Outreach: Is it 'Vital' or 'First to Go'?

Outreach: Is it \


Whether we call it “advertising” or “marketing,” we in the pregnancy help community talk often of how to be more effective. Last week’s column touched on this, and yet we must also ask, “How much?” when it comes to our advertising dollars.

“How much?” can sometimes be the most difficult question, especially if the budget is tight. When funds are a challenge, advertising dollars are often slashed first. We do so for seemingly good reasons: We don’t want to cut back on staffing, we must pay the monthly bills. It all makes sense.

But, when we cut back on marketing, we are less likely to reach the very person who needs us more than anyone else: The woman determined or likely to end her pregnancy.

The truth is, rarely do our overall numbers drop appreciably when we slash our marketing budget, giving us a false sense of security. Why? Because those who seek us for material support already know about us. Once word is out that we provide ongoing material aid, our clients tell their friends who tell their friends who . . . we get the picture.

In addition, our “abortion vulnerable” numbers may not drop much, because most of those who meet certain vulnerable requirements are also in the group of those seeking material support.

Our goal in marketing then, is to pop up on the radar of those most likely to end their pregnancies. This is why marketing is vital. So how do we keep this key line item not only in our budget, but also make sure our marketing strategy is growing every year?

First, change our wording

Many of our donors see “marketing” and “advertising” as negative distractions. No one wakes up and says, “Wow, I hope I see a good commercial today!” So when we talk about advertising, many donors’ eyes glaze over.

To reach donors with the importance of marketing, the word outreach sends a message that resonates with those who support us. Instead of saying “We need more money for advertising,” we should speak the language of outreach: “We need funds to reach out and connect with those who need us most; through the Internet, TV, billboards, print media and more.” 

Second, bring in the pros

Unless our board or staff consists entirely of advertising executives, our marketing strategy will fall short if we try to carry it out ourselves. I’m not a marketing expert but I know this: Marketing (“Outreach,” right?) is a job for professionals.

When our board tries to make decisions on how to spend advertising dollars; or when our CEO, outreach coordinator or someone else is making these calls, all the heart in the world won’t make up for the fact that we do not know the industry.

Successful businesses hire marketing firms. In the pregnancy help community, we have these firms, too. Find the best fit. Hire them. Listen to them, and make sure they listen to you as you share your insights into your community. Form a partnership and work together.

Hiring experienced, faith-based professionals is more effective, and less expensive, than trying many different methods to see what works.

Third, measure results

Once a plan is in place, make sure results are accurately measured. A good marketing firm will make this possible, so that we can actually see whether our strategy is effective.

With data in hand we can tweak our plan, moving funds from one area to another so that every dollar is used wisely.

From there, we can go back to those who support us and tell them, “Your gifts strengthened our outreach, bringing in 132 more women considering abortion and saving the lives of 119 children we know of.”

For pregnancy help centers and medical clinics, it’s time to step up our outreach. For those looking for a starting point, making sure the marketing budget is seen as vital—instead of “first to go”—is a great beginning.

Does your organization see marketing as vital? Let us know in the comments. Also, don't forget to register for the 2015 Heartbeat International Annual Conference April 7-10 in St. Louis, where Kirk will lead the workshop, Behind the Scenes of a Blow-Out Banquet. 

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