Who can become a donor?

People who are related to the transplant recipient usually make the best donors because their blood and tissues are likely to be similar (this is called “matching”). Living donors may be related to the transplant recipient:


  • A parent

  • A sibling

  • An adult child

Or they may be non-related:


  • A spouse

  • A friend

  • A co-worker

  • An altruistic donor*

*Someone who doesn’t know the patient but donates for the welfare of others.

Non-related living donors

Altruistic living donor programs match potential donors who believe in acting for the good of others with recipients awaiting transplants. There are two types of donation:

Directed donation
is when the potential donor may know of someone who needs a kidney, possibly through their community or family.
Non-directed donation
is when a donor offers a kidney to a person on the waiting list whom he or she does not know.

More information about becoming a donor is available at www.LivingOrganDonors.org and www.LivingDonorsOnline.org.

If a donor is not a match for you as an intended recipient, other options may still make a living donation possible:


Paired donation or paired exchange programs can help patients obtain an organ even though they have a willing donor whose blood type is incompatible.

It is important to check if this is an option at your transplant center. A paired organ exchange involves two pairs of incompatible donors and transplant candidates. The two candidates trade donors so they each receive an organ from a donor who is a match for them.


Donor waiting list exchange occurs when a living donor who is not a match for an intended recipient donates to an anonymous candidate on the list, so the intended recipient can then be given higher priority.

Blood type incompatible donation occurs when a person receives an organ from a living donor with a different blood type. Special care is given to the recipient to help prevent rejection both before and after the transplant.


Positive crossmatch donation involves a living donor and a transplant candidate who aren’t a match because the candidate’s antibodies will react against the donor’s cells right away. This may cause rejection of the organ. Special care is given to the recipient to help prevent rejection both before and after the transplant.

All living organ donors are assigned an advocate who will help them consider all aspects of the process, without the pressure of involving the recipient in the conversation. The advocate can also talk with the transplant team to make sure that all of the donor’s concerns are addressed.

Information on donor types according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, http://transplantliving.org/living-donation/types/paired-donation/, accessed October 7, 2014.