Charity Gifts and Donations

A death notice or obituary may include the expressions "in lieu of flowers, please send donations to (charity)" or "family and friends are making contributions to..." Though these phrases encourage charitable gifts, they do not mean other expressions of sympathy are not appropriate. You can choose to send flowers and make a charitable contribution. Or, if you only want to do one, follow the family's wishes and contribute.

If you do plan on making a donation:

  • Try to give at least what you would have paid for a flower arrangement.
  • Make sure the charity knows the name and address of the family so they can be notified about your contribution. (If you prefer to contribute anonymously, advise the organization at this time.)
  • When you send a check to a charity, include a note saying whom the donation memorializes: "This donation is in loving memory of Josette Bordin."
  • Make sure the organization has your address so they can send you an acknowledgment that will serve as your tax receipt.
  • If the family does not specify a cause or organization, choose a nonprofit that might be meaningful to the family. You can mention the contribution to the family in person or in a card without specifying the donation amount: "We've remembered your dear John with a contribution to the National Military Family Association." 
  • Generally, cash is not sent directly to the family in place of flowers or a charitable contribution. But there are always exceptions if a family is in dire need. For example, if the grieving family is having financial difficulties, a group (fellow employees, club or lodge members, neighbors) could take up a collection. Or you can try to give a donation through a clergy member or another community leader to spare the family any feelings that they are indebted to you.

How much should you spend on a charitable donation?

According to Peggy Post, director and spokesperson for The Emily Post® Institute, there is no magic number that is considered appropriate. She suggests you get a feel for what is customary in your area, consider how well you know the family or honoree and be practical - think about your budget when making a donation.

With all that being said, after doing some research she found most people spent $100 or less, with the average being about $50. If the family asked for a donation in lieu of flowers, send what you would have spent on flowers.

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Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition
By Peggy Post
Peggy Post