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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the National Marrow Donor (NMDP) Registry?

A. The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) maintains a database of registered potential donors, which usually becomes the only lifeline for patients requiring marrow transplants. 3000 patients search the Registry each day, with hopes of finding a compatible life-saving match. For more information on the NMDP Registry, please visit www.marrow.org.

Q. Who is being asked to register?

A. All minorities (African-Americans, Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders, South Asians, Native Americans, and Multiple Races) between the ages of 18 and 60, who are in good general health.

Q. What is involved in registering at a drive?

A. Filling out a brief health history form, around 5 minutes of one’s time, and giving 2-3 drops of blood by finger-prick. After registering, one’s blood is tested for the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA), and then entered into the NMDP Registry. If one matches, he or she is contacted, counseled, and makes the final choice on whether to give.

Q. Can you register more than once?

A. Once you are registered into the NMDP Registry, your results are in the national database until you are 61 years old and you don’t need to register again.

Q. How does someone know if they've been registered already?

A. They should have a donor card (sent to them in the mail about a month after registering) and/or receive mailed newsletters from the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. To verify that you are registered, you can also e-mail the NMDP (for their e-mail address, please check the website www.nmdp.org). It is very important to notify the NMDP every time you change your address.

Q: Why are we especially asking minorities to register?

A. There is a critical shortage of minorities in the NMDP Registry; as a result, minority leukemia patients have an extremely difficult time finding a life-saving transplant match. Check out the figures for yourself (www.marrow.org)!

Q. Are there any limitations to physical activity after registering at a drive?

A. No, none at all.

Q. How is a marrow registration drive different from a blood drive?

A. At a marrow registration drive, a much smaller amount of blood—only a few drops—is taken. Also, the same restrictions do not apply at a marrow registration drive, as when donating blood for a blood drive. For example, it doesn’t matter if someone is underweight or if he/she has traveled outside the country.

Q. What if you match?

A. If a preliminary match is determined, additional blood tests are taken to determine if you are a precise match for a patient. If the match is perfect, special counselors will give you detailed information and answer your questions. A doctor will ensure you are in excellent health to donate. After being fully informed, YOU MAKE THE DECISION to become a donor. Upon donation, 3-5% of marrow will be collected from your hip by a needle and syringe. The procedure is done at a hospital under anesthesia and is almost painless. All donated marrow will regenerate within a few weeks. After the procedure you may experience soreness, like if you fell on your butt when rollerblading. Most donors can carry on a daily routine almost immediately after the procedure. An alternate procedure to marrow donation is the PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell) method in which no anesthesia is required The donor is required to take 4-5 injections of Filgrastim (a naturally occurring growth factor), and then stem cells are removed by apheresis. The donated stem cells are immediately sent to the transplant center and infused into the waiting patient, with hopes of saving the patient’s life.

Q. What can you do to help?

A. Please coordinate a Minority Bone Marrow Registration Drive within your community. The “How to Organize your own Minority Bone Marrow Registration Drive” section of this manual lists the steps involved in coordinating a well-publicized drive. If you are unable to coordinate a drive, please tell other community leaders about our organization.

Q. If you don't have time to coordinate a drive, how else can you help?

A. Please join our efforts to network communities with significant minority populations. If you are a member of a community, health-related, cultural, or religious organization, please consider contacting the leadership, and asking them to think about coordinating (or encouraging others to coordinate) a drive at their events. For more information, please refer to the “How To Help” section at www.marrow.org.

Q. What is the first step in coordinating a drive?

A. First, identify a community organization (or even better, multiple organizations) that would help sponsor the minority bone marrow registration drive. Then, set up a task force (4-5 chief coordinators should be plenty) that will be in charge of the drive logistics, publicity, and heightening awareness surrounding the cause. While setting up the task force, please also contact one of the minority recruitment groups to let them know that you’re planning on doing a drive.

Q. What are the next steps?

A. Please schedule a drive date/time/location AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE (ideally: 1.5-2 months in advance). In the weeks leading up to the drive, it would be very effective to maximize drive publicity (through meeting announcements, posting flyers, word-of-mouth, etc).

Q. What kind of room space is needed for the drive?

A. A room big enough to fit 3-4 tables (and the accompanying chairs) is needed. The room should also be large enough to fit 20 individuals at any given time. As possible drive locations, please also consider buildings where community members normally go (e.g., health centers, community centers, etc).

Q. Is any paperwork insurance work required?

A. If your community organization requires that NMDP provide insurance for the drive, please contact a Minority Recruitment Group to begin planning. They may have access to medical insurance, which can be provided at no cost to your organization. After fulfilling the paperwork, the Minority Recruitment Group will take care of phlebotomists (trained individuals that collect the small amount of blood) being present at the drive. They will also arrange for the phlebotomists’ transportation to the drive location. Please fulfill the paperwork requirement as early in the drive-coordinating process as possible.

