As I See it | Karen Perry, CFRE | Senior Consultant
Simone Joyaux

Simone Joyaux; Image from

A tribute to a pillar in fundraising: Simone Joyaux

I first heard her speak at an 8 a.m. session at the AFP International Conference more than 15 years ago. The topic was social justice philanthropy. I was still very new in our profession, just a few years into fundraising. I’d fallen in love with development for many reasons, but hearing Simone Joyaux talk with such intelligence and passion about her own activism, philanthropy and fundraising deepened my love for our profession. Simone’s personal philanthropy and her work encouraging fundraisers and nonprofits to grow and improve seemed to be intertwined. Her words resonated with me. I wanted to bring about real change in the world through my work in fundraising, too.

After that first time hearing Simone, I grasped every opportunity to hear her speak at AFP conferences. I frequented her website, downloaded resources, referred my clients to her site and her books. And every conference I attended, I checked to see if she’d be there to be sure I didn’t miss her sessions.

When I learned that she was on faculty at St. Mary’s in Minnesota, I seriously considered enrolling there just so I could take her classes. I began the application, but never finished it. There was always something – my job, volunteer commitments, lack of time off to go to Minnesota a few times a year, kids…. And now it’s too late.

The last time I heard Simone speak, it was at the DFW Philanthropy Conference in 2019. Her session was called Simone Unplugged. Simone, who was typically provocative and never hesitated to challenge others to be better, was truly unplugged. Some left the room, they were so alarmed by her passion and yes, her anger.

Why was she angry? Well, blatant acts of racism for one. And she passionately told us all that we need to read more and to do better for the sake of our profession and our nonprofits and our country. She let us have it in true Simone fashion, with more than a few expletives.

Simone was a force for change – demanding change everywhere she went. Now that we’ve lost her voice, urging us forward, pushing us toward a better version of ourselves, we have her writings and recordings of her presentations and memories of the ways she inspired and challenged us. AFP has provided a few recordings from their archives in this tribute to Simone. 

I’m left with two prevailing thoughts.

One is about time. Don’t assume there’s unlimited time to get to know someone you admire, learn from one of the most inspiring authorities in your field, or even say thank you. (I’m so glad that I talked to her one-on-one at the DFW conference in 2019 and I told her how much her work has meant to me.)

The second is a question: Why am I not angry like Simone? Why am I not more vocal about issues and my beliefs? What is holding me back?  Am I too comfortable in my own privileged world? Does anger not serve my own purposes? Or am I afraid?

I’m convinced Simone Joyaux was not afraid of anything.

In “My own personal journey to social change philanthropy” (accessible at Simone shares meaningful quotes at the conclusion. Part of a long quote from Alfre Woodard’s preface to Robin Hood Was Right, a book Simone recommends, says:

“Philanthropy and activism are a gift to one’s self. By giving, we lessen our cynicism and alienation. Creating social change is exciting. It’s proof that we are alive and thinking. What could be better than to work for a future where fairness is the bottom line?”

May we all find the courage to speak up and out, to call others to be better, and to fight for a better world where fairness prevails.

Rest in peace, Simone. Thank you.



About the Author

Karen Perry, CFRE, approaches her clients with a deep understanding of the work of growing a development program over time, as well as experience addressing broad nonprofit management concerns. Prior to joining M. Gale, Karen spent more than 10 years in lead development roles with two organizations in Atlanta, Georgia, followed by 8 years as an independent fundraising consultant to organizations in Atlanta and Fort Worth. Her experience includes annual giving, major gifts, grant writing and events, as well as marketing, strategic planning, planned giving, and capital campaigns. Karen is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and has served on the boards of the Fort Worth Metro Chapter and the Greater Atlanta Chapter. She is a member of the Junior League of Fort Worth and serves on committees at her church and on the PTA of her children’s school.

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