Andrew Jensen is President of Sozo Firm, Inc and has been offering business consulting and marketing services to businesses, nonprofits, foundations and Christian ministries since 2004.
Ever since the Lord thrust me into the pregnancy resource center arena in 2006 through a brief tenure as director of a small center, I’ve had the privilege of brainstorming with many other pregnancy center directors across the U.S. regarding the challenges of effectively and simultaneously reaching both prospective clients as well as prospective supporters through the internet.
Some pregnancy resource centers have multiple websites while others have only one. What does your pregnancy center do, and why? Please share below in the comment section what your center does, and if you believe it is effective.
A pregnancy center’s stereotypical audiences are quite different from each other:
First, you have the abortion prone woman, the possibly pregnant teen/college age student, and the pregnant woman/mother of young children with minimal resources.
Secondly, posing quite a contrast, you have the group that may potentially provide the much needed funding for the center: local churches, compassionate pro life philanthropists, and other members of the Body of Christ who support the efforts of the pregnancy center.
The initial question is, do we attempt to speak to both strikingly different audiences through a single website on a single domain … or do we spend twice as much of our precious resources building two completely separate websites, each focused on a single audience type?
For those who opt for a single website solution, the deeper and more complicated next question is, how do we make a single website work? Do we blatantly intermingle content intended for the supporter audience with that of the client audience? Wouldn’t that potentially cause some prospective clients to leave the website and look elsewhere for services and assistance?
Let’s look at what centers have done down through the past decade that the web has played a major role in client acquisition.
Two Distinct Public Websites
Some centers have had two distinct websites. A pregnancy center located in the fictitious Wapakita, NY region might have a client targeted website located at wapakitapregnancy.com and a supporter targeted website at friendsofwapakitalife.com. Centers have frequently gone the two distinct website route out of concern that an online giving page and blatant pro life content on a client site might discourage an abortion prone woman from making an appointment.
To their dismay, centers then find that Google smartly connects the dots and features both sites side by side within search engine results, and website analytics may then show that prospective clients are visiting both sites. Current clients may also post links on Facebook/Twitter to the supporter domain instead of the client domain. Traffic intermingles while the center continues maintaining and paying for two completely different websites.
Two Distinct Websites with Supporter Site Blocked to Search Engines
Some centers try to counter the above scenario by keeping their supporter website separate but making it essentially disappear from search engines through blocking the site by adding “noindex” commands within the meta of each webpage and by adding a “noindex” command within the robots.txt file for the entire domain. The end result is that the two websites still exist, but prospective clients and prospective supporters will only stumble across the client website since the supporter website is hidden.
The center then has to promote the supporter website through its email newsletter, print newsletter, brochures and other supporter targeted promotional information. Website analytics reveal that clients then rarely visit the supporter website; however, supporter traffic to the supporter website tends to also be very sparse unless a center creates ways to drive traffic to the supporter site.
One Website, Intermingled Client & Supporter Content
Some pregnancy centers are cutting back on website costs and maintenance work by consolidating their web presence into a single website. Some centers have also opted for the dual audience website route due to concerns regarding falling abortion rates, decreasing business, and being intimidated by web & media accusations of being a “false” clinic or being deceptive. The fearful response has been for centers to become more “transparent” in marketing by “putting everything out there,” which ultimately helps accomplish the abortion industry’s goal as more abortion prone women are turned off by the blatant pro life message of the centers’ websites.
Sometimes this dual audience website route is implemented through an initial landing page that offers these two options: an I need help button and an I want to help button. Clicking on one of those two buttons then takes the visitor to either the client focused portion of the website or the supporter focused section, respectively.
Other times, this is implemented through supporter and client content intermixed throughout the site; some content on a page may relate to supporters while other content on a page may relate to clients. Or, certain entire pages may relate to supporters while other pages may relate to clients.
Regardless exactly how the single website with client & supporter content is implemented, website analytics frequently reveals that both supporters and clients visit both portions of the website.
My suspicion is that this intermingling of distinctly different content has the end result of turning away certain types of clients (especially those who are abortion prone), and the pregnancy center finds its focus largely on charitable work, assisting mothers with diapers, baby clothing, etc. And there is nothing wrong in doing that; however, a center’s ability to be able to interact with the abortion minded woman and play a major role in saving lives destined to be aborted may be diminished.
Some pregnancy centers prefer the “this is who we are” approach, while others prefer to be more savvy in their presentation, understanding that it is easy to deter the abortion minded woman. And I am in no way encouraging dishonesty or covering up the center’s true identity. I am drawing attention to the reality that heavily pushing our pro life beliefs into the faces of prospective clients who are scouring the web for help in their moment of crisis will inevitably push them away from coming into the center and meeting the compassionate and caring faces who make up the pregnancy center.
