Acquiring new donors is becoming harder and more expensive than ever. Rented charity lists have almost disappeared, the issues of consent and data privacy are becoming more challenging for nonprofits worldwide, and donors’ attention span is shorter than ever.
Therefore, making the most out of every touchpoint and fundraising method is increasingly important. Tribute and memorial giving provides a cost-effective way to recruit new donors and are potentially a gateway to other donations, including legacy giving. They can also be a meaningful and lasting way for donors to honor a loved one while also helping others.
33% of donors worldwide give tribute gifts and the top three occasions are memorials (43%), birthdays (25%), and religious holidays (10%). Baby Boomers are most likely to give tribute gifts at 41%. 31% of Gen Xers give tribute gifts as do 26% of Millennials.
That being said, very few nonprofit organizations actively promote tribute giving, even though doing so would likely result in a steady revenue stream.
10 Best Tribute and Memorial Fundraising Tips for Nonprofits
1. Underline how tribute donations help you pursue your mission.
In one or two sentences, your mission statement sums up the essence of your organization. It speaks volumes about what you stand for, and it should make prospective donors want to know more about your organization and support your work by making a donation.
To encourage tribute and memorial donations, underline how the gifts will help you pursue your mission.
For example, AFSP is clear in their statement that tribute donations help them achieve their mission of a world without suicide.
“A tribute donation offers you a thoughtful way to celebrate a special person or occasion while contributing to our mission to one day live in a world without suicide.”
Here’s another example:
“Your gift enables OCF to support Bay Area youth sports organizations addressing the needs of thousands of children that simply cannot afford the opportunity to learn life lessons and leadership skills through organized athletics. Please take comfort in knowing that your loved one’s memory will be celebrated by bringing children the joy of playing sports so that they may be empowered to have a better tomorrow.”
Here’s how Habitat for Humanity does it:
2. Let donors notify the recipient.
Most often, donors wish to notify an honoree that they have given on behalf of them or a loved one.
For memorial donations, give your donors an opportunity to send a note to the decedent’s family letting them know they have made a gift in their memory.
For tribute donations (e.g. graduation or birthday), the honoree will be notified that you have made a gift in their honor.
It’s considered a best practice that donation amounts are never disclosed unless otherwise specified by the donor.
A Donorbox tribute form, for example, will allow organizations to notify the honorees by email or postal mail.
3. Share testimonials.
For prospective donors, nothing is more valuable than hearing from peers about their experiences with your organization and its programs and services. Testimonials carry more credibility than anything you could say about your own work.
The more specific and genuine the testimonials, the more likely they are to move people to donate. Don’t forget to request permission to use testimonials in your marketing and fundraising campaigns.
Here’s a powerful example at the cancercouncil.com.au site:
“Nikitas was 34 when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He passed away within four months of being diagnosed. Before he died, he always said how he wanted to help others going through cancer. The plan was once he got better he would find a way to do this. When he passed away we wanted to keep his wish alive. We started a fundraiser to help others in his name, and were blown away by the amount we raised and how many people wanted to contribute and help. It was amazing.”
– Irene, in memory of her brother Nikitas
Here’s how Komen does it:
4. Consider branding the program.
Consider branding your tribute and memorial scheme to give it a distinct identity e.g. The Butterfly Fund or The Remembered Forever Fund.
Pay considerable attention to the tone and style of the scheme in both design and copy content in order to ensure consistency.
It’s also advisable to set up a dedicated email address or a contact form for those wishing to make tribute gifts or memorial donations. This way, your donors can easily reach out to you with any questions or concerns.
Give a human touch to your tribute or memorial fundraising program by sharing powerful videos or photos – such as this one by the Mind UK:
5. Try peer-to-peer fundraising.
In addition to letting donors donate ‘in memory of’ or ‘in honor of’, consider setting up a peer-to-peer fundraising page.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a crowdfunding method that utilizes your donors’ existing networks. Peer-to-peer fundraisers encourage supporters to reach out to their peers (friends, co-workers, and family members) and ask them to donate.
With peer-to-peer fundraising, every individual supporter/fundraiser sets up a personal fundraising page where they accept donations. On these pages, your fundraisers lend their own voice to your mission, sharing with their networks why your cause matters to them. These donations are ultimately received by your nonprofit.
In this case, donors would set up a tribute page or an ‘in memory of’ page to collect donations from their family and friends.
Here’s how Cancer Research UK does it:
6. Make it easy.
Make sure there is a section on your donation form that allows donors to indicate whether the gift is ‘in honor of’ or ‘in memory of’, to name the person being honored, and to indicate a family member or friend that should be alerted to the tribute.
The front-end should be responsive and deliver a great experience on desktops, tablets and mobile phones alike.
