May 3, 2021

A values story

One value statement from the Nordstrom store: “Service to the customer above all else.”

I bought shoes there. Tried them on and all seemed fine. But the first day I wore them out in the world … oops … hurt my feet.

I told a friend how I had just wasted the money, darn it all. And I was kinda criticizing my mistake. My friend told me to return the shoes. “But I can’t return shoes that I’ve already worn,” I responded. And my friend responded: “At Nordstrom’s you can.”

So I took the shoes back. And the sales person said, “Of course, we’ll take the shoes back. I’m so sorry that the shoes didn’t work.” The sales person didn’t have to go to her boss to see if I could return them. The sales person just took them back.

A Nordstrom story I heard…that is sooooooo amazing! That same value: “Service to the customer above all else.”

A woman goes to the make-up counter. She’s looking for something specific. She and the sales guy keep looking and looking and just can’t find what she wants. She’s not angry or anything. She plans to come back another time.

Out the front door she goes. Walking down the street. And she hears someone behind her calling out: “Wait Miss. Wait!” She turns and there’s the make-up sales guy running towards her, waving. “I found it,” he says. Big smile.

He gives her the make-up thing. Says, “Have a good day!” And turns around and walks back to Nordstrom’s. (And if you’re curious… NO! he didn’t ask for the money.)

What do you call all that? I think of respect and consideration. Going that proverbial “extra mile”. Just plain nice and thoughtful.

I’m not naive. I know that’s “good business”. But since when is good service, respect, consideration bad?

You and I can distinguish between genuine and fake. I’m aiming for genuine and appreciate genuine.


April 26, 2021

What do all the words mean?

Years ago, I wrote a regular column for the Nonprofit Quarterly. And I published some of my greatest articles in NPQ, too.

I’m sharing my column of March 18, 2010 here today. Wow. 11 years ago. I think the big question is how much has changed since then?

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THE COLUMN: What do all the words mean?

Robert L. Payton, the first professor of philanthropics in the U.S., defined philanthropy as voluntary action for the common good. I love that definition. People voluntarily give their time and / or their money. Voluntarily. Not because they were pressured by a friend or were exchanging favors with a business associate. Or fulfilling some obligation.

Philanthropy is voluntary action for the common good. People give time and money to make things better in their communities.

Years ago I was presenting in Mexico City. I heard Mexican philanthropist Don Manuel Arango Arias talk about philanthropy as “freeing the talents of the citizenry.” He was so eloquent.

Fundraising guru Hank Rosso described fundraising as the servant of philanthropy. I like that servant concept. Reminds me of the servant-leader philosophy.

Whether you use the term fund development or fundraising (I prefer fund development; it’s broader than fundraising.), the process is essential. We know that most people give because they are asked. (Just make sure you’re asking the right people – those who are interested!) Fund development is the partner, the servant to philanthropy. Philanthropy is all about dreaming. Through philanthropy, we change lives and we change communities. We change the world.

“I love philanthropy because it allows me to substitute realities. Philanthropy is the motor that drives social change.” So said Lee Kaiser, Ph.D., founder and president of Kaiser Consulting. I practically hugged him for that!

Philanthropy represents the interests and feelings of donors. Philanthropy can be a transformational act for donors, nonprofits, and the communities served by both. (Read more about transformational acts in High Impact Philanthropy: How Donors, Boards, and Nonprofit Organizations Can Transform Communities by Kay Sprinkel Grace and Alan L. Wendroff.)

So here’s how I explain fund development: Philanthropy means voluntary action for the common good. Fund development is the essential partner of philanthropy. Fund development makes philanthropy possible by bringing together a particular cause and donors and prospects that are willing invest in the cause. The goal is to acquire donors of time and money who stay with the charity over time. This is accomplished through the process of relationship building. With the donor at the center, the fund development process nurtures loyalty and lifetime value, thus facilitating philanthropy. You know if your relationship building works because your retention rates rise and the lifetime value of your donors and volunteers increases.

And here’s another version: Philanthropy is voluntary action for the common good. The nonprofit / NGO structure is the mechanism that frees the talent of people by organizing caring acts. And fund development best serves philanthropy by providing a socially just process to generate gifts to support the common good.

How about a conversation about meanings with your staff colleagues and with your board members? I’ll bet their words will be gentle and inspiring when you ask them to define “philanthropy.” I suspect that their descriptions of “fund development” will not be particularly positive or inspiring.

How you can you change that? Why would you want to do so?

= = = = = = = = = = = = END OF THIS 2010 ARTICLE. Seems like it still adds value to our sector and our work. = = = = = = = = = = = == = = =

April 19, 2021

Storytelling…AND! Story listening

LOTS OF ONLINE CHATTER ABOUT STORYTELLING. And I want to talk about story listening.