Q. Which types of campus organizations have coordinated successful drives in the past?

A. Minority (African-American, Latino, South Asian, Asian, and Native-American) organizations, premedical societies, community service organizations, and minority-oriented fraternities/sororities. Medical student organizations have also coordinated successful drives.

Q. Is it a good idea to do drives at special events-cultural shows, health fairs, religious gatherings, annual conferences, etc.?

A. At these venues, successful drives have been done in the past, especially if there’s a very large turnout (400+) for the event. In this case, it is important to highlight the drive in the program guides, make announcements at several points during the show/event, and heavily recruit donors before/after the show and during intermission. At conferences and health fairs, we have often set up booths in order to publicize the cause. At all large venues, it is effective to contact the organizers before the event, and ask if the event’s Master of Ceremonies can announce the cause and how individuals can register.

Q. Does organizing a drive require funds?

A. If your organization requires funds in order to coordinate the drive, please let the minority recruitment group know as early in the drive-coordinating process as possible. Some groups may reimburse for your expenses. For example, the publicity process may require funds for photocopying flyers/handouts. Since individuals will give a small blood sample at the drive, we recommend that sugar-rich foods (e.g. cookies, candies, etc.) are provided for all registrants. Purchasing sugar-rich foods for the drive will require funds, however minimal. Please save all receipts so your costs can be reimbursed on the day of the drive. In the past, community organizations have used their budget’s advertising fund to help offset costs; alternatively, mini-grants (from local health centers) are often available to fund a drive. You can also apply for an MSS Chapter Involvement Grant to help fund your drive.

Q. What are the suggested ways to publicize?

A. Please check out the “How to Organize your own Minority Bone Marrow Registration Drive” section of this site. Please also try to gather as many volunteers for the drive as possible.

Q. What are the keys to an excellent drive turnout?

A. When considering the “secret” of having a successful drive turnout, a few things are important: go all out to publicize the cause, and the need for minority donors (when minority individuals realize what a good cause it is, how registering will benefit them and all minorities in the long-run, and how little initial effort there is on their part, they will most probably choose to donate); establish a “reminder effect” so individuals understand the cause, and hear about it over and over (and over) during the publicity efforts; recruit as many volunteers as possible (there are never “too many”) since there’s always something to be done; it’s also better to have extra flyer/handout copies than to fall short (on the day of the drive, these materials will be extremely important, and you will need a lot); other than that, try to organize publicity efforts around the "How to Organize your own Minority Bone Marrow Registration Drive” section of this site, try to take care of as many of the listed publicity suggestions as possible, and please feel free to contact the MSS Minority Issues Committee if you have ANY questions.

Q. How many volunteers are needed for the drive-coordinating process?

A. As many as possible! Before the drive, volunteers (10+ dedicated volunteers would be great) are needed for posting flyers, announcing the drive at organization meetings, making posters, etc. On the day of the drive, please try to get 5-10 volunteers for any given time slot throughout the day.

Q. What are good ways to recruit volunteers?

A. Announce at organization meetings and sign up those interested. Ask organizations to mass e-mail the standard drive message in this booklet to all members of their organization. Urge your friends, family, and colleagues to help out. Local newspapers (especially a poignant pre-drive article) are also an excellent way to reach out to potential volunteers/donors. Try to have multiple organizations co-sponsor the drive, while urging the members of each organization to lead in the efforts and/or volunteer. Please remember that we are attempting to register minorities, but strongly encourage both minorities and non-minorities to volunteer. As you coordinate drives within your community, you will build a strong volunteer base with time. Also see Step 5 within the “How to Organize your own Minority Bone Marrow Registration Drive” section of this site.

Q. When is a good time to start rounding up volunt

A. As soon as the drive details (date/time/location) are confirmed! The earlier you finalize the details, the more time you will have to plan/publicize the drive. It’s usually helpful to round up everyone initially interested in helping out, and plan regular meetings (once a week or once every two weeks) to delegate duties and update each other on the progress.

Q. What is the suggested time frame for the entire 6-8 weeks of pre-drive publicity?

A. Please refer to the How to Organize your own Minority Bone Marrow Registration Drive” section of this site.

Q. While announcing the drive at organization meetings, what are the "take home" points?

A. There is a critical shortage of minority donors in the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. Minority leukemia patients have a very difficult time in finding life-saving transplants. The cause affects all minorities—African-Americans, Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders, South Asians, Native Americans, Multiple Races—and each minority individual should consider registering. Registration involves giving a very small amount of blood, and only 5 minutes of one’s time. Those that register can possibly save a life, especially that of a young child in need. Please note that every registrant counts, and that each individual who registers at a drive should be fully aware of the reasons for registering (i.e. to increase the chances of minority patients finding compatible life-saving transplant donors).