Offer multiple payment gateways, such as credit cards, debit cards, and Apple Pay. Keep users on your domain and website by embedding your donation form to your website. This way, new supporters will build a connection to your cause as there is no interfering third party branding.
7. Allow donors to give regularly.
When a donor sets up a recurring donation, they choose to give a pre-determined amount of money on a regular basis. Many people like to give monthly (the most common form), bi-monthly, or yearly.
Recurring giving can have an enormous positive impact on the long-term financial sustainability of your nonprofit. It provides a steady stream of income, leaving more space for your nonprofit to focus on growth and innovation. Recurring donors are also more engaged, give more, and keep giving to your organization for longer.
Enable your donors to make regular gifts to continually support your work in the name of a loved one.
If you choose to run a recurring giving program, consider investing in a fundraising platform to help you manage it.
Donorbox is a powerful and efficient donation management system that is specifically optimized for recurring donations. It will make constructing your own donation pages much easier and will provide you with a number of other features and benefits.
8. Be sensitive.
Tribute and memorial fundraising needs to be context-sensitive. The passing of a loved one is difficult, and it can be hard asking for money in an emotionally-charged discussion about death.
Furthermore, as you set up your process for acknowledging tribute or memorial gifts, you may feel intimidated about writing to people who are grieving.
Instead of feeling the pressure to console, focus on sharing with your donor how their loved one is being remembered in a meaningful and thoughtful way.
Create an acknowledgement letter template that you’ll use specifically for donors who make memorial gifts. You can adjust the content of the letter as needed, but having a template for this purpose gives you a great place to start.
“Thank you so much for your donation to the Rainforest Foundation, made in memory of Laura Burke. Your contribution will carry Laura’s legacy forward and help protect the Amazon. Thank you for this meaningful gift.”
Remember to include gift details, such as gift date and gift amount, in your acknowledgment letter to the donor.
9. Be clear about how donations will be spent.
It should be clear to the donor how their tribute or ‘in memory of’ donation will be spent. Donors today, regardless of the type of their donation, are more concerned than ever about where their money is going and what it’s being used to do.
Transparency is a key fundraising trend driving how people contribute today. Many donors nowadays have an array of skills and resources to investigate a nonprofit’s governance policies and social impact, and are not lazy to do so.
Have an “Impact” page on your website where you clearly demonstrate your social impact or you share what different donation amounts will help you accomplish. Consider exploring live streaming and infographics too. Through data visualization, you can better engage your audience by simplifying complex information.
For example, nspcc.org.uk clearly ties different donation amounts to specific outcomes:
– £4 could ensure that when a child plucks up the courage to ask for help through our ChildLine service, we are there to listen.
– £37.50 could pay for someone with concerns for a child’s welfare to seek advice from an experienced child protection professional through our Helpline.
– £100 could help a practitioner deliver four sessions with a young person in care, helping them build their resilience against any problems they may be facing.
Ideally, several months after they made their donation, you’d let your donors know how their donations are being used.
“Thank you again for honoring Laura’s memory with a gift to the Rainforest Foundation. We wanted to write to let you know that yesterday, we placed a new parcel of land under protection, helping protect many vulnerable animal and plant species. Your donation made in Laura’s memory was instrumental in making this possible. It’s an enduring symbol of Laura’s commitment to protecting the Earth.”
10. Promote your program.
A tribute/memorial program, like any fundraising method, won’t work unless it’s promoted. To encourage donors to make tribute or memorial fundraising to your organization, keep reminding them of the possibilities in your e-newsletters or email blasts.
Have a section on your website dedicated to promoting tribute gifts. It could be a section on a “Ways to Give” page or a sidebar on your homepage. Either way, make it visible and easy to find.
Provide calls to action on a regular basis. Frequently remind people of all the ways they can help: cash donations; tributes and memorials; gifts-in-kind; volunteering; board involvement; leaving a legacy, etc.
You can include tribute envelopes in newsletters and annual report mailings, and even in donor ‘thank you’ letters. Done right, this is perceived as a ‘soft’ ask.
For some organizations, tribute gifts or memorial donations are a natural fundraising method. Some examples include a military support organization that includes the option to donate in honor of a soldier, a cancer nonprofit with fundraisers in honor of a loved one battling the disease, or an animal shelter providing the ability to give in honor of a pet.
Some other nonprofits might need to get a little bit more creative when setting up a tribute or memorial fundraising program – in order for it not to feel forced or unnatural. For example, rather than just considering memorial gifts, nonprofits need to take into account all the occasions of an individual’s life including births, marriages, birthdays, anniversaries, confirmations, bar mitzvahs, and a host of others.
Whatever your mission is and although they are often one-time gifts, tribute and memorial donations can make up a large portion of fundraising for nonprofits, especially for organizations in the medical field, schools, and humanitarian organizations.
Here’s how to create tribute forms for your nonprofit using Donorbox.