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topThe Insider
News for Death Care Professionals
Vol. IV
 Issue I



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Connecting through cemeteries 

By Jeff Lemley


I have been a fan of TED talks for a long time. The concept of an organization devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading" is at minimum interesting, and has grown to be almost world-changing. Thousands of talks from speakers renowned as Bill Gates, Jane Goodall and Sir Richard Branson are available for free at


So imagine my delight at being invited to give a talk at an independent TEDx event recently held in Dubuque, IA. Nine other speakers and I sharing ideas related to our individual disciplines on the broad topic of "Connection."


Perhaps the first thought attendees may have had in reviewing the line-up of speakers was, how does the cemetery guy fit in with doctors, nurses, university presidents and violence prevention activists? What we do in the cemetery and funeral industry for individuals and families every day is all about connections; connecting to the past, present and into the future.


We assist in connections to the past every time someone calls or stops in our offices doing genealogy research. Not a day goes by without getting requests from people trying to trace their roots, or learn something about their ancestors.


Weddings and funerals. Are these not the two biggest events that connect us to the present? Families will sometimes spend hours in the cemetery after a service. Why? Because that time represents the best opportunity to re-connect since the last wedding or funeral or until the next wedding or funeral happens.


The absolute best part of my job is assisting a family with the design of a memorial. We get some of the most unique and interesting headstones when we help people realize that this is their opportunity to connect with future generations. This is their chance to create a personal legacy message. Headstones are after all, the modern day cave drawings.


Success in our industry may be measured in many ways. For me, I know I'm doing my job right when I assist people in making meaningful connections. I would invite you to view my TED talk. It can be found at the following link,, or simply by visiting and searching for Jeff Lemley.


Jeff Lemley is the family service counselor at Woodlawn Cemetery in Milwaukee, WI. Article sourced from Funeral Home & Cemetery News for Feb. 2015 with permission.


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Batesville receives top rating:

product quality, service, innovation 

Funeral Professionals award highest scores to Batesville in annual casket survey


Batesville, IN. Nov. 11, 2014 - Batesville, the leading provider of comprehensive solutions to the death care industry, has received the industry's top scores in Product Quality, Service and Innovation in the annual Casket Survey conducted by Funeral Service Insider (FSI), a Kates-Boylston publication. Funeral professionals gave Batesville the highest scores in each category, reinforcing the company's position as a value-added partner to funeral homes.


This is the second consecutive year Batesville has led in Quality, and another sequential improvement in Service. "We hold ourselves to high standards - from the first step in manufacturing through delivery to a customer - so it's good to see that our commitment and the efforts of dedicated associates throughout our Supply Chair are making a difference," said Troy Turner, chief marketing officer for Batesville.


Batesville also dominated all other casket companies in Product Innovation, with 83.1% of respondents naming it as the leader, an increase of nearly 30% over the prior year. The company has a legacy of innovation and continues to invest in new ideas, methods and products based on research with funeral directors and families.


"We've been at the top of the leader board numerous times over the past several years, but it's especially gratifying to be recognized by our customers as number one in each of these important areas," said Turner.


This year's survey, which covers a wide range of issues facing today's funeral professionals, drew responses from 359 people - the highest number of participants in its history. Professionals shared their insights on cremation rates, pricing strategies, selection rooms, personalization offerings, and chimed in on the things that are most important in a supplier relationship.


Turner notes that the things funeral directors value have not changed much over time. "They want easy access to a range of high quality products, at price points that meet the needs of families they serve, with delivery when promised," he says. "These are the same guideposts Batesville uses to manage our business."

 Disinterment standards

Legal Speak by Atty. Harvey I. Lapin


The recent decision of the Ohio Court of Appeals in the case of In re Disinterment of Jean E. Swing, 2014 WL 7004788 (12/12/2014) deals with cremated remains and a disinterment issue. While the decision is based on the laws applicable to Disinterment in Ohio, it is the author's experience that the standards applied are similar to the legal standards in many states.


The minor son (Son) of the deceased requested a probate court to grant an order of disinterment for the cremated remains of his father from the grave space of his grandmother. The request was filed on the behalf of the Son by his mother because he was a minor. The father had died in 2007 and at that time his remains were cremated and retained by his grandfather and grandmother.


When the Son learned his father's cremated remains were at his grandparents' house he requested they be given to him. The grandmother refused. Subsequently, she died in 2009 and the father's cremated remains were buried with her. The opinion indicates that a funeral home employee placed the cremated remains in the grandmother's casket at the request of the Son's uncle. This was done without the knowledge of the cemetery and in violation of the cemetery's rules.


Three years later a cousin advised the Son that his father's cremated remains had been buried with his grandmother's remains. The Son initiated the Petition to the Probate Court. The Son's grandfather and uncle opposed the Petition. The Probate Court issued a disinterment order and the grandfather and uncle filed the appeal.


The Appeals Court then analyzed the facts and the applicable law to reach its conclusion. One of the factors considered by the Appeals Court was a prior decision of another Ohio Appeals Court. In addition the Ohio Legislature had subsequently enacted a Disposition of Remains Law (DORA) that was similar to laws of that type previously discussed by the author in this column.


The factors considered by the Appeals Court were whether the Probate Court had considered the following factors based on the previous Appeals Court Decision:


  • The relationship of the son to the deceased;
  •  The relationship of the objecting parties to the deceased;
  • The wishes of the Decedent;
  • The conduct of the Son;
  • The conduct of the people not permitting the Son's request;
  • The length of time between the interment and the complaint;
  • The reasons proposed in favor and against the disinterment.


