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The need for blood never takes a vacation, regardless of the season. Everyday, lots of people are needing blood – from those who get into accidents to patients undergoing surgeries to cancer patients receiving treatment. A newborn baby boy needs 4 units of blood for heart surgery, a 5 day old baby girl used 3 units for respiratory distress while a 50 year-old man requires 9 units for orthopedic surgery. People of all ages and conditions need blood to survive. And they need us to help them live.
The question is: what if less people would care to donate? The world is now seriously facing threats against blood shortage. How are we ever going to deal with this?
Since there are only few regular donors, the American Red Cross and other blood drive organizations have thought of ways to entice donors, first-timers or regular ones alike, to donate blood. How? Simple: by giving incentives.
Incentives may come in the form of T-shirts, key chains, event tickets, gift certificates and more. In fact, around 30-40% of American Red Cross blood drives offer incentives. Several countries around the world have adapted this strategy to increase the number of blood donors. In Italy and Slovenia, blood donors may be absent from work on the day of donation with compensation, while those who donate blood in Czech Republic can receive tax relief. But countries like Australia, Argentina and Brazil remain firm about the prohibitions of giving compensations in blood donation.
Incentives for blood donation have somewhat become a trend to pull in more donors. What are the types of incentives that blood drives give away? Is it really effective? Is it ethical or not? Find the answers to these questions below.
Examples of Blood Drives with Incentives
There have been numerous blood drives that offer different forms of incentives, be it in a form of foods, drinks, event tickets, scholarship grants and – hold your breath – a brand new car!
To draw more blood donors, the BloodCenter of Wisconsin gave away free Summerfest or State Fair tickets during their blood drive on June 26, 2012. Donors were also treated to great foods such as burgers, brats, baked beans and roasted corn.
Last July 2012, Businessman Chuck Guetti, manager of the new restaurant and Bar ‘Oscars’, teamed up with the American Red Cross in a blood drive. He offered to give free beverage (either a beer, soda or coffee) to those who present a blood donation sticker. Another Red Cross blood drive was supported by Northern Grill and Miss Door County’s Outstanding Teen Lena MacDonald. During the blood drive, Northern Grill gave free pizza to those who gave blood, as well as gift bags that include Northern Grill pizza coupon, Red Cross Tangle-Free Ear Buds and other prizes.
In order to boost platelet and blood donations, the Mid-America Blood Services and Red Cross gave away raffle prizes amounting $5,000 prize certificate package which you can get at GiftCertificates.com during the St. James Blood Drive on Jul 5, 2012. All donors during blood drive summer holidays, which includes Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, also had the opportunity to win an additional $200 gift card package through GiftCertificates.com.
On July 23, 2012, a blood drive in Tennessee encouraged area students to donate blood by giving away scholarship. The Williamson County High School blood challenge gave students who donated blood a chance to win a $5000 scholarship. Alumni, parents and students of Williamson County high schools were invited to give blood as well. Everyone who donated received a rock ‘n’ roll themed T-shirt and had a chance to win an American Express card worth $3000.
Separate Red Cross blood drives had also enabled donors to enter a daily raffle for a gas card. The American Red Cross of Northern New York sponsored a “Community That Cares” blood drive on June 5, 2012 and all donors were entered into a daily raffle for a $50 gas card. On the other hand, a similar blood drive in West Virginia entered blood donors to win a $5000 Gas Card.
But the biggest winner perhaps in all the blood drive gimmicks held this summer is Sam Cowan, a nurse from Port Royal, who won a brand new 2012 Honda Civic LX. When she donated blood, she didn’t know about Blood Alliance’s raffle promo. She donated blood because she is an O-positive. Fortunately for her, she was drawn from a pool of 80,000 people who donated since August of last year through the beginning of July this year. Blood Alliance teamed up with Lucas Honda and HondasForLess.Net to give away the brand new car.
If donating blood would give you a chance to bring home exciting freebies, prizes and a brand new car, now tell me who won’t be keen to shed a pint for that?
