John Jalsevac

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Saving babies the new-fashioned way: an interview with Brian Fisher of Online for Life

John Jalsevac
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Nov. 29, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Brian Fisher is the founder and CEO of Online for Life, one of the newest pro-life organizations on the block. Recently he shared with LifeSiteNews.com how he became involved in full-time pro-life work, and how Online for Life is saving lives using the latest technology.

Note: The interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

LifeSiteNews.com: If you could, give me a three or four minute snapshot of your background, and how you got involved with Online for Life.

Brian Fisher: Well it’s very weird. I’m originally from Pennsylvania, I went to Westminster College and graduated with a music degree. But musical talent and musical employment are not related so when I got married my wife was the breadwinner. She was a teacher in Pittsburgh. 

We moved to Pittsburgh and I ended up getting into Christian radio. And in Christian radio, I ended up moving into the business department and I realized that I had a love for business as much as I did music. 

Most of my career was actually spent in a financial services arena; I was the number two person in a start-up finance company. We went very quickly from zero to about a billion in assets in six years. I spent six years doing that and I just fell in love with how God has orchestrated business and his principles for running businesses. 

I ended up going to Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which at the time was a $40 million international media ministry. They were looking for a business-oriented media person who could help them to sort of transition the organization.

It was there that we tested the idea for Online for Life. A couple years later, after the founder of that organization died, I ended up going back into the for-profit world here in Dallas. I was hired by a large marketing agency in Dallas to be COO.

But this whole idea of reaching into communities where people were at risk to abort wouldn’t leave. It’s like God wouldn’t let it go. It was just one of those things stuck in your mind and you couldn’t get it out. 

In 2009, I started the non-profit on the side, volunteer only, and said why can’t we reboot this thing and save a few babies? That’s when I would say OFL was born - as a side project that ended up growing into one of the fastest growing pro-life ministries in the nation. 

LSN: Could you explain to me the process by which, first of all, OFL connects women with Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), and how OFL selects which CPCs to connect them with?

BF: Basically we are testers; we test different marketing techniques online and offline to see what marketing outreaches drive phone calls into pregnancy centres. Our target market is what we call abortion-minded or abortion-determined women. 

So whether they’re searching for abortion information online, they're trolling Facebook, or they’re driving around town looking at billboards, there are always ways to get in front of their hearts and minds and give them the option to connect with the local pro-life centre instead of the local abortion clinic.

The system that we built allows us to evaluate how best to reach those women. It can take a myriad different forms, but if we’re talking about a major city like San Diego for example, we might do some targeted Google ads, some SEO, some banners, testing out posters on campuses or streetcars, etc.

Over time you begin to develop a city-by-city plan. It’s very dynamic, it changes all the time. I mean the Internet changes all the time. What we did two years ago we don’t do anymore, and what we do now, we won’t do two years from now. But we’ll do whatever works. 

And because we have a system that evaluates the effectiveness on the marketing we can over time get a very honed in look at how best to connect with the abortion-minded community and give them the option to call the local pro-life pregnancy centre.

LSN: When it comes to testing your marketing to seeing the effectiveness of what you’re doing, how do you do that?

BF: It’s technology. You know, we have some tech geniuses here who have built a system that allows us to understand how those who are at-risk respond to our different messages.

We have a philosophy that if it we can’t measure it, we won’t do it. The second part to that is that if we can measure it, we can improve it. 

LSN: What does your ideal CPC look like?

BF: From a ministry standpoint, their overriding primary goal must be to rescue children. That’s number one, and that has to be from the board on down. They have to be serious about rescuing babies and they have to be serious about dealing with very hurting people, because that’s who we want to reach - those that are in danger of aborting because they’re in a very difficult spot.

Number two is that they have to be operationally set up to be an emergency room. They have to be willing to take a call whenever they come in. They have to be willing to do the ultrasound the same day as the appointment because people are in crisis and they want to see somebody now. So operationally, there has to be a commitment to providing superior care and providing that care quickly. 

And third is that the centres themselves have to have the same humility that we hope we bring to the table, to say there are some things that work, some that don’t. Let’s work together to figure out what works. If there's a "this is the way we’ve always done this" approach, it’s probably not a good fit for us. The leadership has to say, look there are no sacred cows. We’re willing to tear down and build up whatever we need to minster properly to the average population.