CHECK OUT THESE QUESTIONS TO ASK DONORS.  Imagine reaching out and inviting your donors to share their stories.

Remember that donors give through a particular charity to fulfill their own personal aspirations: Perhaps the donor wants to ensure equal voting rights. Another donor wants to save the abused children or starving puppies. Other donors fight for reproductive justice. Others want to stop the planet’s destruction. Still others fight for the right to choose one’s own sexual identity. A personal choice. A personal desire where to donate time, money…

And let’s remember: Many (most?) donors may well be interested in many many issues. But donors may well have a priority or priorities. Donors choose.

PLEASE! Let’s ask the donor to share his/her/their story. It’s a conversation… We fundraisers have the honor and joy to invite that conversation – and to listen to beautiful personal answers.

CONSIDER THESE QUESTIONS. WHAT MIGHT YOU ADD? And I’ll bet we’ll identify other questions based on what our donors are saying. 

  1. Why did you first give to our organization? (I remember the U.K. legacy consultant Richard Radcliffe recommending this question): Why did you first give to our organization?
  2. What interests you most about our organization? Why?
  3. What are the most critical results you expect our organization to produce?
  4. Why  does this cause matter to you?
  5. If you had 5 minutes with our CEO, what would you say and why? (A suggestion from some AFP Calgary colleagues at a conference.)

NOW LET’S PROBE DEEPER: Find out the donor values and beliefs. Get in touch with donor feelings. (Because we fundraisers must remember: Emotions trigger human decisions. That neuroscience research tells us so.)

  1. Tell me about your life. Would you share with me your life’s enduring moments?
  2. What are you most passionate about? Why?
  3. If you had a family slogan, what would it be?
  4. How would you describe your own personal mission…purpose?
  5. If you could change the world, what would you do?
  6. What actions do you think would best cause the change you envision?
  7. What changes do you believe would make the world a better place?
  8. How do you want to be remembered? (And this doesn’t refer to the 10-foot high sign about you the great and marvelous donor! I’ve heard donors say: I want to be remembered as a caring mother. I want to be remembered as a social justice activist. I want to be remembered…)
  9. What would you like to pass on to future generations?
  10. How do you feel when you make a charitable gift – of time or money or…
  11. What makes you angry and sad?
  12. What makes you hopeful and happy?

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Think carefully about which question and when and even if… Think about the comfort level of the donor. This is not an inquiry. This is our attempt, as the philanthropic sector, to hear and understand the stories of our donors.

CAN YOU IMAGINE: Collecting the stories from many many donors (Remember! Donors of time not not just money!) Typing up the story and giving it back to the donor. Perhaps the donor will share that interview with family or friends. Perhaps the donor will give you permission to tell part of that story in your donor newsletter. Perhaps you’ll invite the donor to tell part of his/her/their story at a gathering. And. Or.


April 12, 2021

Let’s say it was 24 hours before you were born

From John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, 1971…as told by Warren Buffet and modified by Simone Joyaux

Let’s say it was 24 hours before you were born, and a genie appeared and said: “What I’m going to do is let you set the rules of the society into which you will be born. You can set the economic rules and the social rules and whatever rules you set will apply during your lifetime and your children’s lifetimes and even the lifetimes of your grandchildren.”

And you’ll say, “Well, that’s great. I get to define what kind of world I want to live in.” But you’re smart, too. You ask: “What’s the catch?”

And the genie says, “Here’s the catch. You don’t know if you’re going to be born poor or rich, of color or white, female or male or some other sexual identity.”

Now what rules do you want?

April 5, 2021

Philanthropy: voluntary action for the common good

I write Simone Uncensored issues whenever the spirit moves me. And then I schedule them for future posting – mostly weekly.

I wrote this issue in February 2021. I was thinking about the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Women’s Fund of RI, which I founded with the Rhode Island Foundation.

Part of my inspiration came from one of my favorite books: Robin Hood Was Right – A Guide to Giving Your Money for Social ChangeAuthored by Chuck Collins, Pam Rogers, Joan P. Garner. And the most marvelous Preface by Alfre Woodard. Published in 2000.

So musing about social change and giving time and money and heart and spirit – and fighting! – for social change.

I began with definitions of “philanthropy”.

• Philanthropy … philanthropia (Greek) … love of humankind

But the definition that resonates more with me: voluntary action for the common good. Drs. Robert Payton, Dr. Michael Moody and Dr. Elizabeth Lynn. Bob was the first professor of philanthropics in the USA. See this article from the Lilly Family Schoo of Philanthropy.

