Addressing a severe lack of blood donors in Russia (12 per 1000 people in 2007 – only 30% of the average European level!), in 2008 the Ministry of Public Health launched a first ever campaign to build a new social institution – the institution of blood donation. A comprehensive, multi-faceted campaign including over 2000 events and a mix of tactics for multiple audiences generated 19 240 media impressions, led to positive shifts in motivation to donate blood gratuitously, weakened fears about donation and provoked a wave of substantive public initiatives. Over 2 mln people participated in events, 1 mln people donated blood within the campaign. By 2010 donor number grew by 17% nationwide, reaching European level in several regions.
Challenge: Accident victims, surgeries, complicated childbirth… 1.5 million Russians need donor blood every year – that’s over 4,000 transfusions daily. Many, e.g. cancer patients, depend on blood transfusions all their lives. While the average donor number in Europe was 40 donors per thousand people, in 2007 in Russia it was 12 per thousand! Donors kept shrinking in number and aging, young people, the most desirable donors, being reluctant to donate blood. International experience shows that monetary incentives do not help: remarkably, the overall donor number decreases, while its contingent changes to deprived people most in need of money, which creates risks for recipients.
In 2008 the Ministry of Public Health launched a 5-year program of blood donation development, including modernization of equipment at the Blood Service transfusion stations, creation of an integrated database on donor blood preparation, processing, storage and safety and a communication campaign aimed at making blood donation mass, gratuitous and recurrent. The campaign started with 21 of 83 subjects of the Federation (regions) in 2008, expanding to 47 regions in 2009 and 65 in 2010.
Objectives: The program’s strategic goal is to reach the number of 25 donors per thousand by 2020 (the sufficient number for the healthcare system to function properly). Communication objectives:
• Fill gaps in public knowledge, fight fears and negative assumptions about blood donation.
• Build trust in the national Blood Service.
• Motivate people to give blood gratuitously and recurrently.
• Integrate efforts of all institutions able to contribute in blood donation development.
Initial research – key findings:
I Current situation analysis (statistics & media coverage, opinion poll in 21 regions (2008)):
• Main motivation for blood donation – individual: helping relatives and friends. Low recurrence.
• Low overall motivation: e.g., 40% never donated blood because they did not wish to, or did not see the need.
• Ignorance and fears about blood donation: e.g., 56% thought they could catch a disease during the procedure.
• Ever-decreasing media coverage, focused mostly on negative stories (e.g. getting HIV via blood transfusion).
II Analysis of successful USSR and international blood donation support practice:
• Countries with a high number of recurrent donors focus on non-monetary aspects of blood donation (public appreciation, social benefits, appeal to compassion and civil duty, etc.).
Strategy: Given its scale and complexity, the problem required a nationwide multi-level solution that would ensure a stable, long-term result. We chose the strategy of building a new social institution – a permanent structure joining all parties involved in blood donation. Member of this community should feel united by this vital social function and be motivated by status and public acknowledgement. The core idea behind this institution is social solidarity.
Target audiences:
• Those which comprise the blood donation institution: donors (current and potential), recipients, the Blood Service staff, government authorities and NGOs dealing with blood donation or related issues.
• Other social institutions whose support was essential to accelerate blood donation development: media, businesses, educational institutions, NGOs dealing with other issues, the church.
As the process of building an institution takes years, the focus of the 2008-2010 campaigns was giving it a start: defining and spreading basic values and ideas shared by institution members (being a donor is an honour, etc.), establishing communication channels and formats for members to interact with each other and other institutions, engaging all publics in interaction, encouraging them to act on their own and ensuring self-regulation of the institution.
Campaign Execution: A comprehensive, multi-faceted campaign using a mix of various communication channels and formats was designed to engage multiple audiences and kick off the blood donation support movement.

2008: Search and initiation (October – December, 21 regions)
• Launching basic channels: a website (“I’m a Donor”) and a nationwide Blood Service hotline.
• Creating a modern, attractive and motivating visual identity for the Blood Service and the program.
• Working out key messages covering all aspects of blood donation (Russia’s current need in donors, medical aspects of the procedure (incl. counter-myths and counter-fear arguments), social benefits for donors, etc.).
• Working out basic formats of communication activities for each audience:
Audience Activities
Media • All-Russian video conference (a TV bridge uniting 21 regions) – 30 October 2008, 300 journalists.
• Media seminars at transfusion stations – focus on demonstrating the renovated equipment and the safety of the procedure (82 seminars since 2008).
• All-Russian media contest for the best publication on blood donation – over 200 entries (2008)
• Partnership projects with print, broadcast and online media.
Potential donors • A nationwide PSA campaign: TV, radio, outdoor, Internet (3 waves since 2008).
• Blood drives to enterprises, local governments and universities (649 events since 2008).
• Citywide events (Donor Walks with concerts) and outdoor stunts.
• Online activities: creating communities in social networks, engaging popular bloggers, etc.
Blood Service • Blood Service corporate newspaper (16 issues since 2008).
• Trainings for Blood Service staff on improving the corporate culture & communication with donors.
