Memorial Fund Guide: How to Start One in Memory of a Loved One

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Did you have a loved one recently pass who was passionate about giving back to others? Are you looking to provide a gift for a person or charity in need in their honor? If so, setting up a memorial fund can help you process your grief in a thoughtful manner. 

Jump ahead to these sections:

In this post, you’ll discover how to honor your loved one through a funeral service tribute, a crowdfunding campaign, and scholarship opportunities. By emphasizing the work and passions of your loved one, you’ll find success no matter which platform you choose.

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-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, deciding how best to memorialize them may not be the only cause of stress. 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.

What Is a Memorial Fund?

A memorial fund is an opportunity for you to celebrate a loved one with a grant or gift made in their honor. The money you raise in their name can create a lasting legacy that will have an impact for years to come.

There are many kinds of memorial funds, each dedicated to a different cause or passion. We listed a few common options below. Read through the categories and questions below and see if any feels right for your loved one. 

  • Childhood: When your loved one was young, was there an organization that helped shape them? Consider summer camps, scouting groups, and 4H projects.
  • Formative years: Did your loved one blossom in high school or college? Were there any academic, arts, or sports-related groups they belonged too? 
  • Scientific research: Was your loved one passionate about science or engineering? Setting up a fund for a cause or cure might suit them.
  • Local community: Perhaps the city council is trying to raise funds for solar panels on city buildings or build a new park. Appropriate if your loved one was a dutiful resident.
  • Nonprofits: Did your loved one have a soft spot for public broadcasting, protecting rocky shore habitats, or donating medical supplies to animal rescues? Were they a volunteer?
  • Physical memorial: Did your loved one have a favorite spot? By building a park bench, plaque, or stone memorial, you’ll create a space where people can visit to grieve.
  • Unexpected expenses: Did a sudden death leave behind some financial hardships? If so, you may also want to consider a fund specifically to help out with funeral costs or even a couple mortgage payments. 

Outside helping loved ones through grief a financial crunch, it’s essential to make sure that the organization you choose can provide you with measures of impact. Look for things like personal letters from scholarship recipients, pictures of animals wearing their new prosthetics, or end-of-year financial statements from larger organizations. 

If you’re having trouble deciding, consider putting it to a vote with your closest relatives. Asking for input may reveal some things you hadn’t considered.

How to Set up a Memorial Fund

Now that you’ve made a decision on where you’d best like to leave a legacy in your loved one’s name, you’ll need to figure how to do so. Determining which opportunity is best suited for your memorial fund will have different considerations. Below you’ll find options for funeral programming, a crowdfunding page, and scholarships.

Organizing through funeral services and obituary notices

Some people prefer to set up a donation fund and use space in an obituary or funeral service program to let others know about it. 

You might ask that instead of flowers or gifts to the family, mourners directly contribute to a charity. 

If you’re not sure how to word it, here are ten brief examples to consider for an obituary or funeral program:

  1. “Our family humbly requests that in lieu of flowers or gifts, we ask you to donate to make  a memorial donation [to this organization] in their honor.”
  2. “The family of Peter Schneider respectfully requests your contribution to the ‘Schneider Cancer Memorial Fund’ at [this organization].
  3. “Because Raphaella Sanchez was an advocate of children’s literacy and food security, please consider donating to [this organization] in lieu of flowers.” 
  4. “By contributing to [organization], you’ll be helping our family continue the legacy of our beloved father’s work.
  5. “Our mother was greatly impacted by polio her entire life. With a donation in her honor, you’ll be ensuring that other victims of this disease can live their best lives.”
  6. “As an ocean conservationist, uncle Henry became a proponent of the Southern Resident Orcas in Puget Sound. Please consider a relief donation to [organization] to further his work.”
  7. “Organizations like [nonprofit] have been able to provide children worldwide with fresh water. Please consider a donation in Aunt Pat’s name.”
  8. “As you all know, Harold was an advocate of our community arts program. It would honor his memory to continue his legacy by donating to the arts program at [high school].
  9. “Gene was an outdoor enthusiast his whole life. By contributing to [fund], you’ll be ensuring a continuation of his life’s work.”
  10. “Our family wishes to make sure the loved ones left behind in this wake of loss are cared for. So, we humbly ask that in lieu of flowers, all gifts be made to the Smith family.”

Via crowdfunding platforms

If the financial goal for which you’re appealing has a specific amount in mind, then you’ll need to look into a crowdfunding platform. Conduct some research and then choose the best platform that fits your needs with the fewest costs involved to maximize the benefits.

Online fundraising platforms have easy-to-follow instructions that you can link to your social media pages. Although online fundraising has never been easier, make sure this is the appropriate medium beforehand. 

Here’s an easy step-by-step process using crowdfunding resources to help you reach your goal.

  1. Create an account. When you sign up for a crowdfunding platform, you’ll be asked to provide some personal information to access the account and funds once the campaign has finished.
  2. Create a hook. Videos and wording for memorial donations should include a compelling backstory. You’ll want to provide information that encourages people to contribute. Here are a few ideas and tips:
    • Craft a short and to-the-point story to hold the audience’s attention. You may go through a few rough drafts before you decide on the best message.
    • Convey the benefits so your audience feels compassionate to the goal. Include those who are affected and how this donation helps them.
    • Pictures tell a great story, too. Choose some good ones, and make sure they’re not copyrighted.
    • Be personal. 
    • Add links and stories to elevate the goal.
    • End your statement with a call to action.
  3. Link to social media pages. Linking your fund to social media will help get the word out. Just make sure to share a story with the link and paraphrase the crowdfunding dialogue to capture engagement.

