How do we best donate to the family of a deceased colleague?
September 10, 2014 2:40 PM   Subscribe

A friend and colleague recently passed away leaving behind two very young children. Although she did not have a substantial income, she was by far the primary wage earner for her household. Many of us at work and elsewhere are interested in contributing to the immediate support of her family and the future education of her children. Does anyone have suggestions about what the best mechanism(s) would be for doing this? Our office is in Maryland, and she and her family were residents as well.
posted by procrastination to Law & Government (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on how much you raise --- is a college fund doable?
posted by easily confused at 2:44 PM on September 10, 2014

Best answer: I think it depends on the size and 'vibe' of your workplace. Are there enough employees that you could spearhead a fundraising drive -- bake sale, raffle, whatever -- and try to get the total amount you raise matched by the powers that be/corporate folks?

Something similar happened at my company; those of us who were especially close with the person who passed wrote individual checks and mailed them to the family in a big batch (to cut down on the number of trips the family would have to take to the bank) accompanied by all of our hand-written condolence cards and letters. So barring the viability of a top-down effort, that's what I'd recommend. It has the benefit of simply giving the family a chunk of change right up front, no strings attached, to use on any and everything they might need in the immediate aftermath of their loss.

Unless you can get some sort of large-scale backing, I'd shy away from earmarking funds for a specific purpose because there are just so many random and panic-inducing expenses associated with the unexpected passing of a family's primary wage earner, but depending on your workplace culture, you might try poking around to see if there's any precedent to creating a scholarship fund to provide sustainable long-term support.

I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by divined by radio at 3:01 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Often this what Just Giving and similar sites are used for. People can make individual donations, and if someone wants to lead a bakesale or whatever, those proceeds can be added to the total.

In no way would I be prescriptive about what they are for. They are for the family, end of.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:08 PM on September 10, 2014

Response by poster: It is hard to predict how much might be raised because we worked with many outside institutions who have asked about donations. The surviving spouse did not go to college, though our colleague did, so it isn't clear that funding college will be a priority for the family, given they will likely have other financial difficulties.
posted by procrastination at 3:27 PM on September 10, 2014

Best answer: I've seen this done by creating a special bank account for it - then people can write checks to the Jane Doe Family Fund and those get deposited in the bank account and you'd set it up so the family can withdraw money from there. I don't know how to go about setting that up, though -- maybe you could talk to your company's bank about setting up an account that would work for a memorial fund.

This blog post talks about how to set up other things like making it easy to take Paypal donations.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:33 PM on September 10, 2014

Nthing JustGiving and the bank account. The collected cards and condolence letters are a great idea. Unless you're looking at more than 20-40K, forget about the kids' education and focus on now. More than that, ask the family if they have a university matching fund or something that you can contribute to.

It'd be good to write a simple letter with the details of how to contribute and email/post that around to all the places that knew her. Include a photograph and an address (cleared with the family) for condolence letters to be sent.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:48 PM on September 10, 2014

Maybe a 529 college savings plan account? That's how my undergraduate education was paid for and I know from experience that people other than the parents can contribute, although you probably need to coordinate with the surviving parent to get it set up before anyone can put money into it.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:14 PM on September 10, 2014

Can you call a local credit union and ask to speak with the manager? They may well have handled this situation before.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:38 PM on September 12, 2014

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