Facebook is a marvelous invention, isn’t it? You can make new friends and connect with old ones, share thoughts and pictures, join groups, plan events, or promote a cause. You can even find someone who will give you the Gift of Life!


Facebook is indeed a valuable tool in the search for a living kidney donor.  There are, however, a number of shortcomings of which most donor-seekers are unaware. For those who rely solely on Facebook to find a living donor, these shortcomings can make the difference between a successful search and one that yields nothing.

In the past two years, there has been an explosion of media reports about CKD patients finding living donors on Facebook. A recent Google search limited to the key words “finds kidney Facebook” brought up 40 such media reports. While far more than 40 reports circulate the Internet, this sample is indicative of the media's ever-growing attention to Facebook and living donation. 

As is evident from the figures below, reports rose dramatically in 2011, nearly doubled in 2012, and are mushrooming thus far in 2013. If last year is any reflection of the future, we can expect 2013 to turn out over four times the number of reports published in 2012.

                    2009:    1

                    2010:    2

                    2011:    9

                    2012:  17

                    2013:  11 (Jan. - Mar.)


While these figures might lead one to believe that more and more people are finding donors via Facebook each year, a closer look tells a different story: Many of these reports are about the same recipient-donor couple. For example, eight of the eleven 2013 reports were about E.B. and K.W. 


A further search using E.B.'s name and "kidney” as key words yielded 570 stories . . . all written during the first three months of 2013 . . . before the transplant had even taken place! Hundreds more are sure to sprout following a successful surgery. Searches for recipient names plus “kidney” from previous years also yielded exponential results. It appears that the number of successful Facebook searches is not increasing so much as the number of reports about successful searches, including hundreds of duplicates.


Not that this proliferation is a bad thing . . . every report about living donation raises public awareness and, we hope, encourages more individuals to consider becoming donors themselves.


The downside, however, is that this acceleration of media reports brings with it a corresponding acceleration in the number of would-be recipients turning to Facebook . . . upwards of 600, as of March, 2013. That’s a lot of searchers!


A 2012 study by Loyola University1 sheds further light on the matter: While Loyola found that volunteers stepped up in 30% of the cases studied on Facebook, only 12% actually resulted in transplants. Presuming that Loyola’s findings hold true, that means that of the 600+ patients currently seeking donors on Facebook, only about 72 are likely to find donors. 


How can this be? Facebook has roughly a billion users! And yet only twelve of every hundred searches results in a transplant?


Facebook data may partially explain this disappointing statistic. Of those billion Facebook users, 81% reside outside the U.S. and Canada . . . the very place where readers of this article must find potential donors. That cuts out a sizable chunk of the Facebook population. Half of all Americans aren’t even on Facebook. 


Is this to say that Facebook has no value as a search tool? No, absolutely not. What it does say is that when it comes to searching for a living donor, Facebook’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: 


Because of its huge, ever-expanding audience, donor-searchers can appeal to hundreds, if not thousands, of users quickly and easily. That’s Facebook’s strength. The promise of such a large audience is attractive to would-be recipients--so much so that Facebook is quickly becoming over-saturated with living-donor seekers. The ever-growing glut of searchers creates competition, reducing one’s chance of finding a suitable donor. That’s Facebook’s weakness.


To repeat: Facebook is a valuable tool in the search for a living kidney donor.  A patient whose family and immediate friends are unable to donate would be missing the boat by ignoring the opportunity that Facebook presents. As the Loyola study indicates, approximately 72 of the current 600+ searchers will find donors. That leaves, however, 528 who will not. Do you want to bet your very life that you’ll be one of the few lucky ones?


In the same way that one cannot build a house or repair an automobile with a screwdriver alone, it takes more than one tool for a living-donor search to be successful. Simply put, Facebook is not enough.


In many ways, searching for a donor is like advertising a product. As such, some of the secrets of advertising apply. Even the most successful businesses--companies that are not likely to go down or be forgotten whether they advertise or not--advertise repeatedly, using an abundance of tools.


Coca Cola, for example, has been in business for 125 years and is one of the most well-known and successful companies on the planet. Despite its long history of success, Coke’s advertising executives know that one of the “secrets” is to employ as many methods as possible to reach people. They don’t stick to TV or magazines; Coke advertises via billboards, the Internet, radio, grocery-store carts, newspapers, loyalty campaigns (My Coke Rewards), contests, celebrity spokespersons (including Santa Claus), movie theatre ads, sports sponsorship, original music (“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”), taste tests, holiday campaigns, slogans (“Have a Coke and a Smile”), and on, and on, and on.


If Coke, in its outstanding success, deems it necessary to use multiple methods of advertising, why would you, in your search for a life-saving donor, do anything less by limiting your search to Facebook alone?


Dozens of tools are available to those who make the effort to search beyond Facebook: elevator speeches; business cards; conversation starters such as t-shirts, wristbands, and buttons; flyers; posters; bumper stickers; e-mail; snail mail (more valuable than one might guess); public bulletin boards; newsletters; church bulletins; TV; radio; multiple web sites (e.g., Kidney Connection, Twitter, My Life, Pinterest, Living Kidney Donor Search, Craigslist); out-of-town advocates; newspapers; magazines; door-to-door handouts; in-home informational gatherings; fundraisers; and even billboards. (There are ways to go about the last one without spending a fortune.)


Are you disheartened by a lack of plentiful responses to your Facebook kidney-search page? Try supplementing your Facebook efforts by using additional tools to "advertise" your need. You will reach more people than on Facebook alone, and often, you will have the added advantage of personal contact. The more personal the contact, the more "real" you become to others; and the more others see you as a living, breathing human being--instead of just a face on a screen or a post on a newsfeed--the more likely they will be to consider living donation.


Your very life is hanging in the balance; you are worth far more than the small effort required to add some tools to your Facebook search. The Living Kidney Donor Search has recently added a completely new (and free) website--"Tools and Tips"--to help you do this. "Tools and Tips" was designed to enhance your search by providing information, ideas, suggestions, and directions for projects that will speed and help you take your search beyond Facebook.


If you would like to take advantage of this opportunity, click the "Contact Me" picture above and send a message. You will receive a reply with directions for accessing the site. Know that with each tool you add, each article you read, and each project you complete, you are taking a vital, proactive step toward finding your donor and living a better life. May it happen for you very soon!


                                                                         Suzanne Kloss

                                                                         Living Donor Kidney Search



1 Loyola Study Reveals How Patients and Families Solicit Living Kidney donors on Facebook



© 2013 by Suzanne Kloss. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be duplicated or published without express permission from the author. For permission, click the "Contact Me" link above.