In this episode, Andrew visits with Bryan Wilburn, the Director of Development at the St. Paul Catholic Newman Center at North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota. They discuss how Bryan got his start in development and what they are doing to advance Catholic evangelism on the plains of North Dakota. As well as how being a great development officer can make you a better spouse. We hope that you enjoy the conversation and be sure to stick around for Andrew's three takeaways.
Bryan is from Montana and went to college in North Dakota. His time there depended his faith. After college, he devoted four years to FOCUS. As for development, he started in development during a college internship. And fundraising for himself for his time in FOCUS.
He has been back in North Dakota for six years. Fr. Cheney brought him on as a Sustained Giving Officer, helping to build monthly giving partners for the Newman Center. After one year, he became involved with the Newman Center's Capital Campaign. He became the Development Director when his predecessor moved on.
It's not prideful to say, I've learned what I need to learn to this point, and I can go up against other qualified candidates with a good chance of achieving. When we feel like we have more to offer, go for it.
The building was breaking down and they needed to do something as they were growing their ministry every year. The feasibility study started in 2013 and they learned that people didn't know what they did. That was a great lead to think of ways to get the word out about what they did in college ministry.
They hadn't been keeping records of names of students who had gone through their ministry, so they were starting from scratch when they launched their campaign.
While they met their goal, the year of 2020 was a challenging year to finish up their campaign in.
A donor meeting with a couple who weren't actually Catholic, but they were big believers in the university and Bryan remembers him saying "We are here to help the whole world know Jesus Christ." And they became benefactors to the campaign.
Learning to communicate, just because you talk all the time, doesn't mean you communicate well. A great organization that taught him to speak to large audiences, keynote speaking, event leadership, etc.
He has been able to gain valuable feedback on his speaking and testing talks that he wants to use for his fundraising.
Relational vs Transactional Fundraising
People assume that fundraising is sales. If you do it wrong, it will definitely feel like sales and very transactional.
It can be similar to dating. You wouldn't ask a girl for marriage on the first date, just like you wouldn't ask a donor for a major gift on the first interaction. There is a relational aspect that you need to grow and nurture.
Marriage advice: call your wife.
Lessons of Looking Back
Family - Work Balance
Family has to come first. It will look different for every family, but they need to come first. When he first started in development, he and his wife had to make sure that it was something they both wanted.
When you can give the heads up as far in advance as possible, it will make things so much better. Bryan treated his wife like a major donor from the very beginning, and never looked back.
I hope that this was helpful to you for a number of reasons, but mostly so that you can be a better and more confident fundraiser and raise more money for your ministry. If you have questions, you can always reach us at [email protected], we’d love to connect. Our next couple of episodes will be a slightly different format in that we are doing a four-part series on what a blueprint for sustainable development looks like. Myself and others on the Petrus team will cover the four areas of infrastructure, communications, annual fund and major gifts over the next few weeks. Whether you are brand new, or you've been doing this for a while, I have no doubt that you’ll find something of value in this series. So check those episodes out and share them with your colleagues. But until then, God bless and keep calling your donors (and your significant others) and making the ask.