A new kind of competition is becoming popular in colleges across the country. It does not require athletic prowess, overwhelming brainpower, or any special skill set.
You simply have to pass the physical. It is, in fact, a blood drive competition.
Colleges across the country are competing with their rival schools to collect the most pints of donated blood. But ancient school rivalries aren’t the only way that schools are encouraging more people to donate. Many American colleges are coming up with more creative ways to stay ahead in the blood drive competition.
Pennsylvania State University’s Student Red Cross Organization has an annual blood drive event called the PSU-MSU Challenge, in which students from Penn State compete with Michigan State students to collect the most blood donations. This successful event, now in its fourteenth year, usually takes place right before the holiday season begins. Blood inventories typically drop tremendously as people start to celebrate the holidays.
This year, Penn State’s Red Cross organization is working to make the PSU-MSU challenge even more appealing by giving out freebies and prizes to donors. These include free pizza, a trip for four people to Michigan State (including game tickets and hotel reservations) and two iPhones, just to name a few prizes. The opportunities to win prizes make the blood drive far more attractive to potential donors.
“I find myself asking, what happened to doing something just for the sheer purpose of helping someone out and doing a good thing?” says Emily Ritter, the vice president of Penn State’s Student Red Cross Organization.
“Many people say to me, ‘Well, what are you giving away, maybe then I’ll donate,’” she says.
The organization also advertises all over campus in order to publicize blood drive events. They also seek out donations from local businesses and enlist the help of other student organizations on campus in order to make the drive a success. These other student organizations become sponsors of one of the drives and help to bring in donors and volunteers. By doing this, they help spread the word all across the campus.
“Unfortunately, we have to spend a lot of money on these drives with advertising and getting incentives in order to make them a success. We use many different tactics to create successful blood drives here at Penn State,” says Ritter.
Two other schools involved in a blood drive competition are Harvard and Yale. These two Ivy League universities will be competing in their third annual Harvard-Yale Red Cross blood drive challenge next year. Last year, Harvard won the challenge, and, as a display of good sportsmanship, Yale’s dean agreed to be photographed wearing Harvard University clothing.
“The reason why we have this competition with Harvard is merely to make use of our huge rivalry to do some good – if it gets people excited and it gets more people to come out on both sides, then this can only be a good thing for everyone,” says Yale’s American Red Cross blood drive co-coordinator Margaret Yim.
The two universities managed to collect 573 units of blood last year, helping more than 1,500 hospital patients across New England. Last year’s challenge broke the previous year’s record, which counted 564 units of blood collected. Yim hopes people who aren’t regular donors will be influenced by the college’s small tokens of appreciation and encouragement to do more good. She says that there are already many regular donors who donate regularly because they really care about helping people. But the organization is hoping to add more people to the list of regular donors.
Yim believes that the competitions and prizes will create long-term effects for blood donation.
“Competitions and prizes act as added incentives for people to come out. Should entering a raffle for a free sandwich at Subway really be the reason why you give blood? No. But if it means more people will come out and it means that people are more likely to return to a subsequent blood drive, then yes, we will provide some of these incentives to encourage blood donation,” says Yim.
Yim realizes that one reason few college students donate is because they lead busy lives and don’t always have the time or resources to donate blood. For example, many athletes on her campus have been unable to donate in the past because they have practice or a game that they need to be in top physical form for.
According to the American Red Cross, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. This amounts to more than 38,000 blood donations needed every day across the country. Facing such staggering statistics, what other choices do college blood drives have to bring in donors?
Yet are these advertising methods really the best way to teach people about the benefits of donating blood to help others? Will people finally realize and learn more about the tremendous necessity of blood donations in American hospitals every minute? Perhaps constant publicity, giveaways and competitions may turn out to be the best and only way to get more college students to donate blood.