10 Tips to Inspire In-Memoriam and Honorarium Giving

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by Robin Cabral

“Our in-memoriam giving is declining. What should we do?”

Recently, a hospice client asked me this very question during one of our recent coaching sessions. It got me thinking. Demographics are changing, and, of course, a recent pandemic altered the way that funerals have been held.

What we do know is that Baby Boomers much prefer information, and young donors much prefer organizational outcomes. So yes, the typical in-memoriam giving may not be as attractive to this demographic of donors. Compound that with a pandemic (in which funeral homes have capacity levels and social distancing requirements), and you will have a recently flailing program.

As many of you know, I have clients both in the U.S. and Australia. And those two countries are not only 10,000 miles apart, but they also have distinct ways of doing things. Australia tends to model the U.K. model of fundraising and philanthropy. I spend time studying techniques and methods globally and expanding beyond my familiar U.S. perspective, and I urge my clients to do the same.

As such, I often turned to the models in Australia to help guide some of my smaller clients to adopt new ways of being and doing.

Here are the steps I recommend that smaller groups take to attract more in-memoriam gifts:

  1. I recommend that you incorporate in-memoriam giving as part of an actual function in your fundraising efforts and not just treat it as an afterthought. In the U.K. and Australia, to a lesser degree, it can be a significant source of income. Dedicate time and resources to making it more of a central function. Make it a process and invest budget into it.
  2. Consider making in-memoriam giving an actual campaign in which you offer a physical, tangible memorial that donors can “purchase” to have their loved one’s name inscribed on a memorial. For example, an in-memoriam physical sculpture with engraved names, tiles, bricks or whatever you can imagine.
  3. Alternatively, some organizations also establish special recognition events, such as the “Light Up a Life” series of special community events organized by hospices during November and December.
  4. Consider making in-memoriam giving more prominent on your website and in other collateral materials. Consider creating its separate landing page as a specific giving method.
  5. Countries such as Australia and the U.K. offer tribute funds. You can create a tribute fund with a landing page in memory of a loved one or a caregiver, celebrating their life. You can then urge others to donate on behalf of your established tribute fund to the organization, much like a peer-to-peer campaign.
  6. Promote in-memoriam giving as you would bequest giving across all channels.
  7. Once you obtain in-memoriam donors, consider placing them in the dedicated email sequence that recognizes their giving. This, in turn, begins to cultivate a highly personalized relationship with these donors.
  8. Create an online area where donors can share the stories of their loved ones. This will allow them to connect with your organization and their loved ones in a more profound way, and enables the organization to deepen its relationship with the donor.
  9. Consider creating a sustainer giving program to specific tribute funds.
  10. Consider creating challenges or other events that participants can take part in, all the while honoring or memorializing their loved ones. Challenges could include a marathon, a walk, a hike, a swim, etc.

For far too many years, we have had a very passive approach to in-memoriam and in-honorarium giving in the U.S. It is now time to expand our research to what other countries are doing and how they are doing it, and adapt some of these best practices to our small fundraising shops.

Send me a line on how you will take some of these best practices and start incorporating them to develop greater in-memoriam giving in your small fundraising shop.

Check out the British Heart Foundation’s “A Gift of Hope” page for more samples and a highly recommended study of in-memoriam giving.

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