How to Become a Kidney Donor

Find your care

We have one of the highest volume kidney transplant programs in the country, with outstanding patient outcomes. To learn more, call 310-825-6836.

If you are a kidney donor, please contact the Living Donor Line at 866-672-5333.

Living donor program

The UCLA Living Kidney Donor Program is set up to encourage, enable and guide healthy individuals to be living kidney donors and help save lives of thousands of people. Our expert team provides a comprehensive evaluation if you choose to donate one of your kidneys to a family member, a friend or altruistically to a stranger.  Being a donor is not easy. Therefore, we have a dedicated program to guide willing donors every step of the way. Our team takes pride in providing the highest quality of support and the most up to date and relevant information for willing donors. UCLA is one of only a few programs on the West Coast to offer strong expertise in living donor kidney transplant and incompatible blood type kidney transplant.

Our team is highly experienced in innovative techniques such as kidney exchange and desensitization to make transplants more likely to succeed. Our extensive experience with adult kidney transplant and pediatric kidney transplant makes us a trusted choice for living donor kidney transplant.

Kidney donor questionnaire: how to become a kidney donor

The best way to determine suitability for donation is to complete this online questionnaire.  The transplant team will obtain medical and personal information for initial review.  Any questions about individual issues can be discussed confidentially with a transplant coordinator. It is important to understand that the Living Donor Team cannot reach out to a potential donor until they have specified their wish to donate. Our automated system will inform you if you are eligible to move forward with the donor evaluation process upon completion. 

Note: Please complete the questionnaire from a laptop or desktop (and not a mobile device) to better concentrate on critically important questions regarding your health. If you have any questions or concerns please contact us at [email protected] or by phone at 866-672-5333 (toll-free).

Guide to living kidney donation

Donating a kidney so someone can live a life free of dialysis is one of the greatest gifts a person can give.  This unselfish act to a relative, loved one, or friend gives the donor an opportunity to greatly improve the quality of life for someone they love or want to help.

In our community and across the country, thousands of people are in need of a kidney transplant.  The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Wait List continues to grow every year, while the number of deceased donor organs has remained steady over the past decade.  The shortage has prompted a nationwide effort to increase living organ donation.

This guide will explain the process involved in the testing and acceptance of a potential donor.  It is intended to answer questions for those considering donation, as we understand this is an emotional, personal and sometimes difficult decision. 

The potential donor

The “perfect” donor would be a healthy identical twin, but few people have this option.  However, advances in medications that keep the body from rejecting a less-than-perfectly-matched kidney have made it possible for siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and adult children to donate, as well as people who are not related by blood.  These willing, emotionally related donors--spouses, coworkers, and friends--have expanded the pool of potential donors for recipients whose family members cannot donate. While many people are willing to be living donors, not everyone has the qualities necessary to participate in living donation. Donors must be chosen carefully in order to avoid outcomes that are medically and psychologically unsatisfactory.

More than one friend or family member may want to donate to a recipient.  The transplant team will help determine the best suitable donor but the final decision rests with the donor and recipient.  The best-matched donor is not always the “best” donor.  While the individual circumstances of each potential donor are discussed privately and tested to determine compatibility, all potential donors must be genuinely willing to donate, physically fit, in good general health; and free from diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease. Individuals considered for living donation are usually between 18-70 years of age.  Gender and race are not factors in determining a successful match.

Other factors to consider are the potential donor’s availability for testing, surgery, and recovery time or the financial strain this time off may cause.  Potential donors must have support available during recovery to help with transportation, meals, and doctor’s visits.  Travel and lodging expenses are the donor’s responsibility and may add to the financial burden, especially for donors who do not live in the area. 

Please note: It is the policy of our Living Donor Program regarding matches found on social networking sites such as or Craig’s List that the potential donors must be at least 25 years of age and have current health insurance coverage to be considered as a potential donor.

Living related donors are healthy blood relatives of transplant candidates.

They can be:

  • brothers and sisters
  • parents
  • children (over 18 years of age)
  • other blood relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, half brothers and sisters, grandparents/ grandchildren, nieces and nephews)

Living unrelated donors may be emotionally close to, but not related by blood, to the transplant candidate.

They can be:

  • spouses
  • in-law relatives
  • close friends
  • co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances

Altruistic donors are people who do not have a specific recipient in mind, and wish to donate a kidney to help anyone waiting for a kidney transplant so they can have a much healthier life off of dialysis. Sometimes Altruistic Donors are able to start a chain of transplants in our Paired Exchange Program.

Conditions that MAY prevent a person from being accepted as a donor: 

  • Diabetes
  • Significant obesity
  • Positive HIV status
  • A history of hepatitis
  • Uncontrolled or newly diagnosed high blood pressure or the use of multiple medications to control high blood pressure
  • A history of more than one episode of kidney stones
  • Chronic use of some medications for arthritis or other chronic pain
  • Cancer
  • Mental illness
  • Strong family history of kidney disease or diabetes

It is important to understand that it is illegal to buy and sell an organ in the United States.

Non-matching living donor options

If a donor and recipient have a different blood type, or their tissue typing does not match, they can participate in one of the following alternative living donor programs, Paired Exchange or Blood Type Incompatible Kidney Transplant. As long as a UCLA recipient has a healthy potential living donor they can be a donor for that recipient in some way.

Other programs we offer to accommodate our donors and recipients are our Kidney Advanced Donor Program and Kidney Voucher Program coordinated through our Paired Exchange Program.  For donors that due to personal reasons need to donate during a specific time and cannot wait until their recipient completes their evaluation and is ready for transplant, they can participate in our Advanced Donor Program.  For donors with recipients that have chronic kidney disease and will eventually develop end-stage renal disease, donors can participate in our voucher program and donate in anticipation of their recipient requiring transplant.