The Jonestown Memorial Fund

The Jonestown Memorial Fund was formed during the summer of 2010 for one single purpose: to honor the people who died in Jonestown by bringing the promise of a memorial site at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland into reality. The committee consisted of three people: John Cobb and Jim Jones Jr., two Jonestown survivors who each lost numerous relatives on November 18; and Fielding M. McGehee III, whose wife Rebecca Moore lost two sisters and a nephew.

The three members of the committee signed a contract with Evergreen Cemetery in late 2010 to purchase the granite stones – hewn from a quarry in China – to pay for their engraving by a monument company, and to work with the cemetery itself in the creation of the memorial. The initial contract for $15,000 – the funding of which had been guaranteed by an anonymous donor – was structured to be paid off in three installments. The contract stipulated that the work would be completed no later than November 18, 2011, about a year after its signing.

Once the contract was signed, the committee’s task of raising the money for the memorial began. In early January 2011, members of the committee mailed approximately 400 letters to former Temple members and relatives; scholars and academics who had studied the Temple over the years; artists, playwrights and documentarians who had interpreted the Temple in a variety of media; and others. The letter reiterated the short duration of the campaign and promised that fundraising efforts would end upon realization of its goal.

The campaign was startling in its success. On January 31 – approximately three weeks after the first appeal letter was mailed – the committee received the donation that put it past the initial $15,000 for the contracted memorial stones. The committee decided to allow the campaign to stay open long enough to recover out-of-pocket expenses for its work – primarily printing, postage and transportation – and to underwrite the costs of the dedication service itself and the celebratory party afterwards.

At the end of March, the Jonestown Memorial Fund closed its bank account and returned the checks which arrived after that time. A few weeks later, the committee closed its post office box in San Leandro. By that time, it had raised more than $20,000 from more than 120 individuals and families. Aside from one large donation, the range of contributions was from five dollars to one thousand dollars.

The campaign’s final task was to invite as many people as it could locate to attend the dedication service scheduled for May 29, 2011. Anticipating a lawsuit from the backers of a previous but long-stalled effort to erect a memorial, the fund and the cemetery agreed to wait until Monday, May 9 – the day that the memorial stones were set in place at Evergreen – before making an official announcement of the memorial’s completion. The fund’s publicity efforts included a May 10 press advisory, a press release on the day of the service, and a fact sheet distributed to the media.

The dedication service occurred less than five months after the Jonestown Memorial Fund solicited its first contribution.

  1. Fundraising letter
  2. May 10 press advisory
  3. May 29 press release
  4. Jonestown Memorial Fund fact sheet