Simone Joyaux is an internationally recognized consultant to the nonprofit sector on fund development, board development, and strategic planning and management. She writes a column, “Unraveling Development,” for the Nonprofit Quarterly. She is the author of Strategic Fund Development: Building Profitable Relationships That Last, now in its third edition, and is co-author, with Tom Ahern, of Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships. The interview was conducted by Don Akchin, a principal of and a frequent contributor to the .
MKC: I have difficulty maintaining one blog. Why do you have three?
SIMONE: I made a decision that I wanted to do not just a professional blog, but I also wanted my website to talk about the world and social justice issues. Because I have always felt that there isn’t enough speaking out. I decided I would take the risk to speak out about my political and social beliefs on my web page, but that if I was going to do that, I had to distinguish between them, hence what I call “Personal Rants.” And then I thought, I have a lot of peeves about professional stuff, so I thought, okay fine, I’ll do professional, pet peeves and personal rants. Now I can do three posts in 30 minutes. I only post once a week, and you will notice, nobody is allowed to respond. You can send me emails, but you can’t comment. I have a job! I can’t possibly maintain comments from people.
MKC: You’re passionate about philanthropy and strong NGOs. You seem to be equally passionate about social justice. Do those two ever cross or overlap in your life, or are they always separate?
SIMONE: No, they actually do overlap. I was raised in a household that never used the term social justice but my father, because he was a foreigner and always felt different in the United States, taught me that being different is not bad. So I’ve always been comfortable with difference, whether it’s race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or whatever. In the late ‘90s I was doing a consulting project in Tucson, Arizona, for a women’s fund. I had no idea what they were, but I fell in love with the mission and in 2000, as a volunteer, I founded the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, a social justice organization that fights for leveling the playing field for women and girls. Beginning in 2000, when I founded that group, I was getting more and more “out there” about social justice. I’ve never referred to executive directors as “he,” I’ve always said “he or she,” and somewhere along the line I stopped referring to my life partner as my husband, although we are married. Then I started writing and speaking about social justice when people asked for workshops and keynotes on it. Now I’m crafty enough that when I’m speaking on almost any topic, I can weave in, if I so choose – and I frequently do so choose – that I’m a white, heterosexual, well educated, affluent woman. So I win – except for gender – and I think that sucks. I find it appalling that we’ve built a world where I win. So yes, they do intersect.
MKC: What are the issues that keep your fundraising clients awake at night?
SIMONE: When you think about fundraising, the key thing that keeps my clients awake at night is how do we get more money. Often they don’t get that they’re asking the wrong question. The real question is not how do I get more money, but how do I achieve loyal donors? The Agitator blog talks about loyalty as the Holy Grail of fundraising. Adrian Sargeant talks about the same thing. It’s all about loyalty. I tell my clients it’s more expensive to acquire new donors than it is to keep your current ones. If you have loyal donors, even in a recession, they won’t necessarily abandon you.
MKC: Is that well understood in the nonprofit world, or do you have to teach that lesson every time you go out?
SIMONE: It’s interesting. In the early days, 30 years ago, it seemed as if fundraisers and institutions understood more about being donor centered. They understood about loyalty. They understood about how to communicate effectively. But if you look atseries, which are so hysterical, he’ll frequently say in his blog, we used to know this stuff, it’s as if we forgot it. My fellow consultants on the so-called international circuit have concluded that in the press for money, we made this more and more like a financial transaction and lost the fundamental sense that this is really about the donor; that they don’t give to us, they give through us; that we must understand their interests, we can’t educate them to want to give to us. A lot of organizations and a lot of fundraising consultants have lost this.
When I talk about being donor-centric with my clients, I always start with, ‘Share with me a customer-centered experience you’ve had, a brilliantly marvelous one. Why do you keep going back to that one bakery even though it’s so far away? Why do you always return to that restaurant you like? Why do you always drive out of your way to go to that pharmacy?’ Because people really do understand customer-centered. That’s been drummed into us. Then I’ll even say, ‘So how’s that different from donor-centered? ‘Many people get anxious that donor- centered means you can’t be mission-centered or client-centered, and it doesn’t. They’re not mutually exclusive. Their next moment of panic is that they’re too small and too understaffed to be donor-centered; they only have the capacity to run their programs. At which point I’ve started saying to them, so if you couldn’t do your programs, if you could not carry out your mission in a quality manner, what would you choose to do? And they all say, we would choose to close. And I respond, if you can’t do fund development in the minimal, essential ways, and that means donor-centered, with a donor communication vehicle, etc. – if you can’t do that, then damn it, close.
MKC: It’s great that you get paid to say that.
SIMONE: In January I start my 24th year in business, so there are things I can say and do – or rather, there are things I am willing and able to risk – that other people might not be able to risk.
MKC: Are you seeing organizations using social media well in terms of fundraising or other communications?
SIMONE: What I see all the time is that organizations want the quick fix and the silver bullet. But that’s not real. They have to invest in process and they have to invest in change, and the appetite for that is not all that big. Everybody wants social media as the new silver bullet and quick fix. But anybody who’s really in social media, who’s really in e-philanthropy, will tell you it’s just a tool. It’s a vehicle. And right now, it’s not raising money. I will say to my clients that, yes, social media has a role. But, let’s start first with your website, and unless you really know how to solicit online, you’ll still be using direct mail.
MKC: How in the world do you manage to do so much? Do you have some special vitamins?
SIMONE: This is my life’s work. If I believe in a God or Goddess, this is why He or She put me here: To do this work, as a volunteer, as a writer, as a presenter/speaker, as a teacher, as a consultant. This is why I exist.
You can follow Simone on her website, which houses her three blogs, her “newsyletter,” a library of resources and links to her books.
Guest blogger Don Akchin writes frequently about marketing and philanthropy at donakchin.com.
This interview series is produced with the generous support of the Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Zone.