As universities, churches, sporting events, political rallies, and other planned large gatherings continue to cancel in the wake of the coronavirus spread, it is prudent to think about how your pregnancy center will respond. Do you have an emergency plan in place for this pandemic?
You should, and you can.
Are you concerned about an event you have in the next several weeks? Are you wondering what you can do to prevent the spread of the virus at your pregnancy center? Or, are you thinking about closing your center temporarily? If so, Choose Life Marketing is here to help. This FREE guide includes tips you can use to run a virtual office, demonstrates how to host virtual events and offers tools that help you appeal to your donors as you anticipate unexpected costs during this season of uncertainty.
None of us could have anticipated the reach and impact of this virus that began just months ago in Wuhan, China. It had no name and had never been seen in humans. News stories about the virus slowly developed as we watched images unfold from an outdoor seafood and live animal market grow into more images of the Chinese people wearing masks and beginning to isolate themselves from work, school, and daily life for the safety of their families and community. Eventually the virus crossed borders, diagnosed in people who had no idea how they were exposed.
Today, many of us are facing news of the coronavirus in our very own communities. Therefore, it is crucial for each of us to have a plan of response for ourselves and our pregnancy centers. If you, your staff, or clients need to self-quarantine, here is a link to video that shows you what to have on hand.
The effectiveness of social distancing
Right now, the CDC and other government authorities are recommending people practice social distancing. Social distancing is a conscious effort to put at least three to five feet of space between yourself and another individual in hopes that you will keep the virus from spreading from one person to another. It also allows healthcare providers and hospitals time to respond to the pandemic and provide care in a timely manner for the people who need it the most. Because the CDC and other global health organizations are recommending social distancing, it could be a helpful practice for your center to participate in for the time being until the pandemic subsides.
Over the last few days we have noticed the virus is causing states to shut down many schools and events, with more being cancelled or postponed by the day. According to a 2011 study of the H1N1 flu outbreak in Mexico in 2009, that country’s decision to close schools for 18 days potentially saved thousands of lives. Unlike this current coronavirus which has impacted older people the most, the H1N1 flu strain hit very young people the hardest.
Here’s a graph to demonstrate why that helps all ages of our population both short-and long-term.
How to Provide a Safe Pregnancy Clinic Facility
There are many things you can do to keep your doors open and in-person services available to your clients during this time of uncertainty. The CDC has issued helpful information about when and how to clean your facilities to keep the virus from spreading if infected people have come through your doors.
In addition to following the CDC cleaning protocol, you can do the following to keep your waiting area, exam room, and waiting rooms clean for clients:
- Temporarily remove toys from waiting rooms and counseling rooms
- Have hand sanitizer available in multiple places for staff and clients to use
- Encourage staff to cough into their elbows and wash their hands frequently. You can set office reminders for everyone to go wash their hands at prescribed times.
- Make sure your staff are keeping their desks and computers disinfected daily to stop the spread of germs.
- Finally, encourage your staff to stay home if they feel unwell. Some insurance companies are offering to cover the cost of doctor visits to get tested if people think they are infected.
Letting Your Clients Know
Now that your pregnancy center is safe and ready for clients to come to, you also need to make sure your clients know it! Here are some marketing tips to let them know you are open for them:
- Include a banner on your website letting people know you are open and are a safe facility to visit during this time
- Post on your social media profiles to let people know what you’re doing to keep your facility safe
- Run ads on social media so people know you’re open and safe for them right now
- Make sure you note on your Google My Business profile that you are open OR if you do have special hours during this time. This information shows up on Google Maps searches and people will want to know either way.
- Let your clients know on your website and on social media that your office is practicing social distancing and what that means: Keeping a distance of 3-5 feet from other people and not shaking hands. Letting them know before their appointment will prepare them.
- Finally, remind your clients that they have time to make decisions about their unplanned pregnancy. Offer to meet with them via phone if they’re uncomfortable coming into the office and remind them you’re there for them and can help meet needs!
The best thing you can do to keep clients coming through your doors is to make sure they feel safe. Some of our advice may feel like over communicating, but this will help your clients know they’ll be safe if they come in for your services.
How to run a virtual PRC
In spite of your best efforts to provide a clean and safe facility, it may become necessary to close your center for a short time. At first glance, it may seem impossible to run a virtual pregnancy resource center, especially since the heart of your services happen face to face, in-person with your clients. However, there are ways to effectively run a virtual operation while still serving the men, women and families who need your services so much. Here’s how!
How to Offer Virtual Services
In addition to meeting with clients over the phone or video calling, you should also come up with a list of health clinics or other places where you can direct clients with immediate health needs. Remember to redirect individuals to healthcare clinics that you trust who you would typically refer to under normal operating conditions.
