Tag Archives: Cemetery Fundraising

Promoting the historic cemetery

Pioneer cemetery

Raising awareness of your local historic cemetery (and greasing the wheels for obtaining restoration donations) can be as simple as writing an engaging article about it for the local paper.

Since everyone loves a good human interest story and since many local newspapers are always looking for unique article ideas, why not steal borrow a leaf from Newcastle, WA’s book and write something fun?

If there are a lot of stories, make it a series and be sure to include photos of some of the more unique carvings.

Here’s the link to Coal Miner’s Cemetery–Part I.

Many thanks to JoAnne M for alerting me to this!


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GoFundMe Fundraising example

I mentioned in an earlier post how social media can help with fundraising. Well, here’s an example of what one group is doing out in Rochester, NY after a tornado touched down in their local cemetery on June 10.

Damages included headstones weighing from 200 – 700 pounds, getting pushed off their foundations, and numerous trees being uprooted.

GoFundMe page.

PR announcement to help garner donations.


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Defraying event costs, aka, finding sponsors

Courtesy Mike McDonald*

Courtesy Mike McDonald*

This final post on cemetery fundraising focuses on something that’s all too often overlooked in event planning—getting sponsors.

If your association or society loves the idea of raising money but is hesitant about some of the upfront costs, ask local businesses to step in as a sponsor. They get to write off the expense as a charitable donation to a worthy cause (as long as you are a viable 501(c)(3)), and you get help minimizing the event expenses.

Here are some possible sponsor ideas to kick around:

  1. If you’re hosting an athletic event, ask the local grocery store to donate bottles of water or Gatorade.
  2. Ask local high school/college coaches to help out with keeping time or refereeing.
  3. Athletes also need numbered bibs for the competitors so see if the local printer might donate these, and then check with the local arts and crafts store about donating some snazzy pins.
  4. Need space? Perhaps the local VFW would donate the use of their hall and tables if you’re hosting a chess or bingo tournament.
  5. Event insurance coverage is another biggie so check with your local financial and insurance planners to see if either one or a combination of businesses might chip in to cover the costs.
  6. Clean up crew. Yes, after the fun ends and everyone goes home, the trash is always left behind. Why not get a sponsor to help pay for the cleanup?

And on that note, don’t forget to let everyone know how much you appreciate your sponsors. Sure they’re getting a tax write-off, but it’s still cash they could be spending on their business.



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Even small projects can reap a windfall

Ravensdale Cemetery

Let’s say you’re not quite ready to plunge into the logistical challenges involved with putting on a James Bond gambling night or mini-marathon road race. Perhaps you just want to test the fundraising waters by just getting enough money to host a restoration workshop or to hire some goats for weed clearing.

But aside from putting out the coffee can at the local grocery store and diner, how else can you get the change rolling in?

Let’s face it. Most of us don’t carry a lot of cash around anymore but we do like giving for a good cause, especially when it’s for a community effort. So why not tap the local group of high school programming geeks to design a fundraising app? Check out the following sites—you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to set one up.

  1. Indiegogo
  2. GoFundMe
  3. Kickstarter

Using an app means smartphone owners (that would be a LOT of us) can make a quick $5, $10, or bigger donation by just a fast tap to the screen.  The donor gets immediate satisfaction of having done something good for a local cause and the cash flows safely through Paypal and gets directly deposited to the association’s 501(c)(3) bank account.

Once the app’s set up, you can link it to the society’s webpage, email it to friends and family, put it on flyers around town, hype it up at the local festivals (just think of all the people coming to the Memorial Day and 4th of July events you can reach out to with this!) and yes, don’t forget to contact the local papers to help you get the word out to an even bigger group.

Oh, and for the students who designed the app? They win too because they can spotlight this as a plus on their college application—especially if the app was successful in raising a good chunk of money for charity.

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More fun cemetery fundraising ideas

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here are 7 more ideas to consider if you’re looking to raise cash.

  1. Host a James Bond roulette/baccarat/blackjack gambling night. Ticket proceeds and all excess chip donations go to the cemetery. The person who wins the most money gets a special prize.
  2. Throw a Carnival-themed masked ball at the local museum and if possible, include a silent auction. (Want more ideas? Check out what Seattle did in 2014).
  3. Offer candlelight ghost/history tours of the cemetery (here’s a list of places doing this).
  4. Put on a chess tournament (something for all ages).
  5. Got heritage plants in the cemetery like they do in Sacramento? Sell clippings to local and regional gardeners.
  6. Put on a local talent recital show or play like Death of a Salesman or Arsenic and Old Lace.
  7. Offer donation-themed bird walks. Yes, you read it correctly. Check out what they’re doing in Lynchburg, VA and in Denver, CO.

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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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More money ideas for more repairs

Tolt Cemetery

Tolt Cemetery, Washington

Here are a couple of oldies, but goodies I posted way back when, that have some great ideas on fundraising.

1. Scaring Up Cemetery Repair Funds. Note: The Living Performance venue mentioned here earned enough money to pay for both the maintenance project and publication costs for a memorial book, the sales of which will be applied toward future upkeep costs.

2. Scaring Up More Cemetery Repair Funds. Here’s an idea on a pledge drive as well as incorporating your cemetery into a statewide historic cemetery tour path.

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Cemetery Fundraising Ideas Week kickoff

Flickr photo by borman818

Flickr photo by borman818

Considering last week’s response to cemetery fundraising, I decided to dig around to see what else people are doing to raise money for their historic/small town cemeteries. Turns out there are so many good projects and helpful hints, I decided to devote the next couple of weeks to “Cemetery Fundraising Ideas” on the BTG blog.

