Motivating Donors: Lessons from Collecting COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma

May 29, 2020. Rockville, Maryland. Red Cross phlebotomist April Hall works with donor of convalescent plasma Alisha Wolf. Wolf discovered she was Covid-19 positive while in the hospital to deliver her baby (everyone is now healthy).
Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

This World Blood Donor Day, June 14th, we celebrate the millions of committed donors who give blood regularly to the American Red Cross and other entities, those who donated for the first time during the pandemic, and all those who will give in the future. We look forward to welcoming all eligible blood donors into our donation centers and to our community drives where they can save lives through the selfless act of donating blood. 

Early in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, many blood centers began collecting and distributing COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP). This new product was seen as a potential treatment for the emerging virus and resulting disease. However, in the context of stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and social distancing, motivating donors to come out of their homes and into a public setting such as a blood center presented a unique challenge. Additionally, during the early stages of the pandemic, there were few recovered patients and many of those patients had no blood donation experience, let alone a history of donating when the perceived need was acute. Researchers from the American Red Cross conducted a survey of CCP donors during the first five months of the CCP collection period (April 27-September 15, 2020) to gather information about their donation experience and motivations (1) .

Of the 14,225 invitations sent, 3471 donors responded (24.4%). Most respondents reported whether they had never donated blood prior to their CCP donation (“Never donors”, 40.5%), had not donated in the two years prior to their CCP donation (“Lapsed donors”, 30.3%), or had donated at least one time in the two years prior to their CCP donation (“Recent donors”, 27.4%). Results from the survey showed that fear of CCP donation was inversely related to donation experience, which supports previous literature on all types of blood donation (2). The most important motivating factors were wanting to help others in need, feeling a responsibility to help others, and feeling a duty to donate because they had recovered from COVID-19. For those who experienced more severe disease (measured by symptoms and need for advanced medical care), a sense of duty and altruism were more important motivators. Such insights are helpful for blood centers during times where urgent donations of a specialized type are needed.

Additional questions in the survey elicited information about motivating and demotivating factors for donors based on donation experience. Recent donors were asked what motivates them to be blood donors; Lapsed donors were asked why they had not donated recently; Never donors were asked why they had not donated before. The results of these queries are shown in Table 1 below. These data can guide programs aimed at motivating active donors and highlighting the altruism and sense of community gained from donating. Blood centers can also work to decrease barriers to donation, such as increasing available donation locations and times, publicizing updated deferral policies that may allow more people to donate, and improving processes to make the donation experience more convenient.

If you would like to donate, go to, read the information on blood donation, and schedule a donation today!

Table 1.


1. Crowder LA, Steele WR, Goodhue E, Lasky B, Young PP. COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors: Unique motivations in unique times? Transfusion. 2023 Apr;63(4):703-710.

2. France CR, France JL, Himawan LK, Duffy L, Kessler DA, Rebosa M, Rehmani S, Frye V, Shaz BH. Fear is associated with attrition of first-time whole blood donors: A longitudinal examination of donor confidence and attitude as potential mediators. Transfusion. 2021 Dec;61(12):3372-3380.


  • Lauren Crowder, PhD

    Dr. Lauren Crowder is a scientific thought leader with over 15 years of research experience, spanning from bench science to public health policy research. Lauren received her Doctor of Philosophy in Translational Health Science from The George Washington University in 2022, where her dissertation focused on the decision-making process at multiple levels of the US blood system. She also holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health Science from Salisbury University. Dr. Crowder has been with the Red Cross for 8 years, previously working full-time as an Epidemiologist in Scientific Affairs. She is currently employed full-time as the Associate Director of Implementation Science at a global clinical research organization but continues to work part-time as an Executive Scientific Officer within Scientific Affairs at the American Red Cross, also as a Red Cross volunteer. Her research interests within the Red Cross include the health and safety of blood donors and advancing blood donor deferral policies by providing data to federal decision-makers and working with internal partners to implement changes effectively and efficiently. Lauren has authored over 25 publications, 3 book chapters, and has presented posters, oral abstracts, and invited educational sessions at regional, national, and international conferences as well as for a variety of internal and external stakeholders.