Blood is collected by blood centers and hospitals. Blood centers are freestanding organizations, virtually all of which are nonprofit. These centers are governed by a board of local volunteers and are organizations whose sole function is to provide the community's blood supply. Each blood center collects blood in a reasonably contiguous area and supplies the hospitals within the blood collection area. The blood center may or may not supply the total needs of the hospitals in its area or may supply hospitals in other areas as well. The area covered by each center is determined by historical factors and did not develop according to any overall plan. Rather, local interests dictated whether, how, and what kind of community blood program developed. Not every area of the United States is necessarily covered by a blood center. There are a total of approximately 180 blood centers in United States (Scott 1990). Approximately 45 of these (25 percent) are operated by the ARC and the remainder are community blood centers as described above.
The ARC is the organization that collects the largest number of units of blood in the United States. The ARC Blood Service is one of many humanitarian programs operated by the ARC. The ARC is a nonprofit, congressionally chartered (but not government sponsored or operated) organization that conducts programs supported by donated funds and through cost recovery. The mission of the ARC Blood Service is to "fulfill the needs of the American people for the safest, most reliable, most cost-effective blood, plasma … services through voluntary donations." In addition, the organization attempts to be the "provider of choice for blood, plasma … services … by commitment to quality, safety, and use of the best medical, scientific, manufacturing, and business practices" (ARC 1994).
Some blood is collected by blood banks that are part of hospitals. These blood banks usually collect blood only for use in that hospital and do not supply other hospitals. Very few (possibly no) hospitals collect enough blood to meet all their needs. They purchase some blood from a local or distant community blood center. Most U.S. hospitals do not collect any blood but acquire all of the blood they use from a community center. Of those that do collect blood, there are no good data available to define the proportion of their needs that they collect. This can be presumed to be quite variable.