by George Taniwaki

In a May 2013 post, I described how to generate publicity for your living donor search by getting a local media outlet to provide news coverage. Not every patient will be able to get the editor or producer to do a news story.  If this is your situation, another way to get your message in front of people is to write a letter to the editor of the newspaper.

Letter-to-the-editor

The letter can be similar to the one described in a Nov 2011 post on sending letters to friends. It should contain the following information:

  1. Introduction of patient and matchmaker and why you are sending this letter
  2. Short medical history explaining why patient needs a kidney
  3. Explanation why matchmaker cannot be donor
  4. Request for potential donors to get a blood test (mention that you are especially hopeful of finding a type O donor if patient is type O)
  5. Contact info for the living donor transplant coordinator at the transplant hospital where surgery will take place (or the living donor advocate, depending on the process at the transplant hospital).

An example letter is reproduced below. It appeared in the Parkersburg (WV) News and Sentinel May 2013.

I am writing this to get the word out about living kidney donation, possible donors. I am writing this for my husband of 22 years. My husband is very special to me. He has been with me through thick and thin, hard times and happy times. He was a truck driver for 12 years.

He always said he felt like the king of the road when he was in his truck, he truly loved his job. He recently had to give up driving trucks because of a kidney disease. He had this problem for a long time, but his kidney problem steadily declined, making him have to give up driving trucks and be on dialysis. He goes to dialysis three times a week. He seems to be doing OK with the treatments; he tolerates it fine.

He is in need of a kidney transplant. We recently went to Ohio State University to be evaluated for transplantation listing on the national waiting list. His doctors said that he is a good candidate for transplant. The average waiting time for a deceased kidney donor is three to five years.

His best chance to get a kidney sooner is from a living donor. I would like to share some information about this. Kidney donors do not have to be immediate family. They can be anyone. For some people a transplant from a living donor may be their only option. Donors and recipients do not have to be from the same area. There are funds available for travel expenses and lodging. Donors return to a normal life with no fluid restrictions, diet restrictions or physical restrictions. Recipient’s insurance covers donors evaluation, surgery, follow-up care. Your health and life insurance won’t be affected if you donate to someone. For more info about becoming a living donor please contact a living donor coordinator (614) 293-6724 or 1-800-293-8965, option 4.

Let’s pray that someone out there might read this letter and decide to be a living donor. Thats why I wanted to put this letter out for all to read. I hope this will be able to reach many, many people. I need your help in this matter for anyone who has a loved one on dialysis and is in need of a kidney transplant. You might save someone’s life by being a living donor.

Christine Cullum

Parkersburg

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

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I just saw a link shared by The Living Kidney Donors Network on its Facebook page. The link was to a press release by Donate Life California. In it is a very clever video by David Goldman called “David Got a Kidney.” It is worth a view.

DavidGotAKidney

Video still from “David Got a Kidney” Courtesy David Goldman

David is a kidney patient who was one of the participants of a very long kidney chain (28 patients at 19 different transplant centers over a span of about six weeks) facilitated by the National Kidney Registry.

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David has an earlier video entitled “David Needs a Kidney” that was featured in a Jan 2013 blog post.

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Reading through the press release, I notice that Donate Life California operates a service called Living Donation California. Living Donation California is an information and referral service that promotes living organ donation. It was created as a result of California SB 1395, the “Altruistic Living Donor Registry Act of 2010.” The bill was championed by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the late Apple founder Steve Jobs. For more about the bill, read this Jun 2010 blog post.

by George Taniwaki

As a kidney patient searching for a donor, it is best to start your search by contacting people you know as part of your social network. However, once you have contacted everyone you know, it may be helpful to expand your search to include strangers who live in your neighborhood.

