Posted By Administration,
Friday, November 10, 2017
Recently, Michigan consumer media was alarmed to learn that a funeral home had stored cremated remains in a storage locker. Worried about nefarious dealings, reporters asked if this indicated criminal activity. Asked for comment, the Michigan Funeral Directors Association assured that possession and storage of unclaimed cremated remains is common.
Indeed, the new owners of the funeral home had followed best practices by identifying the cremated remains and attempting to find families. The previous owner encountered what many do – the families had abandoned the cremated remains at the funeral home. Under Michigan law, cremated remains only need to be stored for six months before they can be respectfully placed, but the staff at many funeral homes balk at taking further action. They are troubled by the idea that cremated remains could be irrevocably separated from loved ones.
A recent issue of The Cremationist discussed this very topic. The answer, simply, is to take proactive steps to emphasize the value of permanent placement in all discussions with families and to encourage them to make a deliberate decision. For many, cremation is valued because it adds time and flexibility to make these important decisions, so they tend to endlessly defer them. Three industry professionals offered their recommendations for helping families make a choice that is right for them and appropriate for the storage space available in their funeral home.
A Question of Value by Steven Palmer
The question I pose to families choosing cremation is, “what would you do for a final decision if you hadn't selected cremation?” Now ultimate determinations must be considered.
To assist them in this thought process, I tell them not to think in the short term, but think eternally. If a casket is placed in a permanent resting place, why not an urn? Scattering is an option only to be chosen when it is well thought out and meaningful. It should not be performed because “we couldn't think of anything else.”
Other options to suggested may be:
Family Heritage Plot: Where are your grandparents or great-grandparents buried? In a large family lot back home? I am sure that there is space for an urn to reunite family.
Veterans Cemeteries: When an employee's husband died and was cremated, I suggested he be placed in a local national cemetery, taking advantage of this no cost benefit he had earned. She mentioned his mother's urn needed final placement somewhere. I inquired whether her father-in-law was a veteran. He was, an honorable discharge and marriage certificate were produced and, even though the father-in-law was interred in another state, she was eligible. Son and mother were placed in side by side niches without additional cost to the family.
Other more contemporary placements such as niches along a cemetery walkway or base of a statue or even being part of a reef placed in the ocean. Creative thinking can solve this indecision.
Dealing with Cremated Remains by Daniel M. Isard
I have a very dear friend whose mother was dying. Not understanding what I did for a living, but knowing it was in the funeral profession, she called me to help her plan her mother’s disposition. She wanted her mother’s body to be cremated. We went through the process of planning the funeral service.
Before the cremation I asked, “Mary, who do you want to take possession of your mother’s cremated remains?” She said, “Oh we don’t want them. Just tell the funeral director to do something with them!” I said, “The funeral home can place them in a cemetery for perpetual keeping or give them to you to dispose of as you see fit.”
Many consumers don’t care what happens to the cremated remains of their loved one’s body. There are added decisions they don’t want to deal with. These cremated remains can be converted into diamonds or potting soil but the consumer doesn’t want to make that decision.
One technique that I have found to be successful involves building out the cremation authorization to include the return of the cremated remains. The family is told that they can either pick-up the cremated remains from the funeral home or the funeral home can deliver the cremated remains to the appointed family member. The key points are the date range for the retrieval.
Offering Guidance on Cremation Options by Mark Zimmer
We acquired firm a few years ago, and during our due diligence, discovered a cupboard containing 16 cremated remains that were unclaimed. They had two crypts at a local cemetery into which the unclaimed urns were entombed, reopened as needed to add others. While this is an effective way of placing unclaimed urns in an accessible place, it is costly and in my opinion, not an option one wishes to exercise!
We have all read the professional journal articles suggesting that the funeral director needs to offer guidance to families. I agree and feel it is imperative to discuss what the family’s decision on final placement of the cremated remains will be at the arrangement conference. In the arrangement conference I have heard such remarks as, “don’t you get rid of them?” and “I never thought of that!”
