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Donor Motivation and Retention

Dr. Deepika Chatterjee

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Types of blood donors:

There are basically 3 types of blood donors:

  1. Family or family replacement donors.
  2. Paid commercial or professional donors
  3. Voluntary, non remunerated donors.

Family or family replacement donor is a donor who gives blood when it is required by a member of the donor’s family or community.

Advantages: It is useful because it helps to meet a need for blood where voluntary non remunerated donors are not available. In addition, once replacement donors recognize that their blood has helped to save the life of their relative, they may be willing to become regular, voluntary donors so that other patients will also benefit in the future.

Disadvantages: 1. Patients or their relatives are expected to find replacement donors. This puts additional responsibility and stress on them at a time when they are already under strain because of the patient’s illness. 2. There is pressure on members of the family unit to give blood, even when they may be unsuitable to do so; either because of their health status or because of the risk of transfusion transmissible infection. 3. The blood given to patients will not necessarily be replaced in type or quantity. As a result, the blood needs of the community may not be met adequately. 4. Relatives who cannot find suitable donors within the family unit  who are unwilling to give blood  may seek donors who are prepared to give their blood for payment.

Research undertaken in a number of countries has shown that blood from family or family replacement donors is found to be unsuitable more often than blood from unpaid voluntary donors. This is to be expected because people who give blood under pressure or for payment by the patient’s family are less likely to reveal any reasons why they may be unsuitable as donors. As a result, they present a potentially greater risk to the safety of the blood bank.

Voluntary non-remunerated donors are people who give blood of their own free will and receive no money or other form of payment for it which could be considered a substitute for money, such as time off work except that reasonably needed for the donation and travel. Their primary motivation is to help unknown recipients and not to obtain any personal benefit.

Advantages: 1. Donors are not under pressure to give blood and are therefore more likely to meet the national criteria for low-risk donors. 2. They are more likely to be willing to donate blood regularly, which is important in maintaining adequate supplies of blood. 3. Regular donors are more likely to be free from transfusion transmissible infections because they have been educated about the importance of safe blood and are screened each time they attend to give blood.

Educating potential Blood Donors

Voluntary non remunerated blood donors are considered safer than family or family replacement donors and, in particular, commercial or professional donors. Similarly, regular donors are safer than new or occasional donors because they should be well informed, are committed to helping others and are regularly screened for transfusion transmissible infections. Establishing a panel of regular, voluntary non-remunerated blood donors is therefore the most effective way of ensuring adequate supplies of safe blood on a continuing basis.

People are often reluctant to give blood. Some do not realize how their blood could be used to save lives, while others are frightened of harming their own health. Many are unwilling to donate blood if they will not be paid for it or unless it is given to a member of their own family. Perhaps, the most important reason is that most people have probably never been asked to donate blood. None of these people are likely to become voluntary non-remunerated donors unless they receive accurate information about why blood is needed and are given positive encouragement to donate blood.

Education is therefore an essential part of a donor recruitment strategy. Before people can be motivated to donate blood for the benefit of others, they must understand how they, as individuals, can play an important part in contributing to the health of the nation. There are 3 basic goals for a donor education, motivation and recruitment campaign:

  1. to promote changes in the public’s knowledge, attitudes and beliefs so that they understand why blood donation is a vital, life saving service to the community.
  2. to promote changes in people’s behaviour so that they become willing to donate blood on a regular, voluntary basis, without payment.
  3. to ensure that potential donors understand the importance of safe blood so that they do not donate blood if they are in poor health or at risk for transfusion transmissible infections.


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