Want a way to give back to your community and have a lot of fun in the process?
There’s no better way than hosting a Red Cross blood drive.
By Mariwyn Evans, American Red Cross volunteer
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 1, 2021 - Few volunteer efforts have a more immediate impact more than a blood drive. Every year, hospitals and doctors use about 36,000 units of blood to save the lives of accident victims, premature babies, surgical patients, and sufferers from chronic blood conditions. Maintaining a reliable supply of blood is essential for every community’s well-being.
How can I help?
You and your organization, church, home-owners association, or company can play a critical role in this effort by hosting a blood drive. Hosting a drive is also a great way to build teamwork and to make the public aware of your organization.
If you’ve ever given blood, you’re familiar with the basics of what a blood drive event looks like. If you are organizing the event, here are some expert tips on how to make the drive run smoothly.
1. Check in with the experts. Go to RedCrossBlood.org, where you’ll find A Guide for the Blood Program Leader, which will walk through the entire process. You will also connect with a Red Cross account manager for your event. The manager will help you select a date, advise on promoting your drive, and arrange for Red Cross equipment and staff. You should contact your account manager at least three months before you want to host your blood drive.
2. Gauge group interest. “In addition to two- or three-person team to help you run the drive, you will need a minimum of 25 scheduled donors,” says Jason Streger, account manager with the American Red Cross, Tennessee Region. “Contact other members of your group via email, phone, and social media to develop a potential donor list. Later you can create an actual donor appointment schedule using the Red Cross online system.”
3. Pick a location. To accommodate the equipment for a blood drive, you need about 1,000 square feet of climate-controlled space. You’ll also want convenient parking, minimal stairs, and accessible bathrooms. If you don’t have the right facilities, the Red Cross can bring its blood drive bus.
4. Generate enthusiasm and participation. In the four to six weeks leading up to your event, you’ll want to post flyers, send emails, and use your group’s web page and social media to build participation. “The biggest challenge is being sure you have an audience of supporters willing to donate,” advises Sarah Arntz, an archive associate for the Nashville Public Library, who’s led several blood drives. Arntz uses her blog to reach out to other library employees.
5. Make your event a community celebration. If you want, add giveaways from local businesses, information on your club, entertainment, and refreshments as a complement to your drive. “A blood drive doesn’t have to be a rigid event,” says Streger. Have information about your company or club on hand to build community awareness.
6. Staff up for the big day. While the Red Cross will provide all the necessary medical equipment, you will need between six and 12 volunteers to help run your event. Plan on arriving an hour ahead to help with set up and welcome early birds. You’ll want a check-in table for donors and chairs where they can rest and enjoy refreshments after the procedure. Drives typically last between four and six hours, so you may want to stagger volunteers, suggests Streger.
7. Say “Thanks!” Within a week of the drive, review the event with your team and account manager to fine-tune the process. Reach out to thank your donors by personal note, phone call, or email. “Blood donors are doing something everyone isn’t willing or able to do. They are giving back to their communities,” says Streger.
COVID-19 STRAINS BLOOD SUPPLY FOR PATIENTS To meet the increasing needs of hospital patients, the Red Cross distributed 250,000 more blood products in 2021 than last year, until the delta variant began to spread in August. The pandemic also resulted in fewer blood drives at schools and colleges, contributing to a 34% drop in new blood donors from last year — one of the largest year-to-year decreases and one that could threaten essential medical care for patients. Locally, the Tennessee Red Cross Region has experienced a 31% decrease in new blood donors this year.
As a result of low blood donor turnout in recent months, the Red Cross is heading into the holidays with its lowest blood supply in more than a decade at this time of year. Blood donations are desperately needed now to meet the needs of accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer, or sickle cell disease.
Help is needed now more than ever to combat critical blood shortage across the country and right here at home. You can find out more about how you can make a difference at RedCrossBlood.org, or by volunteering at RedCross.org/Tennessee.