This is the Blackbaud Community Best Practices blog.

Updating Deceased Records

Have you ever read through a particularly lengthy obituary and then thought – wow, I feel like I know so much about this person now? Obituaries can be very specific, but they can also be really helpful – especially if your job is to update information about people in your database.

At International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), we add obituaries to each record in our database that we mark as deceased. We’ve implemented this best practice as a way to record deaths as well as a way to obtain information about donors. Even though an obituary is marking the end of a life, the information it provides can be invaluable to our organization. It’s a great way to learn birthdays, names of family members, and even church membership. Sometimes, we learn that the family members of the deceased have requested that donations be made to our organization in lieu of flowers!

While you may spend several minutes searching the internet for these obituaries, we think it’s worth it! 
Posted by Kirsten Mathisen on Jul 24, 2017 1:30 PM America/New_York

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Great blog Kirsten, our organization also adds obituaries to our records.   When we discover donation requests to our organization it also gives us a heads up to look out for them and a way to for us to have another touch with the family to thank them for for choosing our organization.
  • Posted Tue 25 Jul 2017 08:22 AM EDT
I enjoyed your blog, Kirsten. We are beginning to add obituaries to our records and agree that there is a lot of helpful information in them!
  • Posted Tue 25 Jul 2017 11:35 AM EDT is a great resource.  I receive a weekly email that searches key words and returns the obituaries that pertain to my organization.  We indeed use it to update records, make notes of the obit text in the donor's record, create relationships (or notes) of surviving relatives, mail sympathy cards, and notifiy team members that have worked with that donor.  It is also very useful for keeping up with deferred gifts left to the organization.
  • Posted Mon 31 Jul 2017 08:54 AM EDT
Another resource is - I check it each week using the key words "Donnelly College" to spot any that I may have missed. We too add this information to the notes. In addition to mining the obituary for additional information it helps verify the fact that the individual is indeed deceased.
  • Posted Thu 10 Aug 2017 01:33 PM EDT
Great blog, Kristen.  Our organization also adds obituaries to records under notes, a condolence card is mailed to surviving spouse or family and action record created. 

  • Posted Mon 09 Oct 2017 11:00 AM EDT
Our organization adds obituaries to records under Notes and I agree it's valuable information - we do update records based on obits; keep in touch with family members etc.
  • Posted Tue 03 Apr 2018 11:06 AM EDT
Thank you Kirsten. I find so much information within obituaries and enjoy searching for them.
  • Posted Tue 03 Apr 2018 11:53 AM EDT
Great blog and great tip!  We send cards to the family but do not currently add the obituaries to our records.  Definitely something to consider adding to our SOP.
  • Posted Tue 03 Apr 2018 12:18 PM EDT
I need to add this to my policies & procedures manual.  
  • Posted Tue 03 Apr 2018 01:14 PM EDT
We go through the obituaries, but haven't been attaching. That's a great idea. The task of going through the obituaries is a good one to pass around - I kind of think of it like the necklace Horcrux on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: when it gets you too down, you pass it on or take a break.
  • Posted Wed 04 Apr 2018 04:49 PM EDT
We also add the obituary to our database, but only if it is also added to our website.
  • Posted Tue 10 Apr 2018 10:39 AM EDT
I've found out some amazing things about our constituents through obits, and it was a shame I'd learned it AFTER they'd died! 
  • Posted Tue 10 Apr 2018 01:18 PM EDT
We use Blackbaud's data services to run a deceased check annually to catch anyone for whom we didn't find an obituary. We have many donors that live all over the country and that helps keep the data cleaner.  Sadly, the deceased check stopped offering exact dates of death, but it is still very valuable for us.
  • Posted Tue 24 Apr 2018 02:07 PM EDT
Completely agree.  Obituaries are an under rated source of great information.
  • Posted Mon 30 Apr 2018 12:12 PM EDT
Very helpful!
  • Posted Mon 30 Apr 2018 12:51 PM EDT
This is a good idea, and something that my organization does when we can. This is a good practice to make a regular habit.
  • Posted Mon 30 Apr 2018 02:54 PM EDT
While I hate to hear of anyone's passing, a well stocked obituary can be a treasure trove of information for a record. Great blog!
  • Posted Thu 03 May 2018 12:53 PM EDT
I agree with some folks, it's a shame to learn so much about someone after they died.  Too bad we didn't know this or that about them when they were with use your connections wisely and smart!
  • Posted Mon 07 May 2018 03:20 PM EDT
I read so many of these too. It's great for the birth and death dates and family member names and relationships. Many of our records are for children. It's really hard to find obituaries for them. Any tips?
  • Posted Mon 07 May 2018 04:37 PM EDT
This is a great best practice, thanks for sharing!
  • Posted Wed 30 May 2018 12:33 PM EDT
Great topic, Kirsten! I have numerous Google alerts set up, including one for just the university that I work for. Every obituary that we find is entered into the Notes section of their record. I also pull out pertinent information (such as spouse or family member's names) and add that in as well.
  • Posted Fri 01 Jun 2018 03:24 PM EDT
Great post! We routinely attach the obituary of a constituent who has passed, and our alumni magazine publishes the alums we lost since our last publication. When we are fortunate enough to receive contributions in the name of the deceased to fund awards, the obits and other notes come especially in handy to help in preparing the award honoree description. 
  • Posted Mon 04 Jun 2018 03:04 PM EDT
When you refer to adding obituaries, are you just saving as a pdf and adding to the Media section of the D.B.?  Please advise.
  • Posted Mon 04 Jun 2018 03:08 PM EDT
We also add obituaries to our deceased constituents. They usually offer a lot of information and help us fill out the relationships tab.
  • Posted Mon 04 Jun 2018 03:53 PM EDT
Great ideas - thanks! We read the daily newspaper and update obits that way, but how do you handle out of area updates? Do you include the actual obituary as a media file, or do you just mark the const. as deceased with the death date?
  • Posted Mon 04 Jun 2018 04:09 PM EDT
Adding the obit, sending condolences and recognizing relationships to the donor help to round out the records. Thank you for the info.
  • Posted Tue 05 Jun 2018 11:08 AM EDT
Thanks for your insight Kirsten!
  • Posted Tue 12 Jun 2018 01:12 PM EDT is a great resource! In addition to adding the obituary to the constituent's record, we also note if the obituary directs friends and family to make a donation in lieu of flowers to our organization. 
  • Posted Mon 25 Mar 2019 11:40 AM EDT
We do the same. Obituaries are a great source of information. 
  • Posted Mon 25 Mar 2019 02:37 PM EDT
Thanks for the tip and insight!
  • Posted Mon 25 Mar 2019 04:05 PM EDT
Good blog. We also attach obituaries to deceased records. You feel like you have learned about a donors whole life in a snap-shot. 
  • Posted Fri 29 Mar 2019 04:56 PM EDT