Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Honour a loved one, raise some money

Helen Barrett

Summary

The Motor Neurone Disease Association has raised more than £600,000 by creating a tribute scheme in which supporters can raise funds in memory of relatives who have died from the disease.

Background

The association wanted to build long-term relationships with donors using an integrated donor recruitment, retention and development plan. It introduced tribute funds in November 2004 as a way for family and friends to personalise their donations to the charity.

How it worked

The association launched the scheme gradually, refining the service as it went along. The scheme, which is continuing, invites supporters to set up a tribute fund using an online application form that is processed, created and confirmed within 24 hours. They can then contribute to the named fund by raising money through sponsored events or by making any one-off donation, perhaps on an anniversary.

Money can be added to the funds whenever supporters choose to do so. Supporters can create web pages to host their funds on the MND site.

When the scheme opened, the tribute funds were advertised on the MND website and covered in regular features in all of the association's magazines, newsletters and literature. A tribute fund supporter section was included in the appeal's mailing programme and the funds were integrated into the association's community and corporate fundraising teams' strategies.

Everyone who establishes a fund receives regular fund updates, anniversary markers and personal written acknowledgement of all gifts to the funds. They are also contacted regularly by email and telephone. Stephen May, legacies and tribute fund manager at the association, said: "Our tribute funds are a highly personal service provided by a small, dedicated team and supported by streamlined processes and timely, relevant communications."

Results

The association has set up 276 funds to date, with a collective value of more than £600,000. It also reports a sustained increase in the number of funds set up, with a 40 per cent increase in 2005 on the previous year. About 35 per cent of funds use the optional website service.

EXPERT VIEW

MARK PEARSON, creative director, TDA

There can be few subjects more difficult or sensitive than terminal illness, death and bereavement - it is easy to see why charity bosses might shy away from letting fundraisers anywhere near the families of people who are terminally ill or recently bereaved. But if they did shy away, they would be wrong.

As anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows, the feelings of pointlessness and powerlessness can hurt the most. In memoriam giving can be an opportunity to draw something positive out of the pointlessness of premature death. For some people, such gifts can be empowering and play a positive part in the grieving process.

The concept of tribute funds brilliantly brings in memoriam giving into the 21st century and allows fundraisers to actively promote this form of giving. For charities that deal with progressive, life-limiting conditions, such as the Motor Neurone Disease Association, tribute funds have a particular relevance and deserve to be a central part of their fundraising programmes.

When I visited the MND website I found the page on 'honouring a loved one' to be straightforward and sensitive. The simplicity of the case studies was powerful and eloquent. Other charities would do well to follow this model.

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