If you have liver or kidney failure, receiving a transplant can be life-saving. A living donor can reduce the time you spend waiting for a donated organ to become available. But how do you find a living donor who can help?
According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, about 40% of organ donations each year come from living donors. While many living organ donations happen between family members or friends, some donors give organs to strangers.
Think about the last time you donated your time or money to someone. You probably did so because something about that person’s story moved you. That’s why having someone who can share your story — a living donor champion — is so important.
Your living donor champion takes the lead in telling your story to help you find a donor. Not sure who your champion should be? Don’t forget to consider the younger and social media-savvy members of your family.
Who Should Be My Living Donor Champion?
Anyone can be your living donor champion — even a teenager or young adult. But your champion must:
- Understand your needs and be able to talk about them.
- Be familiar with the living donation process.
- Answer potential donors’ questions and know who to refer them to for more information.
- Commit to spending the time it takes to tell your story.
- Feel comfortable talking to people, including strangers, about you and your situation.
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Why a Young Person Might Be Your Best Living Donor Champion
Don’t neglect the younger people in your family or circle when considering a living donor champion. Young people often have a wide network of contacts through social media. According to Nonprofit Tech for Good, social media messages inspired 59% of Gen Z members (teens and 20s) to donate to charity.
Gen Z and millennials (those in their late 20s and early 30s) use technology to share information. Your champion can encourage each of their social media connections to share your story with their connections. This networking amplifies your message, increasing the number of people who learn about you.
Social science supports the importance of “weak ties” — connections between friends of friends — in spreading information. Young living donor champions can help make the most of these loosely connected networks in sharing your search for a donor.
Why Social Media Matters for Living Donor Champions
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2021, about 7 in 10 Americans used social media to connect with others. And more than 84% of 18 to 29-year-old adults reported using at least one social media site. A living donor champion experienced in social media may find this the most effective way to share your story.
Living donor champions may create a profile, page, or social media account to tell your story. Your champion can help motivate the audience to learn more about you and who you are. They may use:
- Photos. Images could include happy times with your children or grandchildren. They could also use images of you and your friends or pets or of you taking part in activities you enjoy.
- Videos. Videos may include you telling your own story or a loved one talking about you.
- Updates. Regular updates let the audience know how you’re doing in your search to find a donor.
- Hashtags. A special hashtag for your donor search helps people easily find out more about you and your story.
Your champion may decide to focus on one social media platform specifically. Or, they may use many platforms, such as:
According to a 2020 study published in Kidney360, social media is a vital source of potential living donors.
What Your Living Donor Champion Needs to Know
Telling a compelling story requires the right tools. Talking points are messages your donor can use to create your story. These messages help your champion easily spread the word about you in any format.
To develop talking points, your champion will need:
- General knowledge of living donation and how it can help you.
- Your age, background information, and why you need help.
- Pictures or videos of you at a healthier time.
- A list of all the people you — and they — know.
It’s also good for your champion to have contact information for someone at your transplant center. This information helps make sure they know who to go to to ask questions or concerns as they share your story.
Helping Others Help You
It’s crucial to strike the right balance when talking about living donation. Your champion needs to help people know the urgency of finding a living donor for you. But they also need to stay positive so people know there’s still time to help.
A study published in the October 2022 issue of the journal Psychological Science found that performing acts of kindness increases people’s well-being. Yet the study also found that people can be wary of asking for help. You may be:
Uncomfortable with the ask
You may worry that asking people to be a living donor will make you — and them — uncomfortable. Remember, even if someone can’t or doesn’t want to donate, they can still help by spreading the message.
Worried about disclosing details
You may feel funny about sharing details about your health or personal life. But if people don’t know what you need, they can’t help. Try to think of sharing your story as giving people who might want to help you the chance to do so.
Count on your living donor champion to spread the word. Your champion helps find people who want to step up through social media and talk with others. They can also find champion “partners” — those who can’t donate but want to help by sharing your story.
For more resources, read the UPMC Living Donor Social Media Toolkit for Champions.
Health Resources & Services Administration, Donate Organs While Alive Link
Living Donor: A Social Media Toolkit for Champions Link
Pew Research Center, Social Media Fact Sheet Link
The New York Times, Go Ahead, Ask for Help. People Are Happy to Give It Link
UPMC Physician Resources, UPMC Living Donor Champion Program and the Role of the Living Donor Ambassador Link
Nonprofit Tech for Good, 3 Must-Know Stats about Gen Z Donors Link
Constant Contact, How to Attract Young Donors to Your Nonprofit Organization Link
Cornell University, Networks Link
About Transplant Services
For more than four decades, UPMC Transplant Services has been a leader in organ transplantation. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, making UPMC one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and take on some of the most challenging cases. Through research, we have developed new therapies that provide our patients better outcomes — so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions. Above all, we are committed to providing compassionate, complete care that can change – and save – our patients’ lives. Visit our website to find a provider near you.