Eugene Nonprofit #2 – Planned Parenthood

This PPSO health center, located at 17th and High, is one of three in the Eugene-Springfield area.

As alluded to in my last blog entry, today I will blog about Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon (PPSO), the local affiliate of the national organization (itself part of an international federation!). Although my blog focuses on local nonprofits, the local and national organizations overlap with each other, as shown by the recent controversy with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Therefore, today I will focus on both in relation to each other. The local affiliate proclaims the following vision:

We seek a world in which all children are wanted and cared for, all people have equal rights and dignity, sexuality is expressed with honesty, equality and responsibility, and the decision to have children is private and voluntary.

According to their Priorities page, their mission is “[t]o ensure the right of all individuals to manage their sexual and reproductive health, by providing health services, education, and advocacy.” They achieve this by providing free or affordable reproductive health care services, community education programs, public policy advocacy. Approximately 30,000 people visit PPSO’s health centers spread from Eugene to Ashland.

PPSO keeps their social media use simple and focuses exclusively on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn. The national organization uses the same platforms as well. However, simple isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, both the local and national organizations vigorously update their Facebook and Twitter pages.

This engagement with their target audience helped secure their large and devoted following, which they and many media sources credit for circulating the scandal involving the Komen Foundation’s unrealized decision to end funding for the nonprofit. Certainly this press release from the national organization’s president, Cecile Richards, underscores the immense loyalty of Planned Parenthood’s supporters that their social media use helped flourish.

Indeed, only a day after Komen’s announcement on Tuesday, Planned Parenthood reported receiving $400,000 from about 6,000 donors, contributing to the eventual reversal. That popularity translates locally too, with PPSO placing third in Best Nonprofit (losing out to FOOD for Lane County and Greenhill Humane Society).

PPSO-affiliated websites dominate in their ZMOT. A Google search for PPSO produces the following results:

A Google search of the national nonprofit shows similar results, plus news coverage of the Komen controversy such as this. While this ZMOT shows a remarkable ability to keep the focus on their organization, one very obvious area of concern is the negative publicity from pro-life activists.

One only need to read the news articles to hear the voices of those morally opposed to abortion, for which Planned Parenthood does provide some services. While I’ve noted before that only three percent of their funding actually goes towards abortion services, for some this is enough. In fact, anger from pro-life activists and an investigation conducted by congressional Republicans are what motivated Komen to consider defunding the nonprofit to begin with.

Unfortunately, no obvious solution to this problem exists. Unless they stop providing abortion services, there will always be vocal opposition to Planned Parenthood, both locally and nationally. Unlike other nonprofits, who can rationally engage with concerned consumers to improve their services, PPSO may have to walk around the problem and reframe the debate on their terms. Of course this is a flawed approach, since it would hamper their image as “a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization,” but little room for compromise exists.

Fortunately, the bell+funk links provide a window to the path of ideal public relations. By focusing on their most important services – contraceptions, STD/STI testing and treatment, and cancer screenings – they can continue to maintain their strong financial and emotional support. Not everyone is behind abortions. Everyone is behind preventing unwanted pregnancy and halting the spread of diseases.

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