Donating in Memory of a Deceased Person: Business Situation

Q. I’m debating whether to send flowers to a client whose father died or to make a contribution in memory of the person. In the latter case, how can I be sure the client will be notified of the donation? I’ve never done this before.

Our business and professional lives are about relationships and connecting, as well as the bottom line. In general, either flowers or a donation is an appropriate way to respond to a death in the family of a customer/client. However, the obituary often asks that, instead of flowers, contributions be made in memory of the deceased to organizations like the American Heart Association, a religious institution, the person’s alma mater, or a cause he supported. You can also check with the funeral home or the client’s office for such information.

It’s easy to donate. For example, at the American Cancer Society, just call 1-800-227-2345, or download and complete an online form from the website and mail with your check. Organizations will send to the bereaved a notification of your gift (without mentioning the amount, unless you wish it to be specified). The card might say something like, “In remembrance of (name of deceased), a memorial gift has been made to (name of organization) by (name of donor). Or it may say, “We’re pleased to inform you that a gift has been received by (name of charity) in memory of (name of deceased). This thoughtful gesture was made by (name of donor).” And sometimes the charity provides a card to you, saying, “A generous donation has been made to --- in memory of ---. Given by ---.” You sign your own name and mail it.

Another option is to send your own notification on your company letterhead, as in, “Dear Bob: I (or we) have made a donation in memory of your father to ---, as you wished. I (we) send heartfelt sympathy at this sad time.” Or, “On behalf of the employees of ---, we send our deepest condolences to you and your family on the death of your father. The company has made a donation in his memory to ----.”

A nice benefit is the bereaved often keep these notifications and revisit them from time to time, remembering your thoughtfulness. (Flowers just die.) In addition, a donation is usually tax deductible.


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

Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes.... She writes two advice blogs for Sincere Condolences and Widow in the World, a blog for bereaved spouses and partners.

Image by Mogens Engelund via Wikimedia Commons

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