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What Does the “New Normal” Mean for Raising Funds?

An essay by Mark Brooks

The "New Normal" is a buzzword you have probably heard as a result of the economic woes of our nation. Basically, it means that the glory days of prosperity are past us. The following quote from The Fiscal Times sums it up well

"Washington and Wall Street are coming around to the idea that the economic future we're stumbling towards will be far less generous from the normality we long for. The "New Normal"a disarmingly benign term coined by Mohamed El-Erian, co-chief investment officer of the big California investment firm Pimcoenvisions a future of sluggish growth, international discord, increased uncertainty and minuscule returns on capital. Government revenues shrink while spending remains high."

So basically, the "New Normal" says to adjust your expectations to one of uncertainty and a minuscule future. What brought about this new buzzword? think there are four factors that led to the "New Normal."

September 11, 2001. Like the Great Depression and Pearl Harbor scarred our grandparents, this one event shook the foundations of our secure world. We have not and will not ever be the same.

The 2008 Financial Collapse and Panic. Just when we started to gain some confidence in the future our 401K's became 201K's over night. Forget that the Market recovered, we are now tempted to hide our money under our mattress.

The Technological Revolution. Change is upon us at almost the speed of light. Computers that once filled an office floor now fit in the palms of our hands. While we enjoy the revolution, for many it breeds continued fear and uncertainty as society changes right before their eyes.

The Demographic Remapping of America. The presidential election of 2012 woke everyone up to the fact that America is no longer a WASP nation. We are diverse. Again, this causes uncertainty and fear in the hearts of many.

Most churches ignore these trends and continue doing what they have always done. Daily we are becoming increasingly disconnected with the society we are called to reach. Not only are we struggling to reach this society, we are seeing a continued decline in giving, thus endangering our ability to fund missions and ministry. The percentage of what Americans give to the church has decline steadily from 1968's 3.11% to 2.4% in 2010. That represents billions lost for the cause of Christ. The "new normal" is further killing our ability to raise funds.

What does the "new normal" mean for raising funds? Let me talk of one aspect of raising funds, the capital campaign. What has been the impact of this "new normal" on capital campaigns?

1. Fewer campaigns are being held by churches. Why is this? There are two major reasons. First, after the crash of 2008 Christian leaders became overly cautious. Plans were put on hold and many have never been brought out of the closet. Secondly, lending is tight. I had a banker yesterday tell me that he was turning more clients down as a result of their not being a good financial risk. Without loans, churches cannot build the structures they need.

2. Pledges are lower. Forget what the sales guys of stewardship campaigns tell you. Their presidents have all admitted to me privately that pledging is less as a result of the economy. Gone are the days of an average of one and a half to three times your operating budget. You can raise money through a campaign, but it might not be the two to four times you want.

The more pressing question for we Christian leaders is

How do you still raise dollars in the "New Normal"? Here are my key steps to raising funds in a capital campaign.

1. Adapt or die It is not 1980, so why would you have a campaign that looks like it is?

2. Set realistic expectations You can raise significant funds even if they are not what once was raised in the past.

3. Embrace technology We are moving to having all our campaigns be online. America is already there, why is your church not?

4. Build your base Don't wait for the capital campaign to work on increasing donors. We are working with many churches to increase budget giving.

5. Have a plan and work your plan The churches that successfully raise funds have a specific plan and they work it. What about you?

6. K.I.S.S. Simplicity rules. In our day, there are two commodities, money and time. Whatever campaign you hold needs to keep this in mind.

7. Start sooner It is much more complicated than you think. So, start now to raise the funds you need.

Waiting will only cost you money. Recently a church called me after putting their project and campaign on hold. Basically, the project is now going to cost them 30% more than it would have three years ago. In those three years of waiting they could have raised significant funds towards this project. However, due to the economy at the time, they thought it better to wait. Waiting has only limited their growth and caused them to miss significant dollars. In the end waiting cost them money. Don't let this happen to you.

The "new normal" is indeed a reality, but it need not derail your dreams and plans. Is not our God bigger than man's "new normal"?

Mark Brooks is founder and president of The Charis Group and Charis Giving Solutions based in Atlanta.

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