Growing the Blood Transfusion Supply


Increasing shortages and emerging threats make collection more important than ever.

AABB, America’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross are issuing a critical appeal for blood and platelet donors across the country, to combat significantly low blood supply inventory levels.

“Maintaining a safe and adequate blood supply is critical to the nation’s public health and a priority for the medical community,” said Miriam A. Markowitz, CEO of AABB. “Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. It is indispensable and required in the treatment of millions of patients, including individuals with cancer and other life-threatening diseases, patients undergoing organ transplants and trauma victims.”

A number of factors impact blood product inventory, from summer vacations, to schools being out of session, and weather events—like Hurricane Matthew, which forced the cancellations of blood drives across the Southeastern part of the U.S. The need for blood, however, remains constant and patients continue to depend on the generosity of blood donors to meet that need.

“Every two seconds, someone in America gets a blood transfusion. Five million patients will need blood this year.”

We are asking all potential donors, both current and first-timers, to roll up a sleeve and make a commitment to donate blood as soon as possible,” said Dennis Todd, chair of the AABB Interorganizational Task Force on Domestic Disasters and Acts of Terrorism.

Who better to encourage donations and host blood drives than blood banking professionals and other members of the clinical laboratory team?

The Red Cross has published the following tips to hosting a successful blood drive:1

  • Use a personal approach—ask face-to-face. Choose a time when potential donors can give you their full attention, and feel confident you are asking people to do something that helps others. If it is not possible to ask face-to-face, then call on the phone.
  • Be enthusiastic and positive. New donors’ attitudes toward blood donation may be largely determined by how they were asked. Enthusiasm is contagious.
  • Form a recruitment team. You don’t have to do it alone. Ask people who are passionate about the cause or who cannot donate themselves to join you in helping recruit others. Ask donors who have scheduled an appointment to bring a friend. And remember—it’s easier for 10 people to recruit 10 donors each than for one person to recruit 100 donors.
  • Ask appropriately. Don’t pressure anyone into donating. Understand how a potential donor feels and answer questions they may have. Give them time to make the decision to give blood.
  • Educate about the importance of blood donation. The hospital, or Red Cross does not need blood—patients do. Every two seconds, someone in America gets a blood transfusion. Five million patients will need blood this year.
  • Advertise. Advertise. Use promotional posters in common spaces in your building or community (cafeteria, elevator, hallways). Use the organization’s intranet, newsletter or bulletin boards. Use social media to bring awareness to the event.
  • Encourage donors to make appointments in advance. Schedule the appointments evenly to prevent long times, and explain to donors the need to keep their appointment.
  • Send appointment reminders. Remind donors of their appointments as the drive draws near. Call no-shows the day of the drive.
  • Reduce the fear of the unknown by explaining what is involved in donating. Educate new donors about basic eligibility requirements, possible deferrals, the donation process and what to expect.

Four Steps to Hosting a Blood Drive2

  • Offer a suitable location
  • Publicize the blood drive
  • Organize a recruitment committee to recruit donors within the organization
  • Schedule donors for appointments

Emerging Threats

AABB is working with blood collection centers and testing laboratories across the U.S. to protect the blood supply by monitoring the spread of a new threat: Zika, by tracking and mapping the locations where donated blood has tested positive for Zika virus.

The Zika Virus Biovigilance Network, a collaboration between AABB and U.S. blood collection establishments, will compile results of investigational blood donor screening tests administered throughout the country and notify blood centers in the network of each reactive test result as it is received.

In addition to alerting blood centers in real time, AABB will maintain a map on its website indicating the location of blood donors with suspected Zika virus infection. “We believe AABB’s Zika surveillance network will prove a vital tool in the fight against Zika virus,” said Miriam A. Markowitz, AABB CEO. “AABB is very pleased to have funded this critical program. It will enable the blood community to keep track, in real time, of locations where Zika virus reactive donors have been identified. Participating blood organizations will receive email alerts every time reactive donations are reported. This network is, ultimately, a public health service that will help keep the blood supply safe from Zika.


Personal Touch

The Red Cross has had great success using personal stories from blood recipients to increase donations. Through testimonials from recipients and their loved ones, videos and photos, potential donors can see first-hand the impact their donation can have. Here is an example of one of their stories:

One of the patients who depends on blood donors for help is 11-year-old Mae Rainey, who needs regular blood transfusions as part of her treatment for a blood disorder.

“It means everything to me to see people willing to give their blood,” said Josh Rainey, Mae’s older brother. “There’s people out there willing to take time out of their lives to do that—not knowing who it is going to affect, not knowing that it’s going to be my little sister sitting in that chair every 21 days receiving that blood.”

Mae’s story illustrates how volunteer blood donors are needed each and every day to help save lives. In fact, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion.

—American Red Cross


  1. American Red Cross. Recruitment strategies & tips. Available at:
  2. American Red Cross. What to expect. Available at:



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Kerri Hatt
Kerri Hatt


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