Every Drop Counts

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If you’re in charge of a blood collection agency, center, or hospital blood bank you know the blood industry is about two things: donors and dollars.

Donors make up the most important part of the equation, which is why they’re mentioned first.  However, as a member of a blood collection agency you always need to monitor the dollars because they’re what’s going to determine the health of your program. How much are you spending in laboratory cost? How much are you losing when a donor receives a positive test result? Another key cost that often overlooked is, how much does it take to get a first time donor through the doors?

The FDA states that collection agencies may not monetarily incentivize people to donate, a ruling which make it harder to motivate the “gimme gimme” generation.  After the crisis and chaos of the 1980’s AIDS epidemic, though, I think we, as an industry, will gladly concede in order to eliminate high risk individuals from the donor pool.

How to Incentivize Without Bribing

Without incentives to easily calculate that X dollars brought in Y donors, you have to find a way to eliminate cost, or at least ensure that you spend your money in a highly effective manner.

As an industry, we know that the only thing that will keep blood on the shelf is appealing to the youth market by trying new ventures and programs while not offending, and constantly reminding the previous generation of donors that we appreciate them and are thankful for their commitment. Although that may sound simple, I know from practice in the field it is not.

The older generation wants comfort and dependability, and they feel donating is a responsibility and a part of their bi-monthly, or bi-weekly schedule depending on donation type. By the time we hit 30 many of us will have had some sort of personal connection to death, disease, or destruction and those with philanthropic hearts want to find a way to help. That is often the motivation for the 35+ crowd. The younger core of donors are motivated by other forces, which we’ll examine more in-depth in a future post.

The Math Behind Blood Collection

How does this apply to the numbers? Very easily, actually.

Take a basic unit of blood – collection bag, testing, collection staff pay, laboratory staff pay, electricity, gas for the bloodmobile, transportation of units, shipping expenses, cookies and juice for donors, cleaning staff for administration offices and lab, stickers and t-shirts, cable for donor center, and of course the FDA required paperwork and documentation upkeep, whew! And before you can even work in marketing and advertising you already have an expensive little product which becomes even more valuable when CMV- and O- donors become involved.

We know that while it would be great to simply eliminate these recruitment cost and hope that we would miraculously be at the top of our donors’ minds, but it isn’t the case.  So, we have to remind them that the need is constant and our job is never done. Marketing and advertising is a necessary and, when used properly, great tool for blood collection agencies.  But done wrong and without statistical analysis you’re simply throwing away some % of your marketing budget.

I have sat through thousands of pitches as to why another company would a be great partner for my agency, but when it comes to getting involved with radio, TV, promotional items, and entertainment you have to find something that:

  • A) Makes sense for your blood bank’s vision
  • B) Has an ROI that makes it worthwhile.

I’ll go into the keys to finding a successful partner in a future post, and how a great one can make you go from “getting by” to “flying high.”

I’m Here to Help

I have trouble keeping myself contained when speaking and writing about the blood industry. It’s still the wild west when it comes to cool and creative opportunities to bring in young donors.

While the rules and guidelines are set as far as the product itself, when it comes to messaging and outreach, the sky is the limit for those brave blood collection agencies that aim to market correctly. The only way to justify those expenses for marketing and advertising is if the $10-$15 you are adding per unit brings in the accompanying 100+ more units of blood per day, per week, or per month (depending on your size)  that make it worthwhile.

I look forward to sharing my insights with you and I’m open to talking about any topic. If there’s something you want to hear about, please email me at BCThomas@BloodDonorMobile.com.

I truly do receive a thrill from helping groups like yours grow. I was able to help my own organization by assisting in the development of a business plan to locate high impact partners, including national brands and professional sports teams. I also aided in the fundraising for, and procurement of, our donor-funded bloodmobile and helped shatter a previous record by collecting 1,147 units of blood in a single day (the previous record from 2008 was 302 units)

This was done by understanding the audience, knowing what matters to them and hitting them with messaging that they’re the most receptive to.

Use your dollars properly and the donors will come to you, and in most cases they’ll even bring a friend.

Friend to phlebotomist, mentor to marketers,

B.C. Thomas


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