BACKGROUND: With the emergence of e-mail as a common form of communication, it is important to understand the role and impact e-mail can have on acquiring and retaining whole-blood donors.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Whole-blood donors who opted in to receive e-mail communications (n = 43,232) from the Puget Sound Blood Center (PSBC) and as a result participated in one or more of five e-mail marketing campaigns between July 2002 and March 2003 were studied.

RESULTS: New donors with e-mail addresses grew by 74 percent over the measurement period compared with 2 percent growth of those without e-mail addresses. Nearly 15,000 prospective donors were reached as a result of donors passing along e-mails they received from PSBC to friends and family. Nearly 5 percent of PSBC e-mail campaign recipients registered to donate online. PSBC e-mail campaigns have outperformed e-mail marketing industry mean open rates by 44 percent and click-through rates by 36 percent.

CONCLUSION: E-mail is now a mainstream communication medium. It has proven to be an effective method of reaching new donors and generating new donation registrations. Donors respond more favorably to e-mail communications from PSBC compared with e-mail they receive from other organizations. Deeper understanding of how different segments of blood donors use e-mail may help blood centers adjust their donor acquisition and retention programs. New recruitment methods are needed to grow the overall donor base, and e-mail appears to have the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting this objective.