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Entering into The Next Normal By Dave Raley

Marketing and Fundraising in the Next Normal


Are you ready to enter into the next normal? According to a 2020 Pew survey, more than four out of every five U.S. adults say that there are lessons for mankind to learn from the coronavirus outbreak. And about a third of adults say these lessons are sent by God.

That’s a fascinating thought for nonprofit leaders to keep in mind as we consider the events of 2020. Most people would agree we are not living in “normal” times. Is there even such a thing as a return to normal, or are we entering a “Next Normal”? And how best to lead our organizations in light of that reality?

The trends are important, and we do need to understand them. More on that shortly. But just as important is how to lead in 2021, in light of the Next Normal we are entering. Here are three mistakes to watch out for and avoid in 2021:

Mistake #1: Changing Vision Unnecessarily

In times of significant change, it can be very tempting to buy into the narrative that “everything is changing; therefore, we must change EVERYTHING!” While this can be healthy in the sense that nothing is sacred, it can also be dangerous.

Ask yourself — have your core mission and vision truly changed in light of recent events? 

For the vast majority of Christian ministries, their core mission and vision have not changed. In fact, they may be more critical than ever in light of recent events. There is a big difference between your vision and mission and HOW you accomplish your vision and mission.

In times of change, great leaders separate vision from tactics. Vision rarely changes, but tactics are always subject to change.

Put more simply, great leaders:

  • Reinforce the vision.
  • Re-evaluate the tactics.

Mistake #2: Missing the Bright Spots

In times of change, it’s easy to be consumed by what’s NOT working. When leaders are in this mode, it is easy to miss the bright spots. After all, there are so many PROBLEMS that demand their attention! But you might just have your priorities mixed up.

The most successful leaders during times of change pay close attention to bright spots. They ask questions like “What’s working? How can we do more of that?”

At the beginning of the pandemic in March, we saw this in the leaders and ministries we serve here at Masterworks. Donors were responding with tremendous generosity to digital media fundraising — we were seeing anywhere from 2X to 5X the typical results during that time of year. A handful of ministry leaders saw this and asked, “How much more can we do?” With their leadership, we doubled the investment and continued to see 2X to 5X the results on that increase. Eventually, these leaders were investing triple what they had been just weeks before and continuing to see 2X to 5X returns.

In times of change, great leaders look at what is working, and they do more of that!

Mistake #3:   Submitting to “We Can’t ” Narratives

In times of change, uncertainty, or difficulty, it is tempting to buy into the reasons why you or your organization can’t succeed. “We can’t thrive — our programs in the field are shut down, or the risks are too great, or we don’t have the resources” or any number of other reasons.

But great leaders fight that temptation. They look outside of their organizations to where others are thriving, and they ask, “What can I learn from them?”

They even look outside their industry for lessons they might apply to their situation. For example, during the shutdown, traditional retailers had plenty of excuses not to thrive. And yet, while many retailers did struggle, there were bright spots. On the same day in November, I read the following two headlines:

  • “Macy’s same-store sales drop 20%, as Covid threatens holidays”
  • “Target’s sales soar ahead of crucial holiday shopping period”

How could two big-box retailers in the same industry see such different results? I wonder what we might learn from what Target is doing, compared to Macy’s?

This is the kind of resolve that great leaders display. They resist the temptation to believe any narrative that they can’t thrive, and they look for lessons to apply to their situation to help their organizations do just that.

(By the way, to not leave you hanging, Target’s success had a lot to do with how it shifted to online ordering via investing in their website, enabling easy in-store pickups, in addition to focusing on home cooking and home decor products with bigger margins, less discounting and starting holiday sales earlier than usual.)

Get Ready to Go Deeper?

Earlier, I mentioned several specific trends that are shaping the way nonprofits accomplish their mission and grow in 2021. On January 28, I’ll be giving a webinar in partnership with Christian Leadership Alliance, entitled “Leading fundraising and marketing in the Next Normal.” We’ll discuss these trends and several other principles that we see effective leaders doing as they lead in the Next Normal. I’ll be sharing examples of ministries that have thrived in this time and what we can learn.


Dave Raley is Executive Vice President of Strategic Innovation at Masterworks. Masterworks is a company of diverse Movers and Makers who help Christian organizations inspire their audience to action to achieve their mission. To explore how Masterworks can help you raise more funds, contact Dave today or (360) 394-7641.


If you liked this blog, then don’t miss The Outcomes Webcast on January 28, 2021 at 10:00 AM Pacific Time.

“Leading Fundraising and Marketing in the Next Normal” Featuring Dave Raley



What is Christian Leadership Alliance?

Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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