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.”

 

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.)

= = = = = = = = = =

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.

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.

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?

 

August 3, 2020

Thinking about reading and writing and my frustration/anger/sadness

I’ve always been an avid reader.

When I was young (maybe 9 or 10 or so years old)…My mom kinda yelled at me: “Simone! Put the goddamn book down and go outside and play.” I think maybe I asked her if I could take the book with me. Just imagine her response.

Until my mid teens…every summer I would ride my bike to the library and take out 7 books. Get a glass of lemonade and go to the basement where there was a couch and it was cooler than outside or upstairs – and no one came downstairs to bother me. I’d read a book a day.

What was I reading for fun then? Probably lots of the same stuff I read now for fun : Romance novels but only selected romance novelists. Sci fi fantasy – but that’s new – since I was student teaching and an 8th grade student explained why sci fi was so cool. Spy, thrillers.  That’s my fun time.

What else do I read now? When I’m learning and enhancing my craft and stimulating my brain? Business books. Some of my favorite authors: Business books NOT specific to the nonprofit sector/philanthropy: Seth Godin. Jim Collins. Peter Senge. Malcolm Gladwell. Chip & Dan Heath. Peter Senge. Daniel Goleman. And and and and ….

For the nonprofit sector, I think I might require all staff to read  John Gardner’s monograph Building Community. I’d require all senior staff to add these two monographs: Ken Dayton’s Governance is Governance Is Governance and Jim Collins’ Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

So this blog is recommending just a few of the books that I’ve found most useful/helpful/special/important to me. I think all of these are particularly important to any senior professional in any field – including  the nonprofit sector – especially the CEO and CDO. If I were a CEO or CDO today, I’d insist upon a Book Club for senior staff.

By the way, none of the books recommended below focus on the nonprofit sector, governance or fundraising. But I’ve found all of these useful, helpful, still relevant, hugely meaningful…whatever…to my decades of work in the nonprofit sector.

And here’s more reading for the top-notch professionals. The non-siloed thinkers. The lifelong learners. Those who integrate various schools of thought and fight silos and use conversation as a core business practice and read across disciplines and….

The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives, Shankar Vedantam

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle

Permission Marketing. The Icarus Deception. Seth Godin (And there are many more! I just picked those 2 for this moment.)

The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge

Good to Great, Jim Collins

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Self-Made Myth: And the Truth About How Government Helps Individiuals and Businesses Succeed. Brian Miller & Mike Lapham

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times, Howard Zinn

Robin Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money For Social Change, Collins, Rogers, and Garner

And these 2 books by Mike Edwards do focus on the nonprofit sector….. Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the World and Civil Society.

If you live in the USA, have you read any of these books? And if you live in another country, how does any of this pertain to your country? These books are about society…so they certainly do apply to the nonprofit sector, too.

  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America? Barbara Ehrenreich is the author. The book was published in 2001…a New York Times bestseller. And while those 19 years have certainly shown some changes and new stuff and and and… the overall story is pretty much the same…and even worse in some cases. Check out Ehrenreich’s “sequels”. Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (2005). And This Land is Your Their Land (2008).
  • And here’s another useful book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Joel Bakan.

Okay. I have to stop now. So many. So much.

I just get so tired of hearing so many people whining about having no time to learn more…read…visit the meaningful and learnful stuff on the Internet. Blah blah blah. If someone isn’t a lifelong learner, how can that someone be a professional?

I believe in lifelong learning – and I don’t see enough of it. I actually read a note somewhere sometime from a consultant who said… “I don’t read books anymore. I’m a consultant now. I know this stuff.” (If I could have found this person, just imagine how I might have responded!!!)

Okey dokey. Enough now.

P.S. Happy birthday and bonne anniversaire, my Tommy…

June 15, 2020

I’m too angry & frustrated. So here’s another thought…

I’m just too angry and frustrated. And this is about boards and bosses and ignorance and… [But there is a P.S. at the bottom about recent happenings in this racist US of A.]

Me (and you) are righteously angry towards board members and bosses who think they know more about fundraising than the fundraising staff. You and I are often appropriately angry towards board members who pay attention to body of knowledge and research expressed by lawyers and accountants and doctors and… But ignore and insult and trespass against resesarch and body of knowledge from fundraisers.

I’ve ranted about this forever and ever and over and over…

But here’s a new thought. A more gracious perspective. I don’t always have to be so angry!!! So here goes. What do you think?

We have to get across to all staff and all board members — everyone in every single nonprofit around the world — that a competent nonprofit organization does NOT need fundraising IDEAS.

Like any profession and professional, there’s academic and practitioner research and multiple bodies of knowledge about what/why/how to do fundraising. Fundraisers don’t seek new ideas. Like any competent professional, fundraisers read and study and learn. Fundraisers are lifelong learners following the international leaders in the field…reading the research. Etc. etc. blah blah blah.