Winter time in Wisconsin can be brutal. Frost can go as deep as 5 feet, with 25 inches of snow on the surface. Families who desire a service in January many times wish to postpone any committal or military honors until spring. They also feel uncomfortable about keeping their loved ones cremated remains at home.
It occurred to me some time ago that we needed to create an option for those at-need families who were not sure of what to do with the cremated remains. Our firm developed an “Urn Repository” which holds cremated remains on agreement with the family regarding final placement, how long the urn will remain at our firm, and how we will contact the family regarding a service at a later date. We then track aging, just like receivables, and send reminders as well as phone calls. It is a system that has proven effective!
Lending your company’s authority and your personal experience guides families to made decisions to honor their loved ones in a meaningful way. Working together to honor families’ wishes and ensure the deceased is properly cared for is paramount to CANA’s Code of Cremation Practice. It’s our duty as a service industry to find balance and peace for our communities.
Members can read the full article with complete introduction and additional solutions from Chris Farmer of The Farmer Firm in Vol. 52, No. 2 Issue of The Cremationist. Not a member? Consider joining your business to access this and all archives of The Cremationist plus resources and statistics to help you find solutions for all aspects of your business -- only $470.
Steven Palmer entered funeral service in 1971. A funeral director in Massachusetts and California, he purchased the Westcott Funeral Homes in Arizona in 1997. He is a past president of the Arizona Funeral Directors Association and current National Funeral Directors Association Policy Board Representative for Arizona. He has been a columnist for the Nomis Funeral & Cemetery News (former YB News) since 1996 and has contributed to other funeral service publications.
Dan Isard, MSFS, is a writer, educator, and management and financial consultant. He is the president of The Foresight Companies LLC, a Phoenix-based business and management consulting firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions, valuations, accounting, financing HR services, and family surveys. He can be reached at 800-426-0165 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with Isard and The Foresight Companies by following them on Twitter at @f4sight or on Facebook.
Mark Zimmer, President of Zimmer Funeral Homes, Inc., attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago in 1977. Mark moved to the Sheboygan area in 1983 after purchasing the former Ahrens Funeral Home in Howards Grove. In 1996, he acquired the former Gerend-Habermann Funeral Home in Sheboygan. In 2003, work was completed on the new 8500-sq.-ft. Westview Funeral & Cremation Care Center. Mark is a past president of the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association and a past president of the Lakeshore Funeral Directors Association.
tips and tools
Posted By Barbara Kemmis,
Thursday, October 26, 2017
In recent months, preplanning and preneed have become hotly discussed topics in the death care industry. CANA has plans to address them at the Preneed Summit, a special addition to the Cremation Symposium in February – a meeting for preneed professionals and those looking to learn how to improve their preneed strategy. Stay tuned for more details.
In the meantime, consider CANA Executive Director Barbara Kemmis’s own experience with her parents.
One morning, my dad called me at work, which was a first. I was immediately concerned that bad news was coming, however it turned out my parents had made a resolution to “get their affairs in order.” They were starting the process of prearranging their funerals and updating all of their end-of-life documents. My dad’s plan was to have everything in order before I visited in a couple of months. He was calling to confirm that the funeral home he had chosen was a CANA member.
CANA gets similar calls and web inquiries from consumers regularly and it got me thinking: What does a CANA membership and CANA certification mean to the consumer? The funeral home my parents chose is well respected in the community and is a CANA member that proudly displays the CANA logo on its website and front door. The crematory operators are all CANA certified, which means the employer saw value in providing continuing education for the staff. I contacted the funeral home owner, DeWayne Cain of Rest Haven Funeral Homes in Rockwall, Texas why he sought this designation for his business and staff, and what it means to the community he serves.
Dewayne and his staff serve hundreds of families like mine every year. Dewayne said, “CANA is considered the authority in training and certification for crematory operators. The outstanding CANA workshops, seminars and continuing education courses help my staff and me stay current on best practices for crematories. Rest Haven’s affiliation with CANA is important to me and to the families we serve, because it demonstrates our commitment to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.”