Pro-Life Doctors: Do you offer pre-natal care at your pregnancy center? Gather a list of of pro-life doctors and direct your pregnant clients scheduled for prenatal care to a pro-life doctor willing to take on new patients temporarily. While there is no published research yet that shows the impact of the coronavirus on pregnant women, we do know pregnant women can be more at risk and susceptible as they experience changes to their immune systems in pregnancy. And, due to the unknown impact of the coronavirus, it is good to take steps to encourage pregnant clients to avoid coming to the pregnancy center until further notice.
Margenalized adults, individuals with heart, diabetes and lung issues and young babies are also at risk and should be redirected to a pro-life doctor who can treat them temporarily until you’re able to offer services again. Be sure to notify any volunteers over age 65 or that fall into the above category, to not come into the office until further notice.
Pro-life doctors in the area will usually agree to see a certain number of free patients. If you need to send over the client’s file for the doctor to access, you can scan the document and use DocuSign to have clients sign to give consent to have their file transferred. DocuSign offers a free trial for 30 days, which hopefully means you could use it without needing to pay for the service long term.
Free Tools for Staff & Client Meetings
Begin with equipping your staff, giving them tools to easily communicate with one another and clients to keep things running remotely as efficiently as possible.
Google Voice Texting Number: This is a great option for pregnancy centers who prefer to protect their personal phone information. To continue providing support and other information to your clients, you can set up a Google Voice number and offer to meet with clients that way. This will allow you to text or talk with clients without having to give out your personal cell phone number. You can have it forward to a phone or use the online dashboard (for texting only) with your computer.
iPhone FaceTime: You can connect with staff individually to check in with FaceTime if you have an iPhone, or another video calling app for Android phones. Based on the policies of your center regarding the use of staff phones when interacting with clients, you can also utilize FaceTime to connect with clients. Regardless of the coronavirus, they are still facing a crisis related to unplanned pregnancies during this uncertain time and using FaceTime gives them more personal connection as you provide the support and options counsel they need.
Gotomeeting: You can utilize this free tool to host meetings for your whole staff to keep them up-to-date and informed about your centers policies and protocols in the midst of this pandemic, changes in openings and closings and information about when they should expect to be back in the office. www.gotomeeting.com
Google Hangouts: This is another great free tool to use for staff meetings, board meetings, and other smaller meetings. Google hangouts can be used as an app on your phone or on your laptop or tablet, giving you the freedom to host a meeting wherever you are. You and your staff will need to set up a free Google account. https://hangouts.google.com/
Iphone Call Merge: To have a conference call with 2
or more people, dial the first person, then touch the + add call button. Dial the next person to add and then touch the merge button. It’s that easy.
Virtual Office Best Practices:
Make sure you put critical files in a cloud folder that can be accessed by necessary staff working from home. This will allow you to keep as many operations going as possible while your brick and mortar center is temporarily closed. Open a free Google account and use their Google Drive to upload and share docs. Once you set up a free Google account you will have access to that and other free features.
You should also add a your button to website for clients that says:
“I’m pregnant but not comfortable coming into the office because of the coronavirus. I’d like to schedule a video or phone appointment.”
From there, allow clients to schedule their appointment time and add other critical information for the call. Then someone can FaceTime or call the client. Just make sure you train your staff on how to conduct these calls from home. Have client input forms available for them to fill out, or send a link to the form for the client to fill out prior to the call.
How to Manage Special Events Virtually
We are hearing of many centers who are wondering what to do about their upcoming Walk for Life or annual banquet. If you have an event scheduled sometime in the next eight weeks, you are probably rightly concerned about what you should do. Some state governors are requiring large events to cancel or postpone due to concerns about the virus rapidly spreading among crowds. In light of this, here are some best practices you can employ to still raise money even if you need to cancel or reschedule your event.
Plot a Course of Action: Banquets
If you have a banquet coming up, one of your first steps should be to contact the event venue to see if and when you can reschedule. Plan to reschedule at least a few months out if possible to give more time for this to subside. For some, this might get close to your Walk for Life or another special event you have planned. Talk with your staff and leadership about the impact of holding your events close together. If you are not able to reschedule and end up needing to cancel the event, here are some ideas for how to still raise money and connect with your donors:
Send out a mailing
After communicating with your donors on your website, via email, social media, and phone calls (if necessary) to let them know the event has been cancelled, plan to send a letter in the mail asking for their continued support.
In this letter, you should include all the stories and statistics of impact you would have shared at the banquet. Hopefully you already have a really solid outline from which to create your letter.
Included in the letter, obviously, should be a strong financial ask. Let your donors know your vision for the year and how they can be involved. You can also ask them to help recoup any costs incurred for having to cancel the event as well as increased advertising or marketing costs during this interim period when your center may be closed and/or operating virtually.
