How to make the most of your in-memoriam donors

In-memory giving has grown rapidly in recent years, but charities still struggle with this sensitive subject, writes Amy Peace

Amy Peace of The Good Agency
Amy Peace of The Good Agency

In-memoriam or in-memory giving is the act of paying tribute to someone you’ve lost by donating to charity in their name. In-memory giving has grown in significance over the past five years, particularly online – JustGiving has reported a 350 per cent increase since 2007 in the number of pages set up in memory of people. Despite this, charities are still struggling with how best to communicate with these audiences, and with the extremely sensitive nature of this donation method.

It’s no secret that in-memory giving has long been the underdog of fundraising. It regularly loses out to its glamorous cousin, legacy fundraising, when it comes to budget and resource allocation. In many cases, and especially in the non-health sector (the natural home for gifts made in memory), this type of giving simply isn’t considered a big part of what the charity does. In-memory donations subsequently go uncaptured and donors are treated no differently from other types of supporters.

In other cases, it’s a fear of upsetting donors that holds charities back. Mirroring how we respond to those who are grieving in our everyday lives, we find ourselves stepping on eggshells, worried about saying something that might offend or alienate supporters. We shy away from promoting ways to give in-memory, or to continue giving, for fear of appearing crass or insensitive.

I appreciate the heightened need for sensitivity. The last thing we want is for a need- and jeopardy-fuelled fundraising appeal to land on the doorstep of someone who has just lost someone they love. But I don’t agree that ignoring them is the answer. The in-memory donors I have spoken to have all expressed a desire to maintain a link with their chosen charity, which in itself is a link to the person they love. So why aren’t we giving them the chance?

The future climate for in-memory giving looks strong, which is another reason why charities need to re-examine their strategies or risk losing out. According to an ICM research survey, giving to charity is now the most popular way to pay tribute to someone, above giving flowers. Combine that with the forecasted growth in the mortality rate – likely to increase by up to a third by 2050, according to Legacy Foresight – and there is a significant opportunity for charities to grow their in-memory programmes.

With this in mind, here are my top five tips for achieving success:

1 Break down department silos Your in-memory programme might belong to your legacy team, but it runs through every element of your fundraising, so integration is essential.

2 Capture in-memory motivations This might sound obvious but, given that this is one of the most personal ways to give, recognising a donor's motivation will be the first step to continuing that relationship by creating personal relevance.

3 Personalise the experience through rich data capture Beyond their in-memory motivation, rich data capture such as name and relationship with the deceased is essential to ensuring careful targeting and sensitivity.

4 Don’t be afraid Create opportunities to continue the conversation and to allow donors to engage in other ways. Timeliness and sensitivity will of course be key.

5 Build the relationship on their terms Make sure donors feel in control of the relationship. Always seek permission to keep them informed.

Putting aside what is good fundraising and what is not, we owe it to our in-memory donors to deliver an experience that is personal and sensitive, and recognises the meaningful involved in the making of  that gift.

When people give in memory, they’re often trying to bring something good out of a bad situation. They want to be able to remember their loved one in a positive way by knowing that their gifts will bring hope to someone else. It’s not about lasering their motivation onto an administrative thank you letter. It’s about delivering a truly uplifting experience that helps them to keep their loved one’s memory alive.

Amy Peace is a planner at The Good Agency

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