Giving charitable donations in lieu of flowers at funerals has become a common occurrence over the past few years. Indeed, it’s estimated that around £100 million per year is raised for charities this way – an enormous sum and the equivalent of two televised Children in Need appeals every year.
Collecting these donations is a little known service that we provide for our clients, yet it amounts to an incredibly positive trend for the UK funeral industry, and one that the NAFD believes we should look to grow.
But this boom in generosity does not come without its flaws. Almost all funeral donations are collected in cash or by cheque by funeral directors themselves, then tallied and passed on to the charity. This is a time consuming process which takes around two hours per funeral and, moreover, it leaves funeral directors particularly vulnerable to disputes over the total raised. Issues regarding charity donations are a regular source of complaint to the NAFD’s Funeral Arbitration Scheme, making it one of the most common subjects for conciliation/arbitration.
The system is equally inefficient for the charities involved. In theory, if the donor is a UK tax payer, then the charity is able to claim back an extra 25% in tax on the donations through the Inland Revenue’s Gift Aid scheme. But this can happen only if the collector takes a Gift Aid declaration at the time of the donation, along with a full name and address. All the evidence suggests that, as a result of this red tape, Gift Aid is reclaimed on very few donations collected by the funeral industry – meaning charities miss out on an estimated £22 million a year in extra income (and that’s a conservative estimate).
The NAFD feels strongly that there is an opportunity for the industry to grow charitable giving through funerals even further, but that, to do so, we must address these issues. To that end, over the coming months the Association will be launching initiatives which it hopes will make collecting funeral donations easier and more secure for funeral directors and their clients, not to mention better for the beneficiaries.
Ultimately, by tackling this head on, the NAFD believes it is possible for the industry to raise millions more for charities every year, whilst protecting members and providing their clients with an improved service.