I live on the edge of a beautiful cemetery, the final resting place of over 40,000 people. It’s a hive of activity, constantly a-buzz with bulb planting, strimming and beautifying of burial plots. Remembrance in action. Across this 20-acre site alone, no fewer than 60 commemorative benches are still standing – all in varying states of preservation; all proud symbols of our desire to pay tribute.

It strikes me that tribute funds are the commemorative benches for our times. Personalised with great love and care, they are conceived as happy places to go. They have longevity, validated and fortified by every visit made to them. They welcome family gatherings and solitary reflection in equal measure. Primarily for close family and friends, they also have the power to inspire those with more tangential connection – even total strangers.

What really interests me is why any of us – when we could do our remembering in an outdoor space, in the shade of a copper beech tree – choose instead to turn to our desktops and mobiles. In early 2021, we saw online emerge as the dominant channel for in-memory gifts. Technology has become embedded in our in-memory universe.

What’s driven this huge growth in our appetite for digital remembrance? Is it necessity, with social distancing and the restrictions on funerals and events during the pandemic having simply ruled out other options?

Is it shareability? We’ve strong evidence that bereaved supporters want to heroise their loved ones and tell their stories. Personal tributes are often crafted with painstaking pride and care. Who would want these confined to a closed family circle when they could reach everyone with connection to the loved one?

Could it be fundraising zeal? Perhaps we’ve both underestimated people’s desire to do good in their loved one’s name, and overestimated their energy and resources in the immediate aftermath of loss? If a donor’s widest possible network is instantly accessible with an in-memory fundraising message at the click of a switch, who wouldn’t press that switch?

Or is it something else all together? Are digital methods of remembrance attracting a new, distinct breed of in-memory supporters with completely different engagement and expectations of your charity?

This September, In-Memory Insight’s brand-new research project, In-Memory Goes Digital, will attempt to answer some of these questions. We’ll take a deep dive into how digital technology is cutting across the in-memory domain and assess the implications for targeting and stewardship in this new digital in-memory landscape. We’ll identify the most important emerging opportunities and threats for fundraisers – and what your charity will need to do to stay ahead of the curve.

Will Facebook eclipse all our other methods of paying tribute? Or simply be the way we invite others to meet up with us, under the copper beech?

If you’re interested in joining In-Memory Insight this year, it’s not too late. Get in touch with Caroline Waters, Research Programme Manager.