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Stewardship a critical element of in-memory fundraising, research shows

Stewardship a critical element of in-memory fundraising, research shows

Good stewardship is a vital element of in-memory fundraising, research by Legacy Foresight and its consortium of 55 charities and hospices has found.

Legacy Foresight and its consortium set out to gain a full understanding of what constitutes effective in-memory stewardship from the both charities’ and the donors’ perspective. The research used a combination of best practice charity case studies, charity surveys and in-depth supporter interviews.

Key findings included:

  1. In-memory fundraising really matters to supporters

All of the supporters Legacy Foresight spoke to stressed how positive the experience of fundraising in memory of a loved one had felt, highlighting that in-memory giving is not a one-way street. Supporters said they appreciate the experience, the outlet, the reward it gives them and its role in helping them remember.

  1. Never forget a supporter’s ‘why’

Possibly the most essential concern for supporters was that the charity should always keep sight of their ‘why’ – their loved one – which is their real reason for engaging. This was the one thing that united all supporters and the factor most likely to make them support again (or not), with offering supporters opportunities and outlets to tell stories about their loved one such as through tribute funds or at events a key element of good in-memory stewardship.

  1. Embrace supporters’ need for personalisation

The more personal a tribute can be made, the better. Supporters will eagerly adopt personalisation when offered it. In this research, they were found to have personalised the same basic products (e.g. tree dedication) for use in different ways, reflecting their own needs and the character of their loved ones. Personalisation can be key to unlocking great product design and in-memory offers.

  1. Charity staff are the key to long and rewarding relationships

Charity staff have a pivotal role in effective in-memory fundraising relationships – including clinical staff. Compassion was an essential requirement for both fundraising and clinical staff. Other qualities supporters felt to be important to good stewardship included being friendly and approachable; efficient and practical; appreciative and encouraging.

Legacy Foresight carried out further research into the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on in-memory fundraising activity and income in May (In-memory through the pandemic). This revealed that almost a third of the 53 charities surveyed felt they had had more contact with in-memory donors since lockdown began. A third had initiated more phone contact and 45% more email contact than usual. Many had ‘checked in’ with supporters, referring them to bereavement resources and raising the option of tribute giving. Over two-thirds estimated that their total staff resource for in-memory had either stayed roughly the same or increased.

  1. Tribute funds are powerful fundraising tools

Tribute funds underpin a fundraising journey and become a focal point for action, pulling everything together. Once set up, they became repositories for a myriad of in-memory donations from a wide range of different sources, encouraging and incentivising targets with their high visibility. Importantly, funds were happy places of remembrance, visited regularly. They had strong symbolic function in encouraging memories of a loved one, and a healing power.

Again, Legacy Foresight’s In-memory through the pandemic research supported this, showing that tribute fund income had increased for over a third of charities surveyed, with 38% reporting an increase in the number of gifts.

Kate Jenkinson, Head of In-Memory Consultancy, said:

“At a time when our culture and communities have been shaken to the core, the deep-seated need to grieve for and honour those who have died – from Covid-19 or any other cause – is greater than ever.”

“It’s so important to remember that the desire to honour a loved one who has died underlies so many types of charity support. Our research proves how important charities’ application of good stewardship is to their in-memory fundraising. We hope that this evidence will help make the case for greater, more thoughtful investment in in-memory fundraising throughout the sector.”

A copy of In-Memory Briefing – Understanding In-Memory Stewardship can be requested via the Legacy Foresight website.

Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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