Consider this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”

One comment from Woodard “Charity is good, but supporting and creating social change are about power. Power can infuse lives with purpose and dignity. That opens up the possibility of joy. The life of the giver, as well as that of the receiver, is transformed…No matter who we are, no matter how much money we have, whatever our color, gender, age, religion, or language – we can bring change to the world around us. We can open our minds, roll up our sleeves, and reach out our hands.”

And Alfre reminds us of one more thing: “Giving isn’t a posture reserved for the rich or powerful. It is the responsibility and privilege of every man, woman, and child to participate in the task of building more just and human societies.”

Please yes! Think about giving your money for social change!!!

And one final comment – from Teddy Roosevelt: “Of all forms of tyranny, the least attractive and most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth.”


April 1, 2021

A postcard in my office

A postcard in my office

From le Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles – It’s purpose statement: Comprendre pour agir. (Understand in order to act.)

Ton christ est juif                                                               Your christ is Jewish.

Ta voiture est japonaise                                                    Your car is Japonese.

Ton couscous est algérien                                                Your couscous is Algerian.

Ton café est brésilien                                                        Your coffee is Brazilian.

Ton chianti est italien                                                       Your chianti is Italian.

Et tu reproches à ton voisin d’être un étranger          And you blame your neighbor for being a stranger…a foreigner…different.

Filed under: Social Commentary

March 24, 2021

Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma

My first book, co-authored with Tom Ahern…Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships, published in 2008. The final special chapter, is called “CODA: Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma.”

Later, I made this book chapter into a stand-alone publication…a document in the Learning Center in this website. A document included in workshops and courses that I teach…over and over.

I started that chapter with 3 quotations…I often use quotations in my business books … quotes from various sources, even romance novels and sci fi fantasy!

Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma…my manifesto…starts with 3 quotations:

• One from Alfre Woodard in the special book Robin Hood Was Right. (Today her reference to “every man, woman, and child” might be altered to better reflect sexual identity.)

• The other from Howard Zinn – You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.

• And as Pope John XXIII said, “Justice comes before charity.”

In this manifesto, I wrote about: The politics of power in philanthropy. The moral dilemma facing philanthropy. Power, sometimes silent but ever present. Privilege, the driving nature of power. Understanding the two types of philanthropy. Tradition dominates. The less social justice we have, the more philanthropy we need. We are complicit. Philanthropy as a democratizing act. Attacking the moral dilemma.

And here’s the conclusion to this 2008 manifesto:

Here is one of my favorite stories, told by Warren Buffet based on John Rawls A Theory of Justice. I modified Buffet’s words somewhat. For me, this story represents philanthropy’s moral dilemma.

“Imagine that it’s 24 hours before you were born. A genie appears and says: You get to set the rules of the society into which you will be born. You can set the economic rules and the social rules and all the other rules. The rules you set will apply during your lifetime and for the lifetime of your children and even grandchildren.”

Just imagine how thrilled you are with this offer! But you’re smart. You ask, “What’s the catch?”

And the genie says: “You don’t know if you’re going to be born poor or rich, White or of color, infirm or able bodied, homosexual or heterosexual, or female or male.

“So what rules do you want?”

My (Simone) answer is: I know what rules I want, equity and social justice for all.

I know that to create this world requires social change / progressive philanthropy, not only traditional mainstream philanthropy.

I (Simone) know that this means transformation, more probably revolution. I think it’s time for more subversive acts like asking cage-rattling questions. Confronting complicity and challenging privilege and power. Exploring morality and speaking out. Increasing philanthropy for social change.

= = = = = = = = = =

I ended Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma with these words:

But I have hope.

“La esperanza muere última.” Hope dies last. (Jessie de la Cruz, retired farm worker recounting the days before Cesar Chavez and the founding of the United Farm Workers. Studs Terkel uses this 2003 book Hope Dies Last: Keeping Faith in Difficult Times.)

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How naive was I? I’m writing this issue of Simone Uncensored on March 24, 2021.

I look at all the shootings………… The usual targets, our Black friends, neighbors, community members – and now school children and………. The USA which ranks 53rd in gender parity throughout the world’s nations………. Denying reproductive justice and sexual identity……….

I feel guiltier and guiltier. I aim for shock and discomfort – particularly when I’m speaking at some conference somewhere. I often introduce myself like this: “Hello, my name is Simone Joyaux. I’m a white, heterosexual, well-educated and affluent woman. All that unearned privilege.”

And I watch some people twitch at that self-intro.

• There were a couple of written reviews that said “I didn’t come here to hear that stuff. I came to learn about fundraising!” (My response, if I could have contacted them: “Fundraising and nonprofits and government and for-profits and all of life are about this stuff!!!)

• Then a woman came up to me at the end of a live presentation. She asked me, “May I hug you for what you said? Because I can’t marry a women I love.”

Sometimes I feel lost and so sad…even as I recognize my unearned privilege.

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?

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