By Erikanollwebb-Oracle on Jan 04, 2013
Yesterday I found an interesting blog piece by Ben Serviss (@benserviss) on how gamification might be used to increase blood donations. This lead to a twitter conversation between me, @benserviss, @daverage and @gamificationco about a) whether this would work and b) what the issues are in blood donation.
I should disclose I'm a nearly 3 gallon donor at this point. Bonfils Blood Bank has me on speed dial because I am O-, the universal donor. But I haven't given recently. It's not that I care about needles much. I'm a phlebotomist's dream, pale skin, bright blue veins that are easy to hit. However, giving is a little inconvenient. I need to make an appointment, plan on the travel to the blood bank, spend about an hour, etc. Because I travel a lot, I have to review all the places that might knock me off the list. More than once, I've had to take a year break from giving because I traveled to India. I have some altrustic motivation since I know they can always use my blood type, people are in need, there aren't enough donors, etc. But sometimes I need a little more push to actually go. And I'm not really the problem because I do go. What about the people who have never given blood but who could?
As Serviss points out:
"Meanwhile, the American Red Cross states that less than 38 percent of the US population is eligible to donate blood, which comes out to roughly 119 million people given the current US population of 315 million. Of those eligible, only 9.5 million donate in a given year, which leaves us with about 109 million people who are eligible to donate, but don’t."
So it seems like there are two problems. The first is really an onboarding problem. How do you get people past the initial hump of giving in the first place? Most first time donors, in my experience at the blood bank over the years, will say in a surprised tone "that wasn't bad at all!" They may have overcome initial resistance because of some event, and then were surprised that it wasn't a horrible experience. So how could we convince more people to walk through the door? If your intrinsic motivation isn't that high for blood donation, could we layer on some extrinsic motivation? Come in and win! This might include t-shirts, blankets, hats, and other logo items, but can go as far as winning a $1000 shopping spree, as the American Red Cross offered in 2008 in their "Give a little, Get a lot" program.
The second problem is once you give, how could we get you to give again? According to the World Health Organization, out of 92 million blood donations annually, 30 million give blood once and then never come again. Blood banks are already trying ways to gamify blood donation. Many now have rewards programs much like cash back programs on credit cards. Give regularly, get points you can cash in for merchandise or event tickets. In one twitter conversation, @gamificationco said that his Dad gives for points that he redeems for Mets tickets! Perhaps this is a way to get that first time donor converted to a repeat donor?
That said, the National Institutes of Health have raised concerns about these incentive programs. Mirroring other studies on the effects of reward on intrinsic motivation, they cite a Swedish study that concluded that a monetary incentive decreased the supply of blood donors by 50% and another study, that offering monetary rewards can decrease the safety of the blood supply. However, an Italian study offered a day off of work or what amounts to badges and concluded those rewards increased the frequency of donation. Just goes to show, it matters what incentives you offer...
I'm going online to book my next donation now. Maybe that's a social incentive, since I've put it out there that I will give? It doesn't look like my local blood bank offers a rewards program.
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