Transferring the needle on blood donations

Transferring the needle on blood donations

By Michelle Crouch

Co-published with Charlotte Ledger

Final month, my daughter Rosie obtained an pressing e-mail from The Blood Connection, certainly one of three organizations that acquire blood in Charlotte.

“BONUS $50!!! BLOOD DRIVE URGENT NEED!!” screamed the topic line.

For a 16-year-old who is commonly brief on money, it was an attractive supply.

A couple of hours later, we had been lounging in recliners in a cell bus, IVs in our arms, as we every donated a pint.

Whereas we had been glad to be saving lives, what drew us there that day was the $50 e-gift card we may use at retailers together with Goal, Amazon and Walmart. 

“We misplaced quite a lot of blood donors in the course of the pandemic, and we haven’t gained as many again,” mentioned The Blood Connection spokeswoman Katie Smithson. “Typically we get into onerous conditions the place we’re low on stock, and if we add issues like that [the $50 bonus], we’ll see folks are available in.”

Historically, blood facilities have steered away from paying for donations, partly due to Meals and Drug Administration guidelines. However with the variety of donors dwindling, blood facilities throughout North Carolina –- and throughout the nation – are attempting new methods to get folks to open their veins. These methods embrace beneficiant “thanks items” and the possibility to win huge prizes. 

Think about:

The Fb commercial from Charlotte-based The Blood Connection providing entry right into a raffle for a seaside trip. Credit score: The Blood Connection, Fb
  • The Blood Connection, which providers 120 hospitals within the Carolinas and Georgia, supplied the $50 e-gift card bonus – on prime of its customary $10 thanks reward – twice in December. December donors even have an opportunity to win a 5-night keep at a South Carolina seaside rental (“A $2,300 worth!”) or certainly one of three $500 Airbnb reward playing cards.
  • OneBlood, which offers blood to Atrium Well being and different native hospitals, is providing December donors a $20 e-gift card and an opulent blanket. Or, when you give by way of a particular promotion drive, you may earn prizes similar to two free film tickets, a ticket to see an area gentle present or a burger at Crimson Robin (with the acquisition of a beverage).
  • The American Crimson Cross, which provides 40 p.c of the nation’s blood, distributed $10 Amazon reward playing cards by way of its “Give a present. Get a present” marketing campaign from Nov. 15 to Dec.15. In January, donors have an opportunity to win a visit for 2 to the Tremendous Bowl that features pre-game actions, roundtrip airfare, three nights in a lodge and $500 for bills.

“Silver Tsunami”

Even earlier than the pandemic, blood facilities confronted a shrinking donor pool, largely as a result of many common donors are ageing out.

“Those that lived by way of World Conflict II and had expertise with the Crimson Cross, they’re passing away, they usually had been very devoted to blood donations,” mentioned Angela Powley, regional govt for blood providers over the better Carolinas area for the American Crimson Cross.

About 60 p.c of donations come from these older than 40, in line with the Affiliation for the Development of Blood & Biotherapies. Of these, about 75 p.c come from folks over age 50, mentioned Smithson.

The creator, Michelle Crouuch, obtained $50 for donating a pint of blood. Credit score: Rosie Smolowitz

“I name it the silver tsunami,” Smithson mentioned.

The pandemic exacerbated the issue. Staffing shortages and canceled blood drives in 2020 and 2021 created a extreme blood scarcity, forcing hospitals to make troublesome choices. In January 2022, the American Crimson Cross introduced its first-ever “blood disaster.”

To assist enhance provide, the FDA in 2020 loosened some restrictions, such because the one on males who’ve had intercourse with males which had been in place because the Eighties. Earlier this yr, the company lifted its longtime ban on donations from People who hung out in sure European nations between 1980 and 2001 amid outbreaks of mad cow illness.[MC1] 

Smithson mentioned COVID-19 particularly impacted highschool and faculty pupil participation. At The Blood Connection, donations from folks beneath age 29 plunged by 43 p.c between 2019 and 2021.

Methods to draw younger donors

Jerry Holmberg, a blood and biotherapies marketing consultant in Denver, N.C., was the senior advisor for blood coverage on the U.S. Division of Well being & Human Providers from 2003 to 2011. He mentioned the blood business has invested in quite a lot of analysis on the best way to attraction to youthful donors.

Millennials “anticipate info – how the blood is processed and the place it’s going and the way it will assist,” he mentioned. “Additionally they must know the rationale and objective for doing it.”

To that finish, blood facilities have developed sturdy social media accounts full of tales of people that have benefited from receiving blood. Refined cell apps supply rewards and badges for frequent giving, permitting folks to trace their donations and get reminders when it’s time to donate once more.

Those that donate by way of OneBlood could even get a private message from the recipient of their blood by way of its “message my donor” program.

“Think about in the course of your day receiving a message from somebody whose life you saved,” mentioned OneBlood spokeswoman Susan Forbes. “That has been an enormous inspiration for our donors.”

Partnering with HOAs, exercise teams

With extra folks working remotely, fewer are collaborating in company blood drives. That has spurred blood facilities to search out new companions similar to home-owner’s associations, church buildings, sororities and sports activities groups just like the Charlotte Knights.

In one of many extra inventive partnerships, the Crimson Cross partnered with a Charlotte-based community of males’s exercise teams referred to as F3. The group has hosted a whole lot of drives nationwide since 2020, Powley mentioned. 

“They make it enjoyable,” she mentioned. “The completely different teams problem one another and discuss quite a lot of smack.”

To achieve highschool college students, the Crimson Cross offers pupil blood drive organizers reward playing cards starting from $50 to $200, relying on what number of pints are collected.  Organizers are additionally eligible to win a $2,500 faculty scholarship.

The Blood Connection has the same program for pupil organizers. And it’s rolling out a highschool curriculum referred to as Vein to Vein concerning the science of blood donation that may be paired with a blood drive.

“We need to attain the youthful age group and switch them into common donors,” Smithson mentioned.

Is it authorized to pay donors?

One other factor that works to draw younger donors? Monetary incentives.  In any case, that’s what caught my daughter’s consideration.

“Your daughter responded to the financial facet,” Holmberg mentioned. “That’s one factor millennials search for – are they going to receives a commission for it, particularly whether it is an inconvenience. How a lot does it price them to drive to the blood facility? Is it conserving them from their paid employment?”

One examine printed in Science discovered {that a} $10 reward card elevated blood donations by 50 p.c with no unfavourable impact on blood security.

There’s no legislation towards paying for blood. However the Meals & Drug Administration (FDA) requires blood donations to be labeled as both “paid” or “volunteer.”