• All-Russian Blood Service Forum uniting heads of regional Blood Service divisions, government, NGO and business authorities (held annually, 3 editions since 2008).
Local governments • Creating Public Councils on Blood Donation on the basis of local administrations (27 for 3 yrs).
• Round tables with participation of local government authorities (145 panels for 3 yrs).
Educational institutions • Open lessons on blood donation at secondary schools (315 since 2008).
• Donor Days at universities (including BTL activities, blood drives and lectures).
• Creating volunteer groups (of those who can’t become donors or just want to help).
NGOs • Round tables and other events for NGO representatives (350 since 2008).
• Trainings and seminars on blood donation for NGO volunteers.
Business • Round tables for the business community (93 since 2008).
• Designing basic partnership formats (corporate donor, information partner, etc.) 5 nationwide and over 40 regional companies became partners of the program since 2009.
Over 500 events in 21 regions within 1.5 months in 2008 – 11 events daily on average!
2009: Acceleration and expansion (September – December, 47 regions)
The 2009 campaign, while extending the successful 2008 activities to new regions, specifically focused on:
• Adjusting the communication mechanisms to accelerate the process of building the institution.
• Expanding the partner network (businesses, local authorities, media, NGOs).
• Increasing the level of self-regulation of the institution (by creating Public Councils & encouraging public initiatives).
• Introducing new nationwide projects:
Engaging the youth: integration into the All-Russian Youth Forum “Seliger”. A series of lectures on blood donation, a contest of participants’ projects on blood donation development, a blood drive. 7500 participants.
Engaging NGOs: Motodonor: a project with bike clubs in 57 regions: over 3000 bikers donated their blood.
Engaging adults: 1st All-Russian Donor Saturday: 189 transfusion centers in 79 regions opened for donors on Saturday to engage those who can’t come during the week. Over 10 000 people donated blood.
1077 events for 3.5 months – 12 events daily on average!
2010: Sharing expertise and setting traditions (July – December, 65 regions)
While carrying on the 2008-2009 activities, the specific task of the 2010 campaign was encouraging recurrent blood donations, not just one-time help. Hence, this stage focused on nationwide initiatives and activities aimed at raising the prestige of blood donation, establishing traditions for blood donation institution members, e.g.:
• “Thank you, donor!” (November, 75 regions), an all-Russian action to create a tradition of expressing gratitude to those who save lives by giving their blood. For a week, celebrities, government authorities and people who survived owing to donors thanked them in the media and on the website Volunteers gave red ribbons to everyone who wished to join. Everyone could leave a word of gratitude on the website and download “Thank you, donor” avatars for social networks. The project was crowned by concerts aimed to celebrate honorary and regular donors. Held simultaneously in 71 regions, the concerts gathered a record 17 400 regular and honorary donors participating in one event.
• Donor’s Coming-of-Age Day (November, over 100 colleges and universities in 55 regions), a project setting the tradition to mark reaching the age of 18 (the legal age in Russia) by blood donation act as the first ‘adult’ move of a responsible citizen. College and university students who turned 18 were offered to donate blood and then were given a certificate registering their first blood donation. 4750 participants.
Other 2010 highlights:
• An All-Russian video conference to discuss problems of donation development in ‘newer’ regions and share successful practices of ‘experienced’ regions (23 November). Hosted by the Public Chamber of Russia. Initially planned for 8 regions (participants of the TV bridge), the conference was joined by 67 more regions as viewers on their own initiative.
• Integration of lessons on blood donation into the secondary school program (currently in process).
438 events in 65 regions, focus on nationwide actions, numerous non-target regions joining every activity on their own.
• By 2010 donor number grew by nearly 17% nationwide: (including BOTH target and non-target regions) from 12 to 14 donors per thousand people; reaching the European level in several regions (35-40 donors per 1000). With this growth rate, the target number of 25 / 1000 by 2020 will be reached.
• Over 2 mln people participated in events, around 1 mln donated blood within the campaign. Share of donors aged 18-24 increased twice (from 13% to 25%), aged 25-34 – from 25% to 47%; those w/higher education – from 28% to 44%.
• Every 3rd Russian says he/she is ready to become a donor – a 200% increase, compared to 2008!
• Social, ‘altruistic’ motivations to donate blood (helping people, saving lives) increased by almost 3 times (named by 23% in 2008 vs 61% in 2010); motives related to a high status of donors – by 5 times (3% in 2008 vs 15% in 2010). Perception of donors: “people who save lives” – an increase from 56% to 69%; “people who need money” – a drop from 33% to 19%.
• Fear to get a disease during blood donation weakened by more than twice: from 51% in 2008 to 25% in 2010. A significant increase in overall awareness about blood donation.
• 19 240 media impressions. Share of negative coverage reduced by 3 times, positive coverage increased by 200%!
• The campaign’s influence extended from target regions to nationwide (by media coverage, website visits, hotline calls…).
• Starting from 2008, ALL audiences are readily responding with action, joining the program with their own initiatives, which proves that the blood donation institution, as a permanent social system, is coming to life.