Memorial gifts are those donations given in memory of someone. How many times have you read an obituary something like, “In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to XYZ organization?” As someone trying to raise money for a nonprofit organization or agency, you may wonder how you can access, encourage and support memorial donations or whether it is one of those things that magically happens “out of the blue.” The fact is, even small nonprofit organizations can make memorial gifts part of the fundraising or development plan.
Cultivating memorial gifts or donations is something that must be done with some tact, but it is entirely possible to develop a memorial campaign or other process for cultivating and encouraging these gifts. Often, individuals do not know how to go about making a memorial or legacy gift and the decision is either not made, or made by family members after the individual has died. Providing current donors and supporters with the information to arrange for memorial gifts while they are alive is the most important piece of cultivating memorial gifts and making it part of the organization’s fundraising plan.
A simple brochure that explains how donors and supporters can make a lasting gift can be extremely useful. Let people know that they can name your organization as beneficiary in a life insurance plan, donate property, stocks and bonds, automobiles, or other items as a way of supporting the organization. If your organization is not equipped to handle donations of property, stock, etc., it may be important to consult a financial advisor to help you do so prior to letting supporters know this is a possibility.
Some nonprofit organizations have had good results creating a “club” or “society” of legacy/memorial donors to encourage individuals to make decisions about leaving money or assets while they are still alive. Asking individuals to consider remembering the organization in their wills can be done tactfully by including a simple line/statement/questions on all of your donor materials: “Have you remembered XYZ in your will?”
It is important to let donors and supporters know that you are equipped to handle memorial gifts and that you have the expertise to help them get their affairs in order. If you have “naming opportunities” or ways that supporters can donate to the organization as a memorial and have something named after them or some other time of memorial (a shelf in a library, a tree in the courtyard, etc.) make sure to share and publicize these opportunities.