The Appeals Court reviewed the record and concluded the Probate Court Judge had considered the previous factors in reaching its decision.


Milne 2013 The next issue considered by the Appeals Court was whether the Grandfather and Grandmother had exercised their rights under the DORA so the claim by the Son was moot. It should be noted that the Appeals Court analyzed the DORA and it is similar to the DORA Acts enacted in other states.


DORA provided that a surviving child had priority over parents, but the grandfather argued that the surviving child in this situation was a minor and therefore not eligible to have priority. The Appeals Court rejected this argument on the basis that the priorities were not absolute requirements but subjects to a court's determination using equitable standards. In this case, the Appeals Court determined that there were equitable reasons for allowing the Son to have the cremated remains of his father.


Harvey I. Lapin, P.C., is a member of the Illinois Bar and Florida Bar. He is a member of the faculty at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and is presently teaching the subject of Tax Exempt Organizations. He is also associated with Florida-based law firm Sachs, Sax & Caplan, leading the firm's Funeral, Cemetery and Cremation Practice Group. He has written numerous articles on the subject of taxation, funeral and cemetery law. The subject discussed in this article and future articles resulted from the questions from readers. If you have any questions about the topics covered in this column or in obtaining professional assistance, please contact the author c/o Harvey I Lapin, 2592 Chedworth Ct., Northbrook, Ill. 60062. Phone 847-509-0501 or fax to 847-509-1027.


The author wrote articles for the Cemetery and Funeral Business and Legal Guide ("Guide) that have been published by CB Legal Publishing Corporation since 1970. The Editor of the Guide recently announced the suspension of this publication. However, CB Legal Publishing Corporation also publishes the Release Form Kit, which was prepared by the author and has been recently updated and revised by the author. The publication of the Release Form Kit will be continued. This Kit contains Release and Hold Harmless forms for Funeral Homes, Cemeteries and Crematories to use in situations where it has resolved a complaint with a customer, and wants to be sure where it has resolved a complaint with a customer, and wants to be sure that there will be no further action by the customer or their relatives. The forms can now be purchased in an electronic format. Anyone interested in purchasing the forms can contact Cheryl Lapin, at the address of CB Legal Publishing Corporation, 2592 Chedworth Ct., Northbrook, Ill. 60062. The author also continues to practice law and can be contacted by phone at 847-334-1983.


Sourced from Funeral and Cemetery News February 2015 with permission

EDITOR'S NOTE: Washington law addresses this issue in RCW 68.50.160  

Grounds management:

Drought forces return of landscape to natural state


What do you do when your cemetery is faced with long-term drought and a lack of water for irrigation? Riverside Cemetery has looked to its beginnings as a prairie cemetery, going back to its roots with the help of volunteers.


Patricia Carmody feared continuing drought conditions, and a lack of water for irrigation, would yield a wilting burial ground filled with dead trees and weeds at Riverside Cemetery in Denver, one of two cemeteries she works to preserve for Fairmount Heritage Foundation in Colorado.


Years of worsening drought, coupled with the cemetery's loss of water rights for irrigation in 2003, prompted the slow death of more than 100 non-native, mature trees in the 77-acre cemetery. Turf had long since turned brown, and shrubs and flowers started withering away.


"In the beginning, when we lost irrigation there was a great drop in operations and interments," Carmody said.


Business slowed as families sought greener pastures elsewhere for their loved ones' final resting place. Dying trees and limbs posed a threat to existing monuments as deadwood periodically crashed to the ground. Denver's oldest operating cemetery started an uneasy return to its naturally dry, drab prairie state after spending decades looking like a lush, green oasis.


The landscape found new life in 2009 through what Carmody calls "cemetery serendipity."


Restoring the balance

Each year PLANET, the Professional Landcare Network, organizes a national day of service on the days around Earth Day in April, which is national lawn care month. The day of service encourages green industry associations and businesses across the U.S. to spend a day volunteering in their communities.




Donna Ralston, executive director of the Colorado Arborists and Lawn Care Professionals, had been looking for a place for CALCP members to volunteer when she called Carmody in March 2009.



A Davey Tree crew removes a tree in Riverside Cemetery, Denver's oldest operating burial grounds. More than 100 dead or dying trees have been removed from the grounds since 2009 due to Colorado's drought and the cemetery's lack of irrigation.

"One of the things that convinced my board to do that project was that, during the winter, Riverside had already been meeting with one of the local community college horticulture teachers, and they had come up with a fairly well thought-out design for renovating the cemetery using more drought tolerant plants and native plants," Ralston said.


"They already had a plan to adopt, they had a direction they were going and knew what they wanted to accomplish, and that made it really easy for my board to say, 'We can come and be a source of some funds and expertise to make this work.'"


By then the cemetery's landscape had endured six years without irrigation under drought conditions. Making matters worse, the cemetery's landscape included many white ash trees, which are susceptible to the deadly Emerald Ash Borer.


When Riverside's founders laid out the cemetery in 1876, its gently rolling, high-desert prairie hills had been left largely unchanged. Over the years, families would occasionally choose to landscape their plots, thus creating a mixed landscape.


After World War I, Riverside, like most of Denver, was heavily planted with non-native trees, shrubs and flowers from the East and West coasts to create a bright, green oasis.


Andy Ferguson, operations manager for The Davey Tree Expert Co.'s South Central Operating Group, said for decades those plants not suited for Colorado's arid, high-desert conditions were kept alive through irrigation.


"Almost all of the plant material we find in the Denver area is plant material that wouldn't be native to this area and requires supplemental irrigation to survive," Ferguson said. "Most people don't know that."