One way to reach these people is to get a news story carried in a local newspaper, radio station, or television station. Getting your story in front of the public can help you and other kidney patients in the following ways:

  1. People you have already contacted previously may see or hear the story (especially if you send them a copy of it or a link to it). This will reinforce your message. It may provide the extra push they need to decide to get tested as a potential donor for you
  2. People you don’t know become aware of your story through the news. They decide to get tested as a potential  donor for you
  3. People you don’t know see the story and  decide to get tested as a donor for someone they know (not you) or decide to donate anonymously. Thus, although the story didn’t help you, it will help others

Contact your local media outlets

Newspapers, radio, and television can provide free news coverage for your story. These media outlets usually also have a web presence, including a standalone website and through social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Newspapers – Because there are so many, local community newspapers are the most likely media outlet to carry your story. If you don’t know what newspapers are available in your neighborhood, there are three good lists of local newspapers. I recommend searching all three in order to compile a comprehensive list for your area.

  1. U.S. Newspaper Links
  2. Online Newspapers
  3. Wikipedia list of newspapers in the United States

You may also try contacting the major daily newspaper(s) in you region, but your chances of getting a story published in one of them are much lower.

Radio – There are usually more radio stations than newspapers in a city. However, there are a few limitations in your ability to get your story publicized on radio. First, each radio station has a very constrained format. Most are music oriented or talks show oriented, often using nationally syndicated content. Most radio formats are not conducive for allotting time for local human interest feature news stories. Second, most people do not intently listen to the radio and are not likely to become actively engaged in your story. This means they are less likely to take action based on a story they hear on the radio than they would when reading it in a newspaper. Finally, unlike a newspaper, your story will only be heard if the person is listening to the radio at the time your story is aired.

If you decide to try promoting organ donation on the radio, the best list of radio stations in the US and Canada is Radio Locator. For radio stations outside these two countries, try Radio Station World.

Television – Occasionally, I see stories featuring a patient searching for a donor on the local TV news. However, I personally have not had any luck getting local station to carry a patient’s story. Instead, TV news stories are more likely to cover a successful transplant after the fact, especially one with unusual circumstances. Still, if you want to contact a TV news editor, a list is available at USNPL. Many local TV news organizations have a dedicated health editor.

Pitching the story

When describing a story idea to the news editor, you want to clearly explain why your situation will be of interest to the audience. Providing some of the following facts about kidney disease and kidney transplant will help sell the story.

  1. Kidney transplants are complex surgery, but frequently performed. Give name of hospital where you are listed as a transplant patient
  2. There are a lot of people in the community who are waiting for a transplant. Give number of people in your state waiting for a deceased donor kidney transplant (the data is available at http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/latestData/stateData.asp?type=state)
  3. These patients wait a long time for a transplant. The average wait time for a transplant from a deceased donor depends on location, blood type, and other factors. For patient in California with O blood type, the wait can be over 8 years. Many people die while waiting and never get a transplant
  4. There is a shortage of deceased donor kidneys. Finding a live donor helps reduce the shortage. It also leads to better medical outcomes for the patient

If you can tie your story in as part of a bigger story on a timely event such as World Kidney Day (March) or National Organ Donation Month (April), it may have a greater chance of getting covered.

If you are unsuccessful in getting an editor interested in running a story about your donor search, there is still another opportunity. You can submit a letter to the editor to be published in the newspaper. For details see this Jul 2013 post.

Preparing for an interview

Once your story is accepted, you will want to prepare to be interviewed by a reporter. You should be prepared to discuss the following details:

  1. How has kidney disease affected your life and your family. If you are on dialysis, describe your routine
  2. Explain why you are seeking a live donor, mention that any person who volunteers to donate a kidney may save a life
  3. Provide names and contact information for other people who the reporter may interview. (Remember to get permission first.) These may include:
    1. The living donor advocate at the hospital where you are listed. This person can talk about the donor evaluation process
    2. A previous transplant patient who can talk about the change in quality of life post-transplant
    3. A previous donor who can talk about the donation experience and quality of life post-donation

In addition to preparing your interview points, arrange with the newspaper to have them send a photographer to take your picture.

Some smaller publications may not have a reporter or photographer available to write a story. In this case, you will need to write it yourself, or find somebody who can write it for you. A college journalism student may be available to help you. Similarly, you will need to provide your own professional quality photograph.

Examples

A good example of a patient story appears in Queen Anne News and Magnolia News Mar 2013. The story features Sandra Driscoll, a retired attorney and a dialysis patient at Northwest Kidney Centers. A couple of screen shots are shown below.

QueenAnneNews1

Good example of a kidney donor search story. Newspaper flag and story screenshot from Queen Anne News and Magnolia News

Thanks to Sandra Driscoll for her diligent efforts and initiative in getting her story published and making her neighbors aware of the need for live donors.

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

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.

SandraDriscollVideo

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.)

EllieDriscollVideo

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

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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

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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.

AreYouMyType

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.

DavidNeedsAKidney

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.]

by George Taniwaki

In addition to direct contact with friends and acquaintances through letters and email, you should also consider using the web to reach a larger circle of friends-of-friends. This method of less personal communications is called social media. The three most popular social media services are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. A description of each service and how it can be used in your search is described below. To start, I recommend you sign up for a Facebook page for your kidney donor search once you have completed your initial direct contacts.

If you are already an experienced social media user, you may want to consider expanding your search by setting up a blog or even a custom personal website. These options are also discussed below.

In all cases, you should not rely on social media exclusively for your search. Direct contact is more likely to be the successful way to find a donor. For some data on how the number of newspaper articles that mention finding a donor using Facebook, see a May 2013 article on the Living Kidney Donors Search tool site.

Facebook

Facebook is a social network that helps friends and families stay connected. Since there is often little overlap between different friends, a circle of friends-of-friends can often be very large. This can help you find a donor who you don’t know directly but who nonetheless has a connection to you.

If you don’t already have a personal Facebook page, you can quickly and easily set one up at https://www.facebook.com. All you need is an email address and a password. Remember to create a secure password and not to use the same password that you use for your email account.

Once you have a personal account, you can create a page specifically for your kidney donor search. A great place to find tips is at Find A Kidney Central.

If you prefer to do it yourself, start by going to the Create a Page site and click on Cause or Community. Give your cause a name like “Kidney Kampaign for John Smith”, agree to the terms, and click Get Started. You should select a name that can last because you cannot change it after the page receives 200 “Likes” from visitors.

 

Once you have created your page, you will want to take the following steps.

  1. Add admins. These are other people, like your “matchmaker,” who will also have the ability to make changes to the page. There are several types of admins, so take care in choosing who can do what. For more see Managing Admins in the Facebook Help Center
  2. Customize the page. Add a cover photo, profile photo, and complete the summary information. For more, see Customizing How your Page Looks in the Facebook Help Center
  3. Get an audience. Send an invitation to everyone you know, both on Facebook and elsewhere to “Like” your page. Once they do this, posts of your page will appear on their timeline feed. For more, see Reach More People in the Facebook Help Center
  4. Keep them coming back. To keep people interested in your search, and to keep your posts from falling to the bottom of your audience’s timeline, you need to provide regular posts that receive “Likes.” A rule of thumb is to have a post at least twice a month, but probably not more than twice a week (unless it is timely news). For more, see Best Practices of Page Admins in the Facebook Help Center.

WantedKidneyDonor

Screenshot of Facebook community page entitled Wanted: Kidney Donor

Incidentally, you should Like the Living Kidney Donors Network Facebook page so that you can participate in the discussion and support provided by other kidney patients and donors.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social network that targets working professionals and employers. You can create a “Group” in LinkedIn that is similar to a “Page” on Facebook. However, I do not recommend this. First, my guess is that very few professionals will want to join a group dedicated to finding you a kidney donor. Second, maintaining two pages (one on Facebook and another on LinkedIn) will be a burden on you. Instead, I recommend posting occasional reminders on your LinkedIn profile for people to join your Facebook page.

Note that I could not find any groups on LinkedIn dedicated to finding a donor for a kidney patient.

Twitter

Twitter is a broadcast service that allows a member to create a short message called a tweet that is sent to a self-selected group called followers. The followers can see all Tweets sent to them by viewing the feed page.

I recommend using Twitter to announce updates to your blog or website. However, I don’t think Twitter is the correct media to send the actual content of a blog entry or changes to a website since they would probably be too long. Twitter can be used to announce updates to your Facebook page or the entire content of a Facebook post if it is short.

I have a Twitter account that I use to broadcast updates to my blog. I follow several people and publications, but must admit I do not check my Twitter feed regularly. For instance, the screenshot taken below is the first time I have logged into Twitter in several months.

Twitter

Screenshot of my Twitter feed page

Blogs

Facebook is a great way to post current information. However, it only allows posts to be organized by date and it is difficult to search for content. If you want to create a repository of information and don’t mind being limited in format or style, then I recommend using one of several free blogging services. The blog you are now reading is hosted by WordPress, though I also like TypePad and blogger.

KidneyForMyDaughter

Screenshot of home page of blog entitled Kidney transplant for kylies mom

Custom website

If you are comfortable managing content on your own and want complete control over the user experience including text, pictures, video, and interactive elements (also called widgets), then you may want to create a custom website (using a web host such as GoDaddy, Intuit, Yola, or many others).

The cost of registering a domain name is about $10 per year and hosting a website is about $5 to $10 per month. The hosting companies provide website templates, but you can also customize your site as you see fit if you know web programming, or know someone who does.

For an example of a custom website, visit www.HarveysKidneyKampaign.com. This is the site developed by Harvey Mysel, the founder of the Living Kidney Donors Network. This site does not have any fancy interaction but is nicely done. Harvey gives permission to any kidney patient who wants to copy content from this site.

HarveysKidneyCampaign

Screenshot of home page of a custom website at HarveysKidneyKampaign.com

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

[Update1: Added a link to article on the LKDS website.

Update2: Added a link to Find A Kidney Facebook page.]

by George Taniwaki

One of the most successful methods for finding a living donor is to send a letter to your social network. A real letter, printed on paper and delivered by postal service can be very effective in generating publicity. We receive so few personal letters today that it demands attention. It will be opened and read.

Rely on a matchmaker

It is often hard to ask for a donation for yourself. In this case, it may be helpful to first find a friend or family member who cannot be a donor herself to be the sender of the letter. We will call this person the “matchmaker”.

The letter should include the following:

  1. Introduction of patient and matchmaker and why you are sending this letter
  2. Short medical history explaining why patient needs a kidney
  3. Explanation why matchmaker cannot be donor
  4. Request to spread the word
  5. Request for potential donors to get a blood test (mention that you are especially hopeful of finding a type O donor if patient is type O)
  6. Contact info for the living donor transplant coordinator at the transplant hospital where surgery will take place (or the living donor advocate, depending on the process at the transplant hospital). If the letter will be sent to people who live in another state, discuss this with your transplant team first. There may be options available for the potential donor to start evaluation at another hospital
  7. Most transplant centers will only evaluate a single potential donor at a time. Thus, to reduce the chance that a strong candidate is kept waiting, you may want all potential donors to contact your matchmaker (not the transplant center’s transplant coordinator or donor advocate) first, and pick the most determined potential donor to go through the evaluation first

Examples

The letter shown below is based on an actual letter sent out by a person on behalf of a patient. Some details have been changed to maintain anonymity.

<Date>

<Letter_Recipient_Address>

Dear <Letter_Recipient_Name>,

    I am writing to share with you the latest news about my dear friend and your former accountant, <Patient_Name>. As you know, <Patient_Name> closed his business in 2010, after thirty years of dedicated service to the community. What you may not know is that <Patient_Name> also has chronic kidney disease and will soon need a transplant.

