The pressure to add to an ever-mounting pile of possessions can be stressful around birthdays and holidays, but you don't have to clutter up a loved one's home to get her a gift. Donations in honor of another person are an excellent way to honor that person's political, religious or ethical convictions. You can also make donations in honor of people who have died and encourage funeral attendees and other mourners to do the same.
Before you donate to a cause on behalf of someone else, it's important to be certain that they support -- or would support -- the cause. One person's outstanding charity is another person's offensive zealotry, so make sure you know this person well enough to make a donation in his name. If you're making a donation on behalf of someone else who has died or encouraging funeral attendees to do the same, choose an organization that supports a cause the person vocally supported. Otherwise, you may find yourself soliciting donations for a charity that other people find offensive or getting into arguments about whether your dead loved one would actually support the cause.
Making the Donation
Many charities offer options to donate in another person's name. Simply contact the charity and ask if you can do so. If you're giving the donation as a gift, it's an added bonus if the charity sends a certificate, packet or other information to educate the gift recipient about the donation. You can also send the recipient a card or handwritten letter containing information about the charity. If you're soliciting donations for a funeral in lieu of flowers, get some brief information about the charity that you can give to mourners or post on a funeral website.
Many families now ask that funeral attendees donate to a specific charity rather than send flowers. Some large charities will set up a specific fund for donations made in the deceased person's name, and the family can make suggestions about what will be done with the money. If it's important to you that the charity know the donations are in honor of a specific person, contact the charity before soliciting donations and ask if there's a specific account number donors should use.
Even though you're donating in someone else's name, you're still giving money out of your own pocket. Donations to eligible charities are tax deductible. However, not all charities have nonprofit status; charities that lobby Congress, for example, are not classified as nonprofits and donors cannot claim a tax deduction. If the chosen charity is eligible, ask for a receipt so you can claim the deduction on your tax returns. If you're soliciting donations from others, remind them that the donations are tax deductible.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.