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.

» MORE: Honor a loved one with an online memorial. Create one for free with Cake.

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.”
» MORE: Honor a loved one with an online memorial. Create one for free with Cake.

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.
» MORE: Honor a loved one with an online memorial. Create one for free with Cake.

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.


  1. Indiegogo-Wp. (2016). Pitching Your Passion: How to Make an Amazing Crowdfunding Video. Indiegogo. 

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