Time for in-memory fundraising to come of age

Kate Jenkinson Comment and opinion

Kate Jenkinson Head of In-Memory Consultancy, Legacy Voice

The term ‘in-memory fundraising’ has been around for at least 20 years. The discipline has certainly grown and become more sophisticated in the intervening period, and there has never been a more exciting time to work in this area.

Whether you’re new to in-memory, or a seasoned pro, here’s our view of the current state of affairs and future opportunities.

The therapeutic value of in-memory can shine through

The act of remembering a loved one by doing something proactively can provide great comfort amid grief. The fact that tribute funds doubled in importance during the pandemic is testament to how much people appreciate the opportunity to make a positive difference.

That therapeutic value is increasingly recognised by the charities we work with. There are plenty of stories of people experiencing a loss and then – at a time when they may feel alone or lacking purpose – getting more involved in fundraising and volunteering, meeting new friends and developing new horizons.

In-memory fundraising is ‘small’ – but growing

Our In-Memory Performance Benchmarking suggests that in-memory motivated giving could make up 2.5% of total UK charity fundraised income, or 1.5% of all income. That 2.5% rises to 13.2% for hospices and 5.1% for health charities.

That modest percentage belies its actual scale; around £2bn annually by our latest estimate, a figure that may be just the tip of the iceberg, given how much giving is in-memory motivated but not recorded as such. And even after taking account of swings in the number of deaths from Covid-19, our data suggests that in-memory fundraising has continued its steady recent growth of at least 2.5% per annum, while other areas of fundraising struggled through the pandemic.

One factor we believe made a difference during the early pandemic, was our role in encouraging charities to make sure they had adapted to virtual funerals, and to recognise how important this was as a way of continuing to support bereaved families.

But that growth is also testament to Covid-19 making us all think about death, grief, and what really matters in life, be it for individuals, families, or communities. A continued focus on those themes will help charities to increase the prominence of in-memory fundraising.

Internal communication and stewardship is key to keeping that going

Maintaining that momentum won’t happen on its own. In-memory specialists sometimes debate whether they ought to sit as part of the Legacy team, or elsewhere. There is no ‘correct’ answer – what is important is encouraging internal flows of information in order to give in-memory fundraisers the opportunity to get to work. In-memory success requires good coordination with Events teams in particular, given how many people take on challenges to remember a loved one.

It’s particularly important to have a good relationship with frontline and service staff at a charity, who are rightly protective of those accessing services and their families. The idea of sharing information with fundraisers might require something of a paradigm shift – but with good stewardship, this can be done in a very respectful, supporter-led way. This is where those aforementioned stories of the therapeutic value of in-memory fundraising play an important part of creating internal buy-in for in-memory, and this wider topic is one that I’ll be exploring with a panel of in-memory fundraisers in a session at the CIOF Fundraising Convention next month.

On top of that, charities must consider the emerging trend for self-remembrance. People want to think about how they will be remembered themselves – not only with gifts in a will, but by their friends and family – something they have the opportunity to influence within their own lifetime. Self-remembrance presents a huge opportunity for charities but is a topic that will require more research and understanding.

We’re expanding our team and our services

With many charities wanting in-memory support, I’m delighted to welcome two new consultants to our in-memory team: Emily Grint and Nancy Everson.

      Emily Grint

Both bring rich experience from across the charity   sector, including in-memory expertise. Many will know   Emily as manager of the invaluable, 400-member   strong In-Memory Fundraisers’ Facebook Group, while   Nancy joins having led the first-rate in-memory   programme at Breast Cancer Now.

With our expanded team, we’ll continue our thought leadership work, both in the public domain and with the members of our In-Memory Insight Consortium. We’ll also seek to do more work with currently under-served sectors, such as overseas development organisations, animal charities and universities. Those seeking to expand on their work could gain a strong early-mover advantage.

   Nancy Everson

We’re seeing ever more job adverts asking for this specialism – right now on CharityJob for example there are 50 live roles, compared with no more than 30 in any one year prior to 2021. I expect that trend to continue.

In-memory is well and truly coming of age. Legacy Voice is really excited to continue to support the charity sector in helping it reach its true potential.

Find out more about our In-Memory Insight research programme Or for a conversation please contact Caroline Waters