The pandemic has sent shockwaves through society and it continues to be an incredibly turbulent time for the sector.

With the announcements by many charities of possible redundancies and the continued need to access the furlough scheme, it is enormously unsettling for us all, not least in-memory fundraisers. But, I was heartened by our recent survey, which showed that through adversity, so many positives could emerge.

I’ve been reflecting on our most recent In-Memory Insight research, which considered the impact and importance of in-memory stewardship. Kate Jenkinson explores key learnings in her Viewpoint, and I wanted to think about in-memory stewardship in light of potential changes in charity personnel, reductions in budgets and where we can go from here.

People are pivotal

Charity staff are critical to long and rewarding relationships; they have a vital role in effective in-memory fundraising. Our research showed that supporters appreciated engaging with friendly, approachable and accessible staff. They valued the recognition and encouragement staff gave them.

Staff matter to in-memory supporters, they plant seeds that grow into the roots of long-term giving and relationships. (We learnt about the ‘soft’ skill set needed by fundraisers through our legacy stewardship work back in Spring last year, more on this here).

When it comes to interaction with supporters, personalisation is key; and the significance of the right team was reinforced further. Small, often low-cost, touches made such a difference. These activities can be time-consuming, relying on dedicated and compassionate staff, and while they may appear to be ‘nice to haves’, they are seen as essential to in-memory donors. ‘Heroising’ a loved one and further highlighting the supporters ‘why’ strengthens the relationship with the charity.

The power of In-memory

Fundraising in memory of a loved one who has died is so important to people. The experience helps supporters to feel rewarded and to remember their loved one. Through great stewardship, this positivity can be maintained and can deepen the link between the supporter and the charity.

In-memory is a reason for giving to charity, rather than a way of donating. Our research shows it’s a significant motivation underpinning many donations – from the obvious (funeral collections and commemorative benches), to the invisible (setting up a direct debit to commemorate a parent; running a marathon to raise funds for the health charity that helped a colleague). We have found that one-third of adults have given or raised money in memory over the past 12 months, and this giving totals over £2 billion a year.

Also, people who have given in memory are three times more likely to make a legacy pledge. Two-fifths of charitable legacy donors include at least one in-memory gift in their will – and once there, those bequests were unlikely ever to be removed, as they formed a permanent link to someone special.

We cannot reinforce enough that your in-memory supporters need you – and you need them. Please don’t underestimate the impact that your staff have on long-term relationships and on your future income.

So, what next?

The pandemic has changed all of our lives; and we must deal with the fallout. The immediate impact on all aspects of charity fundraising has been huge – perhaps none more so than in-memory.

The deep-seated need to grieve for and honour those who have died – whether from COVID-19 or another cause – is greater than ever. While some relaxation in lockdown is now in train, the tremors in terms of gathering, grieving and remembrance will take many months to subside.

We believe that over the course of the pandemic, many of our attitudes, rituals and amenities relating to death and remembrance will have changed forever. Once the immediate crisis is over, what will the new in-memory landscape look like? What are the challenges – and the opportunities – for fundraisers?

Beyond the pandemic, we’ll be working with charity partners to understand how the in-memory sector adapts to the new landscape. If you’re interested in finding out more about this, please get in touch.