Including Money in a Sympathy Card: Etiquette & Tips

How much you send and what you say in the card matters, but we've got you covered.

Updated April 2, 2024
sympathy card with white gladiolus flower

It's natural to want to help a bereaved family during their time of loss, but whether you should put money in a sympathy card can actually be a bit of a touchy subject. Like everything else surrounding grief, the etiquette of putting money in a condolence card comes down to making sure everyone's feelings are taken into consideration.

Although some people may find giving and receiving cash awkward, there are situations when money is just what the family needs during a difficult time. Funerals can be expensive, and depending on the circumstances, a monetary gift can be the best offering for a grieving family. We have the proper etiquette for every situation.

When Do You Put Money in a Sympathy Card?

Before tucking a financial gift into your sympathy card, consider the family's situation. There are times when money is the best gift you can offer, and there are times when it can be frowned upon. Learn when it might be best to offer a financial bereavement gift.

These are a few of the times when it's appropriate to put money in your sympathy card.

  • The deceased was the primary earner for the family.
  • The surviving spouse is on a fixed income.
  • The person who passed away had young children.
  • You know the family did not have insurance.
  • The family is in a difficult financial situation already.
  • The cause of death might prevent insurance from paying.
  • The family is asking for cash donations.

Loss of the Primary Earner

If the person who passed away was the primary earner of the family, then it's appropriate to offer money to help. Even with life insurance, claims take time to process. Your monetary gift can help with funeral expenses or to care for minor children, and that can work to lessen the family's burden. Additionally, this money can be helpful for expenses you don't think of like getting new funeral clothing, the repast after the funeral, etc.

Fixed Income

If the deceased's spouse is on a fixed income, such as social security or disability, having extra cash might be appreciated. Your donation can be helpful for expenses they might not even have planned for or realized.

Lack of Insurance

Another thing to think about when deciding whether to donate cash is whether the deceased had insurance and whether the insurance will pay out. Age can be a factor since younger individuals might not have life insurance to help cover funeral costs. Additionally, insurance companies may deny benefits for deaths from suicides and overdose.

Asking for Cash Donations

In some cases, family members ask for cash donations in lieu of flowers or gifts to pay for funeral or family expenses. In these instances, you don't have to question whether you should put money in the sympathy card.

Quick Tip

If you know the family is in a difficult financial position, giving money in a sympathy card is a good idea. A family that was already struggling financially before the loss will be struggling more with funeral expenses and a loss of income.

When You Shouldn't Put Money in a Sympathy Card

If the family is asking for donations to a specific charity or cause, you should use the financial gift for those reasons and respect their wishes. Additionally, if the family doesn't have a financial need or you're not sure if they have a need, it's best to just give a thoughtful sympathy card and gift such as flowers.

If you're sending a sympathy card to a co-worker, an acquaintance, or someone you don't know very well, skip the cash unless you know the family needs it.

Related: Do You Send Thank You Notes for Sympathy Cards?

Amount of Money to Give in a Sympathy Card

There is no hard and fast rule for how much money you should put into a sympathy card. It's important to consider how much you can afford and the need of the family. That said, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Start with the amount you would spend on funeral flowers, usually around $50.
  • If you know the family has a high level of need, and you can afford it, give more.
  • If you're very close to the family, consider giving more.

What to Write in a Condolence Money Message

When giving the gift of money in a sympathy card, it's important to include a heartfelt message for the family. This makes the gift personal, and ultimately, your words will offer at least as much comfort as the cash.

Related: Bereavement Card Messages: A Basic Guide on What to Write

Quick Tip

If you're sending cash, include it in an envelope inside your sympathy card. What you write on the condolence money envelope can be simple; it just needs to tell the recipient that they should look inside the envelope. We like, "Please accept the enclosed gift."

deepest sympathy card

Example Sympathy Money Notes

If you're not sure exactly what to say in the message with the money, don't stress. Just write a regular, heartfelt sympathy note and add a line or two about the money near the end. Let these examples inspire you:

  • I'm so sorry about the passing of your loved one; please accept this gift from my family to yours.
  • We are thinking of you during this time and hope the enclosed will ease your burden just a bit.
  • The enclosed is to help in any way you need it. Please know you are in our thoughts.
  • I know there are many expenses and challenges during this time, so please accept the enclosed gift.
  • Please accept this gift from my heart to yours in this time of loss.

Additionally, you might just leave a personalized message telling them how sorry you are for their loss and include a check without mentioning money in the message.

Quick Tip

When writing your message, it's important not to dictate how the money should be used. Just let the family know they can use the gift to help support them in the way they need the most.

Notes for Anonymous Financial Gifts

Sometimes, you want to give a gift of money in a sympathy card, but you might not want the recipient to know you are the person donating. If you're giving your monetary gift anonymously, you can still include a note. Within the card, you can write a heartfelt message and include cash but not sign the card. This can alleviate any embarrassment or financial burden a family might feel.

How and When to Give Money in a Sympathy Card

Giving the card to the family has its own etiquette challenges, but you have a few options. Generally, you'll want to try to get them the card and your gift as close to the funeral as possible.

  • At the service - Many times, the funeral home will have an area to put cards for the family, and you can put your card in this box.
  • Personal delivery - If the need is great and you will be seeing the family in person, you can give the cards to the family personally.
  • Mail - When you're not local and won't be at the service, it's perfectly acceptable to drop the card in the mail. (Send a check, in this case, since it's not a good plan to mail cash.)
Quick Tip

In some cases, there may be a donation page for a family online. You can also make your donation through the site (provided it's legit) and then send a card separately.

Sympathy Card Money Is About Comfort

Ultimately, deciding whether you put money in a sympathy card is about the family's comfort. If you can ease their burden during this time of grief, it's perfectly appropriate to do that. It's all about knowing the family and what they need during this difficult time.

Including Money in a Sympathy Card: Etiquette & Tips