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Donor Search Tip for Champions: Have a Clear Reason Why You Can’t Donate

EJ Tamez

If you know someone, such as a family member or friend, who is looking for a living kidney donor and you have decided to help them in their search as a donor search “champion,” you need to have a response ready for when potential donors ask you why you yourself are not donating a kidney.

The role of a donor search champion is to get the word out about the kidney patient’s need for a kidney transplant and to find potential donors. Some ways to spread the word include microsite business cards, lawn signs, car door magnets, rear windshield advertisements and many others. In the process of speaking to potential donors, one of the first questions a donor search champion is likely to hear from donor candidates is: “Why don’t you donate your kidney?”

That question may feel personal or intrusive, but the fact is that it’s simple human nature when we’re asked to do something to question whether others are doing the same.

Think about being solicited to make a monetary donation: if someone approaches you to ask you to donate to a cause, and explains why donations are so urgently needed and why the cause is so worthy, one of the most convincing arguments they can use to get you to donate is that they are so dedicated to the cause that they have made their own donation.

Living kidney donation is a big commitment, and if you are advocating for a specific person you only need to find one donor, so it’s not realistic for a potential donor to think that you and everyone you ask is also a donor. However, as a champion, you should have a response ready if someone asks you whether you have considered donating one of your own kidneys to the person you’re advocating for.

Your answer does not have to be detailed, or get into the specifics of your reasons for not being a donor, but it should be clear and definitive. It can be something simple, such as: “I was tested as a potential donor but I was medically ruled out,” or “I have a medical condition that makes it impossible for me to donate a kidney.”

If you are not a match for the intended recipient but are considering donating a kidney through the National Kidney Registry’s paired exchange or voucher programs, you could say, “I am not a match, but I am in the process of exploring the option of donating my kidney to someone else in exchange for a compatible kidney for [the person you’re championing]. In the meantime, we are asking as many people as possible to get tested because the more people that get tested, the better chances there are for [the person you’re championing] to get a living kidney. Our priority is to find a living donor as soon as possible.”