Featured Entrepreneur of the Spirit: Kate Sell

Kate Sell, Founder and President of Mission Advancement Partners, shares what inspired her to start her venture and why she joined a SENT Community.

Kate Sell is the founder of Mission Advancement Partners—a consulting firm that equips Catholic organizations to reach peak effectiveness by improving these areas: organizational management and strategy, marketing and public relations, fundraising and development, and event planning and management.

Over the course of the last twenty years, Kate has come to realize that faith-based organizations of all sizes struggle to understand, utilize, and implement best practices, planning strategies, and effective resource alignment necessary for successful mission fulfillment. Leaders with big hearts and commitment to their mission are often unequipped in many practical areas necessary to move their organizations forward. Kate’s awareness of these needs propelled her to launch Mission Advancement Partners with the goal of assisting Catholic organizations in their efforts to achieve great things for the Church and the world. By walking with these organizations and providing them with the guidance they need, Kate and her team strive to help them live their missions to the fullest.

Kate is one of our SENT Community members, and we are proud of the great work she is doing for the Church Here are some of the things she has to say about her own mission and her involvement in SENT…

What inspired you to start your firm?

I have always believed every Catholic organization has a God-given mission – a journey towards achieving something good, true, and beautiful for humanity, for the culture, and for the Church. The greatness of every mission is characterized by how well we prepare for our journey, how well we forge unknown paths, and how well we navigate through uncertain places. These determine the breadth of our visions and the greatness of our missions.

Over the last twenty years, I have witnessed faith-based organizations of all sizes struggle to understand, utilize, and implement best practices, planning strategies, and effective resource alignment necessary for successful mission fulfillment. Leadership, staff, and benefactors with deep hearts and a commitment to the mission are often not experts in areas such as strategic messaging and marketing, organizational management, fundraising, event planning, human resources, or administration and are therefore unequipped to move the organization forward. It is from my own deep desire to assist great organizations to achieve great things for our Church and the culture that I launched Mission Advancement Partners as a way to accompany and walk with organizations to help them live their missions to the fullest.

The reality in the Church today is that everything is in question. How the Church has functioned and operated over the past five decades has not proven fruitful on countless levels. We cannot keep utilizing the same tired strategies that didn’t work twenty years ago to solve our problems today. The goodness and truth of the Gospel are unchanging, but we have radically failed in how we have presented it to our modern world. We must re-envision and reimagine how we present the Gospel. This isn’t just a good idea, it’s mission-critical and more urgent now than ever before. Our hope is to assist our clients to innovate and reimagine how they live their mission and re-engage a world that has lost its way.

Can you tell us about some of the projects you’ve been up to lately?

Our mix of clients is always changing. Recently, we have been doing more work with Catholic schools and other Catholic educational institutions trying to pivot in a new reality of young Millennial parents who do not value Catholic education as previous generations and who are not as willing to sacrifice to provide it for their children.

We are specifically working with independent Catholic schools who are not affiliated with a diocese or even a religious order, but who are lay owned and run and who seek to foster a new generation of Catholics who know, embrace and live the Truth of the Catholic faith in a very confused culture.

What have been the most difficult or challenging parts of starting this venture?

The needs of Catholic organizations are vast and it’s easy to try to become all things to all people and thus venture down pathways beyond our expertise. We wanted to help everyone with everything, but over time, this began to dilute our core competencies and our overall client service began to suffer.

To balance this, we have worked hard to establish positive collaborative relationships with organizations that provide the services that we do not, such as graphic design or capital campaign management. We make it a point to say “we don’t do that, but let us connect you with someone who does…” and lead them to high-quality, trusted partners. We work hand-in-glove with these trusted partners to provide seamless service for our clients. This is what’s truly best for our clients and for our team.

Why did you decide to join a SENT Community?

SENT offered me the opportunity to be a part of a professional Catholic community of colleagues who share a similar mission to serve the Church with God-given gifts and talents. Working in the “Catholic space” is not the same as working in the secular space. Catholic professionals are mission-driven with the heart of the Church as our inspiration. Often, our work can be isolating and lonely without a network of colleagues for support. I was attracted to SENT by my own desire for a professional Catholic community, to grow in my relationship with Christ, and to get to know other like-minded individuals.