Once you have your story up and linked on social media, you can choose the level of promotion. More may help fundraise, but it’s not necessary if you need the time to spend grieving with loved ones.

Educational scholarships

Developing a scholarship at your loved one’s hometown high school or college alma mater can be a simple process. Most schools will already have a to-do list ready to follow once you have a goal in mind. That said, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Determine your budget. If you and your family already have a set fund, determine how you would like the money to be disbursed. If you don’t want to manage the money yourself, there are agencies set up who will manage the money for you.
  • Build your budget. You can use the crowdfunding method above to raise money if you choose.
  • Determine your criteria. One fun part is deciding who you plan on helping and what measures are involved. So, get some heads together and then brainstorm how you want to help students in need.
  • Consult with the school. All schools have paperwork that you’ll need to fill out to start and manage the scholarship.
  • Vote on the recipients. Gather your team of contributors together to read through the applications, then vote.
  • Award the scholarship. Even more fun than deciding what your criteria will be is deciding who is going to receive the scholarship money. So, have fun and make an event out of it if you can.

Where Can You Promote or Post Your Memorial Fund?

You've got a few options to post a memorial fund, and hopefully, the following ideas will help you determine which one makes the most sense for your situation.

Online memorial sites

A captive audience can make a memorial fundraiser more successful, making the memorial website ideal for composing the idea. Hook your readers and hold their attention with a story that comes from the heart. 

Let them know what that money is going to accomplish and how it can change the life of someone special.

Most memorial sites will have a built-in link to search for the specific charity. From there, the donor can determine the amount of money they'd like to donate and whether it's a one-time or recurring donation. 

Pro-tip: Not everyone wants to donate to a charity via third parties due to service fees. So, make sure you're upfront with people about what that charge may look like if they visit the website directly. Still, convenience negates the nominal charges.

Facebook

Facebook offers an excellent option for promoting and posting memorial funds. It's a relatively simple process, too. Here's how you do it:

 

  • First, click on What's On Your Mind?

 

  • Find and click on the (ellipsis) symbol located next to the microphone.
  • Then, click on Raise Money
  • From there, you can search for the correct charity.

 

 

If Facebook doesn't list the correct charity, copy/paste a URL link from the charity's website to your page with some instructions. You can even set up a charity link to help pay for funeral expenses, too.

GoFundMe

GoFundMe takes just a few steps to start a fundraiser. Let's take a look at the steps to make it successful.

  • Choose a target for raising money from a few hundred dollars to as much as you like.
  • Name your fundraiser after your loved one or whatever is best suited for the goal.
  • Select a photo or video to attach to the fundraiser. 
  • Tell a story about your loved one to persuade people to donate.
  • Publish your fundraiser and follow the available guides to share on social media, emails, and more.
  • Add a community to the fundraiser to increase the chances of raising money for the goal.
  • Connect the fundraiser to your financial institution or send a link to another person or charity so they can link up their bank.

Don't be bashful about asking people to share the GoFundMe page with others, either. When communities join together, uniting in a common charitable goal, beautiful things can happen.

Funeral Funds

Funeral expenses can take their toll on grieving families. That's why some religions or traditions are all about donations that support the overall cost. With unusual times, globally dispersed family and friends, and decreasing or changing abilities to attend funerals, websites like this help others remain supportive in times of death.

Creating a campaign on sites like Plumfund or Ever Loved is relatively simple, too, and free of charge. Anyone can then share it on social media or through email. There's just one thing that might surprise people—the third-party service fee. Although nominal, these fees can be off-putting for some, but hopefully not enough that it would deter their charity.

More social media accounts

Social media accounts like Instagram or TikTok make space for fundraising directly from a profile or in a person's story. To bring attention to the fundraiser, create a post with a photo or video share and help your audience see the link on your profile. 

Personal or professional website

Another option is to use the resources of owning a website to your benefit. If you don't run one, you could also ask a business to host the memorial fund for you. While these may be less common forms of raising donations or awareness for a loved one, they're nonetheless effective.

Pro-tip: In cases such as this, be as transparent as possible and link the fundraiser to an outside source rather than anything that can be misconstrued.

How Do Memorial Funds Honor Loved Ones? 

Providing others with a chance to help a cause or members of their community is a fantastic way to honor those you’ve lost. Plus, being able to share their life and message on a platform only adds to their legacy.

So, whether you’re creating a bench for someone to sit with their thoughts or a way for them to help children in need, the results make for a powerful statement about the life of any loved one.

infographic of how to set up a memorial fund


Sources:

  1. Indiegogo-Wp. (2016). Pitching Your Passion: How to Make an Amazing Crowdfunding Video. Indiegogo. go.indiegogo.com/blog/2016/09/pitching-passion-make-amazing-crowdfunding-video.html 
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