When I visited my parents, we went to the bank and spent time reviewing documents – living wills and worksheets from the funeral home. Not surprisingly, my mom had planned a lovely funeral for herself at which her many friends from church and her social clubs, former students and others could gather together. My mom is a social creature known for her party planning.
My dad’s worksheet simply stated, “Just cremate me.”
He explained that he didn’t want us to be sad or mourn him. He didn’t want a big deal made about his passing. He would be in heaven and we would see him again when it was our time. My mom and I looked at each other and then looked away. I said what she couldn’t at that moment. “I love you, Dad, and I will mourn you and I will cry when you die. I need to be surrounded by family and your friends and former students. I need to hear about the practical jokes you pulled in the classroom and the stories of your leadership in the church and community. I want to respect your wishes, but I will mark your passing. I love you too much not to.”
Cremation is really just the beginning of the conversation, though for too many people like my dad, it’s the end. Recently, I was saddened but unsurprising to read that an urn filled with cremated remains had been accidentally donated to Salvation Army. In a culture of well-meaning but uneducated consumers dealing with the new tradition of cremation, this situation is becoming all too common.
I’m grateful that my parents want to discuss preplanning and that I have access to the information provided by our members on the process, what to expect, and the importance of memorialization. As it says in the CANA Code of Cremation Practice, "Cremation should be considered as preparation for memorialization; and the dead of our society should be memorialized through a commemorative means suitable to the survivors."
The agreement I reached with my parents is that I will honor their wishes to be cremated and the details of the ceremony and final memorialization are underway. Our conversation continues about their “affairs,” and has become about much more than preplanning a cremation.
Barbara Kemmis is Executive Director of the Cremation Association of North America.A version of this post first appeared on Confessions of a Funeral Director.
Join CANA at the Preneed Summit for innovative thinking around preneed for all businesses, February 6, 2018 in Las Vegas.
All members can benefit from community outreach and consumer education programs by using the PR Toolkit to develop a strategy. Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Updated: Monday, October 9, 2017
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s no secret that technology is rapidly changing the face of the deathcare industry. That is why it is so important for our businesses to have an online presence. Staying connected to the devices our communities use most gives us the opportunity to boost sales, generate pre-need leads, and grow brand loyalty.
Of course, this story is nothing new. In fact, what you read above is an excerpt from an article in The Cremationist in 2015. So what can CANA add to the conversation now? Well, we are the experts when it comes to addressing the cremation gap (n.) the cremation knowledge gaps around industry topics.
The cremation rate in the USA has surpassed 50%, cremation is the new tradition, and CANA’s statistics point to demographic markers that predict cremation. These markers aren’t restricted to the amount of money in the bank, love for the deceased, or distrust of the industry. Instead, these are the traits of the Roamers who are less connected to a place, a faith, or even a home. And what is the first tool these Roamers will use to find a provider when the worst happens to their family or they’re planning ahead for that inevitable end? The internet, of course—available for free at any time of the day or night, without any pressure to make a commitment, and literally at their fingertips.
Talking to Generation C
The business world is abuzz with a new catchphrase: Generation C. Breaking free of the bonds of what it means to be a Baby Boomer or Gen X-er and refusing to give all the credit to the Millennials, Generation C has embraced the internet and social media. Much like the Roamers described by CANA, Generation C isn’t defined by age, race, religion, or geography: it only takes a wi-fi signal, a username/password, and enough friends/followers/likes to give you cred. Are you a member of Generation C?
Better yet, is your business talking to them? You can’t assume the only people looking online are under 40—and that means you can’t tailor your language that way either. Roamers are planning services for their families from far away: a sibling in Illinois coordinating with one in California about their parent in Florida. This rules out using a phonebook or referencing your local radio, TV, or print ad.
