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6 points to ponder 'in lieu of flowers'

Loved ones can be remembered in lieu of flowers by giving to a charitable organization either designated by the family or was close to the deceased.

When it comes to choosing a gift to give in remembrance or condolence, most people think of flowers. Another increasingly popular option is to make a donation to a charity chosen by the bereaved family. If contributing to a charitable organization in lieu of flowers, there are some points of etiquette to follow:

1. Honor the family's request. You can give both flowers and donate to a charity, but if the family has asked for donations to a specific place in lieu of flowers and you only want to do one, then you should give to the charity of choice. 2. Donate quickly. Contributions should be made within 10 days of the funeral service so the family can include you when sending thank-you notes. 3. Give an equal amount. You should give the charity or nonprofit at least the amount you would have spent on flowers. 4. Leave contact information. Make sure the charity has your name and address so it can be passed along to the family. Even if you want to remain anonymous, the family should know a donation was made in their loved one's honor. 5. If you choose your own charity. If the family has not chosen a charity, and you still would rather honor the deceased with a donation than flowers, then pick a charity or nonprofit that will mean something to the family. Be sure to include "In memory of [add deceased's name]" and the family's address so they will be notified. Also, include your name and address unless you want to remain anonymous. 6. Sympathy cards. You can mention the contribution — without the amount — in a sympathy card. Suggested wording: "Our family remembered [insert deceased's name] by making a contribution to [insert charity name].”

ONLINE CONTRIBUTIONS Most charities now have websites set up to accept contributions online. You can usually use a credit or debit card or Paypal. Most sites allow you to remain anonymous if you wish but also will make sure the family receives your contact information so they can include you in any thank-you cards sent out. If you are choosing an organization for yourself or a lost loved one, several websites have been set up to help you find just the right organization. • JustGive at www.justgive.org includes a registry families can use to choose a charity and invite their friends and family to donate in lieu of flowers. The registry database features more than 1.8 million charities. Emails or notecards are sent directly to the grieving family. • The BBB Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org is affiliated with the Better Business Bureau. It collects and distributes financial information on hundreds of nonprofit organizations. The alliance is also a nonprofit and especially scrutinizes organizations that have been the subject of inquiries. • American Institute of Philanthropy at charitywatch.org is another watchdog service that provides ratings on numerous charities around the world. • Charity Navigator at www.charitynavigator.org evaluates the financial health of more than 5,300 of the largest charities in the nation. Whether choosing a charity yourself or following the family's lead, leaving a contribution in memory of someone special can convey as much sympathy and caring to the family as flowers.

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