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 www.wfri.org.)
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 www.rifoundation.org.)
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.