Ferguson, a member and past president of CALCP, fully supported the idea of preserving the cemetery's remaining trees and working to return the landscape to a more native state.


"The biggest logistical issue that we had to tackle was that there was absolutely zero water on site that could be used for watering plant material or grass," he said. "So step No. 1 was essentially trying to determine what plants, starting out with grasses, would survive in that arid landscape."


Davey, CALCP and other volunteers started in 2009 by developing test plots for various native grasses. Volunteers loosened the soil and applied native grass seed and fertilizer. In all, volunteers created eight test plots to determine which grasses would do the best in the dry semi-desert conditions with only 12 inches to 15 inches of annual rainfall.


link here to here to continue


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Three dos and don'ts of cremation prearranging 


We recently ran an article from the ICCFA Magazine by Poul LeMasters about how same-sex couples can appoint an agent to be in charge of each other's disposition. Poul received questions about whether this process can be used in other cases. Yes, it can. But wait, there's more!


The author, Poul LeMasters

The use of an appointment of agent for same-sex partners was recently explained. ("Can John handle funeral arrangements for Bill?" in the August-September 2014 issue of ICCFA Magazine). After that article appeared, many people called and emailed to ask, "Am I limited to using this form in same-sex situations or can I use this form in other situations?"


The answer is a resounding "yes," you can use it in other situations. But, as with any great product, "Wait, there's more!"


Appointing an agent to handle cremation is a great tool for same-sex partners, and it is a tool that works for all cremation prearrangements. But in addition to this form (a sample form is available at to ICCFA members), there also are other things a provider can and should do to make the at-need process a better experience.


For purposes of this article, a better experience means that the business and the consumer have fewer issues with paperwork and the cremation procedure. This article looks at the prearrangement process as it relates to cremation and tells you about a few things a provider should do and a few things a provider should never do.


Three dos

1. Encourage the appointment of an agent. As pointed out in the previous article, the use of an appointment of agent form is a great practice. While the previous article focused on this form for same-sex partners, there are numerous other times this form is useful and beneficial.


In fact, I recommend that if your state is one of those which allows an appointment of agent, you have your business use it in every preneed funeral arrangement. LINK 68.50.160 Every preneed funeral arrangement? Yes, every single one.


Consider the following examples. If an individual with five children wants to prearrange a cremation, it is quite common that at the time of the cremation, all five children will have to sign the cremation authorization form. (It is best practice to always require all individuals in a class to sign).


For the provider, how easy is it to get all five children into your office to sign? For the family, how likely is it that everyone is local, available and willing to come in to sign the form?


By using the appointment of agent form, the individual and the provider can designate one child to handle the arrangements at the time of need.


Let's say the individual in the previous example has only two children. The appointment of agent is still beneficial, because it allows one child to take control and prevents the problem of having two children who disagree about what should be done.


If an individual has no children, or no family, the appointment of an agent allows the individual to have someone take control at the time of need and prevents any issues of who is able to sign authorizations.


There are countless other examples and scenarios I could provide, but I can never list them all. Every funeral director will at some time face a scenarios that no one could have imagined.


By using an appointment of agent authorization form in all prearrangements, the provider protects the family and the business from all those unforeseen issues that can - and typically do - happen.


2. Document the cremation plan. One of the most frustrating issues encountered is the family who comes in to make arrangements and says, "He just wanted a cremation" - but there is no documentation of those alleged wishes.


While documentation alone is no guarantee, it does help show the wishes of the deceased if there are questions from or disagreements among survivors. If an individual wants cremation, it is extremely helpful to document that desire in the prearrangement. And when you document an individual's wishes, make sure to get all the details.


While most funded prearrangements just allot a certain sum of money, with arrangement details to be determined at the time of need. If details are provided, many times they lack specificity, which can create issues at the time of need.


As an example, consider the individual who preplans cremation, with arrangements simply indicating a direct cremation. At the time of need, the family, consisting of three children, can't decide what to do with the cremated remains.


One child thinks dad wanted an urn, another child thinks dad wanted his remains scattered and the third child wants to bury the cremated remains. Who decides? And how do you, as the funeral director, get the three of them to come to a decision they all agree with?


If the prearrangement had discussed final disposition of the cremated remains, the disagreement could have been avoided.


With unfunded prearrangements, it is very common to have no details at all, other than very limited biographical information for the individual. It is best practice to get the individual to identify what type of service he or she wants and to document those wishes.


For cremation, those documented wishes can help to avoid disputes and also settle disputes that may occur. Most people think cremation is a "simple" choice and do not understand the legalities and procedures involved.


By explaining the need to document what each individual wants, the provider can educate consumers and create a framework that can assist the family at the time of need rather than create more questions.


I should point out that some states treat funded, prearranged cremation arrangements as binding. That means the provider may proceed with cremation - but (of course, there's always a but) there still can be issues. While the arrangements may be binding, if they are incomplete or challenged, the provider can be placed in a worse position. That is why communication is so important.


3. Explain the at-need process. Communication is key in any process; many lawsuits are at least partially caused by poor communication. When a provider is making cremation prearrangements, it is critical to explain the at-need process so that issues can be avoided.


"Well at least mom came in here and took care of everything so we don't have to do anything."


Most providers have heard something like this at the time of need. Many people believe that if preneed arrangements have been made, there is nothing left to do - except to die.


But often there are many questions still to be answered and many processes left to be completed at the time of death. This is even more of an issue when cremation has been chosen, because there are many steps in the cremation process that can't occur until the time of death.


As an example, consider the identification of the deceased. Most people have no knowledge of this requirement, whether it comes from the funeral home, the crematory or from state law. Without knowing, let alone understanding, this requirement, many families who thought "Mom took care of everything" become frustrated when told identification is necessary.