One Website, No Supporter Content Online
Putting up their hands in frustration, some pregnancy centers have completely abandoned attempting to place any supporter content online and have opted for only a client website with no supporter content on it and no online giving webpage.
The potential downfall of this is losing prospective supporters who may be searching online for regional pregnancy resource centers. They may find the client site, but they may not know enough about the organization behind the client site to be interested enough to reach out to learn more. Valuable donations are never received, and churches & precious volunteers never connect with the center.
One Website, Client Focused with an Online Giving Page
A more recent option that centers are considering is a single client focused website with the options for supporters to get involved through a simple online giving webpage. The text on the giving page can be as neutral as desired in order to not discourage the abortion prone from contacting the center. Neither Care Net nor Heartbeat International see an online giving option on a client focused website as a barrier to an abortion-minded woman making an appointment as long as the client focused website clearly states that services are FREE. The drawback with this website format is that, while supporters can visit the website and give online, other center issues and elements of pro-life ministry are not provided, though these are often desired by supporters (and even some clients).
While it’s easy to “abandon ship” and completely give up trying to include supporter focused content online, let’s clear our heads for a moment, while I give you something extra to contemplate.
Pregnancy Centers have two audiences. The first we largely refer to as our “clients,” while the second is largely referred to as “supporters, donors, friends.” However, some centers are proactively realizing that in their efforts to reach out to the abortion minded woman, possibly pregnant teens/college aged students, and pregnant women in need of resources, they have missed another huge client audience: the church.
Within each church in our community we have abortion minded women (or those who are in recovery mode), teens who are being sexually immoral (or getting closer physically and dabbling in or already addicted to pornography), adults who are struggling with sexual purity/impurity, and a host of other needs which God has equipped pregnancy resource centers to meet.
Your pregnancy center may be short staffed, and it probably is short budgeted; however, any progressive pregnancy center website strategy is going to need to specifically address what we have stereotypically referred to as “clients,” while also specifically addressing our stereotypical “donors,” but it will also need to provide resources and help to clients within the church itself. So now we have a three website situation, right?!
My Proposed Solution
Single client focused website with a public giving page and a supporter/church focused portion privately accessible through a link on giving page.
My personal recommendation now, along with George Eusterman, is to move toward a comprehensive one website solution. Referring back to our fictitious Wapakita, NY center, their single website would be housed at wapakitapregnancy.com. Their supporter section would be housed in a folder on that site such as “friends”, so that the URL would end up looking like wapakitapregnancy.com/friends (you would want to keep it easy so you could constantly refer to it in your communications with supporters and so that they could easily remember it). The entire “friends” folder would then be blocked to search engines (“noindex”/”nofollow”).
In the main navigation on wapakitapregnancy.com, you might have a navigation option which says “How to Help.” When a website visitor clicked on that link, they would see a page which blatantly states near the top that “All Services are Free” followed by a brief paragraph or two with the center’s guide to giving instructions (eGiving clients: see the “Pregnancy Center Web Giving Guide” under the PDF column at the Client Resources page for specific wording examples and detailed instructions to provide your webmaster).
Below the text would be an online giving button followed by a PDF giving form button, where users more comfortable with paper can download a giving form to print off, complete, and mail back to the center. Below those two buttons would then be a link that says “Learn More” which would take visitors to the wapakitapregnancy.com/friends supporter section of the website.
The “friends” section then becomes the home of the pro life ministry and can be filled with a wealth of resources for churches, families and individuals, youth leaders and teens, parents and grandparents. As the Pregnancy Center Web Giving Guide so aptly puts it, “The center is the outreach to the crisis situation, but the ministry website is the preemptive work helping the church toward more salt and light in sexuality, connecting and involving co-laborers and givers. ” The church is a mission field in and of itself, and God has raised up the local pregnancy center to proactively reach out and minister to the Body of Christ.
This single website, which publicly is client focused but privately is also supporter focused, ministers to clients while simultaneously being able to minister in a deeper way to the Church. And, it offers a publicly accessible giving page so regular supporters as well as any other website visitor can easily give to help support the ministry of the center. I’d love to see several centers implement this route and serve as “test sites” so we can examine in real life how well this model can work.
Share Your Feedback, Questions & Suggestions
If you have any questions or suggestions, please share them below in the comments area so together we can all help the overall pregnancy center community with developing a roadmap for moving into 2014 and beyond. God has given us the web as an incredible tool for outreach. Let’s be smart and effectively use this tool as wise stewards. Let’s not be caught having buried that tool in the ground because we were too afraid to take risks.