Nuvyn Peters

Avenue Calgary’s 2016 Top 40 Under 40.

Photograph by Jared Sych. photographed at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks. 

Age: 37

Job title: Vice-President of Development and Alumni Engagement, University of Calgary

Why she’s a 2016 Top 40:

Peters is leading the University of Calgary’s ambitious “Energize: The Campaign for Eyes High” initiative to raise $1.3 billion by 2020.

Shortly before Nuvyn Peters launched the third-largest post-secondary fundraising campaign in Canada, she had a baby boy. “Trying to pull off a campaign launch with a two-week-old at home – that was a challenge,” Peters says. It took hard work, but Peters thrives on hard work.

Peters, who joined the University of Calgary in 2014, led her team to raise a record $226 million in her first year on the job, making her new workplace one of the top fundraising institutions in Canada. She helped unite the previously distinct development and alumni departments under a single vision, and, in April 2016, launched a major campaign connected to the University of Calgary’s 50th anniversary celebrations and “Eyes High” strategic vision to raise $1.3 billion by 2020. The campaign already has the support of more than 20,000 donors.

A newcomer to the city, Peters has been impressed by how keen Calgarians are to contribute. “People feel a great responsibility to give back to the city,” she says. “I’ve never felt that pulse elsewhere.”

Peters was raised in Saskatchewan, studied in Switzerland and spent a decade in Washington, D.C., where she worked in public policy and advocacy, including for influential non-profit leader Steve Orr at Orr Associates. She also worked with the Tahirih Justice Centre, where she sometimes translated for women who had endured violence and persecution in French-speaking Africa. That experience was a “pivotal moment,” Peters says. “I wanted to dedicate myself to justice, to the non-profit industry, to trying to improve outcomes for all people.”

The pursuit of justice is central to Peters’ approach to fundraising, which she says is not about money at all – rather, it’s about relationships. “We’re simply facilitators,” she says of her 170-strong engagement team.

Peters believes her job is to find a donor’s animating passion, such as cancer research or access to education, and give that donor an opportunity to make a tangible contribution.

The youngest member of her senior executive team, Peters is also the only member with three children under the age of six. She’s aware that she’s helping clear a path for other women in her workplace.

“You have to model that work-life integration,” she says. “My life as a mother doesn’t end when I go to work. It’s about having those things integrated in an environment that supports, fosters and encourages that.” – Julia Williams

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