I think that board members (and often bosses, too) are trying to help those poor fundraisers by coming up with new ideas. But why? What’s that about? These bosses and board members don’t suggest ideas to accountants, lawyers, medical doctors, road construction workers, house builders…

Hell…I wouldn’t even offer ideas to tech experts and guitar players or my hair dresser or …. I figure they all studied. Read the research. Followed highly knowledgeable practitioners and researchers. Practiced and learned more!

I think some board members, donors, bosses, whomever… are trying to help by suggesting ideas. Bless their hearts. Bless their hearts? I actually thought that was meant graciously. Until a Southern friend of mind explained to me: “Bless your heart” is actually not a compliment. It’s more like “what the hell you moron?!” (I can’t remember where I read this moron statement. But it sure is cool.)

Where does this not-so-good helping hand come from? Why don’t board members, bosses, whomever realize that fundraising (and governance and management and…) are actually professions with bodies of knowledge. WTF?

I think there’s a whole lot of disrespect for the nonprofit sector. Let’s be honest. If any of us could have gotten a job in a for-profit … you know, a “real job”…we wouldn’t be working in the nonprofit sector. (Surely you’ve experienced that snide reference sometime in your life.)

So the BIG BIG message that we have to get out there to our bosses and board members and and and … The nonprofit sector is different than the for-profit sector. And also similar in some ways. And professionals in the nonprofit sector know the distinctions and similarities.

  • There is a body of knowledge in fundraising and donor-centered communications. Financing is different. Measures are different. (Just read Jim Collins’ monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors.)
  • Asking for gifts is not totally like selling. And your fundraising staff darn well better start learning about philanthropic psychology.
  • Without a culture of philanthropy, that nonprofit won’t thrive. It’s like Peter Drucker kept trying to teach us all [for-profits and nonprofits]: organizational culture will eat strategy for breakfast, lunch, and probably dinner too.

So back to the very big message that nonprofits and competent fundraisers and top-notch nonprofit leaders must must get out to their board members and others:

  • Fundraising is NOT NOT NOT about coming up with ideas.
  • Fundraising is about learning the body of knowledge…following the research…building the capacity and competency of the nonprofit and its employees and volunteer, including board members.

Thank you kind board members and bosses….The best fundraisers do not need ideas. The best fundraising programs aren’t looking for ideas. Follow the research. Now. Just do it. 

Hire well. And let the top-notch fundraisers do their work. Thank you!

P.S. I wrote this Simone Uncensored blog before George Floyd and yet another need to say that Black Lives Matter. I can’t even write about this “fucking country” although I’ve tweeted some. And unless you really know me and what I’ve done over the decades — not just writing but acting out — don’t you dare tarnish so many of us who you claim aren’t doing enough.

May 18, 2020

Keep learning

How about outlining a learning program for yourself? For other key staff? So much to learn. Let’s do it now.

Read SOFII, Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration. Some of the great people of our sector…some dead…some still alive…and newbie greats, too.

Do you read The Agitator? Roger Craver is one of our greatest greats. The Agitator is daily, online, free. Read recent issues. But go back. Further back. Read years ago, too. Because there’s lots of stuff we should have already learned.

Do you read Mark Phillips? Across the water at Bluefrog?

Moceanic is an online learning program. From Sean Triner and Christiana Stergiou in Australia. And Jeff Brooks of Seattle is playing there lots and lots. Go there! Learn.

Check out the Veritus Group, Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels. Read their Passionate Giving blog.

You do know how brilliant Canadian fundraisers are, don’t you? Check out the AFP Toronto Congress presenters…past and next up. Visit some of these greats:

  • Agents of Good: John Lepp and Jen Love. And make sure to read the StarWars series.
  • Blakely.
  • Provocateur Vitreo
May 11, 2020

Such a smart ED!!!!

During the corona virus of 2020, the ED of a client of mine decided to send a query to all his board members and staff. The ED was using some of his time to read – to learn more – to become the best ED he could be.

So he sent this email:

May I suggest a little exercise? Could you ponder the question below – and send me your answers? I will aggregate the responses and let you know what we collectively thoughts.

I believe this will shed some valuable light on what’s important – or should be – to us as we think strategically and as we nurture and expand relationships with our constituents. A future excercise would be to ask previous trustees…and gather a selected group of “other than us” to see what they think.

So here’s the question this so smart ED is sending out: “Let’s pretend our organization and its programs disappeared tonight. Tomorrow, we’re gone. What will the world / the community / individuals regret having lost?”

And where did this ED find this question? In Tom Ahern’s book What Your Donors Want. 

And what I, Simone might add? How about reframing your multi-year strategic planning — and your annual planning to start with Ahern’s question: “Let’s pretend……….”

