Digital remembrance: Why in-memory giving is moving online
19 October 2020 at 6:21 pm
With social distancing rules preventing people from saying goodbye to their loved ones in person, online channels such as tribute funds are gaining in popularity, writes Kate Jenkinson, in the last of a three-part series sharing learnings from the UK about in-memory giving.
In May, a survey by Legacy Foresight – In-memory through the pandemic – found a third of British charities participating had seen their in-memory income slump during the first full month of lockdown. The main driver had been the severe impact of social distancing on funerals and other in-memory events. A report by Co-op Funeral Care, suggested that between March and May, 9.7 million people in the UK had been unable to attend the funeral of a loved one.
What happens when circumstances – unprecedented as they are – prevent us from saying goodbye in person? Life will out, as they say. We’ve taken our laptops to our kitchens, our mourning online. Despite the early, overall dip in in-memory income for British charities, the same survey found that a third had actually seen a substantial increase in online in-memory giving. Tribute funds in particular had emerged as the real heroes of the hour. Tribute fund income had increased for over a third of charities, and a third also reported an increase in gift volume.
JustGiving and MuchLoved – two leading UK fundraising platform providers – have both noted increased memorialisation across their in-memory and tribute pages. Users have visited their online sites more than ever this year to donate, light virtual candles and post thoughts and memories. And while the number of new funds being set up may have stalled, heightened activity on established funds and pages has led to a larger number of lower value gifts. For JustGiving, this has triggered better overall page value.
Meanwhile, although almost half the UK charities surveyed by Legacy Foresight thought their income from other in-memory fundraising events had decreased over this period, (reflecting the cancellation of mainstream events popular with in-memory donors like the London Marathon and Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life,) JustGiving reported an upsurge across its pages of “DIY” events such as personalised triathlons. Creative supporters had surpassed themselves with back-garden substitutes of their own for all those missing road runs and bike races.
Live-streaming initiatives have experienced a boost. According to Co-op Funeral Care, 10 per cent of people who lost loved ones between March and May had drawn comfort from attending a live-streamed funeral. JustGiving reported an upturn in its number of in-memory pages featuring live streaming and gaming. In a great example for our times, when COVID-19 prevented her from visiting her grandfather’s grave, Isabella Ong – an American-Chinese woman living in New York – used the popular game Animal Crossing as an alternative way of honouring him.
Legacy Foresight recently researched the role of social and digital in remembrance, and our insights from this have particular relevance now. We learnt the importance to in-memory supporters of having a place to go; and that people were using tribute funds in almost the same way they would physical spaces – for celebration and remembrance. Some supporters felt charity sites to be more spiritual and private than “public” spaces like Facebook – spaces where they could share with family or friends in a more meaningful way. If your charity offers tribute funds, it’s a great time to think again about where and how you promote these and how they can be used to support families.
With so many other connections now closed down, online tributes sites have remained open and upbeat, reducing loneliness in bereavement and creating a focal point for otherwise geographically scattered or isolated families. Online charity products that connect bereaved supporters with each other are eagerly seized upon.
There’s no doubt that bereaved people are seeking out support and advice online as they navigate their way through such difficult times. We found forums to be especially popular – sites like Mumsnet and football forums, where people sought advice on planning remembrance events or activities. If you are trying to better understand the help your supporters may need – or would like to see examples of remembrance ideas being discussed “live” – these forums can be a great place to start.
Our research highlighted the power of social media – Facebook in particular – in galvanising support, sharing personal experiences and facilitating local fundraising. If you are a local charity, you might seriously consider diverting resources into social media to build support and encourage communities to take action.
Perhaps one of the reasons online is such a good fit is that digital products often provide the perfect opportunity for story sharing. They can give donors a platform to heroise their loved ones – and give your charity the chance to show them, by way of reply, the incredible work being made possible in their loved one’s memory.
About the author: Kate Jenkinson is head of in-memory consultancy at Legacy Foresight, Europe’s foremost analysts of the legacy and in-memory sectors. The In-Memory Insight research program explores the size, shape and scope of in-memory giving, collecting hard evidence to inform in-memory fundraising strategies and convince senior management of the value of in-memory giving. The program involves a learning circle of leading UK charities who agree to pool their budgets, experiences and data to help build evidence and insight.
Legacy Foresight and FIA are planning a series of Australian webinars about in-memory giving and fundraising later this year.