Mom said everything was taken care of, it's "just a cremation," so why are they having to jump through these last-minute hoops? In some cases, families believe the cremation provider is simply trying to take advantage of the situation and asking for more to be done than the deceased wanted.


It is important to communicate with people making prearrangements to make sure they understand two main things: What can be done now and what will need to be done at the time of death.


I suggest a list, a preprinted document, designed just for prearranged cremation cases. It should detail what has been done and what still needs to be done, along with a description. This form should identify things that will need to be done at need, including identification of the deceased and completion of a cremation authorization form.


Link here for the Don'ts!


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Wilbert Precast PNG
Who is your absolutely best new customer?


We recently did some work for a funeral home client who was always on the prowl for new business.  They were a frequent advertiser, and their PR program got them visibility far beyond the budget they invested.  In fact, they had - we'd like to think, with our help - massively improved their local visibility on so many fronts. But when it came to their own home front, they completely missed the boat.


What I mean by that is that they ignored the single greatest source of new business, and that's old business...families and individuals who had done business with them in the past. You'd think this is a no-brainer, but every time we'd suggest a marketing program aimed at their own data base, the energy would drain right out of the room. Why so?  They felt that it was wrong to "pester" a family one year, two years or five years after the service.  They didn't want to be seen as selling anything!  Besides, they had allowed their database of many years to become obsolete.  Only the last two years were even computerized.


Ah, what a missed opportunity.


There are so many reasons why existing customers are your very best prospects.  Here are a few statistics that drive the point home:

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 - 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% - Marketing Metrics.

A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10% - Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet Murphy & Mark Murphy. [interesting slide show here]

It costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one - Bain & Company.

Matthews 7-1-13 Why would you not want to focus your marketing efforts on current and older customers?  There is so much to be gained. Consider the following five reasons why they are your absolutely best prospects for future business:

1. There's more water in that well. Families like to stay together and tend to trust the services that other family members have used.  This is especially true with respect to a business that provides deeply personal family services, such as a funeral home or memorial park. You've developed your business around the values of trust, care, respect and service. These are the very things the family will want to rely upon from you in the future.  But if you let too much time slip away between contacts, that emotional tie will eventually fade, leaving the door open to competitors or other alternate solutions.  Stay in touch through newsletters, email, or even a personal phone call or letter.  Let them know that you have a new service or feature, what's going on with your staff, how you've helped out in the community, and how important it is to make plans now for their future.

While that may be the most obvious reason, here are others you might not have thought about:

2. They'll tell you how you're doing. While it's not always comfortable to ask customers how they like or dislike your services or products, nobody can give you a better report card and the straight dope on your service delivery than those on the receiving end. Listen to them, but also ask them.  Whatever you hear, good or not, will guide you in what you bring to future customers.  At the same time, your seeking out their opinions tells them you're interested in them, which can only strengthen those relationships.

3. They're your best referral source. But only if you are doing all you can to keep your firm in their sights. Once they forget about you, you're back to square one, especially when it comes to their circle of contacts. Also, while they still have a positive memory of working with your firm, you should actually ask them to pass the good word along.  Encourage them to share their experiences on sites like Yelp, Google Places, Angie's List, Yahoo! Local, and of course the Social Media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

 4. They're models for others just like them. Pay close attention to who is buying from you, how they're finding you, what their product or service choices are, and where you can find more of the same.  Remember the old 80-20 rule (80% of your business comes from just 20% of the marketplace).  Learn precisely who that 20% is and it will be easier to grow that segment.  But you can only do that by really understanding the customers you already have.

 5. They may actually turn against you if you ignore them. Funeral care is already highly emotionally charged, and if you did anything that wasn't 100% to a family's satisfaction, a little slip-up can fester becoming the source of negative social sharing.  By staying closely connected, you give the family an avenue to express any upset, hopefully diffusing any issues, but at the same time, you are reminding them that, for you, they're not out of mind, even if they're out of sight. Who doesn't want to feel that they're thought-about every now and then?  Customers are like teeth, ignore them and maybe they'll go away!

So, the answer to "Who is your absolutely best new customer?" is of course...your old customer. Especially when marketing dollars are tight, prospecting to them is, without a doubt, the best money you can spend.


Author Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link. 


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How to make money

as a provider of cremation services 



The question for funeral service providers today and in the future isn't whether you're going to be serving more cremation families, it's whether you're going to be serving them while running a profitable business, or serving them until you go out of business.


The author, Dan Isard

I am old. I am old enough to remember the days when it was impossible to not make money owning a funeral home. Back then, everything was package pricing. You bought a casket and you got the full service.


Funeral directors of the 1980s were no more proficient at pricing then than they are now. Back then, whatever the price of the casket was, you marked it up six times, so a casket that cost you $500 resulted in a $3,000 funeral bill.


Even when the Funeral Rule introduced itemization, almost every death resulted in the purchase of a casket, the use of a limo and one or two days of visitation. You could not help but make money.


During those days of yore, cremation did exist. It had been growing (slowly) since its inception with the first commercial retort in the U.S. in the 1870s. But in 1985, if you messed up your price on cremation, it was no big deal. Cremation was, at most, about 5 percent of some businesses.


 The exception was those liberal societies of the Northwest and parts of California and Florida that were already in the 30 percent range. Still, in 1985 you were making good money no matter how bad a businessperson you were.

The inability to render quality service is not what makes a funeral home owner/manager a bad businessperson. For the most part, they all understand what's involved in providing good quality service.

