In-Memory Insight is an ongoing research programme which explores the size, shape and scope of in-memory giving in the UK. We collect hard evidence to inform in-memory fundraising strategies and communications, and help fundraisers build the case for investment in this area. Our work is supported each year by a ‘learning circle’ of leading charities – over ninety of them in the past eleven years – who pool their budgets, experiences and data to help build evidence and insight.
Each year, In-Memory Insight explores a new topic, building on what’s gone before. As you can imagine, in 2020 there was a pressing need for charities to understand how to respond to the pandemic. Our research that year highlighted how much the use of digital technologies in in-memory giving and fundraising had accelerated. Technology has become embedded in the in-memory universe, with implications for how it touches people’s lives and how charities develop relationships with their supporters.
Our new research focused on a wide range of digital activities, including online in-memory giving and fundraising, online funerals, and virtual and hybrid in-memory events. It assessed the implications for targeting and stewardship and the opportunities and threats for fundraisers.
The proliferation of digital platforms and products means people now have a far greater choice of how to celebrate their loved one. Grief has no timeline, and many of the supporters we spoke to had valued digital spaces that they could revisit numerous times for reflection and comfort. Our memories can now be carried around in our pockets via our phones, or shared across social networks. This is remembrance on our own terms.
Digital channels have an important function as a positive ‘place to go’ to share memories.
They allow the wider community to come together to remember, including people who might otherwise hesitate to get too involved or are concerned about intruding on close family.
By sharing memories in a digital landscape, people are building a community and new connections in places where this wasn’t previously happening, across generations and geographies.
Without doubt, broader and new audiences are being motivated to fundraise in memory.
One of the things that really stood out in our consumer research was how digital is facilitating more in-memory group activity. A number of groups had taken up some kind of digital offer – whether to support each other, or directly to raise funds. It was clear that some of this activity would not have happened, had the digital channel not existed. Our survey showed that just half of the people being remembered had been members of clubs or groups in their lifetime; and that in just under half of these cases, these groups had gone on to fundraise in their memory.
Many of the supporters opting in via these new channels have the potential to give again, in any number of different ways. The challenge for charities is to make full and effective use of their new contact data, ensuring they create meaningful and timely stewardship that inspires future support.
The online in-memory universe is becoming increasingly crowded, with big well-known platforms such as JustGiving and Facebook developing specific in-memory tools and features. This is bound to increase awareness of in-memory giving, as well as promoting individual choice.
However, it also raises challenges for charities in terms of the number of processes and systems required to support the different platforms and deliver an excellent stewardship experience. This makes the fundamentals of an in-memory supporter journey, such as the initial thank you, even more critical.
Our research showed that public awareness of tribute funds was low, but – once explained – the idea was very well received. Our panel suggested that when it comes to raising awareness of funds, charities might be best served by focusing on their warmest audiences first; people who they know have the motivation, means and opportunity. From our consultancy work, we know that most charities still have their work cut out reaching even this audience with information about tribute funds; and often this has as much to do with organisational culture and internal engagement as it does with resources.
Using heart-warming case studies, drip-feeing positive messages about funds and building a marketing strategy that doesn’t silo digital and offline channels and keeps the loved one at its heart – could all help here.
There is clearly huge potential in the in-memory digital space. But our panel reflected on the importance of focusing on the principles of in-memory engagement before the channel. These include keeping the loved one at the forefront, reflecting their values; inviting supporters’ stories; celebrating with them; and being prompt and polite at all times. Whatever forum or channel you’re using, these sound, insight-based principles hold equally true.
Adoption of digital is changing the way in memory giving works. But at its core, this is still about giving people the opportunity to remember their loved one in a meaningful way.