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Past research into donation-related behaviors has focused primarily on monetary giving. This study looks into blood donation behavior and attempts to analyze its determinants in the current environment, with AIDS awareness and its links to the nation's blood supply at an all-time high.

Previous research on the determinants of blood donation behavior has indicated that noneconomic factors weighed heavily in a person's decision to donate blood. Altruism has frequently been cited as the primary motive for giving. Additional research has found fear to be a major inhibitor.

As public awareness of AIDS and its association with blood and transfusions has increased, the existing understanding of donation-related behavior and the suggested marketing strategies for attracting donors are proving to be inadequate. The aims of this research were to better understand the factors motivating blood donors post-AIDS, to evaluate the impact of perceived risk on donation, and to suggest appropriate marketing strategies to increase giving.

To accomplish these aims several research questions and hypotheses were considered. The research questions focus primarily on determining the effect of AIDS on blood donation behavior. The hypotheses propose differences in intentions and behaviors between populations with differing awareness levels and between populations with different donation histories.

To test the hypotheses and investigate the research questions two sets of respondents were used. The first set, defined as low awareness/low risk respondents, came from the populations of San Diego and Redding, California. The second set, high awareness/high risk respondents, were drawn from the San Francisco Bay Area. Each set of respondents was further broken down, by behavior, into one of four groups: regular donors, irregular donors, dropouts, and nondonors. The blood banks in each geographic area aided in identifying potential respondents.

The study was carried out in two phases. Phase One consisted of focus groups drawn from all behavior types among both sets of respondents. Focus groups discussed motivations and fears as well as the effect of AIDS on intentions. Input from the focus groups was used to construct an instrument for Phase Two. In Phase Two, a mail survey was conducted. Since one of the research questions proposed to investigate the relationship between intentions and behavior, a follow-up mailing was conducted as well.

All six hypotheses tested in this study were rejected on the basis of the findings. It appears that neither the background of a particular geographical area nor the individual donor history of a respondent are significant factors in affecting perceptions of blood donation or transfusion and its relationship to AIDS.

With regards to the research questions under investigation, several factors were identified as determinants of donation behavior. Helping others and a realization that need exists, for example, were both important determinants. Significant differences were found in determinants across donor history categories, however. Additionally, a donor's intention to donate was found to be a strong determinant of their actual donation pattern.

In general, motivations for donating blood, post-AIDS, do not appear to be a major departure from pre-AIDS motivations. Differences across donor history categories, however, do suggest the need for development of multiple marketing strategies to attract donors. Regular donors, for example, appear to be highly motivated by traditional, altruistic reasons. Irregular donors and dropouts, on the other hand, respond to appeals to their volunteerism desire and require convenience before donating.

The findings of this study do not suggest that there exist any overwhelming fears (relative to AIDS) that must be overcome with donor recruitment strategies. Regular donors, however, undoubtedly due to their personal experiences, are less likely to fear AIDS than those with other donation histories.

A surprise finding in the study was that high-risk area donors were more likely to donate than low-risk area donors. This finding was the opposite of what was hypothesized in the study. The finding may have been due to factors not controlled in the study such as the demographic and psychographic compositions of the respondent groups.