This week, we sat down for an interview with Gail Sexton Anderson, the CEO & Founder of Donor Concierge. Donor Concierge helps match families with the best donors and surrogates from around the country. BAHS is proud to recommend their services to clients seeking assistance with third-party fertility options.
Q & A with Gail Sexton Anderson, EdM
CEO & Founder of Donor Concierge
What inspired you to start Donor Concierge?
I had worked with intended parents seeking an egg donor or surrogates for ten years and was struck by how difficult it was for them to find the types of donors and gestational carriers they wanted. They were offered limited options for someone to take their place genetically as they build their family. This is a difficult decision. They need to feel like they can find someone who looks like they fit into their family, has good physical and mental health, and has good fertility. Unfortunately, existing donor and surrogacy agencies are limited by their available ‘inventory’ and can only offer the donors and surrogates who work with their agency.
I founded Donor Concierge in 2006 to give future parents (intended parents) choices and a voice. Rather than having our own donors or surrogates, we scour all agencies to source the donor or surrogate who is a fit with our intended parents. With the right choice, intended parents can have peace of mind knowing that the person they have chosen has the genetics that will fit into their family. Having worked with hundreds of couples, there had to be a better way. Now, we have helped thousands of couples find egg donors, sperm donors, and gestational carriers. We also refer them to any other services they may need, such as clinics, attorneys, and childcare services like BAHS.
How would you describe the company’s mission?
We are an advocate and liaison for couples and individuals to help them find the best possible match for them as they create their families through third-party fertility..
What’s been the most challenging part of building Donor Concierge? The most rewarding?
In the early days, clinics didn’t understand why their patients might need more options than those they could find through their own donor database. Their attitude was often, “eggs are eggs”. But, anyone who has had the challenge of having to choose a donor to help them to create their family, they can tell you that not all eggs are the same. Unlike any other tissue, gametes–whether eggs or sperm–carry half of the genetics that will make up their future offspring. Most future parents want to find a donor who feels familiar and relatable ethnically, physically, and academically.
Now that we are established as a leader in third-party fertility, those same clinics who resisted what we were trying to do have come to appreciate the value we offer to their patients. 75% of our clients are referred to us by their clinic. They know that we help their patients find the right fit faster and get to cycle more quickly through Donor Concierge’s guidance and support.
What areas of the world does Donor Concierge serve?
We work with people from all over the world who are having fertility treatment in the US using US donors and surrogates.
You have a strong team of female case managers with a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. Can you tell us a little bit about what qualities and experience you look for in your team members?
Many of the members of our team have been touched in one way or another by fertility challenges. Those who have not faced personal fertility challenges are passionate about helping our clients to create their families. The characteristics we look for in our case managers are intelligence, empathy, organization, and innovative thinking.
Once an individual or family makes the decision to pursue egg or sperm donation, what are the immediate first steps?
The first step will be for the Donor Concierge case manager to have a consultation with the intended parents so that they can fully understand the qualities and characteristics they want in a donor before we begin the search. The clients who can appreciate our services best are those who have tried to find the right fit on their own. Most intended parents are brand new at the process before they find donor concierge and will not be aware of the pitfalls they may encounter along the way. We have helped thousands of IPs and understand how to navigate the process from start to finish. In the beginning, you don’t know what you don’t know.
We understand you offer a few different packages – can you tell us a little bit more about the variety of services you offer?
We work with intended parents who are looking for an egg donor, sperm donor, or surrogate and offer different levels of service, depending on how much assistance the intended parent wants. Our basic packages are designed to help intended parents find a donor or surrogate quickly and efficiently. We offer more extensive services for clients who want Donor Concierge to be involved through the retrieval or until their child is born.
Can you tell us more about the “Parent Choice” model that you’re using vs the “old-school model”?
Donor Concierge is not a traditional egg donor agency. We have been called an agency of agencies in that we work with over 100 vetted agencies to curate the best candidates for our clients’ needs. Therefore, rather than being limited to 50-100 possible donors that any single agency might have, we search through our database of 25,000 donor profiles to find the egg donor who best fits our clients’ needs. They can then feel confident that they have done their due diligence and have seen all of their options. The same is true with helping our client to find sperm donors.
To help those who are looking for a gestational carrier, our medical team reviews surrogate profiles from 75 or more surrogacy agencies. Once we have reviewed the available profiles, we request medical records for the healthiest potential surrogate candidates. We work closely with the intended parents’ clinic to find surrogate candidates who meet their doctor’s requirements for the ideal gestational carrier. Our process saves the parents a lot of time and frustration and enables them to be matched with an excellent surrogate in 4-6 weeks and before they pay any money to the agency.
Do you have any tips for those just starting the surrogacy journey?
Remember that your gestational carrier chooses you as much as you choose her. It is a personal, interactive relationship, not just a business relationship. You should plan to be in touch with your surrogate regularly. Remember that she has a family and has had uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries, or she would not be considered a candidate. Be respectful of her time and her family. Most surrogates are not in it for purely monetary reasons but because they love their own children and want to give that same gift to someone who can’t carry a pregnancy.
How do you screen egg and sperm donors?
The agencies we work with do the initial screening of egg donors with more extensive medical screening occurring after an egg donor has been chosen. We help our clients by having first-time donors have AMH testing to make sure the donor has good ovarian reserve. If the donor is a repeat donor, we will ask that the cycle records be sent to your doctor. Your doctor’s team then reviews the results of the AMH and the cycle results, and they will share their recommendations with you. We can also validate academic records and other profile claims based on the intended parents’ requests.
Sperm donors are tested at the time they make their donation, and then their sperm is frozen.
How much does surrogacy cost on average?
The average cost of surrogacy today is $150 – $200,000. There are many factors to consider when it comes to evaluating the total cost of surrogacy.
How long does it typically take to find an egg donor? Sperm donor?
Using our internal donor database, we help our clients find an egg donor in 2-3 weeks. The time frame is similar for sperm donors.
The fertility journey can be an emotional and complex one. Do you have any advice for those feeling overwhelmed by the process?
The fertility journey can be emotionally, psychologically, and financially draining. We have helped thousands of intended parents navigate this process and can help parents get through it with far fewer bumps along the way. We are here not just to help you find the third-party candidates you need but to help lead you through what might otherwise feel like a labyrinth. We have the experience and the contacts to make things go much more smoothly than they would without our assistance.
That said, there are additional things that will help you along the way. Keep your sense of humor because it can be a lifesaver when things go wrong. Don’t fall in love with any one candidate (donors particularly), but rather fall in ‘like’, just in case something happens that they can’t go forward and you need to choose again. I always recommend choosing 3-5 possible donor candidates so that you have a backup plan should this occur.
What makes Donor Concierge stand out from other companies offering similar services?
Over the past 17 years we have built a reputation for integrity in our field and are considered the gold standard for service and results. We work with more intended parents each year than any other agency which means that our agency partners work hard to find what our clients are looking for. We don’t accept referral fees from our agency partners so they are eager to work with us and our clients. We choose agencies who have high integrity and offer the best candidates for our clients’ needs. Our team is knowledgeable and dedicated to helping our clients. 80% of our clients have been referred to us by a medical professional. If someone is looking for a hard-to-find donor or exceptional service, they will be repeatedly referred to us by many different professionals.
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