Donate to Acme Charity in lieu of a gift

in Fundraising,Grassroots Fundraising

In lieu of gifts we would like to suggest donations to Acme Charity.”

Have you ever received a card like that with a wedding invitation?  I did recently and it started me wondering:

How many charities periodically
mention this option to their donors?

I can’t say that I’ve noticed it on any of the letters or emails I receive from various charities.  Nor have I noticed it on a multitude of nonprofit websites I routinely visit. 

Admittedly this fundraising tactic isn’t going to bring in a vault full of revenue.  Still, why turn your back on any opportunity?  Afterall, this is a form of grassroots fundraising.

When might donors consider this option?  Weddings are perhaps the most joyous time.  But hospice and other care facilities, health charities, etc. can also tactfully share that donations in memory of or in honor of someone are possible.

Where or how can you make donors aware that donations like this are possible?

– Occasionally (at least twice a year) include a short article or even something resembling an ad in your newsletter

– List it as an option on your donate page

– Mention these donations and a few other unique ways to help your charity in an email every now and then

– Include an insert in a direct mail letter

– Have a note on your reply device for your direct mail

– Include it as a helpful tip in a text message or two

– Highlight this to new donors somewhere in your welcome package

– On your website page where you describe the different ways people can help you, talk about “in lieu of gifts consider suggesting donations to our charity.”  Once someone does this, get a testimonial and put that on your website too.

Again, I don’t think any of us expect this to be a major source of fundraising.  But it is an easy option to make available to supporters!  And you never know how it might turn out.

As a side note: It’s just possible that someone may want to know how much your charity received as a result of their wedding or other event.  Be prepared with a polite answer on why that isn’t possible (I’m guessing that most smaller nonprofits won’t be set up for this tracking).  Remember that donors don’t understand the complexities of databases, tracking funds, and so on and so forth.  Be gentle.

Don’t turn your back on any source of funds.  You may even pick up a new donor or two for the long haul via this unique grassroots fundraising method. 

Let donors and other supporters know – in a variety of ways and more than once a year – how easy it is to help your cause … how easy it is for them to ask family and friends to please send a donation to your charity in lieu of gifts, flowers, etc.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chapin March 28, 2011 at 11:51 am

I strongly disagree that nonprofits should not take extra time and care to track donations like this. Our nonprofit tracks all donations in memory of, in honor of, etc all the time. DonorPerfect, which is a donor database that many nonprofits use, has a Link Gift feature in which you can provide Soft Credit, Notification, or note that it’s a Matching Gift. This then makes it easy to run a report for an individual on the gifts they brought in.

Even if a nonprofit is not at the point of even having a donor database, I strongly believe it’s up to the staff member tracking the money to at the very least keep a separate record of donations that come in for that reason. An individual who has earmarked their wedding donations to your nonprofit has generously given up their personal gifts for your organization and they deserve to know who gave and the amount that was given.


Karen Zapp, copywriter March 29, 2011 at 11:13 am


Thanks for your comment. And I would love to see nonprofits track this! Just to be clear: I didn’t say nonprofits shouldn’t track it – only that not all nonprofits may be set up to track it. 🙂

I agree with you that some donors may want to know how much was raised. However, other donors don’t. I know first hand of a couple people who said it really didn’t matter to them … they didn’t need to know how much was raised … knowing the amount wasn’t what was important to them.

If a nonprofit is set up to track these donations – whether from a wedding or other event – that’s great. If not and the donor does want to know the amount, then the nonprofit ought to make some special effort to track. For example: This could include a vanity URL to a special donate page with a tracking code on their website. You don’t need special software for this.

Perhaps I was too gentle in my original post when I said, “Be prepared with a polite answer on why that isn’t possible.”

Ideally before a nonprofit spreads the word about this grassroots fundraising method, they will have ways to accomodate the prefereneces of both types of donors: Those who want to know how much they helped raise, and donors for whom that information doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they have encouraged people to support a worthy cause.

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