Study shows blood donation incentives draw more blood donors
The creativity of these blood drive organizers was put into test as they gave away incentives. The incentives must truly catch the attention of potential donors. As it turns out, giving out incentives is an effective way to boost blood donations.
A recent study by from the University of Toronto shows a 15-20% rise in blood drive donations when there are incentives. Nicola Lacetera, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management said, “One study at a time, we believe we are building pretty robust evidence that there is a positive response to rewards”.
Though the study shows that giving away incentives increase the number of blood donors, it did not, however, changed the key motivations for donors to give blood. The incentives just pulled away some donors from similar blood drives that did not offer perks and attracted them to those that provided gimmicks.
The study looked at data from 14,000 blood drives, including 500,000 donations in the U.S., as well as data from a field experiment.
This only shows that incentives are effective in drawing more donors in blood drives. More donors mean more collected blood supply which can greatly help the struggling supply at hospitals and blood banks.
But there is an incessant clamor about the moral implications of blood donation incentives. According to critics, giving away incentives in blood donation diminishes the true meaning of altruism. Because after all, Blood donation won’t anymore be called a “donation” if you receive something in return.
Is Giving Away Incentives ethical or not?
How to retain previous donors and how to recruit new donors are few challenges faced by blood drive organizers. That’s why non-cash incentive is the only sensible way for them to boost blood supply. But the use of material incentives to motivate donors is strongly controversial. British social researcher Richard Titmuss argued that “commercialization of blood donor relationships represses the expression of altruism, erodes the sense of community”.
Incentives may encourage new blood donors to donate, but for the regular donors who have made it their mission to share life, rewarding them with fancy perks might be insulting.
The National Health Services also supports this principle. An NHSBT spokesperson said that blood donation in the United Kingdom is voluntary and non-remunerated because it works on the principles of kindness and mutual trust. “Every time a person volunteers to give blood they complete a donor health check questionnaire which is designed to determine whether giving blood could harm the donor’s health, and whether they could be at an increased risk of infections which can be transmitted to patients through donated blood. The donor health check is a fundamental step in ensuring the safest possible blood for patients. This relies on donors supplying accurate and honest information,” the spokesperson added. The United Kingdom Blood Transfusion and Transplantation Services backed up NHSBT’s belief on voluntary donation and further said that blood donors should not be paid or given overt rewards.
Who donates blood for free these days?
The World Health Organization (WHO) made a study about the prevalence of voluntary unpaid blood donors all over the world. It shows that those counties who have the largest percentage of unpaid blood donors are high-income countries. On the other hand, 36% of low-income countries depend on family or paid blood donations.
In the 2008 data, 62 countries from all over the world collected more than 99% of their blood supplies from unpaid donors compared with 39 countries in 2002. 40 countries have collected less than 25% of the blood supply from voluntary unpaid donors since much of its supply come from family or paid blood donors. Meanwhile, 26 countries still collect paid donations.
The safest group of donors would be the regular, the voluntary and the unpaid ones because they have the lowest prevalence of blood borne infections. Despite the existence of paid blood donation in some countries, WHO aims to have all countries obtain blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors by 2020.
The social debate whether blood donations should have incentives or not will never end. In third-world countries, donations are always voluntary. The only time a blood donation is paid for is when a patient pays a person of the same blood type for a donation. Considering the poverty, people will sell their blood and organs for money.
In the US, plasma donation is the only donation blood centers would pay a donor for.
But even if incentives contradict the idea of altruism, we cannot deny the fact these perks really bolster blood donation supplies. I think this is a great idea especially to entice first-time donors. Giving away incentives can add to their belief that donating blood can be fun and rewarding. But once these first-time donors realize the true value of giving blood, they’ll soon do it more often knowing that lives can be saved by their pint of blood. Gradually, we can create a community whose core foundation in blood donation is based on altruism and love, and not just material benefits anymore. We may not be able to fully eliminate blood donation incentives, but at least, if we could establish a group of highly-principled donors, we can lessen the prevalence of blood drives that give incentives. Hopefully, we can live in a world where saving lives will cost nothing.
Help eliminate the blood shortage, Join the International Blood Registry.