Peter Donlon

Why We Give

Often, a gift made to Campbell University is the result of an “ask.” But even when the gift is 100 percent the idea of the donor, advancement officers are critical in seeing that gift through — making sure it gets to the right program and offering expertise on the gift that makes the most financial sense to the donor.

Peter Donlon has been director of planned giving at Campbell since 2018, overseeing estate planning, wills, insurance policies, trusts and other forms of giving that go beyond the “sign the check now” way of doing things. Planned gifts totaled nearly $4 million at Campbell during the 2020-2021 fiscal year alone.

“Planned giving is a way for you to give, but give later down the line,” says Donlon, who spent over 20 years in the hospitality industry with Marriott International before coming to Campbell.

Donlon and his colleagues guide those big decisions, allowing donors to make larger gifts that return them an income stream for life. Some donors prefer to make gifts that leverage tax incentives, including real estate, IRA gifts, and whole life insurance policies.

Planned gifts can be very big — the largest single gift in Campbell’s 135-year history was made in 2020 when the trust of former Campbell President Norman A. Wiggins and his wife Millie Wiggins left $13 million to create the Wiggins Arts & Sciences Endowed Scholarship. But they’re also an option for recent graduates who may not have the resources to make a large gift now, but want to contribute to a fund over several years.

$4 Million: Planned gifts totaled nearly $4 million at Campbell University during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Several of those gifts were made by younger alumni like Nolan Perry (pictured) to spread out gifts over several years that will have a big impact over time.

Donlon’s relationship with Campbell began as a student in 2003 when he left the hospitality industry to answer a call to ministry, enrolling in the Divinity School for a Master of Divinity degree in chaplaincy and counseling. In 2007, he became director of programs for Urban Ministries of Durham, and from 2011 to 2013, he developed a system of care for 12 homeless services agencies in and around Raleigh and managed all aspects of donor relations for the Salvation Army of Wake County.

In 2015, he returned to Campbell Divinity as director of church relations and development, and he made the jump to advancement and planned giving three years later. He says his experience in hospitality, ministry and nonprofit agencies all prepared him for his current role.

“We’re in the people business, getting to know who they are, getting to know what’s important to them,” Donlon says. “You get to know their story and what brings them joy. Everybody has a story — I completely believe that. I’ve always been a great listener, and it’s important to really get to know these stories and form these relationships before we talk about finances and giving.”

There’s a bit of “salesmanship” to the job as well — but that part comes easy when you believe in the product you’re pitching. Donlon says Campbell brings him joy, and he believes the work he’s doing has a direct impact on students. If the University continues to grow and prosper, it reaches more of these students, educates them and sends them out to become servant leaders and important pieces of their communities.


The Mildred & Norman Wiggins Arts & Sciences Endowed Scholarship will provide support for Campbell undergraduate students for generations. The $13 million donation on behalf of the former president and first lady’s estate was the largest single gift in Campbell history.

And the donors Donlon deals with — not all of them have had a Campbell experience prior to meeting him. Not all of them are alums or parents of current students.

“I had a call from a donor who’d been connected with Campbell for some years, and he referred me to another person who had never experienced Campbell, but heard good things,” he said. “Through some research, she started learning about our health sciences campus and our osteopathic medical school — the holistic side of what we do was really appealing to her. So she made a visit. We toured the med school and we met with Will Bratton, director of development at the pharmacy school, and she walked away saying, ‘I’m in.’ I want to do something to help. So she created a scholarship, and she’s since written me messages saying she’s proud to be a part of the Campbell community.

“Wow, you know. She saw Campbell as a place worthy of her investment. It was a wonderful experience for me, and I continue to be humbled by the generosity of others to Campbell.”

Next: Why We Give | Skylar Raynor