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InROADs Research Study Update

Research study summary

InROADs Project 2 Phase 2: Donor perspectives on donor return and retention

At Lifeblood we supply blood to patients with all different blood types including some that are quite rare. These rare blood types are often found among donors with sub-Saharan African, Polynesian/Melanesian, or East/South East Asian ancestry. We need ethnic minority donors to keep coming back so that we can meet the needs of patients with rare blood types — so we spoke to donors with these backgrounds to help us understand what motivates or prevents them from continuing to donate blood.

Why is this information important?

We know from our data that donors born outside of Australia are more likely to stop donating and are less likely to return. The number of Australian patients who need rare blood types is increasing and we need to ensure our donor panel includes people from a diverse range of ethnicities to meet this growing need. Better understanding the motivations and barriers of donors with these backgrounds will help us to improve donor retention.

What did we want to find out in this study?

Before we could come up with strategies to recruit and retain donors with these ethnic backgrounds, we wanted to hear from donors about why they first donated with Lifeblood, that their donation experiences have been like, and why they have or haven’t come back. We wanted to find out what donors believed encouraged people from their communities to donate — what things Lifeblood was doing well, and what things we could build on. We also wanted to know whether there were any barriers that impacted donors from their
communities to continue to donate and whether there were any strategies that they thought Lifeblood could take to increase retention.

What did we do?

We spoke to 44 donors via one-on-one telephone interviews — 18 had East/South East Asian ancestries, 14 had Melanesian/Polynesian ancestries, and 12 had sub-Saharan African ancestries. We wanted to hear from donors who were new, who were regular and still donating, as well as those who are lapsed (haven’t donated in the last 12 months). So, of the 44 people we spoke to, 7 were new donors, 24 were current donors, 11 were lapsed donors, and 2 were donors who donated once and who have not donated again within 12 months. We asked them to share their experiences of donating blood and why they thought other donors with similar ethnic backgrounds did or did not come back to Lifeblood. We also asked for their recommendations on how to encourage other donors with similar ethnic backgrounds to return.

What did we find out?

Motivators to donate. The donors we spoke to believed that people from their communities were first motivated to donate by: a desire to help others, their religious beliefs, through a community or workplace group donation, due to their own or their friends’ and families’ formal medical training, or simply because they saw a mobile donor centre in their community.

They believed that people from their community continue to donate because they: are made aware of the ongoing need for blood, had a good experience with donor centre staff, received reminders such as emails and SMS, saw marketing campaigns, or donated as part of their regular routine.

Barriers to donation. The donors we spoke to believed that people from their communities might never donate because they: are time poor, have different cultural understandings of time and dislike needing to make fixed appointments, are afraid of needles and/or blood, fear hygiene or contamination, or have limited awareness or discussion about blood donation in their communities.

They told us that their communities may not come back to Lifeblood for the same reasons that prevent them from starting to donate and may also be affected by our travel deferrals.

Strategies to donor retention. Donors suggested a number of strategies to help Lifeblood recruit and retain donors from their communities. These included more resources in languages other than English (like the website and donor questionnaire), increased staff diversity in donor centres, privacy for female donors (meeting religious and/or cultural needs), more walk-up appointments, education for their communities on donation (in particular on the continuous need for blood), community events, marketing material with more diversity including photos of ethnic minority donors), and advertisements in targeted locations (like WeChat or community radio).

What are the next steps?

We’ll use the insights from donors to help us develop recruitment and retention strategies for ethnic minority donors. We’ve made a number of business recommendations after this project and will be commencing two new projects in 2020. One project will engage with Polynesian communities to co-design strategies to increase donors from their communities, and another will encourage and support ethnic minority donors to talk about blood donation with their communities.

For more information or to receive a more comprehensive report on our findings, contact Dr Luke Gahan

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