As a charity primarily concerned with the prevention of death, most of SUDEP Action’s supporters are bereaved, having lost loved ones to epilepsy deaths. With at least three epilepsy-related deaths a day in the UK, fundraising in memory is a growing trend for the charity says Rachel Groves.
If a young person dies suddenly, a family can raise well over £30,000. As a rule, the younger the person was who died and the more unexpected the death, the more money will be raised in their memory.
A question of ethics
Your charity may not offer a bereavement support service but another similar charity does. You know as a fundraiser that if you refer them, you will probably “lose” them as a potential supporter. People are incredibly vulnerable in the aftermath of a death, particularly a sudden one. We have found that the more honest and respectful we are, even if that means sending them elsewhere for help, the more likely they are to remember us when they are in a better place emotionally.
Fundraising is part of their grieving process
Some people feel comfortable with strong emotions and tears. Others need to seek out information and answers and take action. Others again feel their grief profoundly and strongly, yet struggle to hide their true feelings in order to preserve the image they wish to project to the public. These are very simplified versions of different reactions to a bereavement, but bearing these in mind can help you to support people through the fundraising process. Some people have told us they find fundraising cathartic.
Here are six tips to help your in-memory fundraising
1. Internal communication is key.
Our supporters are often the very same people as our beneficiaries. They may have different contact points into the charity for their different needs. That means we have to communicate well internally to make sure we are not making contact at a bad time. One simple tool we use is to share dates of death across the organisation to avoid calling someone on a particularly painful day.
2. Talk about the person who has died.
You are never “just a fundraiser”. You need to let them talk. Let the bereaved be your guide in terms of the words they use: “lost”, “passed on”, “died”, “lost our earthly light”, “beautiful angel taken too soon”… ask what made them special, find out more about them, how they died and what motivates the bereaved person to fundraise in their memory. Often, it’s that they want to stop others going through the unbearable pain they have just been through. But that’s not always the case. You will find they are glad to be asked.
3. Let people go quiet on you. They need the space.
Some people throw themselves into fundraising after a death because they need it. You are a lifeline to them. They are trying to make some sense out of the death, to give it meaning, to feel that their loved one did not live and die in vain. For those who use fundraising as a prop to get them through the first horrendous phase of grief, a time will come when they can’t keep going and they may burn out. You need to try and anticipate this and, yes, you obviously want their continued commitment but you also have a duty of care.
4. You can never do enough.
Bereaved people are incredibly vulnerable. They also want everything to change. Now. They are impatient as they know that life can change totally from one minute to the next. They will not always understand that you need to run things past your planning committee, or your trustees.
“But this could save lives!”
“Why aren’t you doing it now?”
Sometimes, I have to say I agree with them, but we still have to manage their hopes and expectations. Very very gently and as kindly as we can.
5. Say ‘Thank You’.
Remember who they are doing this for. It’s not for you or for your cause. It’s to honour the person who died. It’s their tribute to them, their responsibility and their duty. Ultimately they are doing this out of love. Thank them and don’t be frightened to use the name of the person who died in your communication.
6. Look after yourself
Do not spend hours looking at the memorial tributes of those who have died. You cannot do your job properly if you are welling up with tears the whole time. You owe it to yourself and to those who have died to do your job well. That means looking after yourself as well as looking after the bereaved. That way, you can be the voice for those who have died too soon, as well as looking after those who are still here.
Read how to add an in memory fundraising button to your website.