People won’t care if you don’t give them a reason

Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

Newcastle Coal Miners’ Cemetery

The problem’s simple. Old cemeteries need ongoing infusions of cash for restoration and maintenance. Yet when calls for volunteers or donations go out, the general response from the public is usually muted because everyone’s so busy.

“Hey, the local cemetery’s doing a cleanup day this weekend. Want to go? Oh wait, that won’t work. Johnny’s got a soccer match that day and on Sunday, Mary’s got her recital concert. Maybe we can do it next year.”

Those who do end up helping, do so over and over and over. This is all well and good if you (the volunteer) have the time and the energy to put into the projects. But let’s face facts. After a while, even the best of us get tired of being the go-to person all the time.

Historical societies and cemetery boards need new energy and fresh ideas to catch and retain the community’s interest.  Give people a good enough reason and you better believe they’ll care. The trick is doing it in a way that benefits everyone. Fun for the participants= money for the historical society. So with that in mind, let’s use some brawn to generate some cash.

Here’s a thought: Sports, sports, sports, and more sports.

It doesn’t matter what size town, village or wickiup camp you live in, people like a good sporting event. Especially if there are some shiny trophies and medals involved.

Memorial Day/Veterans’ Day/July 4th/Labor Day/Halloween Cemetery Races

Use the 3-day weekends as an excuse to do good. Set up a 1 mile run for kids but for the adults, make it a 5 miler (or more), all proceeds going to help restore and maintain the local historic cemetery.

For example, check out the Oneonta  Pit Run. Over 20 years ago, Oneonta decided to put on a race in honor of a local policeman who died trying to stop a robbery. When the town first started hosting the event, only a handful of people showed up. Now, it’s a huge October weekend happening with over 1,000 people from all over the state participating and raising money for the town’s charities.

Let me repeat that: 1,000 participants.

For a simple road race.

Proceeds going to local charities.


Just think how many headstones could be restored, how many weeds could be whacked, how much genealogical work could get done with that kind of cash.

Hey, if you really want to go all ambitious (listen up rural towns, I’m talking to you here), make it a half marathon with a course that connects around several cemeteries and ending right after that really nasty steep hill everyone’s always complaining about.

Still don’t think it’ll work? Then check out what I found on just one page of googling ‘cemetery race’. Others are doing it, why not you?


Cemetery golf tournaments

If your community is a bit more sedate, then check what’s out there for cemetery golf tournaments.


And for those of us who don’t/can’t/won’t run anymore, how about a cemetery poker tournament?


Ok, so there aren’t as many of those out there as I’d hoped so perhaps a bowling or bingo tournament?

Oh, and if you’re worried about promoting the event, try these ideas on for size:

  1. Set up an event Facebook page and maintain it. It’s easier than you think.
  2. Call the local and regional papers to get the story out (they’re ALWAYS looking for stories to fill their space).
  3. Work with local radio and the regional TV stations.
  4. Engage the local schools, and fire up some friendly rivalry between the competitors.
  5. Ask for help. Check out what other places are doing and ask one of the organizers for advice.

Anyway, you get the point and hopefully, this will be something to get you started. In the meantime, check back on Wednesday and Friday for some more ideas.

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Filed under Cemetery Fundraising

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