Keeping the ‘warm glow’ of giving going significantly boosts repeat blood donations

Thursday, 14 September 2023

New research has shown that boosting the ‘warm glow’ feeling that people experience after giving blood significantly increases repeat blood donations, which are essential for the effective running of any health service.

The research, led by the University of Nottingham shows that the positive feelings that people experience from helping others, help sustain long-term helping that is beneficial to wider society. The ideas uncovered in this research could also be applied to improve the take-up of vaccinations.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology worked with the University of Queensland and Australian Red Cross Lifeblood to refine and target messaging to blood donors and showed that reinforcing feelings of warm glow feeling following blood donation boosts repeat appointments. The results have been published today in Nature Human Behaviour.

One of the key studies in this research targeted first-time donors in Australia six weeks after their first donation and compared standard donor messaging with messages with an emphasis on the warm glow gained from donating and reinforcing the person's identity as a blood donor.

An example message read: “We hope you’ve been basking in the warm glow that comes with donating blood, because six weeks ago as the day you became a blood donor

The warm-glow messaging resulted in over a 6% increase (approximately 3000 donations) in donations attributed to the warm-glow message.

Blood is an essential medicine as defined by the WHO– like antibiotics are – for the successful delivery of health care. Blood and its products are used in trauma, surgery, childbirth, to treat burns, cancer, hemophilia and other clotting disorders, sickle cell, thalassemia, palliative care, eye drop medications, and many more. This supply of blood is met by 3% of the eligible population who donate blood.

This research examines the reasons why people continue to participate in ‘high-cost’ altruistic acts like giving blood. We know that people experience feelings of warm glow form giving and, we wanted to see if warm glow could be boosted to encourage repeat donations.
Professor Eamonn Ferguson, School of Psychology

The study identified two types of people – those who experience stronger warm glow that lasts, these people are likely to book to donate again (the ‘warm-cooperators’), and a group called ‘cool co-operators’ who experience a warm glow but to a less extent– these people are the ones who are less likely to re-book an appointment to donate and who benefit the most from being reminded of the warm glow feeling with specific messaging.

Every year in Australia more than 40,000 people donate blood or plasma for the first time but never return for a second donation. And, of the half a million people who donate each year, more than 60 per cent make fewer than three donations. Without repeat blood donors we can’t maintain a safe and stable blood supply, which saves thousands of Australian lives every year, and ensures that blood is readily available whenever and wherever it is needed. This research is critical in helping blood services find ways to solve this problem, which is faced by many countries including Australia.
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Professor Ferguson continues: “The warm glow we feel from helping others motivates us to help again. Some people feel more warm glow than others, for those who feel less warm glow, the cooler cooperators, the warming messaging is even more beneficial. This is seen clearly for one public health resource, donating blood, but understanding warm glow could also help in other public health areas like messaging for vaccinations, by tapping into the warm glow that comes from helping to protect others.”

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More information is available from Professor Eamonn Ferguson on

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

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We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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