Being diagnosed with a blood disease comes as an utter shock to patients and their families. Then there’s the double whammy when the patient is told that their last, and ONLY, chance to live depends upon the willingness of an absolute stranger, who by some chance turns up as a DNA match, to donate their bone marrow. Knowing a friend whose husband was dealt a similar blow and seeing how little awareness there was among the public made me set aside my early corporate ambitions and join the BMDP back in 2015.
I didn’t know what to expect but GAME ON!
In a world where the success of business development is measured by the bottom line and productivity, mine is measured by my effectiveness at raising awareness and the number of potential life savers, aka bone marrow donors, I manage to recruit. It has been a journey filled with sweat, joyous tears and a ton of saliva-soaked swabs and 2017 had been no different.
On the Offence
2017 began with two patient appeals requesting more donors to join the public register. One was for a young boy in his teens and the other a father with young children. There was no time to waste, this resulted in two donor recruitment drives one within the government sector and the other at a large international bank spearheaded by family and colleagues of the patient. It was heartening to see the BMDP, colleagues, patients and friends stand united in this fight against blood disease. Would we be successful in finding them a match? Only time would tell. But it was undeniable that the new donors added from these drives would one day go on to give hope to another patient. Somewhere in the world and sometime in the future.
We pushed hard! In just 4 months we had twenty-one donor recruitment sessions, started conversations with SINDA and AIN society that had amazing programmes with our Indian and Malay communities and we were adopted by a soccer team – CBD Wanderers who now wear bright orange jerseys with our BMDP logos. Plans were set to full speed ahead and donor recruitment within the corporate sector was at an all-time high.
June came and proved to be a major game changer. The first of a series of articles putting BMDP in a questionable light hit the press and once companies caught wind of the news, recruitment juddered to an immediate halt. The pushback from companies was understandable but it was frustrating to have no platform by which we could explain the misunderstanding and perhaps change their perception. My personal target to exceed the enormous success from 2016 when we had a whopping 80 recruitment drives seemed impossible.
We needed something to change the game!
The Game Changer
Help came from our Patron, Minister K Shanmugam, who opened the doors into the Ministry of Home Affairs. By July, the partnership was in full swing with various divisions within the Ministry listening yto our message and at least giving us a chance. Among these divisions were the SCDF and Police Academies who gave us monthly – sometimes bi-monthly dates – to reach out to a room packed with their new recruits. These unchartered waters posed a new and exciting challenge – how do we shift our message from attracting business professionals to educate and reach out to young men from diverse backgrounds and education levels, to commit to save a life?
Each presentation was a learning journey in helping us understand the young recruits better and deliver our life saving message more effectively. The amazing result from these minor changes was reaching a tipping point in donor recruitment with the last three sessions for the year consistently delivered a 70% sign-up rate. This was huge and a stark contrast to the companies when even getting people way from their desks was a challenge. Another huge win from this partnership was in the number of Malay donors which directly contributed to BMDP’s secondary mission of increasing minority representation on the register. Indeed, when one door closed another opened, and we just needed the agility to respond, adapt and to do it fast!
Bad press did not stop us from revisiting the corporate world. In September, instead of targeting individual companies, a two-week programme was rolled out to multi-tenant buildings and office campuses in support of World Marrow Donor Day. Ocean Financial Centre, Asia Square, Changi Business Park Tower 2, Marina Bay Financial Centre and Media Corp campus, all with many and diverse tenants, came on board contributing over 200 new donors to the programme. Getting in front of this corporate crowd was a win and from these sessions, we started conversations with new companies and even got some community leads.
2017 was an ever-changing game and my greatest takeaway for the year is best encapsulated by a quote from American football coach Paul Bryant – Don’t give up at half time. Concentrate on winning the second half.
This year was all about pushing through, being agile and most of all listening and learning from our audiences to fine-tune the message. So what seemed bleak in the middle of the year came out to have an extraordinary and unexpected outcome – my highest donor recruitment yet and sales leads into a host of companies that are still to close.
~Amanda Sarah Mathew~