Christmas – A Time to Give Something Back By Dr Claire Routley, Institute of Fundraising
Christmas can be a particularly difficult time when someone you love has died. It’s one of the times of year when we really feel the absence of those we’ve loved and lost.
Most organisations will receive donations throughout the year as a result of a bereavement, whether that’s through gifts in memory of a loved one or legacy gifts.
How might we give something back to our bereaved supporters and let them know we’re thinking of them over the Christmas period? I’ve made some suggestions below:
- When you’ve lost someone close, it can be helpful just to know that someone is thinking of you at this time of year. Inspired Goodbyes have produced Christmas cards especially designed for people who are grieving at Christmas. They acknowledge the Christmas season, but also that people may be finding it hard – especially if it’s their first Christmas without their loved one.
- One of the simplest things we can do is to offer a listening ear. One of the ways we recover from loss is by telling the story – putting it into a narrative form – but sometimes other people can find it difficult to have these conversations with us. You can let your supporters know that you’re there if they want a chat – or alternatively, help them to find some support from bereavement specialists.
- Research suggests that we like to keep our loved one involved as part of family celebrations, but that there’re few socially sanctioned ways to do this. In 2014, Macmillan Cancer Support produced a memorial Christmas tree bauble. Hanging it on a tree could be a positive way to keep a loved one’s memory at the centre of family celebrations: a simple idea that other charities could adapt.
- For friends and family members, another way of including a loved one might be to buy a gift in their honour. Good Gifts offers a range of charity gifts from feeding an abandoned cat or dog to buying a theatre ticket for a child. Choosing something that the deceased person would have loved can be a way of keeping alive their values, and reassuring their loved ones that they’re not forgotten.
- Some charities run special remembrance events at Christmas – for example, many hospices hold remembrance services as part of their Light up a Life campaign. These sorts of events can provide people with a space and a time to remember their loved one, as well as feeling part of a community of people united by remembrance.
If your organisation has found a way of giving something back its bereaved supporters at Christmas that they’ve found particularly helpful, do share it with us.
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