Research study update: Why do some donors not return? Findings from interviews with O Negative donors

What was the question?

We wanted to understand how we can keep O negative donors coming back. Understanding their experiences, especially those who have stopped donating, will help us maintain a secure blood supply.

Why is it important?

Although only 9 percent of the Australian population has O Negative blood type, 14-15 percent of all blood needed is O Negative. So that we can maintain a reliable blood supply for patients, it is important to develop new strategies to both retain and reactivate O Negative donors.

Encouraging previous donors to return is more cost effective than recruiting new donors.

What did we do?

We contacted three groups of O Negative donors and asked them to if they would like to participate in a telephone interview:

  • Current blood donors;
  • Blood donors whose last donation was 13-23 months ago (Lapsing donors);
  • Blood donors whose last donation was more than two years ago (Lapsed donors).

Within each of the three groups, half of the donors were frequent donors (had given three or more donations in a 12-month period) and all groups had a mix of age and gender.

The telephone interviews lasted for approximately 20 minutes. We asked participants about what encouraged them to donate, prevented them from donating, the communication they received from the Lifeblood, and their last donation experience. A total of 58 donors were interviewed.

What did we find out?

We found, first of all, that O Negative donors know their blood type, with 93% of the participants correctly identifying their blood type as O Negative, and all of them understood the particular need for O Negative blood.

The strongest motivations for donating were to help people in need of blood products and to help their community, friends or family.

‘… it’s a good thing to do, helping strangers out who have got into strife.’

Men were particularly motivated by convenience and donating with friends

Men were more likely than women to mention convenience as a factor in their donation decision. This included things like a nearby donation centre or opening hours that fit in with their schedule.

‘Limited opening times at the[donation] buses, so I’d be able to donate after work, but they’re always shut around six.’

Men were also more likely than women to report donating as a part of a group, such as with family members, friends, significant others and colleagues (for example, as a part of a workplace donation program).

‘…then a couple of guys I was working with were doing it and I thought it just seemed like a good opportunity to go along.’

Donors thought they couldn’t donate-and then didn’t come back

Although all donors were eligible to donate when we contacted them, the most common reason participants gave for not returning to donate was that they believed they were currently not able to donate due to Lifeblood donor selection guidelines (or “deferred”).

Donors who were unable to donate after overseas travel often thought the deferral period was longer than it actually was.

What’s next?

This study is one of a series that aims to provide a fuller picture of why donors lapse, including an exploration of the effect of deferrals from both staff and donor points of view. Results from these studies will be used to find ways to encourage our donors back into a life-saving habit.

If you would like more information, please contact Carley Gemelli.

We would like to thank all of the donors who participated in this study.

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