Recruiting Students to Donate Blood



No one will argue the importance of having young adults donate blood. It is only through their support that we are able to contend with the demands of our hospitals.

But let’s face it; once young donors make a donation it can often be difficult to get them back. The American Red Cross says that each year about 20% of the total blood supply comes from college and high school students. Most of the students cited by the ARC stated, “they donated because there was a blood drive on campus”. As every agency does, and not just for medical reasons, the students took note that “organizations that collected blood also took their contact information”.

But are we going about it the right way? Are we using technology to reach the Gen-Z kids? I want to explore that a little more in this post. I think the blood industry is missing our opportunity to engage a very important part of our demographic. Imagine if today 20% of your donor pool ceased to be. As we look at the past and what the current model looks like I implore you to consider that there might be a paradigm shift coming.

Traditional Donor Recruitment

A lot, if not all, of the blood centers we talk to tell us that they use traditional methods for recruiting donors.

  • Tele-recruitment- Call and hope they pick up their cell even after they see who’s calling on their caller ID.
  • Mailings – Postcards, because young people are so stable and almost never move.
  • Offer rewards and hope that entices donors to make a donation – the altruistic generation is now receiving social security checks so get used to the idea of spending your budget on premiums in you want the younger donors.
  • Send them an email – ok now you’re at least trying to meet your audiences’ needs.
  • Optimizing your website so donors can easily navigate and book their appointment. – Getting warmer.

These can all be good strategies and have proven themselves in the past but are they good enough to get the younger demo to give blood? And more importantly will they come back when they are eligible?

The strategies used today are most effective with our mature donors because that is the technology that was available when we first started recruiting them. 25 years ago none of our forms would have had a location for donors to put their cell number, 15 years no one would have asked for your email address, 5 years ago an app (appetizer) was the snack a server would bring you before your main course. So why are we still not updating the options and means by which we speak to the younger donors?

A couple members on our team recently spoke about donating during their college years. They admitted that they could have made more donations then they did. The problem was that when recruiters tried to contact them using the traditional methods they were hard to get a hold of or the pitch did not catch their attention. The post cards never got to them cause they moved from place to place during their college years. They didn’t want to answer the phone when the number was unfamiliar. The emails sent to notify or remind them went straight into their spam or junk mail. Lots of things occupy the time and attention of students, so something bolder should be done to reach young adults and encourage them to donate.

Mobile Apps May Be the Key

While donating we noticed that a majority of donors have a needle in one arm and a mobile device in the other. Specially the younger donors, they are either texting with a friend, posting to Facebook or playing games. Even when they not donating blood you see them on their smart phones and tablets. So why not reach them through the devices they appear to be tethered to?

This observation is one of the reasons why Blood Donor Mobile was created. It just made sense because everyone has an iPhone or smart phone on them, specially our under 25 population.

Blood Donor Mobile can connect blood agencies with their younger donors on the devices they use most. With the features in this app it makes it even easier to get their attention.

The App:

1. Notifies them of their eligibility and lets them make their own appointments.
2. Lets them find the closest blood drive or center to their location, making it very convenient for the walk-in donors.
3. Features social media sharing options so they can let their friends and family know about their good deed.

This new donor recruitment tool may just be the thing needed to get your young blood donors engaged and coming back. It’s worth a look at least.

Learn more about the app by going to or contact us at

Thank You for Your Time,
“Red Cell” Ron

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