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Out of the Rut and On Mission


By Bryan Wilburn, Director of Development, St. Paul’s Newman Center at NDSU

What can you do when you’re in a rut? 

I suppose one option would be to stay there. To act as if it’s not happening and try to power through on your own. Oftentimes though, the first step to getting better is admitting something is wrong. 

This was where I found myself two and half years into my professional fundraising career. I had achieved a moderate level of success in annual giving and even some major giving for our Newman Center’s capital campaign. Even so, I was in a rut. There seemed to be so much more to fundraising, which I felt I wasn’t reaching. I would tell myself, “maybe I’m just not cut out for this.” It was then that my astute supervisor encouraged me to go to my first Petrus Conference in 2018.

To understand why I was in a rut, I want to acknowledge a real truth: fundraising is hard. Not only is fundraising hard as a skill, it’s hard to do in the right way and for the right reason. What do I mean by this? 

There is fundraising well with a technically sound method, and there is fundraising well with the right worldview. As a Catholic fundraiser, I have come to the strong conviction that fundraising itself is a highly spiritual endeavor. 

It isn't hard to find a fundraising school or program out there to teach you a technically sound method of fundraising. But, it is quite difficult to find a good program which teaches the right worldview of fundraising. This is where Petrus really shines. 

The Petrus Development Conference brings together sound fundraising practices with the beauty of the Catholic faith. Through speakers, Mass, confession, prayer, and fellowship with your peers, you really come to appreciate the God-given role you have as a fundraiser in the Church. 

The need for solid Catholic fundraisers is as crucial for evangelization in the Church as it is to have laborers to bring in the spiritual harvest. Without funding, our missions are limited. 

My first conference was a decisive turning point in my career. I went from questioning my abilities to really owning my profession. With renewed confidence and a sense of mission, I was ready later in the year to take over our program as the Director of Development.

Fast forward to 2021. I felt it was necessary to bring three of my teammates with me to the Petrus Conference, including our pastor. The conference did not disappoint. It gave us the opportunity to learn, reflect and trade ideas with fellow Catholics. We came out of it a stronger team, and I believe it was a significant part of helping our team to raise more in one year than we ever had before. 

As I write this, our Newman Center just pushed over our $33 million capital campaign goal. I am sincerely grateful for the Petrus Development Conference. God used it as a powerful tool to help me when my own mission was faltering. I know it will continue to build up fundraisers for the Church.


The 2022 Petrus Development Conference takes place June 13-15, 2022 in Naples, Florida. Register today at


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