The Heart of Development

The Heart of Development

By Peter de Keratry, Co-Founder & CEO of Petrus Development; Executive Director of Stewardship and Advancement for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Intro by Andrew Robison, President of Petrus Development

This post is an excerpt from Episode 5 of The Petrus Development Show.

Recently, I sat down with Peter de Keratry, Co-Founder of Petrus Development for a conversation for The Petrus Development Show. We covered a variety of topics, but one topic we covered was what development officers truly need to do to build long-term success for their ministry.

Many development professionals, whether they are brand new or seasoned veterans, can struggle with a simple question: “Where do I start? Where is the best place to spend my time and energy today?” The reason that this is a constant struggle is because as development professionals for nonprofit organizations, we are regularly asked (and expected) to participate in just about every aspect of the ministry. Sometimes these requests come from the boss and seem incredibly important. Sometimes these requests rise up from programming staff or even program participants and we feel an obligation to be of service.

In addition, just the everyday work that happens in the development office can be all-consuming. Database updates, thank you letters, phone-a-thons, social media…all of these activities take time. Needless to say, there are a hundred different things that a development officer could do on any given day and we must discern regularly where to put our energy.

When discussing this with Peter, he shared a story that has stuck with him for many years. Believing this is an issue for just about every fundraiser, I felt it was important and worthwhile to share.

For the full conversation with Peter, go to 

Peter: One of my favorite experiences as a consultant at Petrus was with a guy named Tim. He was the development director for the Catholic center at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and he came to a Petrus Leadership Conference. The last day, before he left, he was like, “I’m just overwhelmed. This development stuff is all new. I’m supposed to get the newsletter out and build the database and a Leadership Council and…where do I even start?

So I said, “Tim, I think we’ve made a mistake. Just pause. Timeout. I want you to do me a favor. Let’s talk about it right now. Tell me three people who you know back home that you know love the Church and might be willing to help build up this ministry.”

Tim said, “What kind of people?”

I answered, “Three of your friends or just people you know. Could be relatives. Could be people from your parish who went to the University of Wisconsin – Madison.”

Tim said, “Oh. Well, I could ask James Smith and Frank Jones and Martha Snodgrass…”

So I said, “I would like you, when you get back to your desk tomorrow morning, to call all three of them. Ask them if you can come meet with them. I want you to go sit in their living rooms and tell them about your experience at this conference. That you were learning about development and that you’re going to have a profound impact on the future of the ministry at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. And I want you to look them in the eye and I want you to say these words: ‘Would you prayerfully consider a gift of $1,000 per year for the next three years to help us build this ministry into something spectacular.’ And then I want you to shut up. Just try this three times and see what happens.”

He called me a couple days later and he had done it. He said, “I drank the Kool-Aid! I’m in. I get it!”

You can do all the process you want. All the Case, leadership planning, prospecting, discovery calls, cultivation, solicitation, stewardship, taking notes, whatever. At the end of the day, if you don’t go sit in people’s offices or living rooms, look them in the eye and ask them to be part of your ministry and make a gift…you’re failing. That’s the heart of what we have to do in development.

In my experience working in the world of development and philanthropy, Peter is absolutely right. If you are wondering where to focus your time today (or any other day), just follow the lead of Tim. Pick up the phone, call someone you know and share with them an opportunity to support your ministry. That truly is the Heart of Development.

God bless!

– Andrew Robison

For the full conversation with Peter, go to 

Peter de Keratry is the Co-Founder & CEO of Petrus Development and the Executive Director of Stewardship and Advancement for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Peter has more than 20 years of experience in development, having served as Campaign Director for projects with goals ranging from $1M to $350M.

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