Featured Fundraiser: John Peterson

This month’s Featured Fundraiser is John Peterson. He was recommended to me by a friend of mine Joel Lentz. If you read this blog regularly take a second to think if you know of a fundraising professional that I should feature here. I’d love to hear your nomination just send me an email. – Jason

What kind of Fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

I serve as Vice President of Development for Youth for Christ USA. Our National Service center provides support and training for 165 local chapters. Each chapter provides its own funding, so our role becomes one of training and assisting them.
Our development department is relationally driven, spending face to face time with major donors and using mail/email/telephone to cultivate entry and mid-level donors.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

I served YFC for 29 years as an Executive Director, leading the charge in a community. As the Executive Director I was the chief development officer. After four years in a national capacity, I can still tell you that I’m driven by our mission…seeing young people who are impacted by the message of Christ. I hear regularly about young people who live in horrific circumstances and their “rescue stories”. For many years I served on the “front lines” of ministry. But I find equal joy in equipping and sending. It is a privilege to be a “sender” of real quality men and women that will impact young lives.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

Always keep the mission in front of you and find a way to hear the stories. In the same way that you want to bless a donor with a story of a changed life, don’t forget to enjoy the blessing yourself. While I may agonize over the circumstances that are the plight of so many, I still get a little choked up when I see a smile….hear the excitement in a voice…witness the laughter that has been stifled for too long. I get to witness hope in what was once a hopeless situation. Find someone (or a group of people) to keep feeding you the stories……and go to camps or events to witness them firsthand.

And don’t forget to always view your efforts in a long term picture. Looking at your achievements in a week or month can sometimes be discouraging. You can even have a bad year….but the five year picture can tell you so much more. Development leaders can be their own worst critic.

What is the most frustrating of difficult thing about fund development?

I’m just not a patient person. So the time between the commitment for the gift and actually receiving it can sometimes drive me a little crazy. I’m the guy that will push the elevator button five times to see if I can get the whole process go a little faster. I have to remind myself that God didn’t ask me to get it all done yesterday, he just asked me to be faithful.

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

Early in my national development role, I visited a major donor that I had never met. He asked me what my goals were in my new role. One of the goals I shared was one to acquire ten donors at a significant level that I declared to him. His response caught me off-guard. “I didn’t know the price had changed. I always want to be a considered a “major donor” for YFC”. His pledge doubled and I learned a valuable lesson that day.

How has the development world changed in the last two years?

The average major donor had decreased the number of ministries they support…and I believe that they have cut their list by more than one-half. How do they determine who they will continue to support (most often with a few more $$ than the past)? There are two factors…they typically stay with the ones they have been with the longest and the ones where they have a personal relationship….someone who knows more about them than they know about the ministry they support. If a major donor has dropped you in the last year or two, chances are you weren’t very close to them. In a society where trust is a diminishing factor, true relationships will bridge the gap.


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