In-Memoriam Gifts: What Are Your Processes?
In the weeks immediately following my youngest daughter’s birth, tragedy struck. One of my best friends lost her son to a form of pediatric cancer.
Can anything quite prepare you for the loss of a child?
And for friends and family members, the pain is deep. What do you say? What can you do? Is there any way you can help to ease the despair? Adding to my own feelings of helplessness was the fact that, due to what had been a difficult birth and recovery, I could not fly out for the funeral.
I sent flowers, spent hours on the phone with my friend, and, when she became involved with a charity dedicated to fighting this particular form of childhood cancer, I became a regular donor. A few years later, when I became employed at a grant-making foundation, one of our many benefits was the opportunity to make one or two large charitable gifts every year.
For the seven years I was employed at the foundation, every single year, I made a major gift in Michael’s memory.
And every year, I received a perfunctory thank-you letter. My friend, on the other hand, was profuse in her gratitude. She never let me forget what I was doing in her son’s memory. She both organized and tirelessly participated in a number of events benefiting the organization.
After I left the foundation, I continued to give in Michael’s name. There were times I never received so much as an acknowledgement from the charity.
Years later, when my friend confided that she herself was no longer supporting the charity (after years of shabby treatment as both a volunteer and donor), I finally ended close to 20 years of support.
There are two lessons in my story.
- How do you recognize your organization’s in-memoriam gifts? Do you automatically dismiss them as “one-time” gifts or do you cultivate and plant seeds? If the gift is made online, do you offer the option of an annual gift? In the cultivation process, the first gift only is the first step in creating lifetime relationships. That goes for in-memoriam gifts as well. A donor already has a strong emotional connection to your organization when they make an in-memoriam gift. Think like donors by taking walks in their shoes. Map out your processes.
- When an organization fails at implementing across-the-board donor-centricity, there is a good chance it also is failing at the other relationships that create a strong, healthy nonprofit.
What are your processes for in-memoriam donors? Use these resources to create your plan.
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.