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Honoring a Legacy: Tips for Hosting a Successful Memorial Fundraiser



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Memorial fundraisers provide a way for nonprofits to celebrate the life of a cherished supporter after they’ve passed. These fundraisers come in various forms—popular memorial event formats include auctions, dinners, walks, or galas.  

The goal of a memorial fundraiser is to bring the community together to honor the deceased's memory and support a cause they championed while alive.  

So what are memorial fundraisers, and how can nonprofits organize one effectively?

What Is a Memorial Fundraiser?

A memorial fundraiser is an event organized by a nonprofit to honor a supporter or community member who’s passed away. Events are a popular way to do this.

The memorial event can take various forms, such as a dinner, auction, gala, or walk. Funds raised are typically directed to a program or fund in the honoree’s name.  

How to Organize a Memorial Fundraiser

Organizing a memorial fundraiser requires careful, thoughtful, and respectful planning and execution.  

Choosing the Right Memorial Event Format

The first step in organizing a memorial fundraiser is to select the right format. Consider the honoree's interests and passions, as well as the program or fund the event will support.  

For example, if your supporter was an avid runner, consider organizing a charity run. If they were a passionate environmentalist, think about hosting an eco-friendly event.  

Be sure to keep in mind the size of the memorial event and the resources available to you.

Determine the Appropriate Budget

Once you’ve chosen a format for your memorial fundraiser, determine a budget that includes all necessary costs. Consider venue rental, food and drinks, decorations, and marketing.  

Look for ways to offset costs, such as sponsorships and ticket sales. Make sure to stay within your budget to ensure the success of your memorial event.

Promote Your Memorial Fundraiser

To attract a larger audience, use different communication channels such as social media, email marketing, and personal outreach. Encourage the honoree's family and friends to attend and share the event.  

Ensure the language used in your promotional materials reflects the gravity of the moment, as well as the attitude and general wishes of the deceased’s family.

Plan an Engaging Memorial Event Program

Memorial fundraisers are an opportunity to engage with your honoree’s network. Don’t leave their experience up to chance; carefully plan a thoughtful and compelling program for your memorial event. Consider inviting guest speakers or performers who share a similar passion for your nonprofit’s work, or someone who knew the honoree well.  

Raffles, auctions, or other fundraising activities can also create an engaging opportunity for attendees to get involved. Be creative and tailor the activities to the person's interests and passions.

Show Your Appreciation  

Thank your attendees, sponsors, and volunteers for their support. Make sure to keep the contributions of the honoree front and center throughout the event, in all marketing materials, and in any thank-you letters or acknowledgments.  

Showing your appreciation reinforces the impact of the person's life and the contributions they made to your work and to their community.

Always Get Permission

After a donor or friend of the organization passed, it might be crystal-clear to you that a memorial fundraiser in their name is a sign of respect and honor... But it might look different to their loved ones.

Always establish contact with the family of the deceased and request permission to fundraise in their loved one's name. Keep your communications respectful and thoughtful. You want to ensure your efforts are always perceived as an attempt to honor their loved one.  

Memorial Fundraisers Bring the Community Together

Memorial fundraisers provide a meaningful way for nonprofits to honor the memory of a beloved community member and raise funds for a cause close to the deceased’s heart.  

Organizing a successful memorial fundraiser requires thoughtful planning and execution. Take care in choosing the right format, determining your budget, and promoting and planning your memorial event.

This way, nonprofits can create a meaningful and successful memorial fundraiser that honors the memory of a truly cherished team member.

For more information and resources for nonprofit leaders, join NPO Centric’s membership program. >>