There's a growing awareness of the importance of organ donations in New Jersey, but experts say more donors are desperately needed.

Birmingham Hospital Conducts Kidney Transplant (Christopher Furlong, Getty Images)

According to figures from the NJ Sharing Network, there was a 14.5 percent rise in transplanted organs in 2013, the first increase in four years.  In total, 455 organs were transplanted and 179 living donor transplants were conducted last year.  Overall, the donations helped save 699 lives.

But more organ donors are needed because over 5,000 New Jerseyans are awaiting life-saving organ transplant operations.

"I like to liken the job of procuring organs to painting a bridge, a large bridge. You know you start painting it, you go on and on and on - you get to the other end and you realize you've got to start painting it all over again," said Joe Roth, president of NJ Sharing Network.

Roth stressed signing up to donate your organs is very important.

"We always like to say, and not to be trite about it, you can't take 'em with you, so maybe you can do something good when you leave this earth," Roth said.

The NJ Sharing Network works with dozens of hospitals across New Jersey to match  organs from the deceased with people who need transplants. Most donors come from hospitals and from the Motor Vehicle Commission's organ donation campaign on driver's license applications.

Public awareness about organ donation is also raised in other ways.

"We have programs where we do outreach to public schools, high schools and junior high schools.  We do outreach to colleges and universities as well as to nursing and medical schools," Roth said.

April is National Donate Life Month, a time to honor the generosity of organ and tissue donors and their families, and commemorate all transplant recipients.

"One person can save up to eight lives and that's a very important multiplier if you say yes," Roth said.