Research Study Update: Why do donors lapse? Donors’ perceptions of the deferral process

What was the question?

In our earlier work, we found that donors who receive a deferral are less likely to return to donate. In this study, we asked deferred donors about the information they had received, how they understood it, and how they felt when they were deferred. We also asked them how the Lifeblood might improve the deferral process. This included asking for their opinions on clearer words that we might use to replace “deferral”.

Why is it important?

We will use the results from this study to improve our communication with donors who are not currently eligible to donate. We hope this will encourage them to return when they are eligible, and contribute to a safe and sustainable blood supply.

What did we do?

We completed two different surveys with deferred donors:

  • Donors who had received a deferral and had not returned after six months of being eligible
  • Donors who had received a deferral on the day before the survey.

Each survey took approximately 15 minutes to complete.

A total of 1,025 donors replied to one of the surveys.

What did we find out?

Overall, donors are more likely to be deferred during a telephone screen by the National Call Centre (NCC). Among the group who had not returned to donate, more than 2/3 had received their deferral when attending the donor centre to donate blood.

Views on information provided on the deferral

Most donors who responded to the survey reported that a donor centre nurse or the NCC operator was their only source of information about their deferral and the date they could return to donate. Only a small proportion (4 percent ) of donors received any additional written materials (letter or a brochure), when deferred by the NCC, while 16 percent received additional material when deferred in centre. While donors mostly understood why they were deferred and were happy with the information they received, many donors suggested that additional information would be helpful.

Emotions experienced when deferred

In general, donors reported minimal emotional response to receiving a deferral. There were, however some notable differences between NCC deferrals and Donor Centre deferrals.

  • NCC deferred donors tended to experience more positive emotions such as feelings of calmness, when told they were deferred.
  • Donors who were deferred in a donor centre experienced more negative emotions, such as anger, when told they were deferred.
  • When donors were deferred, they reported feelings such as disappointment, sadness and rejection.
  • For those who were deferred in a donor centre, the negative emotions may be a result of the wasted effort of preparing for and attending their appointment.

Replacing the term ‘deferral’ in communication with donors

To see if there were words that could replace “deferral” in our communications, a number of terms suggested by staff were tested with donors. Donors reported preferring the term ‘postponed donation’ compared to the other suggestions.

Improvements to the deferral process

Lastly, donors suggested ways to improve the deferral process, with most suggestions relating to the type of information provided to a donor.

  • Provide a clear return date, rather than an indicative number of weeks or months, to enable them to make a future booking or plan their return.
  • Provide guidance on how to seek additional information about deferrals. To illustrate, some donors knew they were deferred but did not know the length of deferral period. The donateblood website could contain clearer and more accessible information for donors to improve their knowledge of donor eligibility.
  • Provide donors with access to information on their current deferral. The donor app or the donor portal could host donors’ individual deferral information, including the end date of their deferral, to serve as a point of reference.

The findings from the study have been reported back to key stakeholders, and we are working with many areas across the business to develop a plan to change the deferral process.

We are testing new communication tools, including follow-up reminders to inform donors that their deferral is ending.

If you would like more information about this study or the larger deferral project, please contact Carley Gemelli.

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

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