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Caring for donors

Donors are the lifeblood of our organisation. We collect around 25,000 donations every week to meet the constant demand for life-saving products, and our only source is volunteer donors. To make sure our donors keep coming back, researchers at the Blood Service investigate ways to improve the donation experience and keep our donors happy and healthy.

Australia is one of the few blood services in the world to have established a Donor Research program, and our team, led by Dr Tanya Davison, includes researchers with diverse backgrounds in psychology, public health, biostatistics and economics. Recent research by this team has shown that directly addressing a first time donor’s anxiety in the period leading up to their first appointment can increase the chance they will follow through with their donation.

Beating the butterflies

When a first time donor makes an appointment to give blood, their initial good intentions can give way to “butterflies” as their donation approaches-and sometimes they don’t follow through with their donation as a result.  A new strategy devised by our donor research team is designed to help donors manage their anxiety through this critical period of their donation career.

The novel approach is based on research led by Dr Barbara Masser (Honorary Principal Research Fellow at the Blood Service, and Associate Professor at the University of Queensland). Barbara explains “There is a voice at the back of new donors’ heads saying ‘You don’t have to do this. You could just not do it, that’s OK’. So we’re trying to intervene in that period and say ‘We know. We recognise that you are thinking all these things. It’s not that unusual, and here are some things you can to do to manage those doubts”.  The team worked with the Marketing department to develop a range of materials, to assist new donors. The materials were tested on over 3600 new donors. Using an internationally respected research design, the outcomes of this study told us that an emailed brochure in combination with a phone call produced the best result, and is the basis of a new business practice.

Feeling great when you donate

Most of our donors feel fine during and after their donation. But a few (10% of first time donors, less than 2% of donors overall), experience symptoms of dizziness, feeling hot and sweaty, blurry vision, and even fainting, either during or after their donation. In short, these symptoms are caused by a drop in blood pressure and a few simple techniques, such as drinking two cups of water immediately before donation or tensing the large muscle groups in the body, may help prevent the symptoms.

Our Donor Research team are enlisting the help of donors and staff at the Liverpool and Parramatta donor centres to test how we can most effectively teach our donors how to feel great every time they donate. “We want to help our donors take control over the way they feel during a donation – the happier they are, the happier we are” says Amanda Thijsen who is leading this research project.

We value all our donors, and hope to retain these valuable relationships over time.  Our Donor Research team is constantly working to ensure that each of our donors stays happy and healthy throughout their donation career.