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In Lieu of Flowers: The Power of Memorial Donations

June 15th, 2023

While flowers and casseroles are almost always appreciated, one of the most powerful and lasting ways to honor the life of a loved one who has passed away is through a memorial donation. A donation can be as small or as large as you want it to be, and can go directly to the family, a local organization or a recognized nonprofit.

How to Choose Where to Donate

As long as a donation honors the memory of a departed friend or family member, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to make a memorial donation. Here are a few things to consider:

Family. If a death is unexpected and surviving family members are left with unexpected financial challenges, consider contributing directly to them. Use the donation envelope at the visitation or memorial service to help cover funeral costs and medical expenses, lost wages, or to contribute to a surviving child’s college fund. An established GoFundMe account may also be used, or you can send your donation directly to the family with a sympathy card.

Final Wishes. When a death has been anticipated, the deceased will sometimes identify a cause or nonprofit organization to donate to. If they’ve devoted their life to teaching, they may request donations to a local school or scholarship fund, for example. Or perhaps they’re passionate about animal welfare or medical research organizations. In these cases, make a memorial contribution directly to the specified organization in their name. It doesn’t matter if it's a cause you may not normally support. A memorial donation is always about the deceased.

Place of Worship. If a departed loved one was strongly dedicated to their faith, you may also want to make a donation to their place of worship. With your donation, you may even be able to request a special prayer for the deceased and surviving family members during regular services.

Alma Mater. Was your lost friend or family member passionate about their high school, college or graduate school? Donating in their name to an institution of learning can be a helpful and valuable way to ensure their legacy lives on.

In Support of Research. Depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s death, there may be research institutions doing critical work to help ensure the same fate doesn’t happen to others. Consider making a donation in their name to organizations specializing in diseases like cancer, dementia, diabetes and addiction, for example.

Make Their Memory Grow. Another memorial donation option is to work with a local park district to plant a tree or landscape a beautiful public garden in their memory. This would create a place for friends and family to remember their lost one for years to come.

In most cases, donations to recognized nonprofit institutions are tax-deductible. Family members will be touched by your donation, so let them know how you’re making their lost loved one’s memory live on. Send a sympathy card that expresses your condolences and lets them know you donated in their loved one’s name.

There is no “wrong” way to honor someone who has passed. The important thing is that their legacy will live on through your thoughtfulness and generosity.