April 20, 2020

Rich people&coronavirus…YouMe&philanthropy

This lengthy article is the result of reading an article by Andy Serwer with Max Zahn: “Why the rent is due for rich people in the time of the coronavirus.”  Read the Serwer/Zahn article first.

And now, watch out, I’m going to babble and even lecture a bit. You know me…the Simone Uncensored bitch…So here goes……………….

………….An Article in the time of the Coronavirus…from Simone Joyaux…………..   

Philanthropy….From the Greek, philanthropia. Love of humankind. But my favorite definition of philanthropy comes from John Gardner, voluntary action for the common good.

Doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $25 million. Voluntarily taking action for the common good. Common good…community…Concept of civil society.

And, of course, philanthropy means giving money AND/OR!!!! time.

Of course I want the very rich to give lots of money. Especially as millions of people worldwide are losing their jobs, closing their businesses…

However, I must say that I’m really tired of the focus on big money and big news, e.g., disasters like a hurricane or coronavirus. Because shit happens every day and people have been starving for decades and living on the streets and guns keep killing kids and college is too expensive and there’s no universal healthcare. And in the USA, only 2% or so of GDP has gone to charity during the past 60 years. (I hope you read Giving USA, the annual report.)

Ah, the big money…Certainly the culture of the US of A. Money money money…The celebrity of wealth. Big money always seems to win. What a terrible culture.

One of my pet peeves is the phrase “major donor” and “major gift”… All that money that those wealthy people give/gave… I’m pretty damn sure it didn’t change their lives at all. I’d like everyone to think of the mother at the charter school (former client of mine) who gave 5 single dollar bills to the school where her child goes. And that money would have been spent on her family’s special holiday dessert. But she and her family gave the gift to the school instead.

Yes, I want those wealthy peeps to give and give more and give regularly. But I want every country and every person and everyone to respect the others who give time and money. Shall we call them the minor donors? Because if there are major donors, there must be minor donors. WTF!!

Here’s something I think about always…. Philanthropy…. VOLUNTARY action for the common goodSo I want everyone – especially those who have excess money – to choose to give.

And I suppose that I could say that since really wealthy people made their money from their communities … I’d like to think that those very wealthy people actually think that – on a pretty substantial level – that they actually “owe” care and voluntary action for the COMMON good.

In my deepest hopeful world, I dream that all people look at themselves and wonder what they might do for the common good. 

  • Obligations like voting – civic duty – building a civil society. Read Mike Edwards’ books about civil society.
  • DEFINITELY read Mike’s book Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the WorldTo me, this book is a must read for anyone who works in philanthropy. And I’m thinking a must read for all of us in society. Because for-profit business isn’t going to save any world…any community.

In my deepest soul, I dream that each of us and all of us look at others as human beings…with basic human rights…That we all fight for social justice…welcome inclusion…demand equity. And all that is built by a civil society…promoted through philanthropy…Voluntary action for the common good. That’s what I keep fighting for.

  • I respect the mother who gave those $5 to her children’s school.
  • I’m thankful that some really RICH people are giving money now…and I dream that they will give in the future as regular philanthropists.

I look at Tom and me…We aren’t Bezos or any of the other names in the article, “Why the rent is due for rich people in the time of coronavirus.” But we’ve worked hard for years and have no children and live life well — and we’re damn affluent!

Tom and I are so fortunate. We’ve saved enough to retire well, too. We have no children and no one who needs care from us. So 100% of our estate goes to charity. And every year we give approximately 20% of our income to charity. Why not? We have the money!

Philanthropy…Voluntary action for the common good. And there’s the challenge. I do believe that philanthropy is voluntary. In my dream world, everyone who can is philanthropic in some way. 

  • Giving time at the Food Bank or Planned Parenthood or that environmental org you love
  • Giving money to the charter school, to fight for women’s rights and against birth defects, to save the land and the water…to fight against the coronavirus…

Everyone gives for his/her/their own reasons … whether it’s businesses, foundations, individuals… You and your family, Tom and me.

  • Yes, some give charitable gifts to get their names broadcast around town and even around the world. Some give to get positive PR…to compensate for bad actions… for glory and fame…
  • Some give because they want to serve on the most famous/important board in the community.
  • Some give to fight homelessness – perhaps that person was once homeless or knew someone…
  • Others give because they love the land and water and worry about climate change and…

I’ve worked in the philanthropic sector for 45 years. It’s not my right to tell others where to give. It’s not my right to evaluate your choices.

I can hope that you give. I do hope you choose philanthropy – voluntary action for the common good – to be in your life. 

I have chosen philanthropy – even when I die…and am dead.

P.S. An interesting, perhaps, P.S. Based on their own missions, some charities won’t accept gifts if the proposed donor(s) have “tainted” money. Tobacco companies intentionally addicted people…so have some drug companies. Imagine the conversation that cancer and lung associations had and may still have, should we accept gifts from those businesses.

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