Make it Easy
At-need, time is critical, but no one will be obligated to dig to find you or your business during any stage in the process. Your contact information, services and descriptions, and price ranges should be readily available on your website and mobile-responsive for the browser on the go. Healthy activity on Facebook and other social media platforms demonstrates you’re engaged, informed, and still open for business. None of this can ever replace a phone conversation, much less a face-to-face meeting, but it educates and informs customers about their options, what they want, and what they can expect from your company.
The Pricing Dilemma
This industry has a contentious past with the posting of prices. More than any other profession, ours recognizes the gap between value and cost – price can’t accurately convey meaning. But, we’ve all heard the saying “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Apply that thinking to your business – is that what you meant to say? Is it the market you want to attract?
Our research shows Roamers have higher incomes, but that’s not to say that price isn’t a consideration. It must be for any big purchase. Putting prices on your website removes a barrier between your company and the consumer and brings families one step closer to making the call and arranging the meeting. Making information hard to find—or leaving it off all together—could get you a click, but it’ll be the red X in the corner (a left swipe).
How To Begin
In some ways, the solution is obvious: strengthen your website and engage in healthy social media activity. But, like every part of running a business, it’s not that easy.
“You may find these thoughts frustrating and feel that marketing really should be simpler. I agree, but I’ll also ask you what part of managing a business is easy: Licensing? Personnel? Complying with regulations? As with all those areas, the key is to learn all you can and use that knowledge to make the best choices. If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn, find a professional who can help you, the same way you probably have your taxes done by an experienced accountant.”
A 2015 Cremationist excerpt again, but still relevant today. Building your online presence requires a plan which requires resource gathering, the right minds at the table, meetings, decisions, and execution – and all of that means it will take more than your niece’s kid running your Twitter feed. Ours is a unique industry that you have mastered. Now you need to translate that mastery into effective communication.
You have goals for your company. Think about those. Now define your audience (much narrower than your community): demographics, spending patterns, and the qualities of CANA’s Roaming and Rooted. You likely have multiple audiences you serve that have different qualities—now define your goals for them. What do you want to see change or improve? Okay, so develop a strategy to get there: what is the message, what is the tone and language, and what tactic is most appropriate for the different messaging?
Do you have a strong Celebrant base? Then target the non-churchgoer with explanations about non-religious services and personalization packages with images of your staff in unique locations.
Can you serve non-English speakers? Then learn their values and target messaging in their language and in English toward their next generation. Provide service options that speak to their culture and make shipping remains home easy.
Accessing powerful online channels in combination with carefully selected traditional marketing methods is the best way to activate your communication goals. But however you decide to talk with them, remember, “You'll really need to understand your families, your community, your competition, and the environments in which you do business.” Joe Wiegel (2015), “Marketing’s Silver Bullet,” The Cremationist, Vol. 51, No. 2.
With thanks to Joe Weigel, owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, for his evergreen insight.
Members can read Joe’s original article and all archives of The Cremationist by logging in to our website.
Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice from the only association who focuses exclusively on cremation families – only $470!
tips and tools
Posted By Bob Boetticher, Jr.,
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2017
CANA is well respected for a lot of things, but, hands down, one of the most valuable assets produced by the association is CANA's Annual Cremation Statistic Report. For the past five years, I’ve been privileged to work as a member of CANA’s statistics committee, and I’ve always seen it as an amazingly powerful tool for analyzing current and future consumer trends and creating a strategy for building and growing my business.
I'm particularly excited about this year's statistics report. In addition to the usual numbers, the report addresses why cremation has grown at such disparate rates in various regions of the U.S. It examines the influence geography has on the percentage of the population that cremates, constructing a model to describe the growth patterns in detail.
CANA also examines the speed at which cremation rates rise, tracking how the velocity of growth speeds and slows as the numbers climb. Here’s some of what they found:
When the cremation growth rate over time is measured, an interesting pattern develops. It can take decades for the cremation rate to hit 5%—in the U.S. it took nearly 100 years from the legalization of cremation in 1876 for the rate to reach 5% in 1972 —but once it reaches 5%, the growth rate is more predictable.