So in the words of Dame Julie Andrews from the Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start.”

Article #1

Here’s a good general listing of short-term and long-term fundraising possibilities for cemetery boards/historical societies: Fundraising Ideas to Provide Perpetual Care in Small Cemeteries. Note: It’s a little long and has lots of stuff, so give yourself enough time to digest it.

Article #2

Ok, all well and good, but what if you’re nowhere near the point of having a historical society where members can take on the tasks outlined above? You know you want to preserve the historic cemetery, but how do you get from wanting to preserve it to a recognized society that can take this on?

Enter another long article, this one from the state of Oregon called: Historic Cemetery Long Range Planning. If this doesn’t get you started, nothing will.



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Cemetery fundraising ideas

Dredging up ideas to raise cash for cemetery repairs and maintenance is an ongoing challenge. Here’s how the Ray Township Historical Society in Michigan is doing it via several fundraisers for Procter Cemetery.



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Scaring up more cemetery repair funds

Flickr photo by borman818


This past August, BTG posted an article on how cemeteries could raise extra maintenance and repair funds. Some of these ideas included growing special heritage roses, art exhibitions, and Living History Performances. Today, we stumbled across two more interesting ideas we’d like to share: 

Idea #1: In Cumberland, Rhode Island, local middle school athletes are competing in a pledge drive to raise money for the Elder Ballou Historic Cemetery that will go toward cleaning up the site. And what do the kids get for doing all the work? Well, they get to wander through the cemetery the day before Halloween, listening to scary, and maybe not-so scary, forgotten stories from a local park ranger. 

Idea #2: Capitalizing both on the idea of cemetery tourism and the American love of road trips, Hillsdale.net reports on the nation’s first historic cemetery tour that covers the entire state of Indiana and ties in with several local autumn festivals.  Talk about good planning! 

“Over 50 miles will be covered along the trail that utilizes historic Route 6 (The Grand Army of the Republic Highway) as the connector for the two counties and will eventually makes its way toward Chicago in the future. Proceeds raised from the Trail will in part go to the historic cemetery conservation in DeKalb and Noble Counties. A host of other activities will be taking place during the month such as the Apple Festival, Pumpkin Fantasyland and the known Owl-o-ween throughout Noble County. Foil impression art workshops of historic monuments will also take place, along with other speakers on historic cemetery topics throughout the month.”

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Scaring up cemetery funds part deux

Just as little something to consider when planning a Living Performance venue.

We received an email yesterday from the people organizing the Living Performance fundraiser at Saar Pioneer Cemetery (mentioned in Scaring up Cemetery Funds).  After four performances (two on a Saturday and two on a Sunday), enough money was raised to pay for both cemetery maintenance AND a book on the cemetery itself.  

So be careful. You may end up making more money than initially planned.

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Scaring up cemetery repair funds

Mary Anderson: Salvation Army Member

This past April, the Veterans Administration announced that it will, “use up to $4.4 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program to repair and preserve historic monuments and memorials at VA-operated national cemeteries…” This is good news for our national cemeteries what about for everyone else? All too often, local cemeteries are forced to think more creatively in order to find sustainable sources of maintenance funds.

However, some of these ideas can be quite intriguing.

In 2009, Atlanta artist Cooper Sanchez held a one-day (or rather, one night) art show at the historic Oakland cemetery. This is just one of several lectures, shows, and walking tours frequently offered to help drum up community support. Not wanting to be left behind, Seattle’s Evergreen Washelli accepted submissions this past spring for up to six solo art shows to be held in its Columbarium. 

Some cemeteries simply combine volunteer green thumb talents with a love for local history. The next time you’re in your local library, check out the Fall, 2009 issue of Country Gardens. On page 30, Cemetery Survivors details how Jane Baber White rejuvenated the 26-acre Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia. Once a forgotten site filled with overgrown shrubs and weeds, the cemetery is now filled with an amazing variety of heritage roses (approximately 60 types) ranging from the old-fashioned, 19th century to the 1950s favorites.

Living History performance at Saar Pioneer Cemetery

Another popular way to raise both funds and community interest is with Living History performances. Last weekend at the Saar Pioneer Cemetery in Kent, Washington, the Book-It Theatre and Living Voices highlighted the lives of several fascinating pioneers buried there.

Of course, another option is to find grant funding. Seattle cemetery volunteers and historical societies are fortunate to have potential funding from organizations like Humanities Washington and 4Culture. Not located in Washington? No worries. Check out possible grants at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Sometimes, there really are piles of cold, hard cash lying around for someone to pick up. How about tapping into those unclaimed bank or trust accounts? We commented about this on our Facebook fan page a while back but it’s worthwhile mentioning again. Seems like an Allentown, PA cemetery received almost $28,000 from old trust accounts. That’s a tidy little sum. What kinds of old accounts is your state hanging onto?


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Lending a helping hand


Blog sized cross

Temporary repairs in Mount Si cemetery

Cemetery restoration projects typically fall on the shoulders of either a few volunteers or a local historical society. Access to public funds is challenging; securing reasonably priced preservation expertise, daunting. However, King County, Washington is looking to change this approach through a new program called, “Historic Graves and Cemeteries Preservation Initiative”.

The program is designed to:

• Raise awareness of the state of local cemeteries;

• Provide public information and outreach;

• Survey active, inactive, and abandoned cemeteries;

• Determine priorities for preservation and restoration.

Last year, Lauren McCroskey, Chair of the King County Landmarks Commission, formally introduced the Initiative. Here is an excerpt of her remarks. Continue reading


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