How to Develop A Diocesan Blood Drive During
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend
- Purpose Statement
- How to Plan for the Event
- Non-Catholic Church Leadership
- Marketing Strategies/Public Relations
1. Purpose Statement
What is the legacy of Dr. King today? An entire generation of people has no living memory of him. If you are younger than at least age 35, then your memories of Dr. King are confined to video and still images of him. How do we honor that memory?". Dinners, luncheons, rallies, marches, "days of reflection" are the types of activities that the legal holiday seems to focus on. While these events are meaningful and needed, regrettably, thirty-three years after his death, we still do not know what this day is "supposed to mean", we are uncertain of its traditions. We have created myth and meaning for other holidays, a culture of activities that are centered and rooted in the identity of the day. For MLK Day, we must also create a tradition.
Like the eternal flame of President John F. Kennedy, our tribute must take on an unending presence, an unyielding vitality. It must be a statement that speaks to us beyond the silent corridors of history past. It is our task to leave this legacy for our children.
We must be more than just content with the "Dream" of Martin Luther King as a historical footnote. We must invigorate this day with a "Living Memorial", with the "Gift of Life". I propose that the National Black Catholic Congress follow the initiative of the Diocese of Lansing in pioneering a change in the fundamental way we approach the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, by encouraging it as a day of service generally, and of blood donation specifically. Such an event has the potential to impact the entire country.
Though our denominations differ, we are both Christians, and in that "context", we share a similar view towards the notions of sacrifice, self-giving and martyrdom. Towards that end, every diocese in the country can work with their local Red Cross branch, and develop diocesan wide blood drives to honor Dr. King. Such an effort could serve the American Church for decades into the future.
2. How to Plan for the Event
Certainly first and foremost, approvals, compliance, support etc., should be secured from the local ordinary. In order to effectively plan the event, leadership at the diocesan level must be willing to work with the local branch of the American Red Cross, and assume point leadership for the project. Such leadership can be found in the respective offices of Black/African American/Multicultural Catholic offices throughout the country.
Effective planning for such an event begins with the selection of a point person as the diocesan coordinator of the drive. That individual must subsequently contact the local Regional Director of Donor Services for the Red Cross, and secure a commitment from the director to organize and schedule donation sites that begin with the Saturday of the weekend that precedes the Monday that the holiday is actually celebrated. Each diocesan coordinator should obtain from the local Red Cross office the manual "How to run a successful Red Cross Blood Drive". Review of this manual is important to understand the blood donations process. By using the entire MLK weekend, it provides for a three-day window for the drives to take place (in the initial event in the Diocese of Lansing, drives were held on all three days), so as to give potential donors as many opportunities as possible. Further, many of the local Red Cross offices cover more than one metropolitan area, and diocesan geographical boundaries and Red Cross boundaries may not necessarily be harmonious and intersect. Care must be given to respect both diocesan and Red Cross boundaries as so not to infringe upon another’s region.
Simultaneously, the local diocesan coordinator must begin to develop a list of potential sites, within the geographic boundaries of their diocese. The Regional Red Cross director can assist in this task, by identifying past donor sites that may be fruitful. However, the diocesan director may be aware of particular sites that on the basis of population, location or ease of access may be considered preferential.
The coordinator should give necessary consideration to the possibility of establishing donor sites at non-Catholic churches as well to sponsor the effort of ecumenism. While Blacks have a historically low rate of blood (and bone marrow) donation (less than 5% of the total donor population), efforts should be made in the Black Church community to ensure their participation in communication to their congregations of the event, if not outright hosting of a donor site. Each local area usually has a pastor’s association or alliance that may serve as a point of contact or information.
Initiation of this effort should be undertaken as early as possible in the calendar year. Many centers begin to build their calendars as far as a year in advance. If dates have already been scheduled by third parties before developing a calendar with the Red Cross, then efforts may be taken to "grandfather" those other sites, by contact and secured permission from those sites.
Key contacts include (but should not be limited to)
-Presbyteral Council - (priest advisors to Bishop, or similar infrastructural contact)
-Diocesan and secular media:
-Community leadership - (key contacts in local communities who can foster greater awareness of blood drive)
4. Non-Catholic Church Leadership
This is to be greatly encouraged. A key marketing component of this concept is "cross-fertilization". Essentially, this is an idea that while coming forth out of the Catholic environment, the idea should be promoted across the lines of the sacred as well as the secular, including government, private business, public agencies, etc. Again, depending upon the local environment, the promoters of the event know their local areas the best.
This should include by necessity, other denomination leadership.
One of the more enticing elements to the project is its minimal cost. Essentially, the only primary cost that is incurred is the cost of the necessary posters for publicity purposes. In addition to local transportation costs, both items should amount to less than ($1000.00) one thousand dollars.
6. Marketing Strategies/Public Relations
A key component in the original DOL plan was to work in synch with the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity", which annually occurs later in the week.. In so doing, the label "Blood of the Martyrs" was an instant link, as that is a consistent theological ecumenical reference in all Christian communities, regardless of affiliation or ethnic makeup. A later afterthought was the possibility that by also subtitling it as "In honor of Christian Martyrs and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr" might lead to non-participation by non-Christians, i.e., Jews, Moslems, and Muslims (many of whom were supporters of Dr. King and non-violence), because of the designation "Christian". This is best addressed by the local communities individual discernment. In the subsequent year of its existence, however (2002), the language of "Christian Martyrs" was dropped to be definitively more inclusive.
The "packaging" of the event cannot be stressed enough. It must be sharp, visual and memorable to be attractive to the local community. The local coordinator must work diligently with the local Red Cross marketing and communications department (s). For example in the Diocese of Lansing during the weekend of the drive, no less than four television and five radio interviews were conducted by the coordinator, along with three print interviews. In addition, the Red Cross can prepare publicity packets that outline the event, in addition to providing additional pertinent information.