By Damian O'Broin - May 4 2021
I first met Simone Joyaux a little over a decade ago, at the IFC in Nordwijkerhout.
I'd signed up to a masterclass, Creating a Major Gift Culture, being run by Simone and Tom Ahern.
To be completely honest, Tom was the reason I signed up. He was, and remains, one of my fundraising copywriting heroes, and the chance to spend two days working with him was too good to miss.
Simone? I'd heard her name, but that was about it. I don't think I even realised herself and Tom were a couple.
But I certainly knew who she was after those two days.
I've been to good, bad and mildy interesting sessions at IFC over the years, but few stand out remain with me like that masterclass with Simone and Tom.
Simone had presence. When she was in a room, you knew about it.
No slides. No powerpoint. No soundbites. She led the room in discussion, debate and even argument. And she held everyone in the palm of her hand throughout. Ten years on, I still use what she taught us in that masterclass.
And taught is the important word there. Because on a fundraising conference circuit often full of presenters, performers and poseurs, Simone stood out as an educator. And a damn good one at that.
I remember our back and forths over a panel session she was leading at the Ask Direct Summer School. We were calling it Conversations About Changing the World. And all the way along she was pushing and prodding and forcing us to think about what people would take from it, and how we could engage people in the converastion more. She always wanted it to be better.
And she made things better. In many ways, she lit the spark that ignited our first Summer School, dropping an F-bomb into the Q&A at the end of the first presentation and laying down the marker that this wasn't going to be your typical fundraising conference.
Not surprisingly, Simone stole the show with her sessions too.
As news broke over the weeked that Simone had suffered a stroke and died, the huge impact she has had on our sector and the people in it across the world was there to see on social media. There's little I can say that hasn't already been said.
She was an activist, a passionate campaigner, an incisive thinker and a brilliant, brilliant teacher. She was always pushing us to do better, and aim higher and go further.
She was also great at arguing and disagreeing well. That's something we could all need more of right now.
And she was great company, full of warmth and compassion and friendship.
I'll miss her.
On Sunday, Tom said: "What's left of Simone Joyaux is now up to us".
She left us a wealth of knowledge and learning. So let's celebrate Simone by putting it to good use.
Love and condolences to Tom and to all of Simone's family and friends.
Some other tributes to Simone: