Community support

words: Tim Power

It’s not unusual for families of the bereaved to ask relatives and friends for donations to a charity in lieu of buying flowers at a funeral, but now it is becoming increasingly common to ask them to make a financial contribution to the funeral as well.

The rise in social media means that we are all more connected than ever before, and the trend in asking people to sponsor activities for charity on websites such as JustGiving has spilled over to other ‘crowdfunding’ sites to help people raise money to send their loved ones off in dignity.

There have been many high profile cases in recent years where families who believed they would struggle to pay for their funerals have used such sites to appeal for help to raise enough money to cover costs.

The online funeral fundraising campaigns have often followed in the wake of media interest in a tragedy, where they tap into public sympathy for either a young person who has succumbed to disease or a person who has met a tragic end through an accident or violence.

A recent example is the tragic death of teenager Paige Doherty in March who was killed on her way to a Saturday job in Clydebank, just outside Glasgow. The tragedy created great media interest nationally and touched the hearts of many in the city and beyond.

Friends of the family set up two fundraising pages on GoFundMe to help with funeral costs and other expenses. Such was the response that within three hours one of the pages had breached its target of £3,000. The two sites went on to raise a total of £16,243 within a couple of days.

Similarly, in April an online funding campaign raised more than £13,000 for the funeral of Myron Yarde, 17, an aspiring young rapper stabbed to death in New Cross, London.

There was a great outpouring of support and tributes to the young man on social media from the south London community, and within three days the initial goal of £7,500 had been almost doubled, by donations from around 1,000 people.

However, not all funeral campaigns are high profile and their success shows the strength of family bonds and long-term friendships not just locally but
internationally too.

After the death of her father last year, student Hanna Head, from East Grinstead, could not afford to pay for the funeral so decided to take the plunge and ask for donations by using the GoFundMe site. She set her goal at £1,000 – even though she knew that she needed at least three times that amount – but eventually raised £3,249.

In an interview with the BBC she explained her decision to use a crowdfunding site: “I’d seen bands that had equipment stolen using crowdfunding before for donations to replace their kit, so it showed that people can be kind enough to help others when they need it.”

However, she said she was scared about the response she would get, as she had not told many people that her dad had recently passed away.

She explained: “It’s not something you tweet about or put on Facebook – it’s a very private and personal thing. To make the page and share it with the public was terrifying in itself. I was worried that people would think I was begging for money. But I was overwhelmed with the response – in a couple of hours I’d had messages from loads of people from those that knew me or knew my dad previously.

“Within a day, people had donated £1,000 so then it seemed real and that I could do this funeral and give my dad the send off he deserved.”

Another benefit of using the crowdfunding site was the number of comments and contacts she received from those who knew her father.

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