Gifts in Honour of/in Memory of are critical and sensitive

Honor-or-Memorial-GivingI have given many donations to charities to recognise happy occasions – milestone birthdays, retirements or special recognition of friends and colleagues. I also give donations in memory of individuals, including relatives or of situations where a friends’ parents who passed away. I prefer to do this in cases where I am not in the same city and cannot be at the funeral services and prefer to do this in lieu of sending flowers or some other expression of sympathy. I have had some experiences where a charity really got it right and others where I wished I had taken some other course of action.

I had to call one charity, identified by my friend because of his father’s military service, repeatedly as I attempted to make a donation in his father’s memory. When I finally reached someone, after four messages to the staff at the charity, the person tried to convince me that I meant to make the contribution in memory of someone completely different. I was asked “Are you sure you do not mean (Mr X)?” when, in fact, I wanted to make the donation in memory of my friend’s father whose name I clearly knew. The same charity took more than 6 weeks to send notification to my friend. The notification to my friend finally arrived, but with my name spelled incorrectly.

Another charity took more than 4 weeks to send notification to a friend whose mother had passed away.

There is nothing worse, as a donor, to wonder if the donation was actually processed and then to wonder if the honouree or the family of the memorialised will actually ever get notified of the donation. The situation puts the donor in an uncomfortable position. The situation becomes more awkward over time when the family may believe you did not send an expression of sympathy. Additionally, the situation becomes a bit of a nightmare when the donor and family are talking about the charity’s bad practices.

I should state that when I have given gifts in memory, there have also been outstanding experiences. One, a US hospice where a friend’s mother was cared for in her final weeks, handled the international telephone call in a superb manner, sent immediate acknowledgement to me, and, also, quickly sent notification to my friend the same day of my gift. This hospice has continued to steward me over time and sends me their quarterly e-newsletter and the very occasional request for more support.

Speed and accuracy are important in any donation and acknowledgement processing. Speed and accuracy are the two most important attributes in tribute gifts. Tribute gifts are the most time sensitive gifts your organisation accepts. When a charity fails in either place (or both) that charity is not worthy of our support.

There are 6 questions which need to be asked within your organisation to ensure you are operating the back end of your tribute program in an effective manner:

  • Does your charity have trained staff to handle tribute calls?
  • Do you process donations in honour or memory within the same day or do these donations wait for a staff person who may only work part-time?
  • Does your charity pay attention to detail and ensure spellings of names and the addresses are accurate?
  • Does notification to the honouree or to the survivors get sent the same day or do you wait until you have a lot of them to notify parties?
  • Is your notification highly personalised?
  • Do you thank the donor the same day?

Do you inform the honouree or the survivors of the contact details of everyone who makes a donation in their honour or in memory of their loved one? Doing so assists them to pass along their gratitude, as well.

Tribute gifts are a source of income for most charities. Those who decide gifts should be directed to your organisation expect the gifts will be handled with accuracy and expeditiously. Donors expect the same. Do not let anyone down.