Give Loved Ones Options In Lieu of Flowers
More than ever before, families today are adding one little phrase to their loved one’s obituary: In lieu of flowers. Many families believe the money that would have gone toward a floral arrangement or plant would be better used by a favorite charity, their church, or another cause instead. This seems like a kind and generous gesture, right? Sometimes, though, it’s not the best solution.
What happens when the charitable organization the family chooses isn’t one that a giver truly wants to support? Or if the family needs the money to help with funeral or travel expenses? There are a number of scenarios that can complicate that seemingly simple four-word request. That’s why Greg Clark created In Lieu of Flowers. It’s a simple, yet effective, crowdfunding tool that gives funeral homes and families options well beyond the traditional floral arrangement.
Clark, a funeral home owner in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has seen it all. His nontraditional funeral service operates with no parlor. He’s called upon to manage funerals and memorial services in religious facilities, at gravesites, or wherever a family wishes to say goodbye to their loved one. As a more affordable provider with a high cremation rate, Clark’s Church Funeral Services and Crematory attracts a wide variety of patrons.
“We get displaced families. We get high-drama families,” Clark says. “But we’ve also done services for people whose names are on buildings. Our families love that we offer a ‘no-fuss, no-frills, just get me there on time’ option that benefits them, not me.”
Sometimes that diverse clientele need creative financing opportunities, and many have turned to crowdfunding for help. One problem with generic platforms like GoFundMe or Fundly, though, is there’s no guarantee the cash the campaign raises will indeed go toward to the outstanding balance at the funeral home.
When charitable giving backfires
What about those families who have no problem paying for their funeral and request donations to a favorite charity instead of flowers? Clark knows firsthand that this doesn’t always work out as planned.
“My mother taught school for 35 years and was the musical director at her church,” Clark says. “800 people signed the book at her funeral. Her favorite charity was St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, so we requested donations to St. Jude’s in lieu of flowers. Only four people donated. We also made the same request when my dad, a postman, died in 2017. This time we got five cards notifying us of donations to St. Jude’s.”
Clark doesn’t have an explanation for the lack of donations from the hundreds of people who knew and loved his parents. But he has a few ideas of what might have happened with some of them.
“People don’t want to go through the trouble of clicking another link or having to figure out how to donate on their own,” Clark says. “Or maybe they just don’t want to support the chosen charity. When a friend of mine died the family requested donations to his church. I had a personal issue with the minister, so I didn’t donate. I don’t think I’m the only person who has decided not to donate because of their personal feelings toward the recipient.”
Enter In Lieu of Flowers
Greg Clark obviously isn’t afraid to buck tradition. As he contemplated the issues he encountered with crowdfunding and designated donations, his thoughts went back to where the tradition of sending flowers began.
“The art of giving flowers at a funeral started as a way to cover up the smell of the body,” Clark says. “Even though that’s not a problem in the modern age, people continue to give flowers as a show of sympathy, and as a way to add a splash of color to the room during visitation.”
These days, Clark explains, most visitation times take place for an hour or so before a funeral service. Although a few arrangements stay for the service, most of them end up at the cemetery, where they might last a day. Sending flowers, he says, is just another tradition that needs to change. Today, those funds are better spent on other expenses. This is especially true for those families who need a little extra financial assistance to provide their loved one the kind of funeral they deserve.
When Clark’s good friend, a business coach and consultant, asked him to name his biggest challenge, Clark didn’t hesitate to answer.
“About 25% of our clients can’t pay their entire balance for our services,” he says. “What we need is something like a GoFundMe that helps people raise money for these expenses — like a ‘GoBuryMe.’”
His friend thought the name was “a little direct.” However, he supported Clark’s idea to create a funding engine that was simple to set up, easy for people to use, and let the family decide where the money should be best used.
Why In Lieu of Flowers
Clark’s wife helped him come up with the more suitable name for the service — In Lieu of Flowers — and Clark launched his first campaign in August 2018. Since then he has seen plenty of proof that families truly need a service like this.
“One family used the [donated] money to buy airline tickets for family members to fly in for the funeral,” Clark recalls. “In another situation, a family wanted to honor their mother’s wishes to not be cremated. But they couldn’t afford the type of services she wanted without the donations they received through In Lieu of Flowers.”
Often the funds raised through In Lieu of Flowers are enough to provide a family with something they otherwise couldn’t afford. Maybe the extra money helps them buy an engraved urn, keepsakes, or other memorialization. Clark recalls one situation where three adult children had to make final arrangements for their 50-year-old father, who died unexpectedly.
“They felt like the grandkids needed closure, but they couldn’t afford a traditional funeral,” Clark says. “They had money for a direct cremation only. After they raised $3000 through In Lieu of Flowers they were able to have a visitation, purchase an urn for burial, and buy fingerprint keepsakes for the grandchildren.”
Clark believes In Lieu of Flowers fits in well with today’s hyper-connected online lifestyles.
“I used to get the newspaper delivered to my house everyday. The first thing I’d look at were the obituaries,” Clark says. “Now people find out about deaths through social media.”
Families can use the same medium to raise funds through In Lieu of Flowers. Setting up and sharing a campaign on Facebook or other social media sites is easy, and people can make a donation with just one click. Clark recommends writing a great obituary and adding lots of pictures to help people remember the person and encourage friends and acquaintances to donate any amount they’d like. He recalls one situation, though, when even that wasn’t enough to drive donations.
“We had two individuals, a 43-year-old woman and a 45-year-old guy, whose families posted In Lieu of Flowers campaigns around the same time,” Clark says. “Each profile had similar activity — about 300 views. The man’s campaign raised $1500, but the woman’s didn’t raise a penny. We wondered what the deal was and were told ‘everybody liked him, but nobody could stand her.’ It goes to show that how you treat people on earth follows you in death.”
Expect great results
Unlike this unfortunate anomaly, Clark says most campaigns raise $1500 to $3000. There’s no cost for a funeral home to create an account with In Lieu of Flowers, either. You simply create a login and enter your funeral home’s name, contact information, and your bank routing and account numbers into the encrypted system. You can even have multiple accounts and logins for different locations or for each director.
To create a campaign for a family, you just enter the deceased’s name, date of birth, date of death, and an expiration date for the campaign. Typical campaigns expire in two weeks. Upon the expiration date, In Lieu of Flowers automatically transfers raised funds to your funeral home’s account. You can then apply the funds to the family’s outstanding balance. You can also give them the funds for other uses, like a donation to their favorite charity in the deceased’s name. In Lieu of Flowers deducts a 2.9% credit card fee and 5% platform fee from the funds in each account prior to withdrawal.
“We recommend that the very first words in the obituary after ‘In lieu of flowers’ should not be ‘make a donation to’ a specific charity,” Clark says. “If people don’t like it, they won’t send anything. With In Lieu of Flowers, the family decides how to use the funds. And they do not have to make that decision at the time of the arrangement.”