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  • Writer's pictureLouisa M

Looking out of the sector: Donor Journey

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

On October 29, 2008 I gave blood for the first time. I’m now at a point where I give 3 times a year (the maximum I’m allowed to). It occurred to me at my last donation how fantastic my journey has been – and I wanted to think about what we can learn about it from the community fundraising perspective.

For those who haven’t given blood before, let me run you through what happens.

You can book your donation well in advance, on an app, online, or over the phone. There are lots of different centres which you can choose from, but the app does remember your favourite.

A week before your donation you get a text reminding you of your appointment, a few days later you get a second text calling you a hero, but reminding you to tell them if you can’t make it. On the day- you’ve guessed it, a lovely final text to remind you.

In the post you’ll have also received a simple questionnaire that needs filing in before you donate- if you forget it they can give you a copy when you arrive.

From the time you enter to the time you finish, you’ll encounter 4 main people; the receptionist who signs you in, the first nurse who will test your iron levels and go through some basic questions, the nurse who does the main blood donation prep, and the person who looks after you at the end. I’ve always found the staff welcoming, diligent, and task-focused.

Within a week of the donation, you’ll get a text saying where your blood has gone, and when it's being used.

So- why does it work so well?

The ask is simple and regular. It’s always the same and it’s something I know I can do. I also know it’s something I’m asked to do 3 times a year.

Locality and ease matters. I gave regularly through university when they came to campus once a term, and I give now as I live nearby to a donor centre. Between these two times in my life, I donated by far more sporadically as I had to go to a centre in town and it was slightly less easy to plan.

Smooth process. I arrive and the system is so easy- I’ve never had the whole process take more than an hour and you move between each section fairly rapidly.

Showing up counts. This is something not a lot of people know, but as I have quite slow-flowing blood I have had the experience of not being able to complete a blood donation. When this happens the fact I attended still shows on my record and counts towards my grand total of donations.

Communications before and after. The text communications are amazing- I’ve included a screenshot in the pictures below. The messages are simple and to the point, but the language used makes you feel valued.

Reward. As well as being told after each donation where the blood has gone, you get a new donation card every 5 donations to show how many times you’ve given and at 10 donations I received a certificate and badge- and I’m excited to see what I get at 20 donations already!

How can we apply this to community fundraising?

I think the elements of this fit best with working with bucket collection volunteers.

Being simple and regular. Rather than calling on collectors often but with no structure, why not set an expectation at sign-up. When you get a new volunteer, say you’d want them to complete 3 bucket collections a year. Don’t be in touch about other dates, only the ones set out at the start of the year.

Have locations available that will suit all supporters. Being local to either work or home will mean volunteers can fit collecting easily into their lives. The challenge of this will be finding locations that are both local to your volunteers, whilst also not having to book lots of separate stations which will only have one or two people throughout the day.

Make the getting materials, signing in, and taking part as smooth as possible. What can you do to make taking part easy and special? We can’t control the staff of collection locations, but we can make the interactions with the charity memorable (for the right reasons!) A thank you card when they collect materials so they know the difference they will make? Or what about the work the charity has done since their last collection, and what the plans are before their next?

Be flexible- fit with the time they’re available for. Ideally, we want collectors for three hours- but would one hour from a seasoned collector be better? Showing up should matter- and the more grateful we are, I think the more likely they will commit more next time.

Use simple but effective communications before and after to let people know the details, how important they are, and what a difference they’ve made. All these elements are different, and we should think about the different tone we should use for each. Information before should be concise and quick, the thank you should be effusive and personal.

Make great rewards- how about certificates for a complete set of yearly collections, the total amount raised over their years volunteering updated or badges, or special cards for every 10 collections? I hope to make collectors feel as excited about their volunteering thank you’s as I am about my next blood donation landmark!

I’m going to be putting these thoughts into practice. Do you already do any of this or any ideas on how you would adapt to mimic some of this model? Let me know what you think!

P.S. If you don’t already donate blood, sign up here!

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