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Leader Profile:

Peter Christ

Peter Christ led the rapid growth of the Battle Creek Community Foundation and served on each of the major working groups to build the community foundation support systems in Michigan. He was deeply involved in the creation and implementation of a common computer system, branding, the work related to Michigan Community Foundations’ Youth Project, and the Michigan tax credit. After retirement, Christ continued as a consultant to Michigan community foundations through the Council of Michigan Foundations. Christ was extensively engaged in the development of many Michigan’s foundations.

Leadership Highlights

Mr. Peter Christ talks about how community foundations adopted the Foundation Information Management System (FIMS).
Mr. Peter Christ talks about the Council of Michigan Foundation's (CMF) collaboration on implementing FIMS.
Mr. Peter Christ talks about the two models of leadership he has witnessed in community foundations.
Mr. Peter Christ talks about his career in philanthropy.
Mr. Peter Christ talks about how the key to replicating Michigan's non-profit sector is to listen and help empower communities.
Mr. Peter Christ talks about the importance of continuing to find the right solution, even when you have made a mistake.
Mr. Peter Christ talks about how the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) helps Michigan stand out as a leader in philanthropy.
Mr. Peter Christ talks about what it means to be an effective community foundation.
Mr. Peter Christ talks about community foundations in practice, with the example of Calhoun County.


After graduating from Battle Creek Central High in 1951, Peter Christ pursued a double major in economics and political science at Albion College. Christ served in the U.S. Army for two years (1956 to 1958), and earned a Master of Business Administration with highest distinctions from the University of Michigan in 1961.

Philanthropic Biography

Peter Christ was born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan, and was involved with a variety of community activities from a young age. In high school, he participated in football, wrestling, track, orchestra, the science club, the Spanish club, glee club, student council, and the National Honor Society. In college, he participated in football, track, the forum club, the economics club, the Albion College Players Club, orchestra, and the Interfraternity Council. Within these organizations Christ held a number of leadership positions including president, treasurer, and co-captain.

Christ began his career as an insurance agent with Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, and over the next 29 years, worked his way up to vice president in the sales division. After leaving the company in 1990, Christ became the president and CEO of the Battle Creek Community Foundation (BCCF).

From 1998 to 2004, Christ served as an adjunct professor at Western Michigan University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration. Christ also served as the interim executive director of the Burnham Brook Community Center (now known as the Kool Family Community Center), a fitness and social center for active adults in Battle Creek. Christ combined his knowledge of Michigan foundations with a passion for education and served as interim director of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy’s The Grantmaking School, succeeded founding director Joel J. Orosz.

Christ continues to work as a consultant through Peter J. Christ & Associates, LLC and works closely with CMF, notably in their on-site mentoring program. Efforts include staff development, fund development, strategic planning, and community development.

Contributions to the Field

During nine years at BCCF, Christ worked to considerably improve the organization’s financial standing. Assets increased from $13 million to over $55 million, and the number of donors doubled. Christ initiated a charitable gift annuity program to enhance the sustainability of the foundation. Christ deeply valued and strove to add diversity to the board, staff, and volunteers of the organization. Christ believed that collaboration between foundations and grantmakers was key to empowering individuals and communities in creating change that is impactful and lasting.

Christ was integral to efforts developing a common computer software accounting system that would meet the needs of all community foundations in Michigan. Until that time, Michigan foundations used a variety of systems, which created a range of problems and inconsistencies. CMF facilitated meetings of community foundations to discuss the development of a common system. After extensive meetings, a collective approached the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with a proposal.

The collective worked with the Kellogg Foundation’s Program Director for Philanthropy and Volunteerism Joel J. Orosz, to develop a system called the Foundation Information Management System (FIMS), which was fully-integrated and created especially for community foundations. NPO Solutions, Inc., the company that developed FIMS, was very small at the time and computerization of community foundation processes was limited. The Michigan contract helped grow the company into a national vendor, while affording Michigan community foundations the opportunity to shape the development of the software to meet their common needs. Given the differences in size and complexity of Michigan’s community foundations, two related systems were developed; FIMS for mature foundations, and FIMS-light for newer foundations. FIMS is still used by most community foundations in the country. In 2001, NPO Solutions, Inc. was acquired by MicroEdge, LLC.

Christ met regularly with a small group of peers at CMF to discuss new initiatives and to provide leadership for the development of the community foundation field in Michigan.

The list of organizations where Christ served as a board member, chairman, volunteer, or consultant over the last 50 years is staggering. Christ contributed greatly to a significant number and wide variety of philanthropic organizations focused on education, health, and community development in Battle Creek and the southern Michigan area. Christ was affiliated with the Rotary Club of Battle Creek, Battle Creek Area Educators’ Task Force, NorthPointe Woods, First Presbyterian Church, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.


Christ was interviewed regarding insights and experiences in working with Michigan’s philanthropic community and Our State of Generosity (OSoG) partners. The following quotes relate to the five organizing themes of the OSoG project.

Servant Leadership in Michigan Philanthropy

“If the lead foundation had a philosophy of empowerment, and really forgetting the economics of whether it was going to pay for itself or not, the view was to try to help affiliates become real servants in their community and to empower them to do that. Those community foundations and affiliates have thrived for the most part, I think they have done well.”

Human, Financial, and Knowledge Resources

“Remember that your resources are not just money. The resources of a community foundation are the money, the people, the knowledge, and the relationships, and if you use all of those assets, your ability to impact community is hugely increased as compared with if you limit your thinking only to your assets are your money.”

Practical Wisdom

“The reality of win-win [and] has always been a better philosophy for me than win-lose. So whenever possible it’s, ‘how do we both come out of this engagement in a better position than we would have been [in] individually?’”

“The view again comes to, ‘what are you trying to do,’ and the key is ‘how do you empower people, how do you empower communities?’ So if I were starting with a single overall concept that says, if you recognize that what we are trying to do is to empower, and not to control, you do that in different ways, and different places depending on the structure, and the government structure, and the economics, and everything else. But the overall view is unless you are about empowerment, you are probably not going to reach the full potential of what you are trying to do.”

This profile was last updated: 02/20/2020