Once you hit 5%, the cremation growth rate speeds up. CANA lays out a statistical model to describe a particular pattern in the rate of growth, beginning with the "Starting Point" of 5% and ending with a "Plateau Period," once an 80% cremation rate is attained.
The good news here—the BIG takeaway—is that we’re entering a period of great stability as far as business planning.
In other words, when cremation reaches 40% growth, you know that things will be moving really fast. This is the prime time to execute forcefully and decisively so as to diminish any disruption to your business. Knowing what lies ahead, you can avoid the panic or knee-jerk reactions that killed the businesses of so many death care providers in the geographic regions that have already experienced the rapid growth phase.
The third research component models demographic traits that correlate strongly with cremation rates. You can apply this information directly to your business.
… people of all races, genders, and ages choose cremation.
Other demographic data demonstrate an interesting pattern with potential implications for your business.
Whether compelled by circumstance or eagerly searching for new opportunity, more and more of the U.S. population has chosen to roam across the country and around the world. Many have loosened their connections to their geographic origins and increased their exposure to new traditions. Conversely, there are significant portions of the population who are rooted to their hometowns and remain deeply connected to the traditions they grew up with.
CANA’s report found various traits associated with these "roaming" or "rooted" segments of the population:
Roaming — Higher Cremation Rate
Areas with a high concentration of small businesses and businesses owned by women, less religious affiliation or affiliation with religions other than Christianity, higher incomes, lower home ownership but higher home values, higher education levels achieved on average, more immigrants and populations that speak a language other than English in the home.
Rooted — Lower Cremation Rate
Areas with higher concentration of manufacturing businesses and output, high affiliation with Christianity, lower income, higher home ownership rates but lower home values, lower education rates achieved on average.
You can see how important it is to understand your community demographics. If you know which segments of the community you currently reach, you can hone your message even further. You can also find ways to increase your market share when you identify new segments to target.
Come out to see my statistics presentation at some point in the future. I’d love to show you how you can choose to be profitable. It’s empowering to know that you can use these facts, models, and numbers to make educated choices about how to lead your business.
Want to know more about the way statistics can help you? Join me for my presentation on Using Cremation Statistics to Enhance Business Success for Cemeteries and Funeral Homes at CANA’s upcoming 99th Annual Cremation Innovation in New York City, August 16-18, 2017. Register here to take advantage of this illuminating workshop.
Bob Boetticher, Jr., a Past President of CANA, is on the CANA Statistics Committee and presents CANA statistics across North America to show how anyone can transform their business with data. A second-generation funeral director and a Market Director at Service Corporation International, he has over 30 years of industry experience. Bob is a funeral, cemetery, and cremation expert who is dedicated to improving the funeral profession.
For more information, take a look at CANA's Industry Statistics brief. Members can access the full Annual Statistics Report and archives by logging in.
Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!
tips and tools
Posted By CANA Staff,
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2017
From May 18-20, 2017, CANA staff members were privileged to participate in the InSight Institute’s Celebrant Training presented by Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury.
As association staff, we're responsible not only for responding to the needs of our members and the industry, but also monitoring the changing winds of consumer preference and practitioner trends and understanding the difference between fads and forward thinking. InSight’s excellent celebrant training spoke to all of these concerns, describing new consumer preferences in an increasingly secular world and illuminating what the role of a funeral director is and can be.
Taking the class with industry professionals allowed us to hear stories about their work with families outside of their crematory operations and their perspective on the role of the funeral director. The thoughtful class lectures, case studies, and the final project assignment challenged preconceived notions of how our members interact with families, what consumers want, and the heart of real service to communities. We've all gained an understanding we did not have before.
Personalization Isn't Product.
