How financial donors can make a difference for patients

Margaret Miedema, director of philanthropy at Canadian Blood Services, explains the impact of financial giving during COVID-19 and beyond

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April 13, 2021
Image of Margaret Miedema, director of philanthropy standing outside of Canadian Blood Services head office's front entrance in front of the signage

When people think of what it means to donate to Canadian Blood Services, the image that most likely comes to mind is of someone rolling up their sleeve to give blood.

And while many do choose to donate blood, that’s not the only way supporters of Canada’s Lifeline help save and transform the lives of patients.

That’s because over the past 20 years, our role in Canadian health care has expanded to include plasma, stem cells, and support for organ and tissue transplants. That growth has required us to adapt, evolve, improve and recruit new donors to meet patient demand. And we in part count on our generous financial supporters to do that.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, individual and corporate financial donors across the country have continued to open their hearts and their wallets to help us meet the needs of patients.

Below, Margaret Miedema, director of philanthropy at Canadian Blood Services, answers some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about financial giving and looks ahead to how financial donors will continue to make a difference for patients in 2021 and beyond.

Q: Unlike some other charities, Canadian Blood Services receives its operational funding from provincial and territorial governments. Why does the organization fundraise as well?

A: It’s true that our government funders, all provincial and territorial ministries of health outside Quebec, provide the operational revenue to ensure we provide essential services to patients. But financial donations enable us to do even more to help save and transform lives.

Financial donors can make a difference in so many ways. They deliver a boost to our efforts to recruit blood and stem cell donors. They’ve enabled us to invest in new technologies to more effectively match patients and stem cell donors. They help us move forward with innovative research in transfusion and transplantation medicine.

Our national public cord blood bank is a great example of a valuable, made-in-Canada healthcare resource that financial donations helped to build.

‘Paying it forward’ through cord blood donation

Importantly, financial donors also help us respond quickly to unexpected challenges — like COVID-19 — and help advance strategic priorities of the organization.

Q: Speaking of COVID-19, what role have financial donors played in helping Canadian Blood Services respond to the challenges presented by the pandemic?

A: Financial donors have played an important role in helping us respond to some of the new and unexpected challenges that have cropped up because of the ongoing pandemic — from helping us to adapt to the changing day-to-day needs in our permanent donor centres, to supporting cutting-edge research that explored viable treatments for those stricken with COVID-19.

For example, many enhanced wellness measures needed to come into effect quickly in our donor centres at the beginning of the pandemic, and more than $300,000 in financial donations helped to offset those unexpected expenses. Financial gifts and in-kind donations from corporations also helped to cover some of the added costs of personal protective equipment for our blood donors and frontline staff, including surgical face masks, gloves and sanitizers.

How corporate Canada is helping our blood system during the pandemic

Financial gifts have also allowed us to pivot quickly and implement recruitment strategies that have brought new blood, plasma and platelet donors through the doors of our collection centres during critical times. When the logistics of stem cell donations were hindered by international border closures at the beginning of the pandemic, the national public cord blood bank that financial donors helped to build was a lifesaving resource for some patients who desperately needed a stem cell transplant.

Q: Why might supporters of Canadian Blood Services choose to donate financially, rather than, say, donate blood?

A: It’s not an either-or situation.

At Canadian Blood Services, there are so many ways that people can give to help make a difference for patients. You can donate blood, platelets or plasma, you can volunteer, you can register to be a stem cell or organ donor and you can give financially.

Our community of donors is incredible, and I can’t tell you how many times I hear from new financial donors that they have been giving blood for years and now “want to do more to help.”

Others have received blood products themselves or have a family member or friend who has needed a transfusion. These folks want to say thank you and pay it forward by supporting the blood system through charitable giving.

Others, still, have simply felt inspired by a recipient’s story, but cannot donate blood components at that time. So, they choose to contribute financially, instead.

One of our financial donors, Armin — who is also a blood donor — said it well when he explained why he decided to hold a fundraising campaign in honour of his late mother: “I thought, instead of just going to donate blood myself, maybe my financial gift can encourage 10 more people to donate, too.”

Q: Looking ahead, how can financial supporters help make an impact this year through their charitable gifts?

A: One of the exciting parts about working in philanthropy and speaking to financial donors is that you get to tap into this incredible, generous group of people who want to help change the world. Some of them have specific ideas for programs or initiatives they want to support — and my team works closely with these donors to try to make those dreams a reality.

For example, Canada Life, the founding sponsor of our NextGen youth blood recruitment program, recently came on board as the presenting sponsor of the Hockey Gives Blood Player Ambassador Program. This youth recruitment initiative is helping to inspire those in the hockey community to become the next generation of blood and stem cell donors.

Other financial supporters just want to help us achieve more, faster. In 2021, we plan to use donations to help attract new and diverse donors to Canadian Blood Services’ adult stem cell registry and cord blood bank, support blood donor recruitment campaigns, fuel research, and respond to emerging issues ― including the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.

Q: How can people make a financial donation?

A: Financial giving is a personal choice, and we try to make it as easy as possible for people to make an impact in a way that matters most to them.

You can choose to make monthly or annual gifts, like Bob Kerr or Corporal Laura Matern.

Some of our donors make memorial donations or contribute through employee giving programs. Others make financial giving a part of blood donation events they organize, or hold online fundraising campaigns to celebrate birthdays or recognize important milestones. Some give gifts of securities that can see a benefit to both our organization and the donor.At the end of the day, the most important thing for people to know is that no matter how big or small your contribution, and no matter which way you choose to give, your gift will make a difference in the lives of patients.

Learn more about the many ways to make a financial donation.

Q: Say someone would like to contribute to Canadian Blood Services, but they are not able to make a financial gift. Are there other ways they can help advance the organization’s philanthropic goals?

A: Absolutely. There are always ways people can help make a difference.

This past year, we’ve found that do-it-yourself fundraising has really taken off, particularly among young people. Supporters like Neill Spencer and Natalie Pallisco have discovered that launching fundraising events is a great way to pair personal interests or experiences with a passion for saving lives. Through these online initiatives, you can rally your friends, family or communities together to make a great collective impact — physically distanced, of course.

In special circumstances, some in-kind contributions — donations of goods or services —may also be valuable to our organization. There are restrictions and rules governing the acceptance of in-kind gifts, and we follow those and all rules and regulations for Canadian charities, as set by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Some in-kind gifts that have helped during the pandemic came from Toyota Canada and Lexus Canada, who gifted us over $1 million in advertising time to help promote the critical need for blood; L’Oréal Canada, who donated hand sanitizer and gloves to help protect employees and blood donors in our collection centres; and Air Canada, whose in-kind support over the past year has made it possible for us to ship kidneys from living donors and ensure that lifesaving transplants continue despite COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Q: How do financial donors inspire you?

A: I’m very fortunate to regularly hear financial donors’ personal stories and reasons for giving, and I continue to feel humbled, inspired and energized by their drive to make a difference for patients.

Financial donors are forward thinkers. They play a critical role in helping our organization adapt to the constantly changing health-care environment. They help strengthen Canada’s national blood supply system, day after day and year after year, and help to ensure that we are always prepared to face whatever emerging issues — or opportunities — might come our way.

Financial donors want to help make the world better — and they do so by helping patients in their communities and across Canada. They strive to not only help save lives today, but to transform lives tomorrow. We are extremely grateful for the support that financial donors give to Canadian Blood Services and the patients we serve.

Learn more about financial giving at give.blood.ca.

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