Last-Minute Giving


Here’s a gift idea that will help put you in the holiday spirit. It will not help you mark “done” on your gift list but may save a life. If you’re feeling well today, have mailed all your Christmas cards, and wrapped all your presents, consider this last-minute, life-affirming idea.

Let me begin by saying that I am not a representative of the Red Cross, just an occasional and sometimes reluctant blood donor. My experiences at their blood donation centers and mobile sites have ranged from pleasant (when door prizes were offered to donors and I snagged homemade goodies) to slightly annoying (when less-than-attentive attendants have not offered to retrieve much needed orange juice), and I have never been particularly encouraged by the organization’s plea to build inventory of blood supplies.

Nevertheless, several years ago on a Christmas Eve, I drove through a light snow to my city’s donor facility, privately answered the slew of I-can’t-believe-anyone-would-ask-that questions, submitted to finger prick and needle insertion, and waited patiently for my blood to flow. What stands out from this particular visit was a label on the bag that would hold my blood. It was marked with a designation that indicated to me that my blood would go to directly and immediately to a young child; I’ve never seen such a label before or since. Anyway, it was a nice reminder that there are real people in hospitals who receive blood transfusions every day, including holidays.

In the interest of promoting how blood donation can benefit frugal living, here are the possibilities:

  • If you missed or just couldn’t afford to pony up for the adopt-a-family gift at your office, you can still give without costing yourself a dime; 
  • You’ll receive a mini-physical consisting of temperature, blood-pressure, and pulse checks and determination of your iron level;
  • You may receive incentives, such as gifts or opportunities to win prizes that representatives of local sites or blood drives have solicited (for example, I have received t-shirts and a Christmas ornament; and won a gift card to a local nursery).

To find a blood donation center or learn more about the process, visit

Note: The t-shirt featured was accidentally washed with a yellow crayon; I have received another t-shirt in the past couple of years but it was an XXL (I'm 5') and so I donated it to a friend who organizes local blood drives and can find a larger donor.

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Guest's picture
Rob O.

And if you need a less philanthropic reason to donate blood, consider that there's a fair bit of evidence that giving blood can help to lower your cholesterol. So, you can do a truly generous thing for others that also serves as a gift to yourself!

Guest's picture

I'd love to give blood, but I'm terrified of needles. So I give on instead. If you'd like to give to someone on Kiva but can't afford to, have a look at this page on my blog. You can request a free Gift Certificate there, and make a loan to someone for Christmas.

Julie Rains's picture

I'm not a needle lover myself so I refuse to look and the vein site is typically covered. Ignoring needles and blood in the donor room can be tricky but getting to have guilt-free desserts in the canteen is my incentive.

Guest's picture

Thanks to everyone who does donate blood. My sister was a Rhesus baby and had needed several whole-body transfusions. Some strangers I don't know helped save her life, something which is precious to me even if we're not currently on speaking terms.

More recently, my daughter was born 15 weeks early. Blood transfusions help a great deal, allowing these very tiny babies to concentrate their energies on growing. My husband was a donor, but was allowed to donate only once a month for her, and she needed more blood than he could provide. So again, a very wonderful stranger has helped save a life which is incredibly precious to me.

It might even have been you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much!

Will Chen's picture

What a wonderful story.  Thank you for sharing that sylrayj!

Guest's picture

wife of a man who consistently gives blood every 8 weeks -- and he has for the last 25 years. They have rejected me (cancer history), but it is one more reason I think he is a great guy.

Guest's picture

Although I don't think i can give (low blood pressure), this sounds like a great idea for my family to do together this week. Thanks for the reminder.

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