Donate Life California: A Campaign Launch Study

Developed by the California branch of Donate Life America, the following communication campaign was launched in April of 2005 to get California residents to share their organ donation wishes through an online registry. Prior to this effort, there was no formal registry for organ donation in the state, which meant even if individuals were willing and had a donor sticker on their drivers’ license, the choice to donate organs was not legally binding unless willing individuals had shared their wishes with their family members. To mitigate this barrier, Donate Life California first developed a database prototype that would allow for online donor registration. Once the prototype was created, in-person meetings, conference calls, and two large workshops were conducted with hospital, media, and community partners to gain support from the community and get their input on outreach strategies. As a result of these meetings, a 3-tier implementation plan was developed. The first tier focused on promoting the registry through the media, re-framing messages around organ donation to highlight the issue as one affecting all Californians, not just individuals and their families. To support this effort, relationships were developed with individual reporters and a media kit was created which included fact sheets, discussion points addressing common misconceptions about organ donation, and statistics about the growing waitlist. Additionally, the Donate Life California team prepared print and broadcast media releases as well as scripts for live radio segments to assist in the official launch of the campaign. Tier two focused on community outreach and the creation of partnerships. This was achieved by working with key political figures, universities, and faith-based groups to create registration competitions and announcements that would help spread the word about the registry with members of the general public. The goal of the third and final tier of the campaign was to reach individuals without internet access. To ensure the online registry would be available to a wide audience, the Donate Life California team partnered with public libraries throughout the state, providing librarians with training that would allow them to assist patrons in accessing the online registry. Posters, literature, and table-top signs were also provided to each library and placed near public computers to encourage registration. The registry itself was designed to be confidential and bi-lingual, with access available through two web sites: and Upon the campaign’s launch, the Donate Life California team tracked online registration to gauge success, having set an initial goal of 15,000 registrants in the first year. This goal was quickly surpassed, with the first six months of the campaign resulting in more than 175,000 registrations. 
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