10 simple tips for persuasive in-memoriam fundraising

10 simple tips for persuasive in-memoriam fundraising

Kevin Kibble provides his top 10 tips on in-memoriam fundraising


In-memoriam fundraising is a concept that some charities have been struggling with for a while. But they don’t have to be. It’s a reliable source of income (everyone has to die), and since the beginning of time people have wanted to mark the death of someone they care for with a tribute of some sort.

What makes charities nervous is that it’s a sensitive area of fundraising. Trustees and service delivery colleagues can be very sceptical, if not openly hostile, towards a fundraising method that can be seen as intrusive, and many organisations have explicit guidelines preventing fundraisers contacting the bereaved for an extended period following a death.

But all experience and research shows that it is perfectly OK to contact the bereaved as long as it is done sensitively and appropriately, through a specially designed programme that everyone can see, believe in and accept. So, here are some ‘top tips’ for making that programme work for your organisation.


1. Get buy-in

It’s essential that you get all fundraising departments on board. Colleagues in events and community, for example, will need to understand how developing in-memoriam income might impact on their areas. In cause-of-death charities, for instance, much of the event income from sponsored events will be in-memoriam motivated, and research shows that people who make multiple in-memoriam gifts are more likely to leave larger legacies to that charity.


2. Use the right words 

Make sure all relevant staff are trained properly in use of appropriate language, approach and behaviour. Telephone fundraisers should have training in listening skills and should know what to say and, more importantly, what not to say to in-memoriam donors.


3. Make it easy

Build a proper in-memoriam facility on your website so it’s easy for people to find. Recently bereaved people may have made a firm decision to raise money in memory of a loved one, so make it simple for them to carry it through.


4. Give people responsibility 

Give one member of the fundraising team ownership of the programme. Allow them to nurture, develop and monitor it, and be its champion.


5. Practice makes perfect

Test, test and test again – and test some more before you include in-memoriam donors in your direct marketing programme. Remember: it’s not about you, it’s all about them!


6. Communication is key 

Get your communications right from day one. Send prompt thank yous to donors and always include an offer to stay in touch. Many people giving in memory of someone will want to stay in contact with the chosen charity.


7. Think long-term

With creativity, care and attention you can develop a substantial income stream in the future by maintaining communications with your donors. Again, it is absolutely vital that appropriate communications and engagement opportunities are used for follow-up approaches to develop in-memoriam donors into longer-term supporters.


8. Include tribute funds

These serve a number of functions, not least as a focal point for the bereaved. Although fund holders know the income goes to general funds, the fund acts almost as their own individual charity, and it’s a powerful motivator for peer-to-peer fundraising. Testimonials from fund holders have shown how helpful these funds can be following a bereavement, and they can bring both income for the charity and comfort for the bereaved for a long time. Being able to remember someone on special dates can also be a great fundraising opportunity.


9. Build a network

Build relationships with people outside your organisation, such as funeral directors, so they are aware of you and can recommend you. Sometimes bereaved people aren’t sure where they would like their in-memoriam tributes to be placed.


10. Be optimistic 

You might think that in-memoriam and tribute funds are not appropriate for your organisation, but remember they can be celebration funds and not just remembrance funds. People will always want to remember loved ones and may well want to do so if they’re attracted to or supportive of your cause. So, at the very least, a simple online book of remembrance should be available.

To sum up: if an in-memoriam programme is developed within a defined communication plan, using appropriate language and reflecting the donor’s need for their gift to be valued, it should reassure colleagues that there is a supportive element in the communications, but also that it can still deliver a cost-effective income stream.


Kevin Kibble is CEO at Caspari Foundation


This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 23, November 2012

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