Penn State-Michigan State Blood Donor Challenge

Collecting blood on a college campus is never easy. There are different sponsor contacts each year, sometimes each semester; priorities are not what we want them to be; there may be no location to run a blood drive or it costs money to rent the space. One thing consistently works in our favor however, and that is competition.

There is nothing like good head-to-head competition to bring out donors. Whether it is against another competing school or among student organizations, nothing brings out students more than a desire to win.

At Penn State each fall for the last 26 years we have had a blood collection challenge against another football opponent. First it was the Pitt-Penn State Blood Donor Challenge. When that football rivalry ceased, the Penn State-Michigan State Blood Donor Challenge was born.

The Challenge, as it is known at Penn State, has been against Michigan State for the last 14 years has collected over 49,000 units of blood between the two schools. This Challenge also brings out a huge number of first time blood donors which is really our goal on any college campus—to make these students donors for life.

The Challenge is certainly a competition between the two schools. But there is a more important reason. It gives both the Greater Alleghenies Blood Region and the Great Lakes Blood Region a boost to sometimes lethargic collections around the holidays. The Challenge runs the approximately three weeks leading up to the Penn State-Michigan State football game usually played the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Both schools schedule 2,000 units to be collected during the designated time period. Penn State won this year’s Challenge by a score of 2170 to 1943 and is ahead in the series 9-5. This year, Penn State broke the elusive 2,000 unit mark, never before done in the history of the Challenge, collecting 108.5 percent of the goal.

A campaign like this is not easy but it is certainly fun and worth doing if you have successful planning. There are four factors that I feel are absolutely critical in the success of our Challenge and the blood collection program at Penn State in general.

First, all blood drives have a sponsor. There is NO site only blood drives here. Whether it is a student organization or a faculty/staff unit, all drives are sponsored. We work with many service organizations in which volunteerism is part of their mission. Many fraternities and sororities also have a service/philanthropy aspect in their charter.

Second, all sponsors have a planning meeting and understand their responsibilities—donor recruitment, publicity, volunteers and canteen on the day of the drive. All planning meetings have an agenda. We discuss the drive goal, our regional daily goal and territory and how they as a sponsor fit into the big picture. We spend a lot of time on donor recruitment strategies including sign up tables, chalk boarding, Face Book events, class announcements and presentations to their organization. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

Third, donors have scheduled appointments. All Penn State drives are appointment drives and are scheduled in eDonor. Penn State donors know that if they have an appointment they will be taken as a priority over walk in donors. We have developed a system that works to honor these appointments at all blood drives. The goal is to have all donors into their health history within 15 minutes of their appointment time. We do everything possible to make sure that happens.

The last factor is one that is absolutely controllable. We need to make sure that everything is done on our end as Red Cross staff to make the drive run smoothly. We need to do our job. We need to make sure the room is reserved, set up and open when the staff arrives. We need to be sure the drive is goaled properly to assure adequate staffing. We need to be sure there are enough volunteers scheduled and the canteen is available to run the drive. Finally, we need to be sure our donors are scheduled and dispersed throughout the day so the staff is not overwhelmed at the beginning and end of the drives.

The Penn State-Michigan State Blood Donor Challenge is one campaign that works to help Penn State reach its yearly collection goal of 8,000 units. Making any college collection program work takes time and effort. The keys are proper planning and great sponsor groups, mixed with a little fun.

Wendi Keeler, Field Rep for Penn State

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