If those three things are in place, in our minds they're a rock star.

LSN: What kind of responses have you received from CPCs that you have teamed up with?

BF: The response is overwhelming. Because you have to understand the vast majority of pregnancy centres are underfunded and most of their clients come from referrals, so they’re not hitting a large portion of the abortion-minded community and they desperately want to do that. 

So Online For Life is able to fill that gap and to drive a substantially larger number of phone calls or chats or visits or whatever from the abortion-minded community than they’ve ever experienced before. So they embrace it. They want to learn, they want to improve, they want to grow with us, they want to know what’s going on.

And that’s mutual, because they’re the one that have the boots on the ground and we’re asking them about their experiences and their client service model, what they’re doing that’s working, how they're doing appointments. It is a very powerful symbiotic relationship, because we’re providing them with more of who they want to see and they're providing us with their insights and perspectives, which frankly only they can get.

LSN: What kind of response have CPCs you partner with seen in terms of an increase in phone call and referrals?

BF: In most major cities the average pro-life community will see about 3% of all those people who will abort - so if there’s 10,000 abortions a year in a specific city, chances are right now, somewhere less than 5% will ever call or walk into a pro-life centre of any sort. We call that “market share” or “market penetration”. 

We would argue that a less-than-5% market share is not getting the job done. So if you were to ask me why 1.2 million children still being aborted in America, the answer is because we’re not talking to the people who are aborting their children. That’s the basic answer. 

Online for Life in the last year has been able to grow that to between two and six times in almost every city that we’re working in. So Dallas, for example, we’ve got 18% market penetration. 

LSN: Where do CPCs fit into the overall attempt to end abortion? There are pro-life groups out there doing so many things to end abortion. Why are CPCs so important? What role do they fill?

BF: Well if you think of a strategy to end abortion in America, it has to have multiple pieces to it.

You have to have the political piece. There need to be groups that are fighting statewide and federally to get current abortion laws overturned. You have to have the activist groups, the groups that are doing the education, that are doing the mobilization, that are doing the movement work to rally the pro-life community, just so that there’s cultural change.

Then you have to have the compassionate piece, you have to have the movement that’s physically working with the families that are at risk. So the CPC movement is that arm: they’re the only segment of the pro-life movement that is in direct contact with the at-risk population.

So if you’re missing one of those three legs, the strategy doesn’t work. If you have all three legs and they’re working together, you have an extremely effective way of ending abortion.

LSN: What reaction have you received from pro-abortion organizations to your work?

BF: You know, very little. And if there is, it’s more so that we see them ramping up their marketing efforts in the cities that we work. That’s where we encounter them mostly. So if we’re working and putting a lot of time and money into a specific city and we’re having great success saving babies, they will come in and try to outspend us or outsmart us because they need the clients to pay their bills.

It’s an online and offline game-to-game combat with the abortion industry. That’s where the battle is for us. 

Publicly it’s a little hard to argue with the fact that we're trying to love all these people. We’re trying to provide compassion and grace in a non-judgemental environment. We’re trying to provide the materials and sustenance and support network, and even if you’re pro-abortion you’re not going to argue with the fact that we still need to help people. 

And because we’re not a political organization, nor are we an activist organization, there’s some understanding that what we do, maybe they don’t agree with the fact that somebody chooses life, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that we’re helping them. 

LSN: You have helped save over 1300 babies and that’s all been carefully documented. Do you have any favorites stories that you’ve heard? Anything that’s just kind of driven home to you that the work you’re doing is working?

BF: I get that question a lot. They're all favorites. But for me personally it’s the first one. June 22, 2010 I got a call from a CPC in Pittsburgh. We had been operating for a month and we were all volunteers at that point. It was just a bunch of glue and paper clips really. And the director called me up and said, I just wanted you to know that we just saved an OFL baby. 

It was the very first one. And for me personally it was just a massive turning point for me because for all the work and the money and testing and the volunteers and everything that led up to that moment, all the frustration of that was washed away in an instant because a child had been rescued that was about to be killed. 

And at that moment I realized that if we could save one we could save thousands. May God be praised because he provided us to be able to do that. 

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