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"People Who Are Rich" - A Crossover Episode on the Petrus Development Show

In this episode, Andrew takes a break from his regular interview series to share episode 4 of Petrus’s new podcast, Reflections on Nouwen’s “A Spirituality of Fundraising”.  The show’s host, Justin DeMoss of Your Philanthropic Advisor, interviews Fr. Matt Lowry from Holy Trinity Catholic Newman Center at Northern Arizona University.  The two reflect on Chapter 4 of Nouwen’s book, “People Who Are Rich”.   

Listen to "131 - "People Who Are Rich": A Crossover Episode on the Petrus Development Show (Spirituality of Fundraising, Prayer, Relationships)" on Spreaker.

Show Notes 


Fr. Matt Lowry is the chaplain at Holy Trinity Catholic Newman Center at Northern Arizona University.  Fr. Matt’s been chaplain for 14 years, and he and Justin worked together at Northern Arizona University for a few years.  


People Who are Rich

Justin asks for Fr. Matt’s first reflections on the chapter, and Fr. Matt shares that our ultimate call is to love others as Christ loved.  As fundraising professionals, we should never use a person as a means to an end.  Every person we encounter, even those with great resources, are on their own journey in their relationship with God.  Every person we meet with, including high capacity donors, are gifts in and of themselves.


Avoiding Prejudice

Justin and Fr. Matt discuss Nouwen’s assertion that we cannot have a prejudice for the rich.  As fundraisers, we strive to be pure of heart, and we seek to love people, including donors, as they are.  If we can do this, the money will take care of itself.  


Relationship Building

Justin and Fr. Matt stress that, as fundraisers, we are most successful when we focus on relationship building.  Fr. Matt and Justin discuss how, when money seems tight and funds aren’t coming in, the best thing to do is go back to the basics of getting in front of people and building relationships. We need to connect with people, share our ministry’s vision, and invite donors to make a difference in the world through our ministry.  


Maintaining Connection 

Fr. Matt shares that he places a high priority on stewardship and continued connection with donors.  Donors want to be more than a checkbook for the ministry.  They want to be engaged and appreciated.  Fr. Matt describes how he and his staff send thank you notes, make calls, and invite donors to events in order to maintain connection between gifts.  These small acts, of course, serve to remind donors of the importance of Fr. Matt’s campus ministry, and some of them, in part, also help the donors grow in their own faith.  


Grounded in Prayer

Throughout the entire episode, Fr. Matt takes us back to the importance of prayer in fundraising.  If we truly believe that our fundraising is a ministry, we must constantly turn to God in prayer.  Prayer is at the root of our mission.  We do not find our security in the money we raise, we find our security in God.  In our prayer, we recognize that everything we do is the Lord’s mission, not our own.  


Andrew’s Takeaways

My first takeaway from this episode is based on Nouwen’s quote that Justin shares at the very beginning of the episode.  Paraphrasing, the quote says, “If we ask people for money, we have to love them deeply.  We do not need to worry about money, rather we need to worry about…whether they will come closer to God.”  I encourage you to really take this quote to heart.  Write it down, put it somewhere on your desk where you’ll see it regularly, and really come to believe it.  If we want to find it easier to view our fundraising as more than a job, if we want to see it as our ministry, we really have to believe that people come before money.  And, that’s hard!  We all have financial goals and metrics as part of our job, and there is absolutely pressure to meet our money raising goals.  That’s the job, and if we don’t raise money, we likely won’t have the job.  That said, despite the stress to raise money, we have to focus on the priorities set before us.  It’s people, not money, who matter.  To do our ministry well, we have to remember that people and relationships come first.  If we focus on loving people and building relationships, then we can trust that God will provide the money as He sees fit.  


Along those lines, I share my second takeaway about donor relationships.  Relationships take time and work.  It’s not only about building a relationship before the ask.  It’s about maintaining the relationship once you’ve gotten some money, and even then it’s about more than just hoping you’ll get more money in the future.  Again, Fr. Matt invites us to go beyond the checkbook.  It made me sad to hear his story about how donors think priests only call when they need money, and it challenges me to think about how I teach development officers to relate to donors.  If donors only think we value them because of their capacity to give, we’re doing something really wrong.  Fr. Matt talks about a variety of ways that his ministry at NAU maintains relationships with donors.  They call donors, they have students share stories and send thank you notes, they invite donors to campus events, and they regularly pray for donors and their specific needs.  All of this together contributes to relationship maintenance.  Yes, it keeps donors remembering your ministry, but it also helps them understand that they, as people, are important.  


Finally, I am thankful for Fr. Matt’s emphasis on prayer.  My third and final takeaway is an easy yet essential one - we cannot do our jobs if we do not regularly and faithfully turn to God in prayer.  If we truly want to see our work as a ministry, as God’s call for our lives, we have to strengthen our own relationship with Him.  We turn to Him in prayers of gratitude when we receive donations. We turn to Him in prayer when the money isn’t coming as we hoped.  We turn to Him in prayer when we make changes to or grow our ministry.  We turn to Him in prayer for our donors’ needs.  All told, it bears repeating - we turn to Him in prayer.  Remember that, and in God’s time, all will be well.  


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