In memory giving and the impact of COVID-19

In Memory

As part of my role at Legacy Foresight, I help the team organise and analyse our In-Memory Insight research findings. In May, due to the new landscape presented by COVID-19, we decided to conduct an additional survey: In-Memory Through the Pandemic. A total of 53 charities took the survey, with most having an in-memory income between £100-500K, sharing their thoughts on what had changed in 2020 and how COVID-19 had affected their income.

So, what did we discover? By the first month of the crisis, ‘normal’ funerals as we know them – drivers of the traditional, offline charity collection – had all but disappeared. Knowing that funeral collections account for over a third of all in-memory income, we speculated that the new restrictions brought by the pandemic would have heavy implications for charities. There was also (and still continues to be) a large question mark hanging over those flagship organised events that are usually so popular with in-memory supporters.  And yet, what charities did notice was a striking rise in the value of in-memory income from online sources, including Fundraising Pages and tribute funds. Tribute funds had received the biggest boost, with over a third of charities reporting an increase in the number of tribute gifts and another third sharing that they’d seen an increase in overall value from the funds.

In order to add weight to our findings out we then spoke to JustGiving and MuchLoved about what activity they’d seen on their platforms during the first few months of the year. Both JustGiving and MuchLoved noted signs of increased memorialisation across their in-memory Fundraising Pages. Donors had used established pages more than ever to donate, light virtual candles, or simply leave thoughts and memories. In some cases, a higher number of lower value gifts has led to a higher overall value per page.

Our research also investigated the role of social and digital channels in remembrance, finding that online spaces – such as forums and blogs – have become established and valued destinations for charity supporters who want to discuss their needs, remembrance ideas and activities. At a time when so many remembrance opportunities have been shut down, people appear to be drawing great comfort from digital outlets that have remained upbeat and positive throughout their personal (and public) crises.

It’s been clear that for some, charities’ own digital spaces – like tribute funds – can feel more private and spiritual than other more public spaces like Facebook, allowing them to share with family and friends in a more meaningful way. But we’ve found that simply having an outlet to tell stories is a deep-rooted need for supporters. The healing power of fundraising is diminished at this time. But online spaces have given people somewhere to go and they’ve helped galvanise family and community support, counter isolation and boost fundraising impetus.

In-memory giving is moving online. The trend has been propelled this year, partly born out of the restrictions of social distancing, but also because the online connections people make are highly relevant. They reflect the ways that many of us live our daily lives and answer many of our fundamental needs in the aftermath of bereavement.

What can you do now?

Whatever type of charity you represent, we think you should act now to ensure your online in-memory content is as informative and genuinely inspiring as it can be, acknowledging these exceptional times. Does your in-memory landing page really do your charity proud? Do you offer at least one digital in-memory product that invites your in-memory supporters to heroise their loved ones, including clearly setting out how you intend to use the money raised in their name? Are you offering your in-memory donors as much support and stewardship as you can, both on and offline? A good example that you can look to is the RNLI’s Launch a Memory campaign which allows
supporters to remember a loved one by adding their name in the letters and numbers printed on the side of an RNLI all-weather Shannon class lifeboat.

If someone’s loved one was your supporter, fundraiser or volunteer, then your charity was a ‘significant other’ in their life so you have a role in helping them to be remembered and celebrated.


Kate recently joined as a guest speaker on our webinar ‘In-memory fundraising through the pandemic’ where she shared further insights from Legacy Foresight’s recent survey. The webinar is currently available to listen to for free on-demand here.

If you’d also like to find out more about Legacy Foresight’s upcoming In-Memory Insight research programme for 2020-21 then full details can be found on their website.

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Kate is an in-memory fundraising expert, gained from a background in in-memory fundraising, research and strategy. She authored the chapter ‘Giving In Memory of Others’ in the Directory of Social Change’s definitive guide ‘Legacy and In-Memory Fundraising’, is Secretary of the Institute of Fundraising’s Legacy and In-Memory special interest group, and is a regular speaker on in-memory topics.