Remind your supporters that the ongoing needs of your clients don’t disappear because of a pandemic, and that many still need the support you typically offer in one-on-one counseling sessions or classes. Let them know you’re being creative about how to connect with clients during this time and that you still need their support to make this work happen. Calculate how much it costs to serve clients and ask donors to cover the costs – such as $50 for one ultrasound or $150 to provide pregnancy tests and life-affirming counsel to three clients or $850 to walk through a pregnancy with someone. Some centers even look up the cost of an abortion in their area and challenge their donors to give that amount to the pregnancy center instead.
Consider sending this letter in the form of an email as well. If your client stories were pre-recorded, share a link to those stories in the body of your email. A powerful testimony of a life changed and saved means much to your faithful donors. Segment your emails, reaching those who planned on attending, but also others on your list who would be willing to support your center in the midst of these unique circumstances.
There are other options as well – such as hosting a virtual banquet or including a virtual component to your event if you do not cancel the event but have guests uncomfortable attending. Ministry Sync offers FundEasy Lite and will set up a campaign for you to use – much like their Giving Tuesday campaigns – to capture funds from your gala attendees as they sit in the privacy of their homes. This campaign can be shared through email, a creative non-banquet invitation, on your website and on social media.
Plot a Course of Action: Walks & 5K’s
If you have a walk and/or run coming up in the next several weeks, you may also need to postpone or cancel this. Check with the park to see if it’s possible to reschedule. If not, here are some ways you can host a virtual walk or 5k!
A great way to get more people involved in raising money for your mission is through peer-to-peer fundraising. Over the last few years, many of you have transitioned your fundraising walkers from paper forms to online fundraising pages such as the FundEasy software. If your walk has been cancelled, if someone has used an online fundraising page, most of your funds have likely been collected from their sponsors. For your fundraising walkers and runners who are still using paper pledge forms, this is a great time to encourage them to transfer their sponsor information on to an online fundraising page due to the extenuating circumstances of your event cancelled because of the coronavirus. If they have not collected funds from their sponsors, they can just choose the “bill me” option as they fill in the information, and you can send their sponsors a letter/receipt and return envelope for their gift to be donated.
For your runners, ask them to consider utilizing an app like www.mapmyrun.com. They can ask their friends to donate a certain dollar amount towards their run and then they can post their run route and results on social media afterwards – with a link to their fundraising page – and let people know their progress.
Marketing is key to the success of your event! You can still post this virtual event on your donor-facing Facebook page using beautiful pictures and creative posts about your work and the many ways their funds will be used to change and save lives. In addition, continue to provide email and website updates just as you would do for a regular Walk or 5k. If your supporters believe in your mission, they will want to support you now more than ever because something outside your control is impacting your work.
How CLM Can Help!
We can offer free social media graphics and website banners that help you spread the word to your clients about what you’re doing to prioritize their health. We can help you add a page to your website for coronavirus updates to let you list what services you’re still offering and where women can go to get the medical help they need.
Be the virtual pregnancy center they need now, not in two weeks. Don’t reschedule appointments if women are willing to meet with you online or over the phone. Planned Parenthood is likely going to be suffering a setback if women are afraid to come in for services. You can stand as a beacon of light and hope by offering to take your services online and offer ongoing support over the phone.
How to Engage Your Donors to Help
In addition to asking your donors for money if you have to cancel your events, you can ask them to help provide practical needs for your clients. You can set up a registry online through Walmart or Amazon for baby supplies women might need during this time of social distancing. Donors can select items to purchase – food, diapers, baby items and pantry items – and these items will be shipped directly to your clients. Donors can either buy directly through an Amazon registry or, if they want a tax deduction, they can donate to your center with a designation towards your online registries.
Choose Life Marketing also offers donor support through segmented email campaigns, social media campaigns, and direct mail services – providing a fundraising appeal specific to your center that you can send to your donors to solicit funds to help you through this unexpected situation.
Finally, as the year progresses, if you realize your budget is in a deficit due to circumstances surrounding this coronavirus crisis, through our experienced development consultant, we offer ongoing fundraising assessments, strategy, and campaigns to meet your current financial needs and promote future growth.
We know this situation is challenging and inconvenient. But it’s also good practice in a world where the Plan C abortion pill is becoming more popular and Planned Parenthood is heavily competing against you with their marketing efforts. This may be a blessing in disguise as it helps you prepare to market more of your services online to reach more people.
Know we are praying for you and your pregnancy center – that you will be both protected from the impact of the coronavirus and that your ministry will thrive as you continue to serve those facing the crisis of an unexpected pregnancy.
Be sure to download our social media graphics and website banners to use to keep communication clear for your clients. And, as always, please reach out to us for additional marketing support.