If you have browsed around Frugal Florida Fun a bit, you know that the secret to having some really cheap fun is planning. I wanted to share a little tip that I have learned about becoming a blood donor. Now before I go into the benefits, I want to make something abundantly clear: the perks of donating blood are not the reason that I actually do it. Yes they are an added bonus, but I would certainly give blood even if there was no financial gain. By becoming a blood donor, you can really impact someone’s life that you don’t even know. It truly is a random act of kindness.
So now that I have given you my little disclaimer, let me tell you a little bit more about the difference between donating and selling your blood. If you’re in the Central Florida Area, you ah have been familiar with a few of the local blood banks such as Florida Blood Centers, Florida Blood Services, or even Community Blood Centers of Florida. What you may not be familiar with is that they have all merged to become the state’s largest blood bank, renamed One Blood. The donation process, and the mobile “Big Red Bus” have all been re-branded with the new name. There is really no difference to you the donor except the snazzy new name. One Blood is a non-profit organization that supplies many local hospitals and medical centers blood that truly does help save lives. While it’s true there is a cost associated for the medical partner to actually receive the blood, they are a non-profit group at the end of the day. They don’t actually make any money, they just cover their expenses. Your blood donation is generally used for transfusions and used by actual individuals.
Now that you know about a local non-profit group, lets compare to the idea of actually selling your blood. While I have nothing against actually selling your blood at a for profit blood center, at the end of the day, the company you are giving your blood to actually turns a profit. In addition, your blood may be used for any number of purposes including research, chemical and drug testing, as well as a transfusion. Once it’s out of your body and you have signed consents, they may sell the blood to whomever they wish, for whatever commercial purposes they desire. In addition, your blood will probably not serve your local community. That may not necessarily be a bad thing, remember I’m not judging here, just discussing the difference. I should also note that over the years centers where you can actually sell your blood have earned a negative reputation, as a place to make a quick buck. Unless you’re in a college town, these centers may not be in the best of neighborhoods, and can sometimes attract an unsavory element of society.
As an incentive to actually get you to donate, many non-profit blood banks like One Blood offer incentives or rewards to get you in their doors. I have only been donating now for a few years, but I have seen a wide range of benefits offered. I have received everything from gift cards, T-Shirts, to movie tickets just for taking a bit of my time and doing something that I should have been doing anyway. In contrast, the pay for blood companies usually give you cash or a check when you walk out the door. Although I have never been a commercial blood seller before, I have read that the cash price can range anywhere from $10 to $25 per donation. In some cases you are given a smaller amount for your initial donation, and then a larger amount for subsequent visits.
But isn’t donating your blood to receive a gift card or other item just like selling your blood? The short answer is yes. The long answer involves where you really want your blood to go when it leaves your body, and if you were going to be donating anyway you should see the rewards as a nice bonus, not as an actual incentive to donate.
Alright, so now back to the Frugal Florida Fun part, now that we have the specifics out-of-the-way. Call me a romantic, but I think that donating blood can actually be a fun date idea. LET ME CAUTION YOU: Donating Blood is a great date idea for a well established relationship. I wouldn’t necessarily lead off as a second or third date idea. Whenever you donate blood, regardless of the location, you are asked some very sensitive questions such as your sexual history, if you have had any tattoos or piercings recently that sort of thing. You may be politely declined if you have had recent medical conditions or history that disqualify you from donating. Now you are asked these questions in private, but if one partner gets to donate and the other does not for something as simple as a low iron count, or that you skipped breakfast that day, it could make for an awkward date. Just throwing that out there.
While there is something honorable about helping out a complete stranger with a blood donation, the perks can help fuel more fun! The gift cards I have received for actually donating blood have been anything from Publix to Darden Restaurants. Many times you actually walk out of a donation site with a gift card or a free movie ticket in hand. The last time I made a donation, I walked off the Big Red Bus with a T-Shirt, a free movie ticket from Fandango, and was sent in the mail a $10 Darden gift card. The wife and I spent a great lunch at Olive Garden for soup, salad & bread sticks, only it only cost a few dollars. We then caught a movie matinée, for the cheaper rates, and even had ice cream after dinner. The entire day cost us less than $20 all because I decided to donate blood. The night may have been completely FREE had she donated at the same time. So if you think about it, by making a donation, you get a little something in return. Not bad for a 15 to 20 minutes of your time tight?
The actual process of donating blood isn’t as bad as some people think. I personally have a very low threshold for pain and I can do it. The key is to not watch the needle going in! Every time I have donated, the staff have been professional and seem to get it on the first shot every time. Once you’re all hooked up, donating whole blood only take about 10 minutes or so. You’ll probably spend more time actually filling out paperwork than you will on the actual donation process. I wouldn’t consider the process painful at all, but only a slight discomfort and wasn’t that bad at all. After you donate, you’re also generally treated to some light refreshments like cookies and juice and the staff makes sure you’re feeling alright before you leave the donation site.
So how do you find a place to donate blood? My suggestion would be to checkout the OneBlood.org website. They not only have dozens of local centers you can visit to make a donation, but they also have mobile donation vehicles that visit employers and community events. Their hours vary, but they are usually open late at least one day a week. They actually come to my workplace every two months, which incidentally is also how often you can donate whole blood. You can sign up on their website to actually make an appointment which also helps speed up the process a bit. If you decide to become a frequent donor, you can actually log into your online account and view a mini medical profile. While this is no replacement for a doctor’s care, you can view info such as your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and more.
Remember, donating blood is a great way to give back to your local community, even if you receive nothing in return. Often times you are given a thank you reward for your time, but I wouldn’t plan on a particular reward. They change often and are subject to availability. If you have children, anyone in your family 16 years or older can donate with parental consent so be sure to bring everyone along! Be sure to pass along the Frugal Florida Fun while you are there!
Specifics of Donating Blood: