In America, dying is a very expensive endeavor. So too, are funerals. Unless you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, you may not be aware of exactly how expensive they can be.
Today, a typical funeral can easily cost anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 depending on the type of funeral and the location. Often, this cost is an unexpected – or unanticipated - expense for a family to burden in the aftermath of a tragedy. Not everyone has the means to fully plan a funeral in advance, nor should they be expected to do so. You want what is best for your loved one, even after their passing.
Sometimes, you simply don’t have the finances to make that happen.
Fortunately, there are ways to lessen the burden. Financial relief for funeral costs is possible, though they require effort, time, and an understanding of how the process works.
If you and your family are facing this sudden financial hardship, you may want to consider crowdfunding your loved one's funeral as an option. Even if you are familiar with the concept, you may not know how it works or how to get started.
That's why we're here to help. With this guide, you'll be able to navigate the process of setting up a personal fundraiser and what to expect once you've gotten things off the ground.
What Is Crowdfunding?
In the last decade, a new kind of fundraising method has gained prevalence along with the rise of social media – crowdfunding. Even if you don’t know much about the topic, you’ve likely seen at least one crowdfunding effort if you spend any time at all on social media. Even Facebook has integrated ways to raise money for specific causes right through their website. (At this time, you can only donate to verified charities through the platform, however.)
Crowdfunding is when an individual, organization, or business funds a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large group of people. Typically, this kind of financial crowdsourcing is done via the internet.
In 2015, over $34 billion was raised worldwide by crowdfunding. By harnessing the power of social media, people all over the world can give money to causes or projects they want to see come to fruition.
There are four major types of crowdfunding:
Donation-based crowdfunding – This is the type of crowdfunding we will focus on in this guide, as it is the category where funeral crowdfunding falls. Donation-based crowdfunding is a fundraising campaign where people give to charitable causes without expecting anything in return.
Reward-based crowdfunding – As it is the most common type of crowdfunding, reward-based crowdfunding is the one that most people may be familiar. These campaigns are based upon the campaign organizer providing rewards in exchange for money pledged to the campaign.
Equity crowdfunding – This type of crowdfunding is when an organization exchanges shares in a private company for a monetary donation. It is typically used by start-up businesses to raise money for their
Debt crowdfunding – Crowdfunding like this more closely resembles business loans. The campaign organizer borrows money from individuals or groups to fund a business venture. They are expected to repay those “donations” by a specific deadline. There may be interest involved, allowing entrepreneurs to keep control of their new business while still offering some benefit to the investors.
Many crowdfunding ventures occur through websites like Kickstarter, a reward-based crowdfunding platform designed to fund independently produced artistic and creative projects products like books, technology, board games, and other merchandise. However, just as many are started to provide some form of emergency financial assistance to those in need. That includes funerals.
Why Would You Need To Crowdfund A Funeral?
Community-funded funerals are not an unusual event. Historically, if a family was not able to pay the expenses for the burial of their loved one, their community would come together to help shoulder the costs and take care of one of their own.
As economic instability increases across the country and communities come more geographically spread apart, that tradition has fallen to the wayside. That means that more and more families find themselves in a situation where coming up with the necessary money to take care of a loved one is more stressful than ever.
In an ideal world, we would have time to come to terms with the death of a loved one before their passing. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes we find ourselves facing the unthinkable with no warning and no plan forward in our time of grief.
Crowdsourced funerals usually fall under this category, as a grieving family under an unexpected financial burden may be struck with costumes they were not expecting. As oft-cited research suggests, 40% of Americans would struggle to cover a $400 emergency. What does this say about one costing several thousand dollars?
While everyone should have a will and testament, many people pass on without a plan for their loved ones to follow. Without preparations in place, it can be difficult for a family to know the wishes of their loved one or what the best course of action is.
While life insurance will pay the bulk of a funeral, many people do not have insurance or, if they do have it, their family may not be aware of it when the time comes.
MULTIPLE FINANCIAL HARDSHIPS
The most common reason for crowdfunding a funeral is simply the fact that funerals are an added expense most people are not prepared to pay. As of 2021, at least 54% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
Additionally, funerals are often not the only expense a grieving family may be expected to handle after a loved one dies.
Many deaths come at the end of a lengthy illness or injury. They may come also with large medical bills associated with treatments or end-of-life care. While life insurance may cover some of these costs, it may not be able to sufficiently pay for all expenses. In this case, many families turn to alternative means, like crowdfunding, to pay for their funerals.
COVERING THE FINANCIAL GAP
This brings us to an adjacent reason for crowdfunding. Even if you are fortunate enough to have some money saved for emergencies, you may not have enough to cover the entire cost of a funeral.
As we’ve stated, they are incredibly expensive, especially when you begin to factor in all associated costs from the service, the funeral plots, and even the internment itself. These smaller costs begin to add up quickly.
Even if you can pay for most of the cost, you may find yourself unwilling to compromise on certain aspects of the service. This is especially true when religious beliefs or even the deceased own wishes factor into the situation.
What Are The Advantages To Crowdfunding A Funeral?
When traditional funding methods fall short, it leaves grieving family members with few options outside high-interest loans or compromising important aspects of a loved one's funeral plan. It is when these situations occur that crowdfunding becomes the most logical – and economical – option.
NO APPLICATION PROCESS
Unlike a loan or purchasing life insurance, there is no application process accompanying most donation crowdfunding sites. You won’t be judged on your income, economic status, or anything of that sort. You won’t need to fill out forms or be trapped in a prolonged waiting period before you can start your fundraiser. You only need to be honest and straightforward about your goals when you begin the process (as we will guide you through below).
QUICK ACCESS TO FUNDS
While there may be a short waiting period to access the money you’ve raised, this period is not overly long. The money is available when you need it – which may be very soon, depending on your situation. Even more, the process is transparent. It shows you exactly the amount of money you are expected to receive and when you can access it.
MAKES ASKING FOR HELP EASIER
Asking for help, even when you need it most, can be difficult. By using a crowdfunding platform, you essentially only need to ask for assistance a single time as you build your campaign’s web presence and then share that campaign with your friends and family. You can also reach a wider network of people, letting your story – and your need – speak for you. You never know how many people you can reach with a simple funding campaign, though you must be prepared to leave your comfort zone to share it.
SPREADS YOUR STORY (AND YOUR NEED)
While it might not seem like much, a few dollars from strangers can add up. These small donations build over time, especially as more people hear your story and want to help. Small donations from a large network of people are more efficient than a single donation from one or two individuals.
IT OFFERS MORE THAN FINANCIAL SUPPORT
While the most obvious advantage of crowdfunding a funeral is, of course, raising money to give your loved one the send-off they deserve. However, it isn't the only advantage out there. Crowdfunding connects you to others across the web, often those in your extended family or community, who may be grieving with you. It can bring solace if only because you know that you are not alone and that your loved one – and how much they meant to you – is known to others.
It also lets others constructively offer their condolences. Grief can be isolating; it's hard to see beyond the onslaught of emotions when we lose someone we love. The best cure for that is often to see that others are there for us. Often, they too have felt loss and want to help you navigate it.
Where Should I Go Online To Crowdfund A Funeral?
There is no end to crowdfunding sites online. While Kickstarter may be one of the most well-known, it does not take donations for charitable causes but instead only funds projects and creative endeavors. The same is also true for IndieGoGo, which is like Kickstarter in many ways (but often lacks quality control and oversight).
There are so many sites that it can be impossible to know which one is best suited for your needs. More importantly, you need to know that the crowdfunding website is reliable and ethical in how they take the money and distribute those funds. You may find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer options. So we’ve taken the time to look into several and give you some information on the most popular and reliable.
GoFundMe is by far the most popular crowdfunding platform on the web. This is a for-profit crowd-sharing platform designed for charitable giving. Most campaigns on the site raise money for medical bills, emergency life situations, and memorial funds for funerals. Money raised on this platform can be withdrawn by the organizer of the campaign. While there is a 0% fee for using the platform, GoFundme takes 1.9% + $0.30 per donation in processing fees.
There is typically a 2-5 business day delay for funds to be distributed after the organizer manually requests money from the campaign.
A slightly different platform, FundTheFuneral is a platform designed by funeral directors to help customers with fees. It connects families with potential funeral homes, allowing them to raise money online that will go directly towards the cost of the funeral. It is applied to the funeral bill.
Each transaction takes a 2.9% credit card processing fee. There is an additional 5% fee from each donation that covers the cost of operating the site.
Another crowdsharing platform like GoFundMe, PlumFund shares a lot with its predecessor. With this platform, you pay 2.59% + $0.49* (*PayPal’s fee of 2.59% + $0.49 applies to most credit/debit payments) per donation. Like the others, they integrate with PayPal and other online card processors.
EverLoved is a digital “funeral marketplace” where families can shop for funeral services, caskets, and other needs. They have recently added their own crowdfunding component in memorial fundraisers. It integrates into an online memorial, obituary, and place for friends and family to share their memories of the deceased. They also have payment processing fees; 2.9%+ $0.30 are deducted from each contribution to pay Stripe, the payment processor. Donations can be distributed to the campaign organizer, someone else, or directly to a funeral home.
With Ever Loved, the money automatically distributes to the organizer 2 business days after the donation is made.
How Do You Get Started Crowdfunding A Funeral?
Once you've made the decision to start crowdfunding and chosen a platform, it's time to create your campaign. With most platforms, this process is straightforward. You'll fill in the relevant information and go from there. Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
STEP 1: REGISTER ON THE SITE
To start a campaign, you will need to provide some basic personal information about yourself. Typically, this is your name and address as part of site registration. You'll need an e-mail address and, eventually, more personal information for the beneficiary of the funds (if it isn't you).
Campaigns like this do well if they are connected to a real person, so use your real name on the forms instead of a moniker or screen name.
STEP 2: DESCRIBE YOUR CAMPAIGN & EXPLAIN YOUR NEED
For this step, you will want to give some thought to what you want to say. We recommend checking out our tip section below for information on how to craft your campaign. We recommend being upfront and honest about what you need and why.
STEP 3: ADD PHOTOGRAPHS
You will want to add photographs to your campaign. People are visually oriented. Photographs will help make your campaign more personal and garner more attention from the onset.
STEP 4: SET A GOAL FOR THE CAMPAIGN & A FUNDRAISING TIME FRAME
Most sites require you to add a monetary goal for your donations. This can be tricky, as you want to choose an amount that is achievable while still acknowledging how much money you will need overall.
Fortunately, most campaigns can continue to raise money after you’ve met your goal. You may also want to make sure you are transparent about what will happen to any additional funds if you surpass your funding goals.
You also want to make sure you provide a time frame for the campaign. You won’t want to keep it up indefinitely, especially as most funeral planning should be accomplished within a few weeks of a person’s passing.
STEP 5: PROVIDE YOUR BANKING INFORMATION
To receive funds, you will need to make sure to give the crowdfunding platform a way to "payout." Depending on the site, this may be a direct deposit to your bank account or through a third-party banking app like PayPal.
If you are raising money on behalf of another person, you may want to put their financial information there instead of your own. Make sure the information is accurate to avoid delays in receiving funds.
Tips On Asking For Funeral Donations
The unfortunate truth about fundraising is that many times, the message is secondary to the presentation. In short, people are more likely to give money to campaigns that resonate with them than those based on need alone.
If you want to be successful in crowdfunding a funeral, you must understand how to present this need to the public in a compelling, forthright manner. Here is our advice to making the most out of your crowdfunding campaign.
After you’ve made your campaign page, you will need to start filling out the important details. You’ll want to give some information about your situation. Who are you raising money for? What happened to them?
You can give a brief description of the person and their life - akin to an obituary (see our guide for writing obituaries here) - and expand upon that when necessary. While it can be tempting to keep it simple, that may not provide enough information to allow people to understand why you need the money.
Most importantly, you should be honest. There is no shame in asking for help; giving an adequate picture of your need for help will only attract more potential donors than pretending it is greater or lesser than actuality.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
While it’s important to explain who you are raising the money for, it’s equally important to explain why you are the person who is raising the money. If you are directly related to the deceased, this is the time to talk about your relationship with them.
Explain what this person meant to you and others. What were they like? What did they love? Providing these little details gives others a way to forge an emotional connection to your position and your family’s grief.
While adding a link to the person’s obituary can certainly offer the basics of the situation, it doesn’t provide that personal touch. To succeed in your campaign, you must make people care about the situation.
It’s easy to address friends and family who already care about you and the deceased. They may already know the details and feel an attachment to your loved one (or you) that will compel them to donate. But what about the extended family? Or those in your wider circle? Your campaign must include writing in a way that includes them as well.
EXPLAIN HOW THE MONEY WILL BE USED
Funeral expenses are surprisingly complex. There are many aspects to the planning that most people may not realize unless they have experienced this firsthand. Explaining why you need the amount of money and how it will be used helps people grasp how expensive funerals truly are. They are more likely to sympathize and provide help. If you feel comfortable, you can always upload copies of bills and pricing directly from invoices.
Potential costs you’ll want to keep in mind for your campaign:
- Casket/Urn Costs
- Embalming Costs
- Funeral services including the use of facilities
- Burial plot
- Mortuary service fees
- Any outstanding medical bills
UNDERSTAND THE ASSOCIATED COSTS
Do your research before you choose a crowdfunding platform. You don’t want to be surprised by any hidden fees (like credit card processing payments) attached to your donations. You also want to build those payments into the amount you are trying to raise.
You don’t want to meet your goal only to find yourself short once the fees are taken out of the final amount.
SHARE YOUR CAMPAIGN REPEATEDLY
Never underestimate the power of social media. Once your campaign is active, you will be able to share the link to your friends, family, and greater network online. You should utilize all available social media platforms you use: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other online platforms you use.
You should also send the link out to your community and any organizations you are involved in. Churches, for example, often share crowdfunding campaigns with their members.
You can also consider sharing with local charity organizations with the hope they will spread it along as well. If appropriate, you can also share the campaign with your work.
Even then, your work isn’t finished after you post the link once. To be successful, you will want to continue to share it every few days (but not too often!). You want to keep the fundraiser in the public eye without over-saturating your social media feed with it. Asking for “likes and shares” on social media is appropriate and expected under the circumstances. Do not feel embarrassed to ask for help.
THANK YOUR DONORS
If possible, make sure you thank the people who help you. This can be as simple as writing an update expressing your gratitude to everyone who has given money.
You can consider writing emails to donors if you have their information. If you have many donors, you can use a template for this process to make it go faster. Just be sincere and acknowledge their kindness.
Additionally, giving regular updates on your campaign, including how much of the funeral expenses can be paid with the currently donated amount, helps your donors feel more invested in your fundraiser. If they know you are closer to reaching your goal, they may share the campaign with their networks as well, increasing the possibility that you will reach your goal.
Crowdfunding Frequently Asked Questions
If you are thinking about crowdfunding a funeral, you may have additional questions after reading this article. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about crowdfunding.
What do I do if I can’t afford a funeral for my loved one?
First, know that you are not alone. Most Americans are unprepared to pay for unexpected medical expenses, including the funeral of a loved one.
Crowdfunding. This avenue is where the bulk of our guide is focused. Crowdfunding relies on asking for small amounts of money from a large group of people online. These donations can be used to fund the cost of your loved one’s funeral.
Funeral Payment Plan. Some funerals may offer payment plan options that allow you to pay over time instead of upfront. If you are uncertain about how you are going to pay for a funeral, you can always ask the funeral home if they offer these services. At worst, they can say no (and you may be able to contact other mortuaries who can better accommodate you).
Reduce the Costs. While funerals are expensive, they don’t always need to be as expensive. You can reduce costs by considering more economical casket options or foregoing some more expensive services. You can use your own home for a memorial service instead of a funeral home or decline traditional burial and choose another option instead.
Look for Potential Benefits. Depending on the deceased's circumstances, they may be eligible for benefits that can assist in covering the costs of funeral services. Military benefits, social security benefits, or state and local assistance are all possibilities if the deceased qualifies for them. Some other additional nonprofits and charities can also offer financial assistance if the deceased falls under certain categories (like being a minor, death due to certain injuries or illnesses, etc).
Can you use GoFundMe for funeral expenses?
Yes, GoFundMe is an online fundraising platform that specializes in charitable giving. Its sole purpose is to help people with donation-based crowdfunding, which funeral funding falls under. It is the largest charitable fundraising platform on the web and is used by many for just that purpose.
How do you ask for money for a funeral donation?
- Be Truthful. Honesty is always the best policy. This applies when explaining your need for donations. Be polite and forthcoming about your situation and about the costs that will
- Explain the If you are already planning a funeral, you may be running against a strict deadline for when you need to pay for the services. If that’s the case, be honest about when you need the money and how much even smaller donations will help you make your goal quickly.
- Keep it Short and Sweet. You don’t need to explain the entirety of your loved one’s life story in your campaign. You don’t even need to overexplain yourself or go into too much background information if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. You should focus on the important details while still offering enough information to help the potential donor make a connection to your loved one (and to you).
- Make Donating Easy. Fortunately, crowdfunding platforms are excellent for this aspect of By making it as easy as possible for people to donate to your campaign, you increase the chances that someone will do so. If you need additional resources, you can read this blog from GoFundMe that includes funeral donation expense templates.
Is crowdfunding for a funeral a bad idea?
The short answer is no. Crowdfunding a funeral is not a bad idea if you are prepared to do it. Like anything, it takes work and effort to accomplish your goals. You should not go into it thinking it will be easy. Crowdfunding has proven to work repeatedly, though it can be a tedious process.
Overall, it is not the best (or most reliable) way to pay for a funeral, but it is a well-established alternative to traditional means when you don’t have money to pay for it on your own.
