Should You Crowdfund Funeral Expenses?

Many people now turn to crowdfunding for funerals, but should you?

A growing number of people turn to crowdfunding in order to raise money to cover funeral, burial and other final expenses. Photo © John Lund/Blend Images/Getty Images

Several years ago, entrepreneurs started soliciting and securing financing from the public for countless ideas, inventions, causes and other business ventures through a process called "crowdfunding" -- raising money via many small donations made by a large number of people. Relying primarily on the power of the Internet, the prevalence of mobile devices and the reach of social media, numerous goods and services have received enough public funding to move from concept to creation thanks to crowdfunding.

During this period, websites dedicated to helping people crowdfund sprang up, and, inevitably, the range of campaigns seeking funding has grown. Today, organizers seek crowdfunded contributions for a myriad of projects, including holding a banquet for graduating law-school students to starting an organic farm; from funding medical expenses for brain surgery to adopting children from overseas. (Even the recreated Abraham Lincoln funeral train sought crowdfunded financing.) Not surprisingly, many people now also turn to crowdfunding in order to pay for funeral and interment expenses following the death of a loved one if they cannot afford these costs. This article explores whether you should attempt to crowdfund funeral, burial, memorial and other death-related expenses.

Does Crowdfunding Funerals Work?

In February 2015, a resident of Toronto, Canada, started a crowdfunding campaign after hearing of the tragic death of Elisha Marsh, a three-year-old boy who died of exposure from bitterly cold conditions after wandering out of his grandmother's Toronto apartment building early one morning wearing nothing but a T-shirt, diapers and winter boots.

(The gentleman who started this crowdfunding campaign was not related to the child.) Within eight hours, the crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of Marsh's funeral raised $10,000 and, within 24 hours, more than $130,000. (Incidentally, this crowdfunding campaign ended February 22, 2015, after raising more than $173,000.)

According to a FOX Business article published in August 2014, crowdfunding website listed more than 30,000 final-expense campaigns -- more than twice the amount listed on the site 12 months earlier. Moreover, according to this article, this website's average funeral-related crowdfunded campaign raised "around $2,000" and another crowdfunding site,, which listed more than 22,000 funeral, tribute and memorial campaigns, raised an average of $2,200.

Based on these examples, one might think that seeking many small donations online from a vast number of strangers should ensure adequate crowdfunding contributions to raise a few thousand dollars or, perhaps, significantly more following the death of a loved one. But should you really expect similar results if you're contemplating a crowdfunding campaign to pay for funeral, burial, memorial or other final expenses?

Facts About Crowdfunding Campaigns

As of March 20, 2015, and despite successfully funding more than 80,000 projects courtesy of more than 8.2 million donors, the success rate of (a leading crowdfunding site) is roughly 39% for all of its crowdfunding campaigns.

(Note: allows crowdfunding for creative projects only, meaning no campaigns for funerals/personal needs are allowed.)

Moreover, a January 2015 article in The New York Times about crowdfunding included comments by Ethan Austin, co-founder and president of, another leading crowdfunding website (and one that permits final-expense campaigns). According to Austin, "80 percent of the people who contribute are people you know rather than strangers." He adds: "Getting three or four people out of 100 to donate is a good rate."

Another article about crowdfunding funerals published in September 2014 reiterates Austin's comment and specifically refers to final-expense campaigns: "...most contributions will come from relatives and friends."

Should You Crowdfund Funeral Expenses?

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), a trade association representing funeral homes, funeral directors and embalmers, has compiled data about funeral expenses since 1960 and regularly calculates these results and publishes the data. According to NFDA's most recent "General Price List Survey" (July 2013), the average cost of a "traditional funeral" is $7,045. (This does not include a vault, which cemeteries often require. Including a cemetery vault, the median cost of a funeral rises to $8,343.)

Based on NFDA's average funeral cost, and assuming that most crowdfunded final-expense campaigns receive contributions from relatives and friends, crowdfunding will probably not cover 100% of the costs of your funeral, burial, memorial and/or other final expenses following the death of a loved one unless the circumstances surrounding the deceased and/or survivors are particularly compelling emotionally. (And even then, there is no guarantee.) The tragic death of three-year-old Elisha Marsh described above received significant news coverage, eliciting the care, compassion and crowdfunding of strangers. While every death is obviously emotionally compelling to those who knew and loved the deceased, most deaths do not attain this level of public consciousness.

That said, there is nothing preventing you from soliciting financial donations via a crowdfunding website for funeral, burial, memorial and/or other final expenses. While successfully operating a final-expense crowdfunding campaign requires a lot of work, many people will likely consider any financial contribution(s) helpful.

Final-Expense Crowdfunding Platforms
Deposit a Gift
Donation To
Funeral Fund
Give Forward
Go Fund Me
You Caring
We Care Card

Author's note: The crowdfunding links above are for provided for informational purposes only, and readers should not construe their inclusion here as an endorsement, whether express or implied.

Additional Information:
Is a Funeral Really Life's Third Most Expensive Purchase?

"Crowdfunding Funerals: What You Need to Know" by Kayleigh Kulp, August 8, 2014. Retrieved March 3, 2015.

"Online campaign raises $130,000 for Elijah's funeral" by Robin Levinson King, February 20, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.

"Help Cover the Costs of Elijah Marsh's funeral" by Justin Kozuch. Retrieved March 3, 2015.

"Stats." Retrieved March 20, 2015.

"Managing Health Costs With Crowdfunding" by Constance Gustke, January 30, 2015. The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2015.

"Crowdfunding Funeral Costs for a Loved One" by Jodi Helmer, September 4, 2014. Retrieved March 12, 2015.

"2013 NFDA Member General Price List Study." National Funeral Directors Association. Retrieved March 20, 2015. Author's collection.

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