Insights

4 Marketing Lessons from Giving Blood

At ECS we love working with our non-profit clients. We love the passion of the leaders and employees, and it is very inspiring to see all the good work that is done.

I donated blood a few weeks ago.  (Full disclosure – it has been many, many years since I have done so.)

Back when I was younger, I gave blood regularly.  Then, I fell out of the habit.  I do think I had every intention of going back and giving – but I don’t think anyone ever directly asked me to do so, so I didn’t. Yes, once we are out of a habit, it can be very difficult to reestablish.

Fast forward to 2019. About six weeks ago, my 9th grader let me know a Red Cross blood drive was coming to her school. She pointblank asked me to give.  She also asked her dad, who, upon comparing notes with me, also revealed he had not given blood in more than two decades. (Hmm. A pattern.)

Like good parents, we agreed to sign up for appointments online and within a few days both could say we successfully gave blood.

But the story does not end here. In the non-profit world, a one-time “give” is not enough. Loyalty is essential – which means the building of relationships – as this is the way organizations get donations to continue to flow.

So here are some tangible takeaways from my blood-giving experience geared toward non-profits:

1. The initial “ask” is crucial
If my daughter hadn’t asked me to give blood, and then told me what I needed to do, I never would have followed through. She didn’t have to be the one to do the ask, but she was very compelling in the way she did – she came up to me with the needed URL, and asked me to take 2 minutes to schedule the appointment (right then and there).

Just remember that someone, somewhere must do a proper ask.

2. Say “thank you”
Multiple times I was thanked in person for my time, my effort, and for my blood. I received a thank you by email. “Thank yous” mean so much – especially in the non-profit world. Donors must know they are appreciated – then there is a good chance they will give more.

Sincere (and timely) thanks are an essential ingredient.

3. Build an initial relationship
It is absolutely essential in the non-profit world that an emotional connection is made so that donors continue to donate. After donating via the Red Cross, I found out that my blood went to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton, NJ. This gives me something tangible and ensures I understand that my time and effort were put to good use.

Quarterly communication updates with stories of good things happening or social media posts are other effective ways to help build the relationship and make someone feel good about giving.

4. Build a deeper relationship (with crucial follow-up “asks”)
Over time, a nonprofit looks to develop deeper relationships and emotional connections with donors. The good news is that donors are a receptive audience and want to remain loyal (if they are given reminders!).

There’s an art and science to building a strong and lasting relationships – it’s important to develop a communications “roadmap” that dictates the right frequency of staying in touch with donors, along with the pre-determined times for ongoing “asks”. You don’t want to let too much time lapse between communications, but you don’t want to over-communicate and irritate your loyal donor base. There is a happy medium – you just have to find it.

So there you have it – nonprofit marketing is very similar to what is needed in the for-profit world, but there are subtle differences that are important nuances where marketers should take note.


Yes, ECS loves to work with non-profits. And Laurel Cavalluzzo, Strategic Marketing Specialist at Empirical Consulting Solutions, has worked with a wide variety of non-profit organizations during her career. She is happy to chat about different communication initiatives that work in this world, and would love to hear your ideas and thoughts.

Connect with Laurel on LinkedIn here, or reach her at lcavalluzzo@thinkempirical.com or (610) 994-1139.