Honoring a Loved One’s Memory

Ideas for providing a lasting—and charitable—memorial.

Finding a meaningful way to honor your loved one’s memory can do a tremendous amount of good. Memorial gifts—whether charitable donations, scholarships, memorial walks or runs, or beautiful parks or walkways—is one way to keep your loved one’s story alive in poignant and unforgettable ways.

Here are a few ideas:

Set up a charity

Was your friend or family member a great promoter of the arts, a devoted animal rescuer, or passionate about a particular place? Many families choose to set up a memorial fund to benefit causes or places that their loved one was particularly devoted to.

If you decide to work with a specific organization, financial advisors suggest contacting the group first to ask how it works with memorial funds. Some will set up specific types of funds that you can ensure will be directed the way your loved one would have wanted. If you’re setting up a fund—not making a one-time donation—it’s also a good idea to consult with a professional financial advisor and to investigate foundations through groups like the Council on Foundations or the Foundation Center.

Help fund a cure

Many families and friends seek to further the research done by their loved ones in life—or the research done to treat their diseases. Research gifts make it possible for scientists to continue funding their work. And many organizations will allow you to make your gift online, and will send a special notification electronically or by mail to the family members or friends you designate. You’ll be sent a tax receipt for your records.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Doctors Without Borders, the American Heart Association and the Cancer Research Institute are just a few that make this process seamless. Some organizations, such as St. Jude, will allow you to dedicate a brick or add a name to a recognition wall or a hospital space, so your honoree won’t be forgotten.

Set up a memorial fund for survivors

There are many crowdsourcing vehicles whereby you can raise funds for the survivors of someone who has died. YouCaring, GoFundMe and others can help offset the costs of funerals and give families a bit of a financial buffer by raising funds through the community and social media.

But if you have the resources to set up a private fund or trust to benefit a loved one’s survivors or to provide funds for their education, speak to a local bank about what kind of fund to create and how it will work.

Establish a scholarship fund

You can give a set amount of money, or find ways for a scholarship fund to perpetuate itself. In either case, you’ll want to consult with the school’s benefits office to determine the criteria for the awards, how it will be funded, design an application, determine whether contributors to the scholarship fund can receive tax benefits, and how many people each year may benefit from it, among just a few considerations.

You might also choose to use a third-party scholarship administration service. These fee-based services (even when they’re non-profits) can cut down on your work, but cut in to the amount of the scholarship award. A school’s financial aid office can help you find an administration service.

Organize a memorial walk or run

Memorial walks and runs can be a great way to give to research, favorite charities or causes in the name of your loved one. And these events provide more physical community togetherness than a crowdsourcing platform can provide. Organize a 5K, 10K or even the favorite running route of your friend or family member, then ask participants to secure pledge donations. While coming together, friends can remember your loved one and give back in their memory at the same time.

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