Creative Ways to Donate in Memory of Loved Ones

Q. I want to set up a lasting memorial to my late husband, but my funds are limited. Can you suggest some affordable options? How do I get started?

Two possibilities are a scholarship in his name at a school he attended or a memorial award to go to a deserving member of his professional organization. The amount involved and whether it’s given annually (or less frequently) is up to you. Start by contacting the institution or group and ask to speak with the person who handles such gifts. At a college, it might someone like the “Director of Planned Giving” who can inform you of the choices available.  

Parks and recreation areas present other opportunities. One widow donated equipment for a playground near her husband’s childhood home and posted a marker in his memory on site. Someone else created a garden in a park near the elementary school her husband attended. This widow worked with the Department of Parks and a non-profit organization dedicated to park beautification. When the funding required turned out to be higher than expected, she raised the extra money by sending letters to her husband’s closest friends and associates asking their help to make the project a reality. Checks for $25 and $50 poured in, as well as some larger amounts.   


In New York, the Central Park Conservancy’s “Adopt-a-Bench” program maintains and endows care of the benches in Central Park. For $7500, donors can select the location of a bench that will bear a plaque in memory of the loved one.  The care of a tree can be endowed for $5000 — or a sapling for $1000. And it takes as little as $50 to plant daffodils, tulips or mums in Central Park. Occasions vary, but it’s a stirring way to mark the anniversary of a death. Similar programs run by nonprofit organizations are available in places ranging from Boston to Sault Sainte Marie, Seattle to Philadelphia, and countless other cities. Donation costs in areas outside New York City are often lower than those for Central Park, and in some cases you may have a choice of endowing a new bench or — for a smaller amount — refurbishing an old one.  


“Your donation to a non-profit organization entitles you to take a charitable deduction,” notes attorney Julian Block. “Discuss with a tax professional the amount to donate, how many years the donations take place, and whether to donate with a check or with shares of stock that have appreciated,” advises Block, author of “Julian Block’s Tax Tips for Marriage and Divorce.”


If you have a question for Florence, please email her at


Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author—and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion 


Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons/AnnieGreenSprings

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