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Startups and Sustainability - An Interview with Mark Randall

In this episode, Andrew visits with Mark Randall, the executive director of the Pontifical North American College (a.k.a the NAC).  Together, Andrew and Mark share about their fundraising adventures, and Mark offers advice for startup ministries and seasoned fundraising professionals.  

Show Notes


Mark has a fun and varied background.  He began his professional career in the food and beverage industry in Chicago, after which he learned to be a chocolatier and started a gourmet food company.  After helping to start a software company, Mark applied for his first position in Catholic fundraising, and from there, he has raised money for several Catholic schools and ministries.  He is currently the executive director of the NAC in Rome.  


Pontifical North American College

The Pontifical North American College (the NAC) is a seminary located just outside the Vatican for the formation of diocesan priests from the U.S.  It was founded in 1859 and serves 200+ men from 90 different dioceses from across the United States.  Mark describes the challenges he has faced in fundraising for an international ministry that is far away from its primary donor base.   


Wyoming Catholic College

Andrew and Mark spend time delving into Mark’s experience as a development officer for Wyoming Catholic College.  When Mark arrived in Wyoming, Wyoming Catholic College was just starting, and Mark shares the challenges of raising money for a very new ministry, and he offers advice for other startup organizations.  


Lightning Round

  1. If you could fundraise for any organization or cause at any time in history, what would it be?
    • This is a hard question as I am passionate about so many things.  I think I’d work to support priestly formation.  It’s something that’s important to me and that’s where God has me right now.
  2. If you could get a donor meeting with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
    • St. Katharine Drexel.  She came from incredible wealth.  She could have done anything she wanted, yet she gave her life to God.  I’d love to listen to her talk about what philanthropy meant to her and her family.
  3. Is there enough money out there for every organization that's doing good work?
    • Of course.  There’s more money than any of us will ever need.  We just need to encourage people to say “yes” to our requests for money.  
  4. What is one piece of advice that you would give your past self?
    • Don’t benchmark yourself against your peers.  God has you where He wants you, and there’s no need to compare yourself to others.  
  5. Who are 3 people who have most influenced you, professionally?
    • Bill Sturtevant:  He was my mentor when I worked in fundraising at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois.
    • Henri Nouwen:  His book on the spirituality of fundraising continues to be so relevant.  
    • Tom Suddes:  Founder of The Suddes Group and ForImpact Fundraising, Tom encourages the nonprofit community to rethink how we present our ministries to donors.  
  6. What is one fact about you that most people don’t know?
    • I’m adopted.  My dad adopted me as single parent when I was 3 days old.  Two of my three children are adopted.  Adoption is a very important part of our family life.
  7. What is a book that you think everyone should read?
    • Sacred Scripture.  It’s literally the Word of God, and so many people have come to the faith by reading scripture.  


If you would like to connect with Mark, you can email him at [email protected].  He’s also available on Facebook and Instagram.    


Andrew’s Takeaways

First, even though Mark lives over 4,000 away from the campus that he fundraises for, he has found ways to be successful and raise a lot of money. I thought it was really great when he talked about who is most likely to make those gifts. The most committed donors to his institution have been, and likely always will be, those folks who have been to campus and witnessed and participated in the program directly. This holds true for all of fundraising. If you want to move people along the donor continuum toward larger gifts, you have to find ways to directly engage them in the work.  


Second, it is important to understand the potential for fundraising success and have a good idea of what can be raised before setting your goals. Whether you are launching a capital campaign and need to do a feasibility study or just setting your annual goals, use the data that you have available to set realistic goals. Picking numbers out of the air that ultimately won't be achievable can be self-defeating and ultimately tank a good team. 


Third, nonprofit leaders need to be mindful of fundraising from day one and engage the fundraising team in executive planning and strategy from the beginning. Mark talked about this in the context of a startup, but it applies to organizations at every stage. Fundraising should not be an afterthought but should be incorporated into the planning early and often. 


My bonus takeaway is the advice to not compare yourself to other fundraisers or other nonprofits. Every organization is different and has different needs, donors, opportunities, and challenges. So be content where you are and push yourself to achieve the most you can within the structure you currently exist in…not simply based on what other institutions are generating. 


I hope you enjoyed the interview. If you have questions, be sure to reach out to us at [email protected]. Also, if you haven't taken our survey, go to and spend 5 minutes completing the questionnaire. 


God bless and we’ll see you next time. 


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