With fewer people able to attend funerals in person in 2020, more donations than ever were made online in memory of loved ones, according to figures from a regional co-operative.
A total of £450,766 was donated in 2020 via the free online tribute pages offered by Southern Co-op, which helps support grieving families in Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Surrey, Sussex, Somerset and Wiltshire.
Despite only a slight rise in the actual number of funerals arranged, this was an increase of over 35% in online funeral donations when compared to the previous year.
The independent co-operative, which operates branches of The Co-operative Funeralcare and Caring Lady Funeral Directors, believes the increase is down to more awareness of charities needing extra support as well as fewer people being able to attend funerals in person.
Steve Pearce, Chief Operating Officer for funeral services at Southern Co-op, said: “Just under 300 charities received donations through our online memorial tributes. The majority of these will have been hit hard by the pandemic so the support is likely to be invaluable.
“Sadly, a lot of the families we supported last year were also affected by the pandemic. It‘s difficult to describe the effect it has had on so many but our funeral co-ordinators have done everything they can to lighten people’s burdens and our bereavement care colleagues have been on hand to offer free counselling which has been vital.
“The fact that people are continuing to think of others, despite their own grief, is remarkable and shows the strength we have as communities working together in times of need.”
There were a total of 11,211 individual donations made in 2020 – an increase from 7,455 in 2019.
People made an average of £40 per donation via the online memorial feature which also allows friends and family to set up a personal tribute page, to light virtual candles, share memories, stories, photos and videos of loved ones.
The top three charities to which people donated the most were Cancer Research UK, Rowans Hospice in Hampshire, and Alzheimer’s Society.
Other local charities in the top ten were Phyllis Tuckwell hospice care in Surrey and Hampshire, which received £23,774 of donations; St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Chichester which received £12,909 of donations; and Mountbatten, end of life support on the Isle of Wight, which received donations of £7,812.
Jonathan Davies, Chief Executive of MuchLoved, the bereavement charity that provides the online tribute platform, said: “2020 was an incredibly difficult year for everyone, not least those bereaved and the funeral industry working tirelessly to care for them.
“We are delighted that Southern Co-op branches were able to use the MuchLoved platform to help those families, and that so much has been raised for such worthy causes.
“Since the start of our partnership together, over £1 million has been raised for charitable causes, which is an incredible milestone to have achieved. We look forward to working together to continue this success in the future.
“Our charity was founded to support bereaved people and help them cope with their grief, and working with Southern Co-op means we can offer this support and care to more people at the most difficult of times.”
For more information about online tributes, visit www.funeralcare.co.uk/tributes-and-donations.