Simply put, a bad business operator is someone who does not understand the issues involved in running that kind of business.

In my opinion, the two most important business issues are pricing and marketing. These are independent actions to some people, but to me, they are related.

According to Federated Funeral Directors, in 1984 the average profit margin on a funeral was almost 14 percent of revenue. In 1984, the national cremation rate was about 14 percent, according to CANA.

It is only a coincidence these two numbers are the same. However, as the cremation rate has risen to almost 40 percent, profit margins in the U.S. have gone down to about 8 percent. So cremation is up more than 200 percent and profit is down about 40 percent.

Pricing cremation services

When thinking about pricing of cremation services, you have to start from scratch. Don't look at your competitors. Don't look at last year's GPL. Start from scratch.

What I want you to do is go back to 1984. During the FTC investigation of funeral service, the commission ultimately agreed with the funeral homes' position that there should be one basic fee all consumers should pay, and this fee should be the only thing that is non-declinable.

After much wrangling, we gave birth to the basic non-declinable fee. This BNDF is a fee that every family should pay to cover the common costs of serving families, regardless of what merchandise or services they choose, regardless of whether a body will be buried or cremated or shipped someplace.

The BNDF is intended to cover the common costs of staying in business, which include the services you perform in conducting the arrangements conference, planning the funeral, securing the necessary permits, preparing the notices and coordinating the cemetery or crematory arrangements. This fee also may include overhead that you have not allocated elsewhere.

The BNDF is your friend, yet many treat it like a leper. You cannot have one BNDF for cremation and one for burial. You either have a "common cost" or you don't.

Beyond the BNDF is the allocated charge for itemized services. The key thing to remember is the process of service. Let me outline the work of the funeral home in serving a burial consumer versus a cremation consumer.









As you can see in the chart, steps 1, 2 and 3 are the same. Therefore, you would think the cost to the consumer would be the same up to this point, whether traditional ground burial or cremation is involved. But in our survey of funeral homes, we have found that this is not the case more than 90 percent of the time.

 In simple terms, through Step 3, your pricing would be (using algebraic terms):










So, before you know whether the family is choosing traditional burial or cremation, and before you know what kind of services the family is going to choose, the subtotaled charge to the family adds up so:

$A + $B + $C = SD

I am using algebraic equations rather than prices so it won't look like we're suggesting price fixing. What I am trying to fix is the logic behind funeral home pricing, which has gone askew somewhere since 1984.

If a family picks a cremation service, you would add to your subtotal $D the cost of that service, and if there is a need to take a body to the retort, you would add a transportation charge as well. So the final pricing would be:

$D + Cremation service fee + Transport to retort fee (if applicable) = Total charge

This service package, logically priced, would be the same as the FTC-mandated "Direct Cremation Package" without a container. The problem is, 90 percent of all funeral homes discount that fee.

link here to continue

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Why you're not selling more pre-need contracts 


There's More To It...Advance Funeral Planning

By Christopher Kuhnen


If only you had these seven things, you'd be able to make many more and better pre-need sales:


Better funeral home. "Nobody likes my funeral home. They all go to the other funeral home in town." Can you imagine how much easier it would be to sell if only you worked at the "other funeral home"? Think how easy it would be to sell if people were lining up to buy.


Lower pricing. "Our prices are too high." "It's tough to sell something at a higher price than your competitors sell it for." Imagine how easy it would be to sell if you had the very lowest places in town.


Better town to work in. "The people in my town have all been contacted about pre-need." "Nobody is interested." It would be great to work in a town where nobody has heard about pre-need. It would be a breeze to sell in their town.


Easier prospecting. "No one will return my calls!" "No one is home when I stop by." "No one is calling in or walking into my funeral home." "Calling prospects is awful. No one wants to be called and bothered by me." Prospecting should be a lot easier. That would make selling awesome, wouldn't it?


Better prospects. "Our prospects only care about price." "They all want cremation, cremation, cremation." "Just give me the lowest priced funeral you can, is all anyone says." "All of the best prospects have already been sold." Selling would be much easier, if only I had better prospects.


Better management. "My manager and/or funeral home owner just doesn't get it." "They think I should have more activity. They keep asking me about my 'sales pipeline.'" "How many people have I reached out to today? How many telephone calls did I make? How many go-by visits did I make? Their questions are endless." Selling would be easy if I weren't so micromanaged. My pre-need sales would be easy with better management or leadership; that's for sure!


Better compensation. "My compensation plan stinks. Do they really think I can make a living on what they pay me? If I had a half-way decent compensation plan. I'd be motivated to sell more. I'd be a top-20-percent salesperson with the right compensation plan." Why don't they pay me more, for the contracts I sell? Their compensation plan really makes my selling difficult.


Polyguard 7-12 Listed above are seven lies. Here is one simple truth: None of these is the real reason selling is difficult. Selling isn't easy, of course. It has never been easy, and it won't become easy in the future. However, your attitude toward the profession of pre-need selling can make it seem a whole lot harder than it really needs to be or even really is.


The fact is, no one has the ideal selling situation. Every sales professional has things they wish they could change. Regardless of the selling situation you find yourself in, how you allow yourself to be affected by it, is your choice. If you think things are bad, they will be bad. If you think things are good, they will be good. You possess the power within you to make your situation anything you want it to be.


Here are a few indisputable sales laws from which you can glean valuable insight into ways to make your selling situation all you want it to be.


Law of Constant Change: Nothing in selling is permanent: you never lose a customer and you never win a customer. You either make a sale or you don't.


Law of Closing: There's no such thing as a "No Close" sale. Either you sell your prospect on why they need to prearrange and pre-pay for their funeral plan of choice or they sell you on why they can't or won't do business with you. Either way a sale is made on each and every call. The question is, Who closed who?


Law of Caring: No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. Care a lot!


Law of the Right Question: There is no need to know all the right answers - only the right questions.


Law of the Quick Start: Get out of the blocks early at the beginning of the day, week, month and quarter. The momentum will energize you for the rest of the period.


Law of Preparation: Given three minutes to present, invest two in preparing and one in sharing.


Law of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Whatever you vividly imagine, fervently believe, and enthusiastically act upon, will inevitably come to pass. It happens each and every time!


Law of Competence: Good selling is not holding all the cards, but making the most of the cards you have been dealt.


Law of Personal Resources: A pre-need sales professional's two greatest resources are Attitude and Time. Have a caring and positive attitude and don't waste your time.


Author Christopher Kuhnen of Edgewood, Kentucky is a 29-year veteran of funeral service. He is perhaps best known as an industry go-getter and progressive leader. As an insider into excellence, he is a trustworthy advisor to many funeral home and industry professionals. Kuhnen spent a good portion of his career working for a family-owned and -operated funeral home and national pre-need sales and marketing organization. He additionally was the architect and founder of Funeral Profit Protectors, LLC. Currently he serves as Vice President of Pre-Need Marketing for the Unity Financial Life Insurance Co., Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a Kentucky Licensed Funeral Director, Life Insurance Agent, Certified Pre-Planning Consultant (CPC), Insight Institute Certified Funeral Celebrant and Certified Marketing Specialist, as bestowed by the former American Marketing Academy. Chris can be reached at 859-307-7223 or The article is sourced from Funeral Home & Cemetery News for February 2015 with permission.


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MoneyHow to make money


When cremation constituted 5 percent of your services, you could do that. It didn't make a big difference. In essence, you were charging burial families more in order to give a discount to the few cremation consumers. It was wrong, but I realize it did not change your bottom line substantially.

When your cremation rate is 51 percent or more, whom are you going to "tax" to give cremation customers a discount?

We have 50 states, and about 19 of them are at a statewide cremation rate of greater than 50 percent. If anyone in those 19 states thinks their cremation rate is going to drop, that is laughable. If anyone in the 31 states still at a less than 50 percent cremation rate thinks their cremation rate won't reach that level in the next 20 years, that is laughable, too.

For my book, "What Every Funeral Director and Cemeterian Must Know About Cremation," written almost 10 years ago, I looked at the states that had low cremation rates to understand why they were low.

Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were all single-digit cremation rate states back then. Now they are approximately 20 percent, 15 percent and 23 percent, respectively. This growth over the past 10 years is huge.

In order to make money as a cremation provider, you must conquer both pricing and marketing.

As far as pricing is concerned, I hope everyone comprehends that cremation is not going away - it's increasing. Therefore, if you are going to be in the funeral business, you are going to be serving as many cremation consumers as burial families. Both groups must equally contribute to covering the overhead of your business. Therefore, both must be charged the accurate amount for the services they choose.

Cremating marketing issues

Allow me to focus now on cremation marketing issues.

I was in a fancy steakhouse in Las Vegas recently. On the menu they offered grain-fed steaks from $40 to $60. They also had Kobe steaks at $150 to $180. My first reaction was that the grain fed steaks were expensive but the Kobe steaks were ridiculous.

I eat out quite a bit. I know the price of steaks from different establishments. I expected that this restaurant's ambiance would mean higher prices, but the Kobe beef prices were just silly.

Then the restaurant did something that, as a management consultant, I consultant, I considered brilliant: Someone brought out their product and showed me three cuts of grain-fed steak - beautiful pieces of meat. Next to them were the same cuts of Kobe. Now I could see that, as good as the grain-fed beef was, the Kobe was better. Education influenced my decision.

Most funeral homes do not take the time to explain the differences is what they offer. If you cannot differentiate yourself from your competitor, price is the only differentiator.

This applies to burial consumers, but it especially applies to cremation consumers. When marketing your business, you cannot market your ego; you must market your differences.

Why are some cremation providers more expensive than others? Some of the key differentiators are:

  • Your funeral facility offers cremation families more than just a preparation area.
  • You own a crematory.
  • Your crematory operator is a professional and has more education.
  • You are going to allow the family to witness the cremation or participate in the cremation process.

You also need to be prepared to discuss your competitors' vulnerabilities, such as:

  • Do they use unlicensed staff to do removals?
  • Do they have a guaranteed identification system?
  • Is their building where the deceased is held until the cremation secure?
  • Is their retort used for multiple funeral homes?
  • What sort of standards do they adhere to?

The answers to these questions and others that might apply in your market can be used to enhance your standing and explain your pricing.

The biggest marketing advantage you have is time. The sooner you get an arrangement in place, the better. There is more price-shopping for at-need funerals than for preneed funerals. This applies to cremations as well.

However, the percentage of preneed contracts written each year in which cremation is chosen is far less than the annual cremation rate. That is because most people think cremation is inexpensive, so they don't perceive a benefit to prearranging. Therefore, you have to change your focus.

Cremation is simply the method of disposition; it is not the service. According to the Wirthlin Survey, only about 11 percent of all consumers want a direct cremation, which means that 89 percent want something more.

We have to change our mindset about cremation arrangements to focus on the "something more." This will bring your business strengths into play.

You have two options when it comes to being profitable in serving cremation families. You can choose to be profitable or you can choose to be broke.

I am not asking anyone to make an unconscionable profit on either burial or cremation, but I do think businesses need to be profitable.