    In 1996, <Patient_Name> received a transplant from a deceased donor. He took excellent care of this precious gift and it lasted until this summer. Today, he undergoes dialysis therapy three times a week for four hours per treatment while waiting for a kidney. This time around, the chances of finding a kidney from a deceased donor are quite low since he has developed antibodies caused by the first transplant. It pains me to see my former boss who I love and respect being disabled like this.

    Several of <Patient_Name>’s friends have offered a kidney but for various reasons none have turned out to be acceptable candidates for donation. <Patient_Name> has no other family in the Washington area. For that reason, I have taken it upon myself to help him locate as many people as possible with blood type O who are willing to have a blood test to see if they would be medically suitable to be <Patient_Name>’s donor. There is absolutely no expense or obligation. If you or someone you know is willing to take this first step toward saving <Patient_Name>’s life, please contact me, <Matchmaker_Name> at <Matchmaker_Phone_Number>.

    As much as I would like to, I am unable to donate a kidney to <Patient_Name> because <Matchmaker_Reason>.

    If you have any questions about being a donor, you may contact the Independent Living Donor Advocate at the University of Washington Medical Center, where <Patient_Name> is a patient. The advocate’s role is to look out for the best interests of donors.  Her name is Paige Kayihan and her phone number is 206-598-3627 .

Thank you for reading this heart-felt request.

Sincerely,

<Matchmaker_Name>

For another example letter, see http://lkdn.org/letter_from_friend.html.

Below are pictures of two actual letters I found on the web. The first is an illustrated letter by a child.

Letter1

Letter by a child, image courtesy of Living Kidney Donation UK

By Ella Brown

My mum has kidney failure. I want her to get better. Sometimes Mum has to miss special assemblies. I have still got memories of when Mum skipped, played, runed, swimed and practised sports day. But I came in 2 place. But now we can’t do them so much with Mum. But we still love her very much. MUM.

The next is a letter by a nephrologist written on hospital stationery on behalf of a patient.

Letter2

Letter by a nephrologist, image courtesy of The Sam Team

April 5, 2012

To Whom it May Concern:

Mr. Sam Ferreri is on the active list at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas and in need of a living kidney transplant donor. Unfortunately, the list of potential transplant recipients is growing, whereas the donor pool is not growing or is actually shrinking. This means that the waiting times are now approaching three years or more for those patients who require a deceased donor. During this waiting period not only does the recipient have to continue dialysis treatment, but continue to endure the adverse effects of chronic kidney disease to the heart, blood vessels and bones.

There are significant advantages to a live kidney donation transplant (whether related or non-related):

  1. The most obvious advantage is that the transplant occurs much sooner and can be scheduled when both the recipient and the donor are prepared
  2. Both the donating of a living kidney and the actual transplant can happen simultaneously with very little loss of vitality to the organ. Therefore, this kidney usually has longer life span and will begin to function very quickly
  3. Living donor transplant recipients typically enjoy improved kidney function over deceased donor transplant recipients and are frequently on less medication
  4. The living donation allows another patient on the waiting list, who may not be fortunate enough to have a living donor, to “move up on the list” and get his/her kidney sooner thereby increasing the number of transplants that can be done
  5. There is frequently a significant emotional and psychological benefit to donor and recipient
  6. Laparoscopic surgery is available to potential donors whose anatomy is amenable to this type of surgery. Laparoscopic removal of the donor kidney offers many benefits to the donor including shorter hospital stay, shorter recovery time, and minimal surgical pain

I believe the best approach to finding living donors is for the recipient to let his/her family as well as those in his/her social network know that a kidney donor is needed. Please consider the option of becoming a living donor. If you have questions or concerns, the transplant coordinators at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, as well as the staff physicians are available to speak with you or any potential donors. We can ten provide literature as well as counseling to any interested parties at no cost to the donor

Do not hesitate to call the Living Donor Coordinate at the number below if you have any questions or need any support:

<Coordinator_Name>

<Coordinator_Contact_Information>

Sincerely,

Whitson Etheridge, M.D.

