How to Use Emotions in a Personal Solicitation

Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE is recognized internationally as an expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management. She is the founder and director of Joyaux Associates. Visit her website here.

Here’s the back story: In 2000, I founded the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI), a social justice organization. The Women’s Fund knows that the playing field is not level for women and girls. Everywhere in the world—including the U.S.A.—it’s a disadvantage to be female. And injustice is found at the intersection of gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and class.

I founded WFRI as a fund within my community foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation. A few years later, WFRI became an independent corporation. (Visit this great organization at

During the founding years, WFRI worked closely with several key staff at the Rhode Island Foundation. And as the founder and first chair, I got to know some of these marvelous foundation staff very well.

Kris was one person that became a close friend to me and to my life partner, Tom. And during her tenure at the Rhode Island Foundation, Kris led the effort to start the Equity Action Fund, an LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) fund. (Visit this fund at

Tom and I knew that Equity Action would be asking us for a gift. We told them to ask us. We had already done volunteer work with Equity Action and were committed to the cause. There were only two questions left: Would Equity Action follow the tips we shared with them as volunteers? How much would we pledge?

So here’s what happened:

One morning a representative from Equity Action called to set up an appointment. The caller thanked me for our volunteer support and requested a time to meet with Tom and me to ask for a gift. The caller also asked, “Since you’re our friends, can we send someone who is inexperienced in soliciting? You’re safe and you’ve committed to giving—so this will give the inexperienced individual a successful experience.”

I responded, “Yes,” and added, “Send the right person, too, and we will give a larger gift.” I didn’t say whom, however. It was Equity Action’s job to figure that out.

So we met up for the solicitation. I walked into the room. There was one person, the chair of the Equity Action Advisory Council. I didn’t know him. But that was okay. Because the right person for me was in the room, too: Kris.

We hung out for a while, just talking. Wandering from topic to topic.

What a marvelous conversation we shared. We shared our anger at social injustice. We ranted and raved.

We talked about the political situation in the U.S.—and how angry that made us. We talked about our shared values and how sexism, racism, and homophobia violated our fundamental beliefs. You could hear the fear we shared, that so many people are excluded in our society. We talked about how each community is less than it could be because the playing fields aren’t even close to level.

They complimented me for my work as the founder of the Women’s Fund. I was flattered and felt special, that I was making a difference.

And then Kris said: “You and Tom are the first straight people we are asking to give to Equity Action. We’re asking you first because we know you two care so much and fight hard for justice.” Again, I was flattered.

Kris continued: “We’re asking you and Tom first because you are well-known in several circles in this community. People know you are straight. And your support will show that heterosexuals care about social justice for the LGBTQ community. Your gift will show that justice is cause for those who are marginalized and those who are not. Your gift will leverage gifts from others.”

I was even more flattered. I felt part of an exclusive group of people who care about social justice. And if a gift from Tom and me will help others to give, I’m thrilled. (In fact, I’m greedy for more people to give for social justice.)

And, of course, the whole conversation was about salvation. My salvation as a human being. Tom’s salvation as a human being. Philanthropy is our life’s work. And even after death, we will continue working for philanthropy and the nonprofit sector—because 100% of our estate goes to charity.

But there’s more. Kris asked Tom and me to become founders for Equity Action. “You’ll be recognized in perpetuity as a founding donor.”

Ah yes, the money piece. Actually I’d already decided what to give. And the founding donor level was twice what Tom and I planned to give.

What do you think we did? With a solicitation that embraced all the emotional triggers. With the invitation to be recognized in perpetuity as fighers for social justice? (Yes, this is a fight. I see social justice as a war, in fact. And I’m proud to fight in this war.)

Of course we became founders.

  • Angie Johnson Smith

    Great story

  • J Paul Sank

    *I* find it disadvantageous to be *male*. As a man, especially as an older white one, I am automatically condemned as the oppressor of everyone from women to blacks to queers. I am damned as a possible pedophile every time I walk past a playground (you’re asking why was I walking past that playground, right? YOU SEE?!?) As a male, I’m the first to be suspected of *any* crime or perversion. We men are vilified as deadbeat dads while at the same time we’re denied the very visitation rights that would motivate us to pay up. Women commit 75% of the divorces, which leaves us men to be 75% of the dumped and dejected. Domestic violence laws are written for one gender, and we ain’t it, which means we are far more prone to be summarily evicted from our homes whenever the woman decided she wants out bad enough to lie to get it. And what all this talk about a “pay gap” is, I don’t get, because more and more of us men are becoming economically inferior to our wives and as vulnerable as any housewife ever was. I’ve been *traumatized* by some of these issues! I have emotional scars I cannot erase! I have no sympathy for your alleged oppression as long as you keep thinking that I and my kind are the oppressors.

  • Martha Schumacher

    That’s terrific Simone – a great story about a very effective solicitation and told with the wonderful passion you always demonstrate. Thank you.

  • JPorter

    …. Perhaps some therapy is in order.

    I would reccommend the same for any woman who is as angry as you are.

    Just because one social group is put down, doesn’t make any other group less put down. Perhaps rather than trying to compare who is more put out- you could work towards a solution where NO ONE is put down by anyone else.

    …. and maybe the therapy will help you leave less livid comments on a REALLY lovely blog post..

  • Brian Saber

    Wonderful – the power of the ask. So much more of it is about the relationship than most people realize!

  • Dilla

    Actually, J Paul Sank, I’ll bet you DON’T actually find it to be “disadvantageous” to be male. You may feel oppressed, or that people think badly of you secretly, but that is not the same as, say, *actually* not getting hired because of who they are and what they look like, or being passed up for promotion, or, say, being raped or beaten because they are female or gay. I’ll bet that what you’re really feeling is the loss of status as a white male that you once enjoyed. Nothing wrong with that, but please get some therapy for your anger issues, and realize that there are degrees of suffering. Your feelings are understandable but not on the same scale, as the actual documented experiences of everyone else who is not a white male.

  • Lisa B

    Excellent “Ask” Example

  • Melly017

    Interesting story. Overall, I think it was more the discovery of common ground and the relation the solicitor created before adressing the need. Even the feeling of inclusion you felt. I don’t know that the emotions listed were as much of the deciding factor. It was the relation in those emotions that compelled you. An intriguing story and examination.