I think we have more problems (the kind that end up with criminal charges and negative publicity) with low-cost providers than higher-end ones. Poverty can cause even good people to make bad decisions.

Author Dan Isard, MSFS, is president of The Foresight Companies LLC, a Phoenix-based business and management consulting firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions, valuations, accounting, financing and customer surveys. He is the author of several books, and the host of "The Dan Isard Show." The article is sourced from ICCFA Magazine for October 2014 with permission. 

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A mixture of 70 percent Buffalograss and 30 percent blue grama proved the most successful and has been planted throughout the cemetery in the past six years.


About 10 acres so far have been prepped and seeded with the more drought-resistant grass variety. Each year, Pawnee Buttes Seed makes a donation of this native grass species to the project, and Toro, via L.L. Johnson Distributing, sends a Dingo soil machine and operator to assist in preparing the soil. Alpha One Fertilizer and Revive contribute fertilizer and soil amendments, and the Helena Chemical Co. has donated weed control products.

PLANET volunteers prepare test plots in 2009 at Riverside Cemetery for a variety of native grass species to determine which would thrive best in the high-desert conditions of Colorado. The best-growing variety was then planted throughout the cemetery in the following years.


The cemetery does have some trees that are drought-resistant and as much as 100 years old. Davey and other tree care companies, including Mountain High Tree Care, Mile High Tree Care, Natural Way, Rushton Tree Service, American Arbor Care and Swingle Lawn, Tree and Landscape Care, have worked to prune those hardier trees, such as burr oaks and Kentucky coffee trees, so the cemetery could retain some of its historic tree canopy. Davey has worked since 2009 to carefully remove those trees that could not survive on their own with minimal or no watering or that had already died.


More than 67,000 people are buried at Riverside, including Civil War veterans, so the abundance of old markers and headstones is of special concern when pruning or removing trees. Due to its age, Riverside also has a large collection of soft-stone monuments such as sandstone and marble that are particularly vulnerable to tree damage from falling limbs.


Ferguson said the company always uses its strongest, most experienced climbing crews when volunteering at Riverside, and its bucket trucks play an important role in providing precise pruning access.


  "A lot of the work we do out there is slow and careful work," he said. "Cemeteries are solemn places, and we certainly don't want to damage headstones. We take pride in our work every day, but we certainly take pride in our donated services to the cemetery at a little bit higher level."


Carmody said the cemetery hasn't lost a single headstone to any tree damage.


"It was a big concern for us," Carmody said. "It was definitely a possibility. They would come down, and sometimes they would knock the monuments aside."


Tree care provided by trained arborists is important for the cemetery, Ralston said.


"The personnel there at the cemetery can only take down small trees they could handle from the ground because they have no equipment," she said. "We probably have removed over 100 trees from the cemetery in the six years we have been working on it, and we've trimmed another half a dozen that are heritage trees."


In 2013, CALCP organized two service days at the cemetery. One day addressed trees only, and about 60 dead or dying trees were removed. About 20 more trees were removed in April 2014. Since 2009, six different tree care firms have helped.


CALCP and Riverside worked with a local trucking firm that provides watering trucks to keep dust down at construction sites. The trucks cannot return to their yard with any water in their tanks, so if they still have water after finishing at a construction site, they bring the extra water to Riverside.


CALCP also bought and donated two 500-gallon storage tanks, a 300-gallon tank and a 500-gallon trailer tank, so Riverside has the ability to both store donated water and irrigate on a limited basis broader sections of the cemetery.

Careful pruning by arborists with Davey Tree and limited supplemental irrigation with water provided from off-site has allowed Riverside Cemetery to keep several of its mature trees.


Carmody said even families have contributed, including the owner of Welby Gardens, who donated native plants for xeriscape beds - landscape beds designed for plants that need very little water - because he has relatives buried at Riverside.


"We hear it from families all the time who are ever so grateful for the efforts that have been put in," she said. "The families have become very involved because of what CALCP has done."


"Gardening angels"

Thanks to CALCP, Riverside has benefitted from a mix of new landscape bed installations, reseeding of native prairie grasses, tree pruning and removal and now modest irrigation irrigation capabilities.


Between 17 and 20 acres of the cemetery landscape had had some kind of restorative work done. Riverside's success even prompted another cemetery struggling with drought issues to reach out to CALCP for consultation.


But there's still more to do. Carmody is hoping to establish a master landscape plan for restoration and preservation of the cemetery's entire 77 acres by using the past six years' worth of data collection - herbicide applications, type of seed used and when, moisture levels by year and other information.


And of course there are more non-native trees that much be removed.


Some of the lessons Ralston learned at Riverside included the need to identify the right native grass seed for the area. And having some sort of irrigation, even if limited, is important.


"In Colorado, without irrigation and water supply on a regular basis nothing will grow here except a few native grasses and trees because it is so dry, so hot, and so close to the sun," she said. "Things that we have learned include the process, the method of getting the soil loosened up and getting the seed scattered."


Ferguson said he's been pleasantly surprised by the number of volunteers who help each year.


"At the end of the day, the complete loss of water rights for irrigation is not a situation that's likely to be repeated in a lot of places, but drought is something that is becoming more and more prevalent," he said. "Planning is what has made us so successful, without a doubt."


Carmody said the cemetery would have virtually no landscape without the volunteer effort of her "gardening angels."


"It's like a miracle story, it really is," she said. "I am forever indebted, and the difference it's made to Riverside's future and what it means to our families is beyond my words."


