TSBC Resources

Why Do Sperm Banks Need So Many Donor Applicants?

Sperm banks around the country need donors, and it seems like every electronic bulletin board has ads urging young men to Apply Now! Why are so many donor applicants needed?

Can't any man become a sperm donor if he wants to? Nope! A qualified sperm donor is not easy to find, so banks need LOTS of applicants.


One Out of Five

  • Most men make millions of sperm.The normal volume of semen per ejaculation varies from 1.5 to 5.0 milliliters, and the sperm count varies from 20 to 150 million sperm per milliliter.
  • A normal sperm count is sufficient to establish a pregnancy through sexual intercourse. In fact, even a below average sperm count may allow a man to impregnate a woman. 
  • In donor insemination, however, normal sperm counts are just not enough. Donor sperm is frozen in liquid nitrogen for long periods of time (even years) before it is shipped across the country or around the world. In preparation for use, the sperm sample is thawed, manipulated in the lab, and placed inside a woman's reproductive tract.
  • Since many sperm die during the freezing process, men who want to be paid sperm donors must have above average sperm counts. Approximately four out of five men (80%) have sperm counts that are in the normal range. A normal count means a man is likely to be successful in achieving pregnancy naturally, but these counts are not adequate for donor insemination.
  • Only one out of five men (20% of applicants) has a high enough sperm count to preliminarily qualify to enter the formal donor screening process.

Beyond Sperm Count

  • After qualifying on the basis of sperm count, donors need to pass a physical exam and undergo rigorous genetic screening and regular FDA (infectious disease) testing. Donors must be desirable to the bank's client population: ethnicity, height, education, family health history are all factors that clients explore.
  • Donors fill out extensive questionnaires and have multiple interviews. Each donor writes a personal narrative describing his personality, talents, likes and dislikes, accomplishments, and some of his future plans and goals.
  • Each successful donor must demonstrate dependability and truthfulness, and must be compliant with the many requirements in the screening process. Donors may be disqualified from the process for a number of reasons that are unrelated to sperm count.
  • Once approved, an applicant signs a contract stating that he will make regular appointments to leave a sperm sample every week for up to one year. Sperm banks pay donors for every acceptable sample.

Choosing a Donor

  • Women who would like to start their family using donor sperm request a variety of donors to choose from when making their selection. Every sperm bank needs a broad range of donors who have distinctive ethnic backgrounds, physical features, and personalities. Most women choose donors who have college degrees and who are taller than average. Men of color, particularly African American men, are underrepresented at U.S. sperm banks.
  • A small proportion of men that apply to become a sperm donor have both the high sperm count AND the other important traits that clients seek in a potential donor, therefore, the vast majority are disqualified. 
  • Sperm banks find these qualified men by screening many, many applicants.

Apply Now! 

No one knows how high their sperm count is until it's tested, so as a first step, apply to become a donor, and investigate your sperm count. You just might be one of the special 20%. After all, the odds are a lot better than winning the Powerball lottery, so why not try? 

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