Why Does Legacy Giving Matter To The Funeral Industry?

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.
— Shannon L. Alder

Why do people feel the need to give money IN THEIR WILL TO CHARITIES OR "in memory" of someone who has died?

Some people choose to have a charity named in their will as a legacy gift. Some people have their names on buildings, benches, and books. However, hundreds of thousands of people every year leave money in a will or have money given to charities in memory of them after they have passed away. 

No Flowers Please!

Each week when I lead funerals, I see people giving money in memory of the loss of loved one. Often giving to a charity to support the illness which the person sadly suffered from. Alternatively, giving a donation to the favourite charity of the friend who passed away.  

Let's define some terms here. Traditionally, legacy giving refers to the leaving of money/property in a will to a charity before someone has died. "In Memory" giving is the donation of money to a charity after someone has passed away. There is a difference. But with the growth of digital technology and the ease of making donations, will there be an increase of "In Memory giving" that lifts its importance to the funeral industry? In this post, I want to look at how wanting to give forms part of the lasting legacy that is left from the life of someone we love who has passed. How people are driven to give as a legacy either before or after someone passes away.

What prompts that emotion of wanting to give? 

For me, it is the desire to try to be helpful often in a situation where often I could offer little help. I want to feel I am making a contribution to working towards preventing the illness for someone else. Does giving help start to heal the pain of loss? Because I desperately feel the need to do something? 

I am not sure, but I do know that bereavement and the desire to give are closely intertwined. 

I am not alone in this emotion and desire. In 2013 it was estimated that legacy giving through wills raised more than £2billon for charities. As Jo McGowan writes, that is the equivalent of 20 Comic Relief appeals! 

Some stories, like Dr Kate Granger, capture the national imagination. Kate highlighted the need for better emotional care for patients. She also raised £250k for charities. Her legacy of support to charities will continue as people are inspired to give 'In memory" because of her life. Stephen Sutton, for example, raised over £5.5m for the Teenage Cancer Trust while he was alive and that giving continues on after his death. While the 1000's of funerals that take place each week are not as high-profile, they are just as important as people are moved to give "In-Memory." They still collectively raise millions of "In memory" giving for charities in the UK. But can that be improved by digital technology?

Will Cash Be Collected On The Way Out?

I do not suppose that I am that different to most people, I rarely carry much cash in my pocket these days. With the ability to swipe a card at most places there is little need. Cheques, what are those? 

Why then do I always see that little wooden box on the table at the exit of the crematorium? With the ease of digital technology, why don't more Funeral Directors use online "In memory" giving? Why don't more help people solve the need they feel to give? Of course, many Funeral Directors do. However, so many don't. As a celebrant, I would have no issue with taking time in a service to say, "if you would like to make a donation on your phones during the service to Fred's charity then text xxx to 12456." (JustTextGiving makes that so easy) And for a Funeral Director there are many benefits beyond just helping the family. 

Why Does Giving "In Memorial" Matter To The Funeral Industry?

Using digital technology, Funeral Directors could provide a way for people to feel connected to the one who has passed away. It could make an immense difference to the amount of money raised by charities through Funeral Directors. Say nothing of saving time and money for a Funeral Director. To have to collect, bank and process, the cash gifts they receive must be tiresome. It also removes the possibility of any problems with misappropriating money. This was seen recently when £14,000 given at funerals had been stolen. There are other very important benefits for a Funeral Director to consider digital "In-memory" giving that builds client satisfaction and the ability to share their business online through the social networks of the family of loved one. This raises the profile of the funeral business online considerably.  

Untapped Resources Just Waiting For Charities

There is an enormous untapped market of legacy giving. Both before people pass away as legacy giving in wills and after someone has passed away as "In-memorial" giving. What will it take to connect Funeral Directors with a digital platform, mobile technology that makes the process simple, accessible and visible?

Some key companies that are working to change this are Memory Giving,  MuchLoved, and Echoleft

Each has their unique attributes and focus. Memory Giving is designed by Funeral Directors for Funeral Directors to use. A quick glance at their memory wall and you can see the significant gifts raised in the last few days. Not one was less than £2000 which is considerably more than I see when people give only in cash. Donations were made online from families around the world. A. B. Walker & Sons, a Funeral Director in Reading, UK, shows on their website they collected more than £320,000 in 2013 through Memory Giving. (Disclosure A. B Walker & Sons own Memory Giving

MuchLoved was established by Jonathan Davies in 2000 after the death of his brother and mother. MuchLoved hosts memorial websites on behalf of over 180,000 people. Some of those memorial sites become used to fundraise in memory of a loved one. 

Echoleft creates memorial websites that allow friends and family to add photos, tell stories and accept contributions. Privacy and security are built into the platform. Every memorial comes with a tribute fund and fundraising tools.  Allowing a Funeral Director, for example, to open up a conversation about donations and "In memory" legacy giving. Echoleft's fundraising pages and event management features making "In-memory" fundraising more accessible than ever. 

Other companies such as Cloudberry offer online donations as part of their funeral management solutions CRM and do not take a % of the gift but charge a flat rate of £6 per funeral to cover costs. And also Love2Donate who have raised £1.7m in donations via their donations site. You could also check out Gone To Soon, FuneralZone and HeavenAddress for similar platforms.

Legacy Foresight is Britain's foremost analysts of the legacy and In-memory sectors. Legacy Foresight works in close collaboration with leading charities. They agree to pool their budgets, experiences, and data to help build evidence and insight. This year’s programme will focus on the use of social marketing and digital media in In-Memory fundraising. In-Memory is defined as “any charitable giving or fundraising commemorating the life of someone special.” A variety of In-Memory activities will be researched. Gifts at funerals, direct In-Memory donations both one-off and regular and the setting up of ‘Tribute Funds.' It will be fascinating to see the results of this research.  For more information on the 2016/17 programme contact Meg Abdy: m.abdy@legacyforesight.co.uk


Legacy giving before someone passes away and "In Memory" after someone passes away is probably the most important source of giving to charities today. Death has gone digital and certainly when it comes to giving in memory of someone who has passed away. Social media is increasingly being used to inspire donations in memory of those who have died. I would love to hear your views and how you are using digital technology and social media in online giving.