British group wants to make organ donation an act of faith


For the last several months, a British nonprofit has been collaborating with churches to recruit organ and blood donors in the UK. The project, called Flesh and Blood, frames donation as an act of generosity in line with living a life of faith. British churchgoers are already more likely to give blood or indicate their wishes to donate their organs after they die, but Flesh and Blood wants that trend to continue.

The group is providing educational materials and encouraging churches to host blood drives and organ donation events. Here’s an edited email Q &A with Director Juls Hollidge:

What are some examples of ways individual congregations are raising awareness of organ and blood donation?

Congregations are using the campaign resources in their services in order to introduce the campaign and talk about the need for blood and organ donation within the UK, the facts and figures,  the impact of donation, and also how the church can embrace donation as an additional way of giving. … Many have also put posters around their premises, added web banners or icons to their website and social media, included stories and information in their newsletter/mailouts and some have volunteered their venue as a future blood donation site.  Others have organized a trip to the local blood donation session and have block booked appointment so that they can give together.
How has the campaign been received so far?
Fantastically!  We couldn’t have asked for a better response, mostly people were surprised that it hadn’t happened already.  The basic concept of the campaign is a call for generosity in order to transform the lives of others which the church knows well and has championed throughout its history.  At a local level there are many congregations filled with individuals who have been life long supporters of either blood or organ donation and this has given them an opportunity to share their experiences and talk openly about why they support donation.  The campaign has also allowed people to voice their fears and misconceptions and has empowered those with incredible stories to speak of their personal experience or that of a loved one.
Could you see similar projects working for religious communities in other countries?
The structure and format of Flesh and Blood could be used by any religious communities anywhere in the world and simply adapted to how donation is operated in that particularly country.  The underlying message of generosity is a simple one and one that most religious communities identify with.
What’s surprised you the most since the program launched?

That a joint blood and organ campaign had never been done before in the UK!  Mostly though we were surprised by the research at the beginning of the campaign which showed that a much higher than average percentage of church goers donated blood and had joined the Organ Donor register.  The research also showed that local churches rarely mentioned blood and organ donation and so our focus has been raise the profile of donation within churches and encourage churches to talk more about blood and organ donation particularly as an additional form of giving.

Faith-based efforts to educate potential organ donors aren’t limited to the UK. Here’s an information page maintained by a Catholic group in North America, and here are educational materials for religious organizations provided by the U.S. government.
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