A memorial donation is a way to honor both the deceased and their family. Many families request a memorial donation in lieu of flowers or in addition to flowers. Whether the family requests donations for funeral expenses or charitable contributions in honor of the deceased, this is a touching way to make an impact.
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However, memorial donations are more complicated than typical funeral gift arrangements. There are a lot of moving parts to consider, and you also are likely working in a strict time frame. Whether you’re setting up a memorial donation for a family member’s funeral, giving a donation, or thanking guests, this guide is here to help.
COVID-19 tip: If you're planning or attending a virtual or live streamed memorial service using a service like GatheringUs, you can still request and send funds without a physical box. Consult with your funeral or event planner to figure out the best way to collect digital donations and make sure they put the link to donate on the announcement and program.
Post-loss tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
How to Set Up a Memorial Donation
Are you considering a memorial donation for a funeral you’re planning? This can be a great alternative to flowers or other gifts. Memorial donations are for any number of things, from supporting the family, paying for the funeral, or giving to a charity or organization. Here’s how to set up a memorial donation for a family member’s funeral.
1. Determine the support you need
First, decide what type of support the family needs. Memorial donations come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What you choose depends on your specific needs and the needs of the family. It also might depend on the way in which the deceased person passed away (i.e., illness, injury, etc.) or their personal wishes.
Here are the most common types of memorials:
- Donation to charity - Many families choose to raise money through the funeral. This is typically in lieu of flowers, or instead of flowers. If the person died because of a disease, condition, or illness, supporting a research charity or organization is a great legacy to leave. The family might also choose to support a charity that meant something to the deceased, such as a women’s shelter, environmental group, or school.
- Family support - There are sometimes a lot of unexpected expenses that come along with the death of a loved one. In addition to funeral expenses, the family might need help paying for children or other dependents, overcoming medical expenses, or paying debts related to the estate. A memorial donation of this kind offers the family relief when they need it most.
- Memorial costs - Finally, with the rising cost of funerals, many families request help paying for the service. Unfortunately, not everyone starts end-of-life planning to prepare financially for their death. Their death might be sudden, or they couldn’t afford it. In these cases, the family might ask for donations to pay for these expenses.
As a family, you should feel comfortable asking for the support you need. Many people are looking for a way to help in this emotional time. Don’t be afraid to ask for financial support when it’s needed.
2. Put someone in charge of the donation
Next, make sure a family member is in charge of the donation. This is the point of contact for other family and friends when it comes to ensuring the donation is properly made.
Because this is often a confusing process, having a single person as the designated leader makes things easier. This person’s contact information should be on the obituary, funeral invitation, or memorial page. Typically, a close friend or family member oversees this process.
3. Create an online page
The easiest way to organize a memorial donation in this day and age is online. While it was common for people to write checks in the past, this is a risky choice. The funds aren’t easy to keep track of, and it’s not convenient for people to gift in this way.
Because you want to encourage donations, it needs to be as easy as possible to pay tribute. Creating an online memorial, either on social media or a crowdfunding website, is the best option. When creating your online memorial page, be sure to include the following:
- Information about the deceased
- Why this cause is important
- How the family or charity plans to use the funds
- Photos of the cause or the deceased
- Funeral information
- The donation deadline
- Optional: recommended donation
There are several free donation builders available online. You can even organize a fund through a social media page, like a Facebook page, by including links to a money-sending application or crowdfunding platform. Be sure to set a deadline so people make their donations quickly and efficiently. Again, make sure it’s as easy and accessible as possible.
4. Share the page
Now it’s time to share the page with friends and family. The benefit of creating a digital page is it’s easy to spread online, whether you post it on your social media accounts or as a link on the digital obituary.
Make sure to include information about the memorial donation in the obituary, death announcement, or funeral invite. You could list the link to the online donation page or contact information for the designated person in charge.
Don’t be afraid to share the page several times. After the initial news of the passing, many people might forget to make a donation in time. Ideally, all donations would be collected before the funeral. Because life gets in the way, remind friends and family digitally that the donation period is coming to a close.
