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How nonprofits can encourage tribute giving

Donations to charity are often triggered by a life event, a birth, a marriage, a death, etc. These gifts, given in honor of someone or a life event, are called tribute gifts. Though they are often one-time gifts, they can make up a large portion of fundraising for nonprofits, especially for charities such in the medical field, schools and humanitarian organizations. As a nonprofit, you should encourage these gifts, not only to raise money, but because they allow donors to connect your cause to important moments or people in their lives.

Use these seven suggestions as a guide to help you encourage tribute gifts from donors.

1. Have a place for tribute gifts on your website

The best thing you can do to encourage tribute gifts is having a section on your website dedicated to promoting them. It could be a section on a “Ways to Give” page or a sidebar on your homepage. Either way, make it visible and easy to find.

Example: The University of Washington does a great job of calling out tribute gifts on a donation page. This page is also used to explain what tribute gifts are and the donor’s options.

2. Define who should get a tribute

Be sure to help donors understand who they could honor by giving by providing suggestions that connect to your nonprofit’s work. Hospitals might consider encouraging a gift in honor of a patient or a patient’s caregiver. School foundations might encourage a tribute gift in the name of a recent graduate or teacher. A hospice organization could set up a tribute gift program that would allow donors to honor lost loved ones.

Examples: Northridge Hospital program to honor caregivers has a donation page that includes a space for the caregiver’s name and space for the donors to send them a message. This page from Morris Educational Foundation clearly lists the options donors can pick from when giving a tribute gift, such as administrators, counselors, assistants, coaches, custodians, librarians, nurses, conductors, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, secretaries and teachers.

3. Make it easy

Make sure there is a section on your donation form that allows donors to indicate whether the gift is in honor or memory, name the person being honored and indicate a family member or friend that should be alerted to the tribute.

Take it to the next level by creating a donation page just for this purpose. This will allow you to create custom fundraising appeals just for this type of gift. This page from Friends of Foothills Animal Shelter is a great example to use.

4. Give an option for an instant notification

A notification to family or other third party is important as donors may want the honoree(s) to know that a donation has been made in their name.

Life events, such as a death, often happen quickly. Because of this, donors want the family members of the deceased to be notified of the tribute gift they made. Make sure your donation page has the option for an email notification. There should be space for donors to enter an email address they would like the notification about the gift sent to and a message. The automated email part of the email should offer basic information about your organization so the family can learn more about what the gift will be used for.

5. Have a plan in place for physical mail notifications

Though in recent years, email has become the preferred notification option, some donors will prefer that your organization mail a physical card to someone about the tribute gift. Be sure you have a plan in place for this. Consider details such as…

  • Who will send the cards?
  • What is their format?
  • How quickly can you send them out? (quicker is better)

Make sure you include the option for a message from the donor. You should also add a sentence or two and web address about your nonprofit that allows the card’s recipient to learn more about the gift’s impact.

Bonus tip: If you are limited in manpower or time you can use services like Handwrytten and Zapier to automate the sending of these cards.

6. Offer recognition for tributes

Donors want their honoree truly honored. This involves special recognition. The more special the recognition, the more likely you are to gain these gifts and have the donor feel that their tribute has been honored.

A few options for this recognition include…

  • An online “memorial wall” on a page of your website listing all the names.
  • An honorary brick planted in a garden. Many nonprofits sell bricks just for this purpose.
  • A plaque on a physical memorial wall in the nonprofit’s building.

7. Give donors the option to create their own page

Peer to peer (P2P) fundraising offers tribute giving opportunities for your nonprofit. Consider setting up a platform that allows people to create their own fundraising page through your website that spotlights an honoree of their choice. Encourage the fundraisers to include a picture of the honoree, the story of why they are being honored and what the cause means to them.

This page acts as a place the organizer can direct people to go to make for donations. They can share it via email or on social media, generating donations in honor of the person while also spreading the word about your nonprofit.

World Wildlife Foundation has a nice example of what this can look like on their website.

Bonus tip: Turn a one-time tribute donor into a life-long donor by communicating the impact of their gift. Showing them how their gift was used will make them more likely to give again down the road.

Further questions on how to encourage tribute donations from your donor base? 4aGoodCause is here to help. Let’s talk.

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Ronald Pruitt

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald is the President and Founder of 4aGoodCause, a simple and effective fundraising CRM that specializes in earning recurring revenue for nonprofits through monthly giving. For 25 years, Ronald has had the joy of doing what he loves, building online solutions that make a difference in the world. He’s helped raise millions of dollars online for small nonprofits across the country. Connect with Ronald on LinkedIn.

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