The Changing Face of Memorial Donations
Funeral directors and nonprofit development directors know one another well. They have long-standing relationships that go way back. Memorial donations are most definitely not a new thing, but like most areas of fundraising, memorial donations are benefiting from the Internet and other advances in technology.
Not surprisingly, the "offline" memorial donations process is quite labor-intensive. Funeral directors employ staff or volunteers to hand out collection envelopes, collect cash and checks, write donation cards, transcribe donor information (if it is even available), and account for and deliver donations to each charity. Funds can trickle in for months after a service as donors rediscover those donation envelopes hidden away in their suit jacket pockets. All too often, the intended donation never even gets made as a result of the process.
Once these donations make it to the nonprofit, charity staffers are left to piece together donor information if it’s available, enter it into a database and send out donation acknowledgments. It’s a laborious and inefficient process for the nonprofit, funeral director and donor that results in more work for all involved and fewer donations ultimately getting to the cause.
Like other sectors, funeral homes are employing the Internet and technology to automate and improve processes. Funeral homes that use technology that creates a record and tracks details of each funeral service are becoming the norm. Funeral directors are even able to offer webcasts of services and provide an online "Book of Memories” that is an enduring tribute to a loved one.
MemorialDonations.org has emerged as a link between more than 1,000 funeral homes in North America and nonprofits as a way for individuals to make memorial online donations via credit card to the family’s designated nonprofit or any charity of the donor’s choice provided that the nonprofit is signed up as part of the program. The Memorial Donation Handler service was introduced in July 2010 and is associated with FrontRunner Professional, a leading funeral home automation company in North America. (Disclosure: Memorial Donations Handler uses Artez Interactive as the donation processor.)
The process automates the donation process and deposits all funds directly into the nonprofit’s merchant account. The funds are available for immediate use. No more well-intentioned envelopes forgotten in suit coat pockets! In addition, the donor receives an immediate donation acknowledgment e-mail as well as a tax receipt from the nonprofit he donated to. It all happens automatically via the Memorial Donations Handler system. Each nonprofit also has login access to the system to receive full reconciliation reporting and donor contact details, which can be downloaded and imported into its database.
The process is streamlined and easy for the funeral home as well as the charity. But most importantly it better serves the donor who wants to make a memorial donation. More than 90 percent of individuals making a memorial donation have stated a preference to make an online credit card donation rather than a donation via check. This is yet another indicator of how individuals are not only comfortable donating online but actually prefer the convenience.
In an environment where many nonprofits are seeing memorial donations decline with the increased trend of cremations, an online method can help increase memorial donations. With more cremations, fewer people are actually visiting many funeral homes. However, more people are viewing service details, visiting the book of memories or even virtually attending a service online.
The reality is that memorial donations are relevant to organizations of all sizes as donors make memorial donations equally to large and smaller local organizations through the Memorial Donations Handler. Online memorial donations have been equally split between large, nationally recognized nonprofits and smaller local organizations. An online system simply enables more charities to be represented in more funeral homes, at more services, and raise more money than ever before. A program such as Memorial Donations Handler is open to any organization regardless of size for a nominal, one-time setup fee and a processing fee for donations made online. There is minimal effort or risk involved in incorporating a growing network of funeral homes for an NPOs' memorial donations strategy.
Online memorial donations are also happening from inside the funeral home via kiosks that enable people attending a service to make credit card memorial donations at the time of the service.
Many organizations have some form of memorial donations program, and very likely, it’s a similar program to the one that has been in place for years. As organizations look to update and expand their programs of all sorts, this is a reminder that even the oldest programs are benefitting from the latest technology.