Patient Care

Local Health Groups Launch Campaign to Increase Organ Donors

Jan. 20, 2015

The Ad Council of Rochester and the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, along with local health groups, today launched a new campaign to decrease the number of individuals who die or whose health deteriorates because they’re waiting for an organ transplant.

The new mass media campaign uses emotional messages to compel individuals to go to a new website - - and join the New York State Donate Life Registry. Only about one in three adults in the Finger Lakes region have signed up for the registry, according to a recent report by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Yet polls show that the majority of New Yorkers are in favor of organ donation.

“Support for donation exists – we know that - but there is often a disconnect between that support and taking action,” says Rob Kochik, executive director of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, which coordinates organ donations at 37 hospitals in the Finger Lakes, Central and Upstate regions. “Our hope is that this important message and these beautiful ads will remind each of us that by enrolling in the Donate Life Registry we can make a significant difference and literally save the lives of our friends, neighbors and family members.”

The need for lifesaving organs in New York state is among the highest in the country. More than 10,000 New Yorkers are waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Yet the rate in which New York state adults sign up for the registry is among the lowest in the U.S.

To tackle this major health improvement opportunity, the Ad Council and the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network teamed with several local health organizations, including the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester Regional Health System, Rochester Eye and Tissue Bank, National Kidney Foundation, Excellus BCBS and the Transplant Awareness Organization of Greater Rochester.

“Whenever we tackle an issue as complex and important as this one, we know it will take the work of many partners to achieve the impact we’re after,” said Todd Butler, Ad Council president and CEO. “We’ve worked for a year with these health organizations, marketing volunteers and Brand Cool, and we’ve developed a strategy and creative materials that we expect will help us drive action, in the form of joining the organ donor registry.”

Rochester advertising agency Brand Cool donated time to develop the campaign’s advertising and website. The advertising features beautiful scenes and actions that coincide with a heartfelt address about “The Greatest Person Never Known,” which is what an organ donor is to someone waiting for a transplant.

"Humans have intrinsic motivations, such as wanting to see their actions contribute to a larger good. We chose to use this emotional dimension to inspire people to take a simple action that can have life-changing consequences,” said Sue Kochan, Brand Cool’s CEO. “Other states have a higher percentage of their population on the registry, so it’s safe to believe the majority of New Yorkers want to be on the registry, but just need prompts to complete the easy task.”

About half of American adults (48 percent) are registered organ and tissue donors, but only 22 percent of New York state adults are on the registry, according to the Excellus BCBS report. New York’s registration rate is lower than 48 states and the District of Columbia. But New York adults represent 10 percent of all Americans waiting for a donation.

Bev Shank is one local resident who was able to leave the transplant waiting list and restart her life thanks to the gift of a new organ.

“December 14, 2005, was an important day in my life -- it was my new beginning,” she said. “Having the transplant allowed me to see my son graduate and become a wonderful young man and my daughter advance in her career and meet someone special. Now I am thankful for each day, I make every day count, take care of myself and give back with my time."

Thirty Rochester-area media partners will contribute free space and time for the campaign. For the first time, an Ad Council campaign will reach beyond the Rochester market. The Ad Council has partnered with the Johnson Newspaper Corporation, which will include the campaign in its various publications in Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin and Jefferson counties, including the Watertown Daily Times.

For more information on the campaign, or to sign up for the registry, go to