Soliciting Funeral Donations
As funeral planning becomes more integrated with technology, it is no surprise that the latest trend in covering funeral costs is crowdsourcing. Websites like Kickstarter have changed the way we look at paying for goods and services—instead of paying a huge chunk of money to create a product, individuals ask to be paid in advance from a wide pool of funders who want to see the product come to light.
This works well for things like movies, books, and the arts. One person can pay ten thousand dollars to publish a magazine, or five hundred people can all throw in $20 and be offered a subscription in exchange for their support. Everyone wins.
Funeral planning is also headed this direction—and with mixed reception. On the one hand, funerals are expensive affairs (often in that ten thousand dollar range), and provide comfort to a wide audience. On the other, many people consider soliciting funds to be a tacky and disrespectful affair.
Pros of Funeral Crowdsourcing
People often contribute to a funeral out of respect and love. They may send funeral flowers (which can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on the bouquet size), purchase sympathy gift baskets (also in the $20-$200 range), make food for the memorial service, offer to host out-of-town guests, or undertake errands that are too overwhelming for the family at that time.
“In lieu of” donations are quite common as well, asking people to send money to a charity instead of spending out-of-pocket for the funeral decorations.
The next logical step in this progression is to earmark those “in lieu of” funds for private use. While a charity gift in the deceased’s name is a generous gift, some families would prefer to have money to cover funeral costs.
Funeral-specific websites similar to Kickstarter exist to help make this happen. While you could always set up a memorial website with a PayPal account and do a funeral donation site of your own, you can also opt for places like Funeral Fund or Graceful Goodbye, which specialize in funerals. These websites work well if you want to extend your donation pool beyond family and friends. High profile deaths or moving family stories can often reach strangers from around the globe, prompting donations in sympathy of your loss.
Cons of Funeral Crowdsourcing
But just because we can ask strangers and family members for money to pay for a funeral, does that make it a good idea? Funerals tend to be deeply personal affairs—usually with religious connotations attached—and you may not want to be asked how you spent the money. Oftentimes, people who contribute to a funeral feel they have a say in how things are planned, especially if you get enough money to cover the funeral and have some left over. Should you donate the rest? Start an education fund? Put it toward family self care?
There may also be fees and taxes associated with this kind of donation, so you’ll want to be sure you talk with your accountant or estate attorney to ensure that you are following all regulations regarding the deceased’s estate.
At the end of the day, only you can decide how best to cover funeral costs. For some families, having community support is not only financially helpful, but emotionally helpful as well. For others, the cons of having their own finances questioned is not worth the hassle. Whatever your decision, it’s still a good idea to look into funeral pre-payment plans—especially for older relatives. For the majority of American families, the best way to save money on a funeral is to plan ahead.
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By Amy Johnson