Interview with Peter Drury

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Peter Drury, who is the Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations, for Seattle Children’s and Adjunct Professor at Seattle University (Master of Nonprofit Leadership Program). He is a trusted advisor for philanthropists, boards of directors, families, and nonprofit leaders. 

Peter works daily to integrate business smarts with philanthropic intent. He is respected for his teachable wisdom integrating content across silos as disparate as fundraising, accounting, finance, planning, management, org culture, and leadership. Peter holds M.B.A., M.S.W., and M.Div. degrees from Seattle University, the University of Illinois, and Yale University, respectively.

Peter Drury

Mazarine Treyz: How long have you been a manager in fundraising, and what do you like about it?

Peter Drury: Although my career technically started in 1989, I really feel like my adult life is an extension of my childhood and youth ~ I mean, I’ve been essentially working in the ‘nonprofit sector’ since I was a kid ~ organizing, encouraging, leading, visioning, fighting for justice, and working to heal divisions.

In the strictest sense, I’ve been involved in nonprofit leadership ~ including managing fundraising operations and working as a front-line fundraiser ~ since 1997.

On the best days, I serve a mission I believe in and have the honor of working with people to help them take meaningful action to change the world. On the worst days, I still serve a mission I believe in and have the honor of working with people to help them take meaningful action to change the world. What job could be better than that?

MT: What do you think are the characteristics of a good manager in fundraising?

PD: In my book it’s all art and science ~ a balance and interplay between the two ~ so you need

  1. Both content expertise and
  2. Deep listening skills;
  3. Analytical thinking and
  4. Creative thinking;
  5. Intrigue about people and
  6. The ability to detach;
  7. Ethics and
  8. Planning.

I think the best managers in fundraising understand what it really takes to raise money, rather than just having opinions about the things they’re scared of. That’s the worst. Managers who just want others to do the stuff that personally panics them.

MT: Who do you see as a good fundraising mentor, and why?
PD: Anyone who (1) has done the hard work, (2) truly learned from it, and (3) has a desire to grow more leaders and fundraisers.

MT: How do you know someone is a good manager and mentor, aside from dollars raised?
PD: I love that you asked this, because I think that ‘dollars raised’ as the single indicator of success in fundraising is the single greatest risk to nonprofit organizations, and the greatest failure in fundraising.

Fundraising success is about both cash and beyond-cash metrics. I have much to share on this topic (but it won’t be my focus in this specific session) and I’d gladly share my “Beyond Cash” Fundraising Management Dashboard (see for free with any of your readers. This dashboard gives very clear indicators of excellent fundraising management.

MT: What management books would you recommend?
PD: Leading Change by John Kotter. You will think you’re reading a book from Harvard Business School (because you are) about corporate leadership (because you are) but his eight-stage framework for leading change is crucial for any and all nonprofit leaders to understand.

If we leave this knowledge only to the corporate execs, and somehow treat it as ‘their’ content rather than ‘our’ content, then we are doing our sector, and ourselves, a great disservice. It is a deceptively simple framework, and it really is well thought through. Second, Bad Leadership by Barbara Kellerman. Finally, Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

Nonprofit Leadership books

MT: Is management more of a contact sport than something you can learn from a book?

PD: Yes and. It is both. It is all about action-reflection (praxis) over time. Much like learning an art form. There is technique and instinct, discipline and spontaneity.

MT: What happens if you haven’t dealt with your tendency to be conflict averse, and you become a manager?

PD: You tank ~ You tank yourself and the organization. You need to learn the ways that work for you, in your own voice and spirit, to address conflict with dignity, clarity, humor, hospitality, encouragement, and accountability. We owe it to our missions to get this right.

MT: What can people look forward to learning in your session at the Fundraising Career Conference?

PD: I’m excited to share my key lessons-learned about managing people; growing careers; and doing it well ~ all in service of a more powerful nonprofit sector.

This won’t be an off-the-shelf presentation for me, but instead an integration of many lessons learned; mistakes made; insights achieved; and case studies workshopped in both classroom and workplace. So I’m really looking forward to sharing what I believe are very real-world, integrity-based, enjoyable approaches to excellent management in fundraising.

If you’d like to join us at the Fundraising Career Conference, it starts April 17th, 19th, and 21st. Join us now!

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