Hosting a Blood Drive 101

By Paulina Ytuarte

Hosting a blood drive is not for the faint of heart– or people who have a fear of blood. A blood drive is a massive endeavor, requiring lots of communications, collaboration and cooperation from everyone involved. Months of preparation are needed for this event to be successful, as well as persuasive conversations and writing skills (which we learn in class). What makes it even harder is the recruiting; it's not as easy as it seems to ask people to donate blood. If you’re still interested in hosting one, keep on reading.
Step 1: Reason to Host a Drive
Ask yourself the following questions: why is it you are interested in bringing such an event to your school or office, why does this matter to you?
Well let me tell you my reason. In early October I received an email from my neighborhood, it was announcing a blood drive, asking all residents to participate. It sparked an interest especially since my parents had always talked about blood donation and how important it was. Finally being of age to donate– I could have my friends and classmates to participate. What really caught my attention was a part of the email that said “WE ARE IN A NATIONAL BLOOD EMERGENCY, consider donating”. Since when were we in a national blood emergency? This was the first time I had heard of it, and apparently it was the first time many other people had heard too.
I stepped back and did some research on the subject. As said by New York Blood Center “NEW YORK – New York Blood Center (NYBC) announced a blood emergency today, their second in the last 75 days and the fifth of 2022. A blood emergency occurs when there is a significant gap between the amount of blood donations and need from local hospitals.” This all made sense, the pandemic depleted blood banks becuase people weren't going out to donate. So from then on, I made it my mission to host a blood drive at school.
Step 2: Gathering Interest
So now you have a reason, something that will be the driving force behind your drive. You need to gather interest, do you have enough people to do it? The New York Blood Center has a minimum requirement of 60 signups to be able to host a drive. But before you can get those 60 signups, you need to gauge interest within your community. I sent out an interest form mid november, and based on those results I was able to move forward.
Step 3: Event Logistics
This following step is the most important and challenging yet. To start off, find a space that works. Per New York Blood Center and CDC guidelines it must be a big open space with good lighting and a stable temperature of about 65-80 degrees fahrenheit. I chose the ballroom, as it is on the ground floor, allowing for easy access to and from the street for the set up crew along with the space it offers to host a drive. Next, I needed to arrange for potential dates that the ballroom was available for a minimum of 10 hours. Once I was able to finalize the date of the 30th of January with both the school and the blood center, I got to work.
Step 4: The Lead Up
The weeks leading up to the drive feel the most hectic. The account manager for the drive (the NYBC recruiter who helped me set up the drive) had to come inspect the space, and give me a run down of logistics of the day of the drive and leading up to it. After that it was non stop emailing back and forth, confirming the space with the blood center, promoting and letting all potential donors know of the event and its date and time.
There are so many misconceptions and fears surrounding blood donation which lead to lower amounts of sign ups. Let me start off by debunking a few: donating blood is bad for you as it depletes your own blood supply, blood donation is a long and arduous process, if you have a rare blood type you should not donate. In actuality blood donation is actually quite good for you, it promotes heart and body resiliency, by giving your body an opportunity to replenish its blood supply, thus strengthening the heart (great prevention for the future). Blood donation is actually quick and easy, the donation is only 10 minutes long in total! “I don't have a rare blood type so my blood isn't needed”; in fact it doesn't really matter what type you have, everything is needed and used. If you do have a rare blood type it is even more important to donate, you could be donating for yourself in the future. It is important to share all the important facts and misconceptions with donors, it might even help convince a few apprehensive people to sign up.
I have to say, the hardest part is getting enough people to sign up. Some tips for recruitment I can give are as follows: lots of communication with the people who filled out your interest form, for any potential donors and all members of your community, making lots of announcements to potential donors (I spoke in the cafeteria a few times during lunch). Lastly, show the importance of the event: showing people how important it is to donate, especially the big need at present will help sway people to sign up.
Step 5: Drive Day!
Estás en la recta final (meaning you’re at the final stretch in spanish)! It is drive day, how exciting and I must admit, completely nerve wracking. These are some of the thoughts that went through my head the day of: no one has shown up yet, are we going to get enough? What if people don't come for their appointment? Are many people going to be deferred? Will we be able to help the community?
Now you just need to sit back and relax and know that you did your absolute best to make this event a reality. The day of the drive was a learning experience, I had no idea how blood drives really worked. I learned the order of operations, first sign up/ sign in for the appointment (give some basic information, like photo ID, name and address), then go to the computers and answer a questionnaire about yourself and your health demographics (height, weight, medical history etc), followed by a quick meeting with a health professional (checking your iron levels, and making sure that you are ready to go).
Step 6: Donate
Now is when you get to sit on a cot and experience the fruit of your labor. Its donation time!
My final thoughts and reflections:
I was able to interact with donors after their donation at the canteen and ask about their experience. A first time donor said “I will definitely be donating in the future, it was so easy and it has such a big impact”. Almost all donors I spoke to were very enthusiastic about future donations, we even received a few recurring donors who just added another drive under their belt. I also made sure to send a satisfaction form, to get final inputs from all donors so that next year's drive can be even better.
After the clean up crew was done with packing away all of the supplies and I put all the tables and chairs away, I finally had a moment to reflect. I am so happy and proud of what we were able to accomplish together. Hosting a blood drive is a very big endeavor which I would not have been able to do without the help of the many many people who lended a hand. 141 people are going to get to live because of all the donors who participated. This blood drive (I hope) will have a big impact on the communities and hospitals that NYBC serves. I am incredibly grateful for everyone's support and commitment to this initiative. Please consider donating when possible, it is a priceless resource that is needed worldwide by everyone; and one day maybe you’ll need it too.
Can’t wait to see you next school year!