If the family of the deceased as requests a memorial donation to a specific cause or charity in lieu of flowers, you can choose whether or not to make such a donation. If you do, you need to do this in a timely fashion (within 10 days of the funeral service) so that the family can include you when writing thank you notes after the funeral. Make sure the charity knows the name and address of the bereaved family so they can be notified of your kindness; even if you wish to remain anonymous. The family should be made aware that a memorial donation has been received to commemorate their loved one.
Don’t choose your own charity or favorite cause instead of one designated by the family. If the family didn’t specify a cause, then you can choose a nonprofit, or it may be appropriate to send flowers instead (see Flowers). It is proper to mention the gift in a card to the family without mentioning the amount.
A memorial donation in the form of cash gifts to the family, even if they are in dire need, must be handled with discretion. Unless a bank account has been set up for donations, try to give through a clergy member or some other means that will spare the family embarrassment and not leave them feeling obligated to you.
Appropriate charitable organizations often include a favorite cause of the deceased. If he or she suffered an illness the specified charity may be a medical research organization that works for a cure in that area. Selecting a charity for your memorial donation that will make good use of the money is an important consideration. Helpful research can be done over the web at these sites:
- American Institute of Philanthropy (www.charitywatch.org) is a nonprofit charity watchdog and information service that provides donors with the information they need to make more informed giving decisions. AIP’s website provides ratings on numerous charities.
- The BBB Wise Giving Alliance provides financial information and links to the charity’s website. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance (www.give.org) is a 501(c)(3)charitable organization, affiliated with the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance collects and distributes information on hundreds of nonprofit organizations that solicit nationally or have national or international program services. It routinely asks such organizations for information about their programs, governance, fund raising practices, and finances when the charities have been the subject of inquiries.
- Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of over 5,300 of America’s largest charities.
- Guidestar (www.guidestar.org) includes a searchable database of over 1.7 million nonprofit organizations. Users can locate specific charities by name, subject, location and other criteria. Guidestar provides financial information and links to the charity’s website. This is a fee-based service.
- JustGive (www.justgive.org) is a destination for online charitable giving. All donations made through JustGive can be made as a memorial gift with an email or notecard sent directly to the grieving family. They have a database of more than 1.8 million charities. JustGive also features a charity registry which lets the family choose a charity and invite their friends and family to donate in lieu of flowers.