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Viken Mikaelian CEO

Viken Mikaelian CEO

Majorgifts.com LLC

The Donor Will Never Know. Why Attend His Funeral?

Check Your Moral Compass

A fundraiser approached his coworker: “I really don’t want to go to that funeral. Do you think the family will notice if I’m not there? I mean, we’re sending them a thank-you note for her donation, and I already sent a sympathy card …”

“True. I think it’s probably okay to skip. Besides, it’s not like she’s going to notice,” the coworker replied with a wink.

“Yeah, I dunno. I’m still on the fence. She gave a lot to us … I mean, what if her family notices? Or her friends? She was pretty active with the legacy society, so other donors will probably be at the funeral, too.”

“Maybe they’ll just think we are so busy saving puppies, we don’t have time to send anyone to a benefactor’s funeral. Word will spread, and the donations will pour in … right?”

Cynical and Self-Serving Reasons to Attend:

  • The donor’s family will know.Is the payout from that charitable remainder unitrust just around the corner? Maybe. It’s best you go so that the family, and most importantly, the executor, sees you there. And hey — if you express sorrow for their loss, maybe they’ll even process your organization’s check first. Cha-ching!
  • The community will know.Your organization has a reputation to maintain. It’s going to look pretty shabby if you’re not there as a final “thank you,” especially to a well-known donor.
  • Your other donors will know.Donors to the same nonprofit are often close friends with each other. You need to be there so they can see how wonderful you are. While you’re at it, maybe you can interject into conversation statements like, “You know, I even skipped my Peloton class to attend.” Better yet, comfort her grieving friends and family by saying, “I could be burning calories right now, but my donor’s cash means a lot to my nonprofit.” The sheer goodwill your great sacrifice elicits will probably move those other legacy society members to shower your organization with even bigger gifts!  

Cynical? Yes. Practical? Maybe. Appreciative? Absolutely not.

But the most important reason you should attend a donor’s funeral:

It’s the right thing to do.

It’s too bad so many people have to debate whether they should “do the right thing.” Yes, your time is valuable. No, it’s not like the donor is going to get up and say, “Thank you!” But to me, do you know what’s more valuable than time? Doing the right thing — and it is its own reward.

Consider this story: A fundraiser friend of mine told me about a donor named Sid. Sid, as they would say at the time, was a “confirmed bachelor.” He had no family, and he was leaving his entire estate to his favorite charity. Since Sid had no family and few friends, there wasn’t much more than “doing the right thing” that brought my friend, the charity’s fundraiser, to the funeral.

I’m told that it wasn’t a huge gathering, but it quickly became a memorable one. Since Sid lived alone, he had gone out to eat for most of his meals. When the funeral director asked those who wished to share memories of Sid to come forward, the audience stirred a bit. Then, one by one, a line of restauranteurs came up and told their favorite stories about Sid.

It didn’t seem that many of these speakers knew each other. They had only Sid in common—and now, each other. Sid’s final gift? He left behind a small community with a love of good food and fond memories of their favorite customer.

They all met because they, too, had been “doing the right thing.” In the end, his casket was carried out by five chefs and my friend, the fundraiser. 

So Maybe I Was Wrong.

There may be one more reason to go to the funeral of a donor.

For yourself.

Go to reflect on the memories of your donor and all that your donor did for the many people they helped through your organization. Take stock of how you were a part of it. You might have to skip the gym, but, if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll make a memory you can share about your donor’s final legacy.

And that will make you grow even more.

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.