Louise Webster, a Natural Sciences student studying Biology, Psychology and Anthropology who did a foundation year in 2015/16, has taken the opportunity to found a new society. “Durham University Blood Donation Society” aims to encourage Durham University students to become blood donors. Louise (known as Lou) is a member of Hild Bede College and is involved in many other societies including Durham University Light Opera Group (DULOG), Hild Bede Cheer (HBC), Hild Bede Theatre (HBT), DU Gym and Trampoling Club, and DU Ariel Arts Soc.
We took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about setting up a new society from scratch and what she has learnt.
Why did you decide to set up Blood Soc?
There was nowhere in Durham city centre to donate blood within walking distance for students. The NHS blood drives which used to come to the SU had recently been cut due to funding, so I wanted to make it more accessible to donate. Having a society for donors would take out the cost of transport and being in a group environment would make the process less daunting and would be a good way to meet other donors. This convenience and friendly atmosphere is appealing to first time donors.
My interest in supporting blood donation is because I received many transfusions as a baby as I have a heart condition. I also have friends and family members that have received transfusions and feel that is important to encourage donation. Both my parents work in medicine, and my father is a Consultant Haematologist working for the NHSBT (blood and transplant).
How easy was it to set up a new society? What support was available?
It was a lot of work! The admin was the most time consuming, with risk assessments, writing constitutions of the society, and establishing general rules and regulations. We also had to focus on publicity, digital marketing through social media platforms, and generally getting our society a student following through events such as the fresher’s fare.
We had to apply for funding from the Student’s Union and also raised money through fundraising and sponsorship. We got £200 from the SU to start up the society which we spent on marketing, stash, a banner for the fresher’s fare, pens, but mainly on minibus hire to get our donors to and from the donation session.
What skills/ processes have you learnt from setting up Blood Soc?
- How to design a budget
- Methods of gaining sponsorship
- Liaising with local businesses e.g. to get venues for socials, a local printer shop helped us to get Blood Soc pens and leaflets
- Organisation and team management
- Delegation, identifying strengths of team members to ensure people are in the right roles and are happy
- PR and admin skills
- Use of social media in marketing
What advice would you give another student looking to set up a new society?
Have solid ideas which are well thought through, set yourself clear goals and aims and have an idea of the means by which you will achieve. Stay open minded to new routes of making things happen, be flexible to new ideas and be receptive of help from your team.
Having a few contacts in the field you are hoping to set up a society in will be useful to get you started, for example, I knew some of the staff who work at the blood bank.
Be creative with ideas to generate funding and when the going gets tough find new ways to figure things out. Creative thinking with problem solving will drive success as there will be hurdles along the way, logistically, financially and with time pressures.
Choose a supportive team of different skill sets, brainstorm together and know the value of your team members as often they will think of ideas that you never would have.
Be nice to everyone who works at the SU, especially the lovely receptionist, she might give you some free printing!
Be sure to follow their Facebook page for information on sign-ups, donation days and socials https://www.facebook.com/DUBloodSoc/