The author, Matt Fredmonsky



Author Matt Fredmonsky is a project manager with The Davey Tree Expert Co., Kent, Ohio. The Davey Tree Expert Co. was founded in 1880 and has been employee-owned since 1979. The company's more than 8,000 employees provide tree care, grounds maintenance and environmental consulting services for the residential, utility, commercial and government markets in more than 47 states and five Canadian provinces. ,


The Fairmount Heritage Foundation was founded in 2001 by preservationists, horticulturists, concerned citizens and Fairmount Cemetery Co. to protect the heritage of Rivreside and Fairmount cemeteries for future generations. 


Sourced from ICCFA Magazine February 2015 with permission





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Cremation Cremation Dos and Don'ts


Three don'ts

1. Do not have someone sign a preneed cremation authorization form. Everyone wants to make things easy, and cremation providers are no exception.


Many providers, in an effort to save families the hassle of paperwork at the time of death, try to either use a preneed cremation authorization form or have the individual fill out an at-need authorization form so the family can just sign it later.


These are not good practices and can lead to problems. (By the way, "problem" is a nice way of saying "lawsuit.")


There are many reasons not to get anything signed or filled out before need, but let's look at just one. Things change.


Imagine having someone come in and prearrange, saying, "I have no spouse; my two kids are all I have. No, I do not have a pacemaker."


Now fast-forward two years. That individual has died. You call the kids and say, "Everything is on file, can we proceed?" Their response is "Of course. Please hurry because we want to hold a memorial service tomorrow."


You go ahead with the cremation. Exactly one day later, you get a call asking about the arrangements. When you explain the cremation has already taken place, the caller asks, "How did you do that already when I, the spouse, have never been contacted? I'm sure I don't have to tell you, but that's a problem.


Yes, some states do allow preneed cremation authorizations, but you need to understand the holes this process can create and make sure you have a process can create and make sure you have a process in place to deal with them.


You also should be aware that some states have rescinded their previous OKs of preneed cremation authorization forms or self-filled cremation authorization forms, specifically because of the problems they have caused.


2. Do not recommend setting out service and disposal wishes in a will. Many providers have a family member come in with a will that states that the deceased wanted to be cremated. Many times the will even states that the executor is authorized to handle and be responsible for the cremation.


Here is the problem: In many states, the executor is far, far down on the list of people who are given priority as far as authorizing/handling a cremation. By law in those states, a child, a sibling or other relative higher up on the list can trump the person named in the will.


There are other problems with appointing someone via a will. For example, this may conflict with state laws about appointment of an agent. Many states identify the form and information required to appoint an agent.


Normally the will is very basic in its handling of the issue. It simply states that the deceased wanted cremation - or, even more common, and more of a problem - the will simply says the executor is to handle the final disposition of the deceased.


If the wording isn't in the proper form, or if it doesn't specifically state cremation, the person named in the will, as well as the service provider, could be heading for trouble.


Another issue with a will is the timing of the document. Many times the will is not read until after the funeral, so it provides no help to the family or service provider.


3. Do not aim to make cremation the "Quick, Simple and Easy" alternative. I'm not going to change the consumer's belief that "cremation is quick, simple and easy" belief about cremation, and only service providers can change this belief.


When it comes to prearranging cremation, many providers go out of their way to try to make the process so quick, simple and easy that they create problems for themselves down the road.


Many families prearrange for a direct cremation because they want to keep it simple. As a provider, we know the process isn't so simple. There are more steps and requirements for cremation than for a burial.


Even so, many providers hear "direct cremation" and then support the misconception of an easy and simple choice by saying things such as, "It's all on file and funded, so you have nothing left to worry about."


When they fail to inform the family about all the steps that will have to be taken at need and the potential issues, providers are reinforcing this "quick, simple, easy" mindset of consumers.


As a provider, you must slow down the process and lay out all the details that will be a part of the cremation process.


while you do not want to fill out the authorization form on a preneed basis, you can certainly show the form to the family at the prearrangement conference so they understand what will be required later.


As I said earlier, sharing the details of what will happen at the time of need is a great way to cover this issue.


THIS LITTLE LIST covers just a few things that a provider should think about when prearranging a cremation. Cremation, that so-called "quick, simple and easy" process, can become difficult, time consuming and plagued with problems.


But there are ways to limit the potential problems and make the cremation process a smoother one at the time of need. As is true with so many things, better preparation can produce a superior product.


Take the time to improve your preneed process so that your at-need process is as problem-free as possible.


Author Poul Lemasters, Esq. is principal of Lemasters Consulting, Cincinnati. He is an attorney and funeral director, licensed as a funeral director and embalmer in Ohio and West Virginia and admitted to practice law in Ohio and Kentucky. He is ICCFA's special cremation legal counsel, and members in good standing may call him to discuss cremation-related issues for up to 20 minutes at no charge to the member (ICCFA pays for this service via an exclusive retainer). He also provides to members in good standing free GPL reviews to check for FTC compliance. You can reach Poul at 513-407-8114 or


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Assorted Useful Links


Washington State Funeral and Cemetery Board


WSFDA: Washington State Funeral Directors Association


 ICCFA: International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association


CANA: Cremation Association of North America


NFDA: National Funeral Directors Association


CAO: Cemetery Association of Oregon


 OFDA: Oregon Funeral Directors Association


MBNA: Monument Builders of North America


PNMBA: Pacific Northwest Monument Builders Association 




The WCCFA Insider is published ten times per year by and for the members of the Washington Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association. Portions of the information in this publication are taken from other sources which we believe to be reliable and which are not necessarily complete statements of all the available data. The services of an attorney or an accountant should be sought in connection with any legal or tax matter covered. Conclusions are based solely upon our best judgment and analysis of technical and industry information sources.

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