5. Use the funds for good
Finally, ensure the funds go to their allotted use. It’s easy to lose track of the donation as things become emotional around the funeral. This is why having a single person in charge simplifies the situation.
Once the funeral passes, it’s time to make the donation. Whether the funds go to the family or a local organization, ensure they’re put to good use. If possible, share an update about how this donation is being used on the memorial page.
It’s a kind gesture to those who donate to follow up on the status of their gift. Include photos, a family update, and any other information that you think is appropriate. Many charities provide photos of their team in action if you request them. Get a bit creative to make a remarkable legacy.
How to Give to a Memorial Donation
Are you the one on the gifting end of the memorial donation? If you’re attending a funeral that requests a donation in lieu of flowers, you might not know what steps to take next. Luckily, it’s a fairly simple and straightforward process.
1. Check the obituary or funeral invite
The first thing to do is read through the obituary or funeral invitation. This is where you’ll likely find the specific request from the family. If they’ve listed they’d like a donation in lieu of flowers, search for additional information about that organization or cause.
If they’re raising money for the family or funeral costs, there is typically a memorial page online. From there, you make your donation directly through the website. Otherwise, you might need to give a gift directly to the organization or cause. In this case, the family usually supplies clear information about how to make the gift in the deceased’s honor.
2. Keep track of your donation
Make sure you keep a receipt of your donation. Some donations are actually tax-deductible. If you make a donation to a qualified charitable donation, this is something that you’ll want to know about during tax season.
Note that gifts to the family or crowdfunding campaigns are not considered tax-deductible. The IRS views these as personal gifts. However, if you’re gifting directly to a qualified organization or charity, this might be deductible. When in doubt, speak to a tax professional.
3. Follow up with the family
Once you’ve made your contribution, your work is done. You might also want to follow up with the family to ensure they’ve received your gift. However, make sure you do this at an appropriate time. The funeral is not usually the time to ask about your gift.
It’s common for the family to share an update about how these funds help. You might also wish to share the donation campaign with others if you feel that’s welcome and appropriate. Even those who aren’t invited to the funeral might be interested in the cause or supporting the family.
Tip: Read our article on creative ways to give money if you're looking to take a more unique approach.
Say Thank You for Donating
Memorial donations are an expression of kindness. They support the family in their time of need. As such, they deserve recognition. Saying thank you for donating is something that you do with funeral thank you cards.
When you say thank you for the donation, keep it simple. Write a personalized note, preferably sent through the mail. Since it’s already considered polite to send thank you notes for attending a funeral, also include a small message about the donation. Focus on how this donation meant a lot to the family, how it will be used, and why you’re thankful.
When in doubt, consider these messages:
- Thank you for your kind donation to [cause].
- The family thanks you for your generous gift.
- Your financial support made this time much less stressful. Thank you.
- Your gift and kindness mean the world to us.
- Thank you for your supportive gift. We are donating to [cause] in [name’s] honor.
Short and sweet is always best. Don’t forget also to say thank you on the memorial page itself. Sharing an update and a kind message about the impact of this gift online shows you’re thinking of your supporters.
Get the Financial Support Your Family Needs
A memorial donation is an effective way to receive financial support in a time of crisis. Whether you’re raising money for a worthy cause or helping the family, every cent matters. Many people are looking for a way to aid the family and honor the deceased after the passing. While flowers are a wonderful symbol of sympathy, a memorial donation has a longer impact.
If you’re starting a memorial in someone’s honor, these tips help you get started. Make sure you follow the proper steps to keep the process organized and efficient. Emotions are already running high during a time like this. Don’t let the stress of organizing a memorial fund get in the way of this process.
And if you're interested in other unique ways to honor a loved one, you can consider a custom urn from a store like Foreverence or even have a memorial diamond made from ashes with a company like Eterneva.
“Topic No. 506 Charitable Contributions.” Internal Revenue Service. IRS.gov.