Do You Have to Die to Be Remembered?



The word tribute means to honor, praise, or acknowledge. Most people think of tribute gifts as memorial gifts. In other words, YES, you have to die to be remembered.


What if an organization encouraged its constituents to consider tribute gifts for not just memorials but also for the many special occasions in an individual’s life, such as, births, marriages, birthdays, anniversaries, confirmations, bar and bat mitzvahs, and graduations. Would providing more opportunities for tributes help raise a lot more money?


I have often stated when teaching fundraisers about tribute gifts that I will celebrate many occasions in my life, but I will only die once. This always creates laughter, mainly because it is really true. Think of the wasted opportunities for giving and celebrating and the money left on the table.


Whose Decision Is It?

Memorial gifts are often made to the last nonprofit that touched the individual. That organization might be a hospice, the hospital, or the cancer society. Although these are all very important organizations, the individual who passed away may have had a relationship with the local humane society or veteran’s organization and their preference might have been one of those organizations. When they can, individuals should make family and friends aware of their interests and preferences.


Organizations should also keep a step ahead of their donors by letting the donors know that the organization accepts memorial gifts. It is amazing that individuals think to give memorial gifts to the American Cancer Society, but not to the local food bank where they volunteer.


Expand Giving Opportunities

By expanding from memorials to a range of tribute gift types, a nonprofit can increase the opportunities for a donor to give. To encourage donors to make a broader range of tribute gifts to the organization, remind donors of the possibilities in the nonprofit’s newsletter or on the organization’s website. I have looked at a lot of nonprofit websites and the majority only show a memorial gift option. The onus is really on the organization to suggest other possibilities.


An organization can consider having a separate donation page for tributes. On the page the organization can share stories about individuals memorialized or celebrated by tribute gifts to the organization. A couple having a new baby or someone celebrating a seventieth or ninetieth birthday are stories that touch the heart and put the giving in a context to which all donors can relate.


Letting donors create their own peer-to-peer tribute giving opportunities will raise more money and will build the organization’s donor database. For example a volunteer might create a tribute page celebrating their 60th birthday and invite family and friends to make a tribute gift. This type of peer-to-peer fundraising encourages participation and engagement. It is a win-win for the organization, the volunteer, and the donors.


Communicate Tribute Giving

Publishing tribute contributions in the organization’s newsletter and listing the types of tribute gifts made will encourage future gifts. Information about tribute gifts will also expand the thinking of both current donors and others receiving the publication.

Using the newsletter to create awareness around tribute gifts is a cost-effective means of raising money. With the donor’s permission, the nonprofit can also put this information on the organization’s website.


Another method of encouraging tribute gifts is to enclose a donation envelope with the donor’s thank-you letter. Create an envelope specifically designed to assist donors in making their next tribute gift to the organization. When a donor wants to make

the next tribute gift, they simply reach into their desk drawer, pull out the envelope for tribute gifts to the nonprofit, insert their check in the envelope, and mail it. Putting a tribute gift envelope in with the thank you letter is not asking for another gift; it is providing a convenience for the donor.


Donors want to recognize family and friends when various events occur. By making it

easy for the donor, the organization reaps the benefit, and both the donor and the recipient of the tribute feel good about the gift. Tribute gifts are a very cost-effective means of raising money, increasing awareness, and creating warm memories.


Involve Board Members

One way to kick off a tribute program is to ask board members and other volunteers to pick one occasion in their life within the next year and ask their friends and family to make gifts to the organization in honor of that special occasion. The occasion could

be a fiftieth birthday or a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. This is a wonderful way to engage board members and their friends and family as donors. The organization receives donations and has no upfront expenses. Fundraising cannot be any simpler.


Tribute gifts are gifts of celebration. Even a memorial gift is a gift in celebration of a life well lived. The money raised from tribute gifts can make a difference in the outreach of the organization’s mission and help the organization’s donors rejoice in the

gift of giving.

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