I donate blood regularly. I’d like to say I do it strictly for the do-gooder character in me, but, like so many things, multiple characters influence my blood-donating habits.
Mom volunteered for Red Cross Blood Drives when I was growing up, so when the blood drive came to our high school, she encouraged me to donate, reassuring me over my needle-queasiness and worries about having blood taken. The character who wants to please mom is definitely in play
I’ve varied between being an occasional—sometimes lapsed—donor, to being consistent, donating regularly at our local firehouse, which hosts a blood drive every 8-weeks. My lapses were often due to inconvenience—no local blood drive—or too busy. With our local firehouse setup, it’s easy to give. My do-gooder character believes in the value of donating, so making it easy helps me stay aligned in this corner of my mind.
My every-8-week donation plan sometimes gets thrown off schedule when my iron count fails.
When that happens, I end up at a neighboring firehouse at the 10-week mark. That’s where I was last December. As I lay there, I learned that the firehouses were in the middle of a competitive Bucket Brigade; each location trying to outdo the others for most blood donated during the brigade cycle.
Here I was, filling the blood-coffers of a firehouse other than my own. Yes, I was doing good donating blood, but suddenly it was for the wrong team! I had a character show up, briefly, appalled at my disloyalty. In my (mock) shame, I declined the free t-shirt.
Yes, free t-shirt. The people collecting our blood have to find ways to encourage us to engage; beyond just the do-gooder incentive.
It’s an odd business model, this blood-collecting enterprise. The customer has blood—the inventory the blood-center wants—for which the customer doesn’t get paid. On top of this, the customer has to fill out a long questionnaire, give of their time, and be willing to be poked with a needle. They may be declined due to low iron. Lots of speed bumps along the way.
To overcome some of this, blood-business folks offer…enticements. Sometimes it’s a free t-shirt. Other times a blood drive is sponsored by a business, and the business offers something free. In our community, our popular ice cream shop sponsors an annual blood drive and gives a free pint of ice cream to every donor. There’s a lot of bloodshed in our town that particular day.
Vitalant—an international nonprofit—is our blood service center. It has all the trimmings of any large organization trying to engage its users. It’s one of my 340 accounts, where I can log in to make donation appointments, view a history of wellness data gathered from prior blood donations, and exchange points I’ve earned from donating.
Yes, our local blood bank has a rewards program, modestly called The Hero in Me. Donating blood has its rewards. I’ve earned 100 points for keeping my appointment; another 100 points for the actual donation, when my iron cooperates. Emails arrive promising an extra 500 points, simply for donating during a special blood drive being held. There’s a cornucopia of opportunity to earn points for donating.
I’ve exchanged points for Amazon and Target gift cards and for movie certificates. I’ve donated points to worthy causes.
I guess I have been paid for my blood. This, of course, makes my frugal character happy.
But it’s vanity that’s really what drives me to give.
It’s when the nurse approaches me with the needle that I know my impressiveness will be recognized.
“Let’s look at those veins,” they’ll say.
I’ll hold out both arms, fingers lightly clenched.
“Oh my!” they’ll exclaim. “Those are beautiful veins.”
I know I lucked into my veins and the compliment is minor, but I feel a certain vain-pride every time I hear those words. That’s the best rewards program around.