Email

Sending letters requires that you know the recipient’s mailing address. In today’s online environment, you may not know that. In that case, you or your matchmaker will need to contact these people in order to get their address. If this is not possible, then you may want to send these people an email message rather than a letter. Some simple rules for an effective email campaign are:

  1. Include the recipient’s name is in the To: line. This may help ensure the message gets past their spam filters
  2. Do not include the names of people the recipient does not know in the To: line. You don’t want upset any person by spreading their private email address to strangers. This means you will need to send separate batches of emails to each circle of friends.
  3. Make the Subject: line catchy and upbeat, but keep it relevant. Again, this may help ensure the message gets past their spam filters

Thanks to Harvey Mysel of Living Kidney Donors Network for providing me with example letters that I use in my patient counseling. Thanks also to the patient who wishes to remain anonymous, whose letter is used in the example above.

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

[Update1: Added images of example letters I found on the web]

[Update2: Added advice on content for email]

[Update3: Added text from example letters]

by George Taniwaki

Some of you may be familiar with the story of Chaya Lipschutz. In 2005, she donated her kidney to a stranger after reading an ad in the newspaper. Afterwards she started a free kidney matchmaker service. Among the ways she helps her clients find a donor is through the use of classified ads. Below is a typical Craigslist ad she ran for one of her clients.

ChayaLipschutz

A typical kidney matchmaker Craigslist ad. Image from Chaya Lipschutz

Items to include in the ad

The key points that make this simple posting a winning ad are:

  1. A catchy headline
  2. Emphasis that donating a kidney may save a life
  3. Description of the problem (what your life as a patient is like)
  4. Statement that live donation is generally safe
  5. If the patient has O-blood type, request a matching donor (otherwise this isn’t important, unmatched blood type donors can enter a kidney exchange)
  6. Call to action (remember to take it one step at a time, you want the reader to commit to getting tested at the transplant center, do not ask to commit to the actual donation)
  7. A photo of the patient (in this case of the matchmaker) that is well-lit, in focus, and showing a sincere smile

Posting an ad on Craigslist

To post a classified ad seeking a kidney donor on Craigslist, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you have an email address that works so that you can communicate with any responders to the ad
  2. Point your web browser to http://www.craigslist.org.
  3. If this is your first time at the site, you will need to select a city, state, country
  4. If this is your first time at the site, you will need to create an account, which will require an email address and a password (do not use the same password that you use to log into your email account) Verification of your account will be sent to your email address
  5. From the main page, select post to classifieds
  6. Under What type of posting is this, select community
  7. Under category, select volunteers
  8. Under choose the area nearest you, select your city (don’t worry about this, your ad will be visible to all users)
  9. On the classified ad form, under posting title, type in the catchy headline
  10. Under specific location, type in the city your transplant center is in
  11. Under reply to, type in your email address and select anonymize
  12. Under posting description, type in the details of your need
  13. No NOT select “ok for other to contact you…”
  14. DO select “OK to distribute this charitable volunteerism opportunity…”
  15. When everything looks ok, click Continue
  16. On the image upload page, click Browse… and select any images from your hard drive you want to include
  17. When you have finished, click Done with images
  18. On the confirmation page, check your ad. If it looks correct, click  Publish (or Continue)
  19. You will receive an email, click on the link
  20. On the Terms of Use page, click Accept the terms of use
  21. Your post is now on Craigslist. If you need edit, delete, or update your listing, simply log into your account

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To learn more about Chaya Lipschutz and her effort to match kidney patients with potential donors, visit KidneyMitzvah.com. Ms. Lipschutz is very enthusiastic about helping patients and about recruiting kidney donors and it shows in the design of her website.

Thanks to Harvey Mysel of Living Kidney Donors Network for pointing out this classified ad to me. For more ideas on finding a donor, see my Kidney patient guide.