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Blood Drives

Planning TimeA few months
Group Size8+
Staff #4-12
Event DateAnytime

Note: The Food & Drug Administration has a policy which prohibits blood donation agencies from accepting blood from "men who have sex with men" (MSM). While ostensibly in place to protect the blood supply from the HIV virus, in all honesty this is a poor criterion, creating a prohibition not on inherent risk factors but on the perception of risk factors associated with a social group. As far as we have been able to determine, the FDA's policy is legal in import, and no blood donation agency in the United States accepts blood from MSM.

Many affiliates have expressed concerns about this, and have questioned the value of having a blood drive under these conditions. While these concerns are valid, we should stress that this should not be the deciding factor which precludes a group from sponsoring or participating in one. Donated blood literally saves lives, and we suggest that those who oppose the ban focus their efforts on judicial advocacy efforts in that direction.

Activity Overview: Blood drives are practically a no-lose situation: they give you fantastic publicity, can be held pretty much anywhere on campus, cost you nothing, and the training on how to organize and promote the event is generally provided by the blood donation agency. And of course, you're saving lives, which is always pretty awesome.

Planning Timeframe: This varies somewhat by region and by time of the year (apparently, there is some regional variation in most blood drive endeavors, but they are working to standardize practices). Generally, if you want to hold one between fall and spring, you'll need to start planning a few months in advance, as bookings fill up quickly. This is important if you want your blood drive on the National Day of Reason, freethought's answer to the National Day of Prayer; both are annually observed on the first Thursday in May. If you're planning on a blood drive for that day, you'll want to start planning at the beginning of spring semester, and possibly even earlier.

Interestingly, the amount of lead time you need is drastically shorter in the summer - there are far fewer blood drives going on, and many people who would donate are on vacation. If some of your group members are still around over summer, a blood drive can stimulate giving when it is in short supply.

Coordinating: The Red Cross will provide the medical technicians and equipment. The sponsor has three major tasks: securing a suitable location, publicizing the event, and recruiting and scheduling donors. The number of people will therefore depend on how large you want to the event to be; for a rule of thumb, let's say 2 to 6 coordinators are sufficient, and perhaps 4 to 12 volunteers. The volunteers will promote the drive, schedule donors, and perform certain designated tasks the day of, such as running the canteen.

Material requirements: In my conversation with the Red Cross, the major requirement that they had was that there be a space for the drive, with access to a parking lot and some form of climate control. You will need to make advertising materials, but they will provide some - regional practices vary. Plus, it never hurts to make flyers promoting your group alongside the blood drive.

Cooperating Organizations: Check to see if there are other blood drives planned near your intended date to avoid competition. If your group can't put on a blood drive, consider going en masse to one locally.

Suggested Walkthrough

Note: The Red Cross offers a checklist for sponsoring a drive. America's Blood Centers has an overview of blood drive coordination.

  1. Select a blood drive coordinator from within your group to contact your local blood donation center. The largest organizations for blood donation are the Red Cross (1-800-GIVE-LIFE or click here), and America's Blood Centers (1-888-USBLOOD or click here). Your local center will be the one coordinating the drive, so there may be variations in practices; however, what follows is standard procedure. They will set you up with a donor representative, who will guide you through the process.
    1. Talk to your donor rep about setting a goal for donations.
    2. Ask how many volunteers you'll need the day of the drive, and in what roles. Schedule group members for these.
  2. Discuss with them what a suitable location would require (access to parking lot, temperature control, electrical outlets), and find one or more potential places on campus. Reserve them for the intended dates and times.
  3. You'll need a number of volunteers to solicit donations - the more, the better. Before sending them out, however, you need to educate them about the importance of giving blood, common reasons people give not to donate, and the eligibility requirements for giving blood. Soliciters cannot pressure people into giving blood - remind them that some of the reasons people choose not to donate are very personal, and that they shouldn't pry.
  4. Publicize the drive all over campus, and if possible in the surrounding community. Make sure you are reaching beyond the student body!
    1. See if you can get a notice for the drive in your school newspaper. Your donation center can provide you with personal stories from people who have received blood.
    2. This is a great opportunity to reach out and collaboate with other local freethought groups in your area! Contact local chapters of the AHA, AAI, AA, CFI or any other local groups that share your worldviews and invite them to send a contingent of donors. You might also reach out to UU churches or any religious student organizations you have collaborated with in the past.
  5. In the month before the drive, your volunteers should talk to people face-to-face about giving blood. Give potential donors pledge cards which they can fill out with phone numbers / emails.
    1. Pledge cards do not mean that they are scheduled for an appointment, though. You need to follow-up on pledge cards to make sure they are still interested, and to schedule their appointment.
  6. The coordinator should keep a master schedule of donation appointments. This will need to be shared with the donation agency before the drive.
  7. In the week before the drive, confirm all donor appointments.
  8. In the days before the drive, check that your donor appointments are sufficient to reach your goal. Send out reminders to donors. Make sure that your volunteers will be there at their scheduled times.
  9. The day of the blood drive, the donation agency will do most of the work of setting up medical equipment and processing donors. However, there are some important things you need to prepare:
    1. Ask your donor rep how much parking they will need. Early on the day of the blood drive, block off parking spots near the entrance to the location.
    2. Post directional signs and arrows clearly indicating the way to the drive. These should be visible to people who are coming from any entrance to campus (or any location).
    3. Your coordinator should go over the schedule with the agency staff. Provide them with the contact info of a few coordinators.
    4. Place tables and chairs outside of the location for sign-in.
    5. All over campus, post reminders that the drive is today. If donors miss their scheduled appointments, contact them and see if they can still make it.
    6. If you're planning another blood drive, prominently post the date where donors can see it.
  10. After the drive, thank donors, volunteers, and coordinators!
    1. Post the results on campus - contact your school paper.
    2. If things went well, consider planning for another drive.
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