Fact: The mortality rate is 100 percent. Those who have gone before us now lie in their final resting places, but funds to maintain certain cemeteries may be lacking. As the Illinois Historic Cemetery Preservation Handbook points out, cemeteries serve the living as well as the dead as places that invite survivors to visit and reflect on their friends and loved ones. Maintaining them with care is in everyone's interest.

Form a Nonprofit

Cemetery associations can form nonprofit "Friends" committees to which tax-deductible contributions for maintenance and preservation may be made. Establish a website, distribute fliers and other information and host walking and historic tours of the cemetery to drum up interest. Contact local historical, garden, genealogy, civic, veterans and preservation organizations who may want to get involved with cemetery maintenance efforts.

Hold a Dinner

Host a fundraising dinner, lunch or brunch. Schedule a speaker to talk about the historic importance of the cemetery, any well-known figures or people of local importance buried there and what types of maintenance/preservation efforts are needed. PowerPoint presentations with photos of both the cemetery and people buried there can be useful.


Take a cue from cemetery associations that have developed adopt-a-plot programs for those interred who no longer appear to have descendants in the area. While some people donate their time and work to do physical maintenance such as clearing weeds and debris, others donate money so that cemetery associations can take care of their adopted plots, using the contributions for grass seed, plantings, pea gravel and other items.

Create and Sell Calendars

For those cemeteries with elaborately sculptured tombstones, consider putting together a calendar featuring especially striking memorials and selling them as fundraisers. Many well-known sculptors also carved tombstones in the 19th and early 20th centuries, so include their work if found in the cemetery.

Encourage Donations In Kind

For specific projects, approach local businesses to see if they will donate services. For example, contact a tree-trimming company if pruning of large trees is necessary. Gravel companies or nurseries may donate their wares, and if the cemetery has 501(c)3 nonprofit status, such gifts are tax-deductible for the businesses.