Heartstrings and Grassroots: Diversifying Be the Match's Donor Base

Amy Freese, director, strategic partnerships and multicultural growth, Be the Match (National Marrow Donor Program)


Battling brand awareness, convincing people why they should be interested. We’re in throes of creating a lot of eye candy. Grassroots portion is a work in progress.

Mission is to save lives through cell therapy. Vision is to democratize it for all. 8.5 million on registry, 9,500 searches made in 2017; 6,100 transplants in 2017. Since inception 30 years ago, 86,000 transplants.

Provide people access to unrelated bone marrow transplants. 70% don’t have relative donor. Past year on average 18,000 searching consistently. 2/3 of the base can’t find a match. 

Many barriers, financial, some are related to insurance, primarily our registry base has a lack of finding a match based on your background. Black communities have 23% change, whites 77%. Lots of reasons, education, fact that we’re not directing our marketing that is effective for those lacking matches.


Objective going into 2019: Determine the optimal size and composition of the registry and launch campaign that expedites that level of quality participation.

Build Awareness

Focus group results: 

No parachuting in
Meet us where we are
Commit to the community
Educate and build trust

Based on those insights, evolving customized content. Focused on African Americans and then Hispanics. When it comes to healthcare in Latino community, it’s based on community roots. In African American communities, it’s about I’m gonna take care of my own self-care. In the API world, we are learning, give us qualitative, quantitiative results, we can determine how to go.

Putting together integrated campaigns. Combining partnerships with paid digital, PR, awareness events, influencers.

Our content, our patients who are searching, our donors and our transplant recipients that’s our content. There’s nothing else we need to say. A story well told. HBCU (Historically black college and universities) campaign foundation: Be present, provide education, be relevant. Last fall, focus groups, test piloting on campuses in spring. Now in full swing. Target audience is 18 to 34. College campuses are very important. We don’t want FAQs so we’re instilling creative components around myths and facts.

Videos are key. Digital platforms that they follow, what kind of campus it may be. Influencers, key in finding the right people.

Fantastic content, Brandon and Lauren, both donors. Staff members, ready to go. Have our mission at heart. Sheldon and Camille, both searching for five years. He was on GMA with us. Content is king.

Earned: media outreach, influencers and advocates, partnerships. Owned: organic social, constituent emails, web properties, programs, events for awareness and recruitment. Paid: digital media, paid social/OOH, paid partners.

Onsite activation and branding in plans with music, event activation and organic social ideas.


400 to 500 inquires a day to 1,500 a day, give or take, due to paid strategies that we have. And OOH, between digital and it, it’s where our targets live.

Found 19,000 new donors

25% diversity, now at 34%

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