I once read an unintentionally humorous article about the right number of accessories to wear based on a codified point system where certain items were worth certain points and you weren't ready to leave the house until you'd scored well. I think we can all see that, while well-intentioned, this method is ridiculous. And, like something as personal as style, you can't codify quality and sell keepsakes and products to add up points and score something as personal as memorialization. It's about knowing your audience—your own style in the case of accessorizing—and listening to a family's wants and needs in end-of-life planning.
The funeral director is the expert in options, but listening and guiding is the next step to making personalization a matter of course. Families can't be coded and assigned urns, keepsakes, and options based on assumptions about their spending, love for the deceased, or style. And it's only when consumers trust that they're being heard without judgment that they will talk and share. From there, the right products, like the right accessories, will come.
— Brie Bingham, Membership Coordinator
Watching Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury present this workshop was a revelation. It was evident that they’ve spent many years thinking about people and grief and a meaningful way to help families and friends work through the deaths of the significant individuals in their lives—and find deeply personalized ways to remember them. Amidst the current revolution in consumer interaction with the death care industry, Doug and Glenda have developed a powerful response that was inspiring to witness. They’ve truly brought the art of listening to a new level and they lay out clear strategies to incorporate listening into interactions with those that seek their assistance.
The wealth of information and the creative and insightful approach shared by these experts has broad applications to the issues we consider as we work to serve CANA’s members and their best interests. CANA’s staff does not include any funeral directors or cremationists, so we benefit from hearing real-world experiences. Such stories helps us to see the through the eyes of the people who belong to CANA.
— Sara Corkery, Communications Manager
As the education director, I was excited to participate in Celebrant training to make sure CANA education incorporates best practices and well-rounded perspectives. But I got more than I was expecting. My father died when I was 19. He was cremated and we had a memorial service for him. During the celebrant training, we talked a lot about the importance of a funeral or memorial service in beginning the healing process. As I thought back to my father’s service, I began to appreciate what my step-mother did, instead of resent it. She had taken control of planning my father’s service and what resulted was far different than anything the rest of the family was expecting. In other words, a traditional service. What we attended instead was a highly personalized celebration. Various people told stories about my father that I hadn’t heard before, and we played his favorite music. It was exactly what it should have been, but twenty years ago I didn’t understand that and still didn’t until I attended the celebrant training. And once that understanding took root, I was overcome by a desire to make sure everyone I know gets to experience that kind of funeral or memorial service when they lose someone they love.
At the same time I was experiencing a personal healing, I was also learning a lot about the funeral industry. As someone with no training in funeral service, I was shocked to learn that funeral directors aren’t the ones leading funeral or memorial services, and they aren’t the ones helping families plan them either. It’s usually a clergy person who may or may not know the family or the deceased. That explains why my step-mother did most of the service planning. The concept of a celebrant was almost non-existent in the US in 1996. Now I’m excited whenever I talk to funeral directors who have been through celebrant training or incorporate them into their business models. But I also see a huge missed opportunity for those who have not.
— Jennifer Head, Education Director
I'd rather be ignored for $2,000 than $10,000.
I found celebrant training to be a transformative experience. I didn't expect to relive every funeral and grief experience of my life on day one, but that is exactly what happened. At the end of the session I was emotionally drained, but also exhilarated. Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury provided the language to describe so many of my negative and positive experiences.
In response to a question about the increase in direct cremation, he told an anecdote when he was told, "I paid $10,000 for my father's funeral and my grief was ignored. The funeral director didn't direct anything, just took my order. I'd rather be ignored for $2000."
This story struck me profoundly. I thought about the behaviors of funeral directors that made the most impact on me, such as anticipating my need for a tissue or water, hugging or touching me when I needed comfort and saying my family member or friend's name. I have never been ignored, thankfully, but no one deserves to be ignored.
— Barbara Kemmis, Executive Director
CANA Staff send our warmest thanks to Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury of the Insight Institute for sharing their passion and professional expertise during the Celebrant Training course. We congratulate our fellow new Certified Celebrants who joined us for this course!
tips and tools