There many great ways to honor someone’s memory, but none are quite as impactful as donating to charity in his or her name. A donation not only helps you feel good knowing you’re making a difference, but you also turn your mourning into a sign of hope.
Many families even ask for a donation instead of funeral flowers. When you donate, you create a lasting positive impact on the world, no matter the size of your gift.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Understand Why People Donate
- Check the Family’s Wishes
- Choose a Charity
- Research the Organization
- Learn How to Gift in Someone’s Name
- Make Your Donation
- Notify the Family
- Follow the Charity
However, before you make your memorial donation, make sure to consider the steps below. Since this is such an important tribute to someone you love, ensure you’re doing everything properly with this step-by-step guide.
1. Understand Why People Donate
First, it’s important to consider why people donate to charity in someone else’s name after death. Even if the family hasn’t requested donations instead of flowers, you might still choose to give out of your own kindness. Here are the most common reasons people donate after the passing of a loved one:
- Funeral expenses - One of the most common reasons is to help with funeral costs. If the individual didn’t have the time to plan financially for their own funeral, these costs fall on the family. Donations for funeral expenses offer support in a time of need.
- Support medical research - Another reason many people donate is to support a cause related to the individual’s death. For instance, if the loved one passed away from an illness, injury, or condition, donating to medical research is a great way to honor their memory and work towards a cure.
- Tribute to an important cause - Everyone has things they’re passionate about. If the deceased was passionate about a particular cause, like animal rights or environmental concerns, donating to these causes in memory of them is a powerful tribute to their passions.
2. Check the Family’s Wishes
Now that you understand why people choose to donate, it’s time to start the process. First, you need to check the family’s wishes. They might specifically request donations go to a certain charity or cause. In addition, they might collect the funds themselves to make a larger donation in the deceased’s honor.
The best way to check what the family wishes is to review the memorial, obituary, or funeral invitation. This is where you’ll see any requests “in lieu of flowers” or requests for donations. It’s always important to respect the family’s wishes when it comes to choosing the charity and making your donation.
If the family already has a cause in mind and is collecting donations, your next step is to simply gift your funds to the individual in charge. This is typically a family member. Make sure your payment is secure, and keep track of your gift for your own records. If there is no charity selected already or if you’ll be responsible for making your own donation, keep reading.
3. Choose a Charity
Sometimes the family doesn’t choose a charity in honor of the recipient. They might ask for other types of gifts, or it might be up to guests to decide where they would like their donation to go. If you’re responsible for choosing your own charity, be mindful of this process.
While you might be passionate about a number of causes, this is about the deceased and his or her memory. This isn’t the time to focus on the causes that matter most to you unless that’s what the family specifically requested. To gain some perspective, consider the following:
- What was the deceased passionate about?
- Did the person pass away from a particular illness, disease, or condition?
- Was the deceased involved with local charities or other organizations?
It’s important to gift to a cause your loved one would support. When in doubt, report back to the family. They might have more ideas in mind that lead you in the right direction.
4. Research the Organization
Unfortunately, not all causes are worthy organizations. While we might want to believe that every charity and cause is doing everything right, this sadly is not the reality. There are a lot of things to keep in mind before handing your money over to someone else. You need to ensure the charity is actually doing what they say they’re doing and that there’s no risk of fraud.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends the following steps for verifying charities:
- Check the website - Does the charity’s website give key information like how it uses donations, how much of your donation supports programs, and so on? If you can’t find this information, that’s a red flag.
- Look for reviews - Did you know charities have their own reviews? It’s true. Searching the charity name and “review” or “rating” is a great way to learn more about whether this is a trusted organization.
- Beware common scams - As sad as it is, many people trick others online by appearing to be a legitimate, well-known charity. Always make sure you’re on the correct website and that you’re gifting to the right program.
- How will your donation be used? - Many charities make it clear how your donation is used. Some even allow you to customize your gift in support of a specific program or project. Look for this type of transparency.
- Take your time - Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a gift quickly or overlooking any of these steps. Taking your time is the best way to consider all your options.
- Use a charity navigator - When in doubt, use a respected organization like the BBB Wise Giving Alliance or Charity Navigator to determine where to give your money.
In addition, be wary of crowdfunding websites and other social media donating tools. While it’s true these are sometimes worthy causes, there’s little regulation or control. Giving to a legitimate, well-known organization is the best way to ensure your money is put to the right use.
5. Learn How to Gift in Someone’s Name
Most charities have the ability to gift in someone else’s name, but you’ll need to figure out the right way to do this. Note that this isn’t usually the same as gifting a donation on your own. Many organizations have separate donation portals for this specific thing.
Once you’ve chosen the charity, search on their website for how to make a gift in someone’s honor. You might also search for how to gift in someone else's name. When in doubt, contact the charity. Representatives are usually willing to help you navigate to the right donation tool, and they might conduct the donation for you.
6. Make Your Donation
It’s time to make the donation. Luckily, this has never been easier. Most of the time you can do this online with a credit or debit card. If you’re gifting to a small or local organization, there’s a chance you might have to send a traditional check.
When you submit your donation, fill out the deceased individual’s name in the “in honor of” section. You might also include the family’s contact information so the organization updates them about the status of the donation. Depending on the charity, a certificate or other memento might go to the family in the deceased person’s honor.
Make sure you keep a record of your donation. You should receive a receipt or confirmation with your donation. If you’re giving your donation in person, ask someone for a confirmation. Why do you need to keep such accurate records? Even though you’re gifting in someone else's name, your donation possibly is tax-deductible. That means you’ll need this record when it’s time to file your taxes.
7. Notify the Family
After making your donation, update the family. Some organizations send e-cards or other mail to notify the family that a donation was made in their honor. However, you should still send a notice on your own, so the family knows where the gift came from.
When in doubt, include this notice in your sympathy card. A sympathy card is the best way to show the family you’re thinking of them. Including a notice of your donation shows you’ve gone the extra mile to do something special. This is a legacy worth celebrating, so keep the deceased’s next-of-kin in the loop on the status of the donation. They’ll likely want to send you a thank you letter for the donation as well.
8. Follow the Charity
Following along with the charity and their projects is the best way to stay connected with your contribution. Most charities have an active online community, and they’re quick to update followers about how they’re putting donations to use. Become a part of the community to see how your funds are working towards a brighter future.
Following along with the charity’s work also fuels your connection with your deceased loved one. Seeing how their memory lives on through the organization’s kindness is a beautiful gift. It shows that through grief comes real hope.
Make a Lasting Memory
There are a lot of funeral gifts to choose from, but a charitable gift is the one that makes the greatest impact. Flowers fade and cards get lost. While these are powerful ways to show your support to the family, a donation in someone’s honor shows you’re committed to making the world a better place.
However, it pays to be mindful of how you gift your charitable donation. Whether you’re passing along the funds to the family or you’re making the donation yourself, ensure you follow these tips above.
A great time for a charitable donation could be during awareness months, like the HIV/AIDS Awareness Month that takes place every December. This could be a way to remember a loved one who has passed.
Donations are a great way to make a positive impact after death. Are you interested in encouraging loved ones to gift to charity when your own time comes? Start end-of-life planning to make this a reality no matter what you’re passionate about.