MailChimp. That newsyletter is not archived on my website.

What you’re reading right now is my kinda weekly blog. This is Simone Uncensored. BEWARE!! Tons of Social Commentary in this Uncensored blog. Politics and lousy fundraising and poor nonprofit management and music and funny videos and silly stuff. This is a separate subscription.

And bouts of professionalism like Resources/Research and and and…

So today is music. Because sometimes only music helps. Sometimes the music makes me cry. And then I realize that I’m crying for the world and myself. Sometimes the music makes me should and dance and yell very loudly. (That’s when my business associate, life partner usually calls me from upstairs and (mostly) ungraciously asks me to stop all the noise. Even I don’t blame him for that ungraciousness.

How about ending 2020 with some sillinessFauci on a Couchi



1. I’ve shared Pentatonix with you in a previous newsyletter. And here’s more!!!

Amazing Grace

Bohemian Rhapsody

Imagine           And pay particular attention to the signs….

God Only Knows

And so many many many more from Pentatonix.

2. Re-discovering Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler

Telegraph Road

Sultans of Swing

And check out the 9 movie soundtracks that Mark has composed. Start with The Princess Bride!! And check out Willy DeVille’s other version, years later.

3. Discovering Billy Bragg — Thanks to Rob Ayles at Tufts University: Waiting for the Great Leap Forward

4. And the movies Notting Hill…Love Actually…Four Weddings and a Funeral… And on and on and on….


Just some stuff as we begin the new year…2021…


Filed under: Stuff

December 28, 2020

Ending this year and starting anew

Now is your chance and my chance. Learn!!! Learn more!!!!! All us fundraisers can do better! Embrace lifelong learning.

Let’s start this new year by learning and applying all the great research and resources that our beloved sector has and keeps developing!!!!



Resource Alliance: Located in the UK but offering workshops all over the world! You must must check out their offerings!!!

AFP-Boston Fundraising Conference: January 25-29, 2021. Jay Love, Adrian Sargeant, and myself are presenting the closing plenary.

AFP-RI Chapter: How about these speakers for 2021??!!  Ligia Peña. Planned giving… Roger Craver. Yes! Roger Craver!!!  Tom Ahern…  Tycely Williams…  Simone Joyaux… Check out the complete list of speakers early in January 2021. And, how about joining the AFP-RI Chapter’s Book Club?!! And check out the job postings, too.

Visit Harvey McKinnon Associates. These Canadian colleagues are LEADERS in monthly giving!!! And the USA is way behind in monthly giving. Read the books…For example, How to Create Lifelong Donors Through Monthly Giving.

Are you a Peter Drucker fan? He’s the management guru who “invented” organizational culture. So check out this book by Laurence Pagnoni, fundraiser: Fundraising 401 — Masterclasses in nonprofit fundraising that would make Peter Drucker proud. How can this not tempt you!!!

Boards and Asking Styles: A Roadmap to Success, by Brian Saber. Really helpful.


Okey dokey… Let’s get away from fundraising and move into organizational development…self-growth:

I’ve subscribed to the Harvard Business Review for decades. Now there’s this cool book, HBR’s 10 Must Reads: On Managing Yourself.

How about this one by Maria Konnikova: The Biggest Bluff – How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win.

Or this one…. NEW POWER: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World – and How to Make It Work for You. Authored by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms.

I’m counting on you to look up the book links. If you want to learn…If you care enough to learn…Go for it. Check these out. Thus far, I’ve read some but not yet all.

So do please join me on the journey!!!!!




Filed under: Resources / Research

December 7, 2020

Seth Godin is soooooooo wonderful

Always remember: Donors give through your organization to fulfill their own aspirations.

And Seth Godin describes that truth so well in one of his bestest ever blogs. Posted on April 14, 2013. And since that date, Seth’s brand blog – printed out of course – has been taped to the fill cabinets just behind my desk.

Surely I’ve told you about this most beautiful blog that Seth has written. And if I have previously, let me share it again. Definitely it’s time for all fundraisers – and their bosses and work colleagues and every single board member – to understand and embrace this.

= = = = = = = = = =

“The brand is a story. But it’s a story about you, not about the brand.”

Why prefer Coke over Pepsi or GE over Samsung or Ford over Chevy?

In markets that aren’t natural monopolies or where there are clear, agreed-upon metrics, how do we decide?

Yes, every brand has a story – that’s how it goes from being a logo and a name to a a brand. The story includes expectations and history and promises and social cues and emotions. The story makes us say “we love Google” or “love Harley”…but what do we really love?

We love ourselves.

We love the memory we have of how that brand made us feel once. We love that it reminds us of our mom, or growing up, or our first kiss. We support a charity or a soccer team or a perfume because it gives us a chance to love something about ourselves.

We can’t easily explain this, even to ourselves. We can’t easily acknolwedge the narcissism and the nostalgia that drives so many of the apprently rational decisions we make every day. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not at work.

More than ever, we express ourselves with what we buy and how we use what we buy. Extension of our personality, totems of our selves, reminders of who we are or would like to be.

Great markets don’t make stuff. They make meaning.

= = = = = = = = = =

So which organizations do you give through to fulfill your own aspirations?

What is the story you want to tell about yourself…share with others about yourself…confirm and reaffirm who you are?

Shall I tell you someday about my aspirations as a human being? And how my giving reflects those aspirations? And the story from Papa Georges, my dad? And Tom and I took dad’s statement and made it into our family slogan? (And by the way, the word “slogan” derives from slough-gairm, the Scottish Gaelic word for battle cry.



November 16, 2020

Fun and sweet and kinda strange things about fundraising

*** Have you see this video of Simon & Garfunkel’s SOUND OF SILENCE…

It’s the cuteness factor!! The animals… and even adults hugging animals. Enjoy! And then think about the biological cuteness factor in humans … And how you apply that to fundraising!!!

All fundraisers should be familiar with biology’s cuteness factor.


*** How about Jeff Brooks’ blog about oxytocin, the hormone that increases altruism, generosity, empathy and trust. AND!!! Decreases fear, anxiety, and stress.

Guess what? There’s another chemical that does the good things: alcohol.

Jeff isn’t suggesting anything icky or bad.

But science is telling us something…And Jeff reminds us: “Charitable giving is a deep. elemental act for human beings. It’s related to parental love, romantic love, and our ability to relate to others on many levels.”


*** Ah yes, philanthropy…. Love of humankind.

November 9, 2020

P.S. to Sunday’s blog “Gone So Long”

Special thanks to Wendy Weinstein who responded to my blog’s return with these 2 marvelous quotes to join those that I had posted. Wendy is the Director of Development at the Clay Art Center, Port Chester NY.

Thank you thank you, Wendy…For these glorious additions.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (From our beloved Martin Luther King, Jr.)

And from the brilliant author Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

All this is leadership and social justice. Fundraising and donor centrism and governance and management. And life, too.

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