|How to Hold a Successful Blood Drive
Sue A. Robbins
The blood center will need to know how large the drive is ultimately going to be so that it is appropriately staffed.
Make sure potential donors know the mayor and other town leaders are 100 percent behind the blood drive.
Blood shortage is a chronic problem in New Jersey. We import approximately 25 percent of the blood we need from other states, such as Florida . However, due to this year's horrific hurricanes, that source has all but dried up. Another downside of importing blood is the increased burden of cost on our healthcare system.
Sometimes, donors are deferred temporarily or permanently. There are FDA requirements which we must follow to ensure a safe blood supply for the recipient. Regulations have been tightened
significantly over the past few decades due to mad cow disease, AIDS, the possibility of hepatitis infection and certain medications. When added to an aging donor population, and a lack of their replacement by younger donors, it means we face the challenge of educating and seeking new donors. One of the ways in which the state's municipalities can help is to institute and actively promote local blood drives. However, merely holding a blood drive is not enough to ensure its success.
The Picture of Success First, let's define what success is in terms of a blood drive. For some groups it can be 100 percent participation. We have a small church in the Trenton area where 100% of its members showed up, although some were deferred for health reasons. One of our most highly successful blood drives was noisy and boisterous – held at a high school. Another was quiet and methodical. Over 100 units of blood were collected at each drive.
There are many paths to a successful blood drive, but we've found that the following formula works.
Make your blood drive an event.
Events generate fun and excitement.
Create a timeline A calendar for how long you feel it will take you to put together a successful blood drive. Then, add an extra week or two, especially if this is your first drive.
Get a Great Chairperson We can't stress this enough. Ultimately, a great chairperson is what makes your blood drive successful. A really committed chairperson who is fully supported by the account representative of the blood center will help guarantee that your blood drive will be successful. It's a really poor idea to foist the job on someone who really doesn't want it (and may be overworked already) but says "yes" because they feel obliged to.
Establish a team. Besides helping
share the work load, a team can provide creative input. The team supports the chairperson and recruits donors.
If you're the top executive in your community, stay involved in the blood drive and give it your full support. Be sure to let the pool of potential donors know that the head honcho is behind this blood drive 100 percent.
Pick a date and location It's a good idea to check your local community calendar and/or your local newspaper. Make sure that you're not holding your drive hot on the heels of another blood drive in the community or in conjunction with another event that will affect the availability of your potential donors.
Choose a location Will it be at your municipal complex? At a local fire-house or church? Part of this will be determined by the type of drive you hold – open or closed. An open drive is open to the general public. A closed drive is restricted to the people in your office or complex. Each type of drive has its advantage and its drawbacks.
Security reasons or available room space may preclude your holding an open drive. For smaller townships, an open drive may be your best option to attract donors.
Contact a Blood Center There are six independent blood banks located throughout New Jersey that supply the state's hospitals, plus the American Red Cross. Choose the one that functions in your area and is going to fit your needs. Call them and meet with an account representative, who will be your liaison with the blood center.
The chairperson should stay in touch with the account representative on a regular basis. He or she should be able to help you setting up the drive, and provide materials, advice and encouragement. The blood center will need to know how large the drive is ultimately going to be so that it is appropriately staffed. Try to get your donors to commit to a specific time, and not just walk in.
Make your blood drive an event Events generate fun and excitement. Give people a fun reason to donate.
For one blood drive we had a luau theme and decorations, gave donors leis, had a photo station and donors tied on a grass skirt for their photo. Donors always receive refreshments, and the group was able to provide food tied to the theme. We provided donor incentives in the form of a raffle drawing. (Businesses can support the drive with incentives, such as a dinner for two from a local restaurant. And their contributions are tax deductible, because New Jersey's blood centers are non-profits.)
Establish the size of the drive It may be based on the available room space, or on the number of donors you think you can attract. Set reasonable goals which your team can achieve. They'll feel better about their results. If you exceed your goal, great! But be sure to notify the blood center sufficiently in advance so that they're staffed appropriately for your drive.
Create good PR Contact your local newspaper's community calendar and metro or feature editor at least two weeks beforehand. Prepare a 30- and a 60-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) for your local radio station. Put up posters in your community. Your blood center should be able to help you with all of these.
Be sure your team contacts potential donors and signs them up! So many first-time donors have told us that no-one had ever asked them before. The day before the drive call your donors to remind them of their appointment.
Have fun! Yes, there's work involved. But a well-run blood drive can also be gratifying and fun. A wrap-up party for the team is one way to celebrate a drive well done.
Every blood center in the state wants you to have a successful blood drive. If you can meet or exceed your goals, that's a successful blood drive. When people are committed to donating, that's a successful blood drive. When the blood drive chairperson and the team are exhilarated by the results that have been achieved, that's a successful blood drive. When the blood center meets or exceeds your expectations, that's a successful blood drive.
When it's a successful blood drive, everybody wins, especially the patients in the hospitals.
Sue Robbins is the Marketing and Public Rleations Officer for the Community Blood Council of New Jersey, headquartered in Ewing. She is a platelet phersis donor.
Article in December 2004, New Jersey Municipalities