Simone Joyaux died the morning of May 2, 2021. I want to tell you about this amazing woman a fundraising giant.
Simone was a supernova. She had the energy of 100 regular fundraisers.
Simone was blindingly bright as in: so smart, very academic in her thinking (hey, she was raised by a father who was a French intellectual). She told me more than once about her dad who taught her to question everything; "Why would 'they' say that? Who does it benefit?" We need more of that kind of questioning. She was the queen of cage-rattling questions and wanted everyone to be a cage-rattler. Her books and her writings are timeless guides for the sector. They are part of the canon many of us use. Fundraisers around the world knew her instantly as a nonprofit expert with insights on boards and governance.
Simone was an effing STAR! A rock star, really, with her never-ending parade of fascinating and colorful spectacles and rings. She had a joie de vivre and a joie des vêtements. As many have noted, seeing Simone speak at a conference was an experience. It was what she taught and how she moved around the space or stage. She cared about what she was teaching and cared about who was learning.
She was a burst of light where light was needed, insisting we must look into the dark corners where others dared not. Social justice was her jam. For Simone, there was plenty in the world to be pissed off about - injustice, lack of equity, misogyny, the list goes on. And inequities in the nonprofit sector, too. When I began to raise my voice about sexual harassment in our profession, Simone already knew (as many of us did) and spoke with me and encouraged me.
Like a true supernova, Simone had way more energy than the sun. All that travel, all year long, every year to speak, teach and visit her home in France! Plus calls and emails and committees - she was in high demand but you never felt she was brushing you off, even if she had another pressing engagement or call to attend to.
Simone was an old school and new wave and forever feminist. Not just to talk about it, but to set up the Women's Fund of Rhode Island. As I scroll through the emails we shared with each other, or emails between Simone, Tom and me, or with a wonderful ring of women fundraisers, I love her provocative questions, her fist raised, but always with a point of view and a suggested agenda of what to accomplish.
I considered Simone my mentor, my friend and she was a key member of my personal "board of directors". And when I found out these two fundraising giants - Tom and Simone - were married, I was intrigued and delighted. My greatest joy was sending a card to Johnson Road and awaiting a call or email saying it had arrived. I told them they were like basil and tomato, she spicy from the first early leaf, he round and variously ripened. Together, Tom and Simone were terrific. I don't know how they will be apart.
Simone was an intellectual, but also a doer. She was an activist who made room for many others to join the fight and even step aside to let them lead it - it was never about her. Simone had a heart of gold, but she also gave away her treasure, through donations, through time spent mentoring, teaching, volunteering and speaking with people like me, just because we needed her. When I started to consult, she said GO FOR IT!
Simone, I can never thank you enough for the gifts you have given to me and others. Gifts of time, wisdom, expertise, leadership and over-all bad-ass fierceness. It has been so hard to say the words, "She is gone, now."
So much love to your Tom, so much love to your family, and so much gratitude to you. Thousands of us - like the stars in the sky - will twinkle as we remember you. Simone, your imprint on me is indelible and lasting.
❤️ I would love you to join me in making a gift to the Simone Joyaux Fund at the Association of Fundraising Professionals. This fund will provide scholarships to BIPOC and LGBTQ2S fundraisers in Canada.
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