by George Taniwaki

If you are a kidney patient or a kidney “matchmaker” (a friend or family member who contacts acquaintances on behalf of the patient) searching for a living donor, then hopefully you have already started on a Kidney Kampaign that includes letter writing, social media, and perhaps even a Craigslist ad. If you have already used these techniques in your search, then you may be ready to try something more complex. Today’s blog post covers the ins-and-outs of producing a video to publicize your search.

Producing a video isn’t for everyone. Creating and distributing a polished video requires you to have the skill (or more likely, access to one or more people who have the skills and are willing to volunteer the time) to script, narrate, film, appear in, edit, and post it. However, a video doesn’t need to be polished to be good as I’ll show later.

Adding a video with information about yourself and explaining how to become a living donor is an excellent way to reach your target audience of potential donors. I have reviewed several kidney patient videos posted on YouTube and have come up with a list of items that an effective videos should include:

    1. Introduction of patient and why the viewer should watch this video
    2. Short medical history explaining why patient needs a kidney
    3. Testimonials from friends or family members. Make sure the interviewer/narrator or the interviewees themselves make clear that these people are unable to donate. (This isn’t needed for children, most people will realize that a child cannot give consent to be a donor)
    4. Basic information about the donation process. Address common safety and cost concerns. Do not provide medical advice or donor acceptance criteria. Let the hospital do that
    5. Request for potential donors to get a blood test. (Mention that type O are especially desired, if patient is type O. But do not exclude anybody, again let the hospital do that.) Include contact info for the living donor transplant coordinator or the living donor advocate (usually a social worker) at the hospital where the transplant will take place

A good video can be short. Nearly all of the videos I saw on YouTube were less than 5 minutes long. Incidentally, the best way to promote your video is on YouTube. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Create a Google account. If you have problems look under the Signing Up section of YouTube help
  2. Upload the video.  Get a final edit of the video on a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. Log into YouTube and from the Video Manager page, select the file to upload. Go to YouTube help for  encoding tips and a list of supported file formats. You will need to verify your account to upload HD videos longer than 15 minutes
  3. Apply metadata. This includes a title, description, category (probably “People & blogs”), search tags (like “need, search, find, kidney, transplant, donor, <your name>”), select a license (I recommend Creative Commons so that other patients will be able to copy it for use in their search), and select a privacy level (probably Public so that anyone can search and view the video)
  4. Get viewers. Copy the URL of the video and publicize it to all your family, friends, and social media contacts

A video produced by Sandra Driscoll, is an excellent example of the above. Sandra is a former city attorney for Seattle and a patient at Northwest Kidney Centers and at the University of Washington Medical Center. Her friends Peter Clarke and Connie McDougall acted as videographer/post-production editor and reporter/producer respectively. Two items that really caught my attention in this video were a photograph showing Sandra’s large extended family in which nobody was able to donate and the testimony from a young nephew about how Sandra’s life changed after she started dialysis.


A professionally produced video seeking a kidney donor for Sandra Driscoll. It includes a narrator, interviews shot at multiple locations, and polished editing. Video still from YouTube

Some of the scenes in the video above were shot at an NKC facility. Sandra was careful to get permission before shooting on private property. You should too.

A good video does not require a slick professional appearance to be enjoyable, persuasive, and effective. For instance, three of Sandra’s nieces who are too young to donate themselves put together a heartfelt request for donors to help an aunt they deeply care about. Even though you can see that they are reading from cue cards, the viewer can see their sentiment is honest and it doesn’t detract from the message. (I think an audience may be less willing to accept adults reading from cue cards though.)


A self-produced video of three nieces seeking a kidney donor for their aunt, Sandra Driscoll.  Video still from YouTube


You may notice that I am the donor being interviewed in Sandra’s video. (I think it’s a good video despite my awkward performance.) Although I have several years of experience in advertising and marketing, I personally had never been filmed on camera before. A few things I learned:

  1. Always look at the interviewer. Do not look at the camera which will break the “fourth wall” and look unnatural
  2. Do not look up or dart your eyes, which many people, including me, do while thinking. This makes you appear evasive or dishonest
  3. When talking, avoid pauses that contain filler words such as “um” and “uh.” If necessary, rehearse your responses to avoid this
  4. You may be required to repeat your responses as the camera is moved from one position to another to get different angles. Again, it may help to rehearse your responses to keep them consistent from take to take
  5. Not withstanding all the effort needed to avoid the problems stated above, don’t be nervous. Relax and say what comes naturally. Stress in your voice will be apparent to the listener


Incidentally, the best donor search video I found on YouTube was “Are You My Type?” It is a bit long at 14 minutes. The video was produced by Karol Franks on behalf of her daughter, Jenna. Karol is an administrator for the Living Donors Online website. This resource for patients, donors, and potential donors was mentioned in a Dec 2009 blog post. By coincidence, Jenna’s donor search page on Facebook was featured in a previous post on using social media to find a donor.


Video still from “Are You My Type?” Courtesy of  Karol Franks

Another nice video is one by David Goldman that features lyrics he wrote to match a tune composed by a friend.


Video still from “David Needs a Kidney” Courtesy of David Goldman

For more ideas on finding a donor, see my Kidney patient guide.

[Update: Added screenshots of the last two videos mentioned in this blog post.]