Are there any risks to crowdfunding a funeral?
All fundraising ventures come with a risk. Unfortunately, crowdfunding a funeral is no exception. There are several disadvantages to the process. You should make sure to consider all of these before you make a final choice, as you do not want to be blindsided if you find yourself facing them.
Crowdfunding platforms may take a percentage of the money you raise. It's important to read the fine print, as it were, on the platform you choose so you can be prepared and understand their fees before you set a monetary
Crowdfunding is popular. It’s likely only going to become more popular as more people experience financial hardships. It may be difficult to find your voice in a crowd of others asking for
It is work. While it might seem like an "easy" method to raise money, crowdfunding can be trickier to manage than you think. It requires a certain level of strategy to appeal to strangers online. In many ways, you have to sell your very real and very immediate need to possible donors. This includes sharing aspects of your life with strangers online that might not feel very comfortable.
You might not meet your goal. Not meeting your goal is the largest risk to crowdfunding. For some platforms, this is not an issue. They will release funds to you no matter what percentage of your goal you reach. For others, however, you might find the campaign fails to reach that minimum number, and then you risk receiving nothing. It's a risk that you must be willing (and able) to take before you
Some campaigns perform better than others. While we don't want to dissuade you, we would be remiss if we didn't point out that some funeral funding campaigns are more likely to reach their goal than others, as callous as it Situations where the death is unusual, suspicious, or unexpected often receive a greater output of sympathy and donations. It is likely because people are not accustomed to hearing about these situations, so they are more prone to donating their money and sharing the campaign with others to spread awareness.
Why do some people do crowdfunding for funerals?
Crowdfunding is the same as any other fundraising and is done for the same reasons. They are experiencing financial hardship. Funeral expenses may be outside their means and, while they wish to do what is best for their loved ones, they might have the money to do it outright or in such a short time.
How else can I raise money for a funeral?
If you have concerns about online crowdfunding, you may want to consider other alternatives for finding funds. You may also want to diversity your fundraising efforts and try more than one approach to the process. So what other things can you do to raise money?
- Host a Memorial Funeral receptions usually involve food. It’s a source of comfort and also alleviates the burden on a grieving family. You can ask that all participants bring a food item and donate an "entry fee" for the memorial dinner. This lets people donate smaller amounts in real- time.
- Penny Drives. A penny drive is a very inexpensive way to make money. All you need is some signage, a few jaws, and the permission of local businesses to set these collection jars at their establishments. You only need to explain the purpose of the jar via the sign and let people drop their loose change into
- Raffles/Auctions. Holding an auction is a great way to make money for a charitable cause. However, it does require time and effort for organization and properly donated items to offer to participants. Many local businesses may donate items or other prizes for your event, like gift cards, memorabilia, or gift baskets. However, it can be an incredibly useful way to make money for funeral expenses if you are successful! If you do want to hold a raffle, you may want to check your local gambling laws to make sure you are within the legal.
- Bake Sale. Popularized by churches and other charitable organizations, a bake sale is a great way to raise a small amount of money in a short They are relatively easy to set up but do require the time and effort involved to prepare the baked goods.
What are other funeral alternatives?
There are many alternatives to a traditional funeral that you may wish to consider before you begin fundraising. These alternatives are often less expensive while still being respectful to your loved one’s memory. Here are some most common funeral alternatives:
Cremation. The most popular alternative to a traditional funeral is cremation, as it often negates the need for burial expenses altogether. Some loved ones choose cost-effective urns as their loved one's final resting place instead of caskets. They may even wish to scatter the ashes and instead memorialize the deceased with cremation jewelry or something similar.
Green Funerals. Green funerals are an all-natural funeral alternative that seeks to minimize the environmental impact of burials. They are also called natural funerals, as bodies are often not embalmed and are buried in eco-friendly containers that break down over
Body Donation. This option allows a person to posthumously gift their remains to a scientific organization for important medical This differs from organ donation because it requires the donation of the entire body. Most of the time, this option requires the permission of the deceased before it can occur. It may not be viable in the case of a sudden or unexpected passing.
Funding A Fond Farewell
One of the most difficult things to do in life is often to ask for help when we need it. No one wants your family to go into debt to provide end-of-life care to a loved one, especially not when it comes to a funeral. People want to help when they can. The first step is letting them know you have a need.
Your friends and family will likely rally around you to do what they can; never feel guilty for letting them help shoulder your financial burden. Ultimately, remember that you are doing this for your deceased loved one. You want them to have the best possible send-off after all.
October 29, 2021 by Jeri K. Augustus