What have been the biggest benefits or takeaways from your time in a SENT Community?

The Catholic professional space has been characterized for decades by competition and a scarcity mentality that has prevented authentic collaboration. Most organizations operate in a silo without the benefit of idea-sharing, best practices, and cross-pollination between different ministries and apostolates.

One of the greatest benefits of a SENT community is the ability to build trusted professional relationships and foster collaboration. I gain so much for learning from those in my SENT community. We share our challenges and struggles while at the same time offering new perspectives, ideas, and best practices. I cannot overstate the importance of the trusted relationships and collaboration that SENT cultivates. These are gifts to the Church.

What would you tell other entrepreneurs on the fence about joining SENT?

Being part of a SENT community will only enhance your ability to lead, innovate, and collaborate. The time is minimal for what you receive in return. Do not hesitate to invest yourself in a community and be open to personal and spiritual growth. God works in our lives in and through relationships and the opportunity to be a part of a professional Catholic community is priceless.

If you could sum up your SENT experience in one sentence, what would it be?

Personal, professional and spiritual growth with trusted colleagues has been a blessing for those seeking to serve the Church in a dedicated way,

Anything else you’d like to add about SENT or your work?

Be open to what the Holy Spirit is doing through SENT and embrace the opportunity to collaborate and grow professionally.

Do you have any resources about your organization that you would want us to share with other entrepreneurs?

With more than fifteen years of experience working in Catholic and faith-based communications, marketing, fundraising, and organizational management, Mission Advancement Partners (MAP) operates around three core principles that guide our interactions with our clients and drive our strategy and commitment to each project. It is through the lens of these principles that we derive all of our client work and interactions.

  • Long-Term Trusted Relationships. Successful communications and marketing rest on an organization’s ability to build long-term relationships with their target audience(s). Building trusted relationships with mutually-shared communication enables organizations to grow and deepen connections and interactions with their key stakeholders over time. We strive to assist clients in establishing and growing long-term constituent relationships that result in positive personal recommendations, word-of-mouth marketing, greater levels of brand loyalty, and long-term donor investment. We want our clients to be known, recognized, and recommended.
  • “The Braid.” MAP believes that healthy non-profit organizations require balance and cultivation of all three strands of the “organizational braid” – marketing, management, and funding. A braid requires three strands; if one or more of the strands is either missing or fragile, the braid weakens or falls apart. All three strands must be cultivated simultaneously and in support of one another to create a strong braid. Marketing ensures that target audiences know who the organization is, what they do best, and how to interact with them (as a customer and as a donor). Management ensures that an organization is healthy, functioning at top performance, and striving for excellence in all they do. Funding ensures that current and potential donors understand the organization’s mission, vision, and goals, and are offered opportunities for meaningful engagement and investment. Any strategies proposed or work performed by MAP will always take into account the impact on the “braid,” always seeking to enhance and strengthen all three strands.
  • Personal & Customized. As a boutique firm, we strive to accompany organizations through personal attention and customized service. MAP does not use templated services or one-size-fits-all approaches. We believe every organization has a unique mission requiring distinct and tailored services created specifically for the success of each mission, program, service, or event. MAP’s team of professionals is committed to the personal attention of each client and the dynamic creativity necessary for each project.

Recommended Books From Kate:

  • Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. If read through the lens of the current state of the Church, it is an opportunity re-think how we approach evangelization in our modern world.
  • Traction by Gino Wickman. This is a great practical guide for small businesses and organizations to manage their teams.
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin. This is an oldie but a goodie with timeless principles for being “remarkable” and equipping others to be your word-of-mouth marketing force.
  • All Marketers Tell Stories by Seth Godin. This book is a great guide for understanding how our culture uses narratives and stories to promote initiatives, programs, and products.

To learn more about Kate and Mission Advancement Partners click here.