A Charitable Gift

A death notice or obituary may include the expressions "in lieu of flowers, please send donations to (CHARITY NAME)" or "family and friends are making contributions to..." Though these phrases encourage a charitable gift, they do not mean another expression of sympathy are not appropriate. You can choose to send flowers and make a charitable contribution. Or, if you only want to do one, follow the family's wishes and contribute.

If you do plan on making a donation:

  • Try to give at least what you would have paid for a funeral flower arrangement.
  • Make sure the charity knows the name and address of the family so they can be notified about your contribution or a contribution if you wish to donate anonymously.
  • When you send a check to a charity, include a sympathy note stating whom the donation memorializes: "This donation is in loving memory of Josette Bordin."
  • Make sure the organization has your address so they can send you an acknowledgment that will serve as your tax receipt.
  • If the family does not specify a cause or organization, choose a nonprofit that might be meaningful to the family. You can mention the contribution to the family in person or in a sympathy card without specifying the donation amount: "We've remembered your dear John with a contribution to the National Military Family Association." 
  • Generally, cash is not sent directly to the family in place of flowers or a charitable contribution. But there are always exceptions if a family is in dire need. For example, if the grieving family is having financial difficulties, a group (fellow employees, club or lodge members, neighbors) could take up a collection. Or you can try to give a donation through a clergy member or another community leader to spare the family any feelings that they are indebted to you.

How much should you spend on a charitable donation?

According to Peggy Post, director and spokesperson for The Emily Post® Institute, there is no magic number that is considered appropriate. She suggests you get a feel for what is customary in your area, consider how well you know the family or honoree and be practical - think about your budget when making a donation. With all that being said, after doing some research she found most people spent $100 or less, with the average being about $50. If the family asked for a donation in lieu of flowers, send what you would have spent on flowers.

Remember to check our Heart2Soul Community to see if the family has indicated a cause to which they would like a donation to be made in honor of their family member. There, you can also stay up to date on service information or provide support by leaving a message for the family or uploading photographs.

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