Q. What other materials can you bring to organization meetings to make the announcement effective?

A. Pre-plan a brief announcement—based on the “take home points”—for the beginning of the organization meeting. It’s also a good idea to bring flyers, which can be distributed to all members present. Flyers are also a good visual aid for the announcement, since they display the pictures of minority patients, while emotionally appealing to those present. It is also a good idea to bring a sign-up sheet to collect the names of those interested in registering and/or volunteering. Please note that minorities are encouraged to register, but non-minorities and minorities are encouraged to volunteer. Also, template flyers are available in this packet.

Q. What are the suggested formats for the posters/handouts/flyers? What is the purpose of each?

A. We have included a template flyer and handout in the manual. They can be xeroxed and/or modified through MS Word (please let us know if you have any questions) in order to make them specific for your drive. Flyers are good for posting around community centers, health centers, and the drive site.

Q. How can you obtain National Marrow Donor Program pamphlets for advertising the cause?

A. Please contact the Minority Recruitment Group to obtain the pamphlets/brochures.

Q. What are the time frames for organization announcements, posting flyers, stuffing mailboxes, etc?

A. Please try to announce the drive as often as possible; this can be done way before the drive or even a few days before. While announcing, please sign-up any individuals who may be interested in volunteering or registering. It is a good idea to smother the community with flyers from 3 weeks to a few days before the event. Anytime before 3 weeks may not be helpful, since flyers tend to get ripped down or forgotten.

Q. What are the steps to be taken care of in the week preceding the drive?

A. Please purchase sugar-rich foods (e.g. cookies, candies, soda) for day-of-the-drive donors. Also remind the volunteers/donors that the drive is coming up. Please ask everyone to report to the drive site, and include directions if necessary. Please also contact the minority recruitment group with a rough estimate—within 10 to 20 percent—of the expected turnout, so they know how many supplies to bring. It would also be helpful if you e-mail directions to the drive site.

Q. What are the day-of-the-drive volunteering duties?

A. Recruiting minority passerbys (through tabling and distributing handouts), welcoming donors/volunteers to the drive, helping donors fill out health history forms, and collecting/labeling vials. It is a good idea to ask all volunteers/donors to first report to the drive, and then check-in with a drive coordinator, who will direct each volunteer to the specific duty. It’s also a good idea to ask all donors to also volunteer. Please refer to the “How to Organize your own Minority Bone Marrow Registration Drive” section of this site for the complete list of drive volunteering duties.

Q. What are effective ways to publicize/recruit donors on the day of the drive?

A. Maximize the numbers of volunteers (there can never be too many!). Actively recruit minority passerbys and urge them to register.

Q. While tabling, how can you “actively” urge minority passerbys to register?

A. Place drive posters, handouts, and flyers at the table. Effective posters usually display photos of minority patients, and brief information on the minority marrow registration cause. Volunteers should actively get the attention of minority passerbys. Slogans to keep in mind are “Only 5 minutes of your time can save a life,” “Help save a life,” “Help these patients find a match,” “Show a little love, give some blood,” or anything else you can think of. While tabling, it will be effective to put 4-5 volunteers at a table, so the message will be that much stronger (and better get the attention of the passerbys).

Q. What if a non-minority individual wants to donate?

A. Since there’s a critical shortage of minority donors in the NMDP Registry, federal funding is only allocated for the registration of minorities. Non-minorities aren’t funded for and for each individual that registers, there is a charge of 50-80 dollars. The only reason for this is that non-minorities are well represented in the Registry, and the vast majority of non-minority leukemia patients often find a compatible match. If a non-minority individual offers to register, thank them for their help, and please take down their name/e-mail address. After the drive, send them an e-mail with the details regarding non-minority registration. There is a national “waiting list” for non-minority registration until private funds are available; or if the individual chooses, he or she may register at a local NMDP center for a discounted cost.

Q. What are the post-drive steps?

A. Thank the volunteers, donors, and community leaders that helped make the drive possible. Please also decide upon coordinators for future drives. One of our main goals is to ensure long-term success by coordinating at least one drive per year.

Q. Aside from coordinating a drive with your organization, what are other ways to spread word of the cause?

A. Please help us in networking with other communities. By contacting organizations like ours, we are attempting to reach out to the community at large. Please help us encourage drives at cultural association gatherings, youth conventions, professional conventions, and any other programs that you can think of.