Funeral Business Solutions Magazine May/June 2023 Issue

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How Starmark’s Chaise Bed Viewer is elevating identification viewings | Page 34

Your Guide for Funeral Industry Business Strategies | May/June 2023


Hi, I'm Tim Totten, a 25-year industry veteran. I've worked at both corporate and family-owned firms before expanding my side business (making removal quilts out of the garage) into a full-time career.

Twenty years ago, marketing my family-run business to the industry was all new to me. I started with smaller state trade shows, then graduated in 2007 to booths at NFDA and ICCFA expos.

Then came attempts at print advertising, but it wasn't until I found the publication Funeral Business Advisor that I saw impressive returns because I was able to target the specific market of 17,000+ funeral directors and owners I needed!

This marketing brought our company, Final Embrace, to even more funeral business owners!

That worked great until FBA unexpectedly went out of business in the middle of 2021, leaving companies like mine without a medium to bring our business solutions to the biggest audience of directors and owners who are busy working each day to run a funeral business.

Seeing the effects of this, my team and I decided to explore shipping catalogs to almost 20,000 locations, only to find out just how difficult that really is.

But then I remembered the magazine I had advertised in every year since 2014 and the effect it had on our business. I wondered if might not be attractive to other companies and if the industry professionals who used to receive the magazine perhaps missed the valuable business content that was brought to them by so many great industry experts.

After months of research and intense trial and error, I have been able to replicate the feel and look of the previous publication so that we can not only fill the need left by FBA's departure, but also bring great content to funeral professionals who crave actionable business advice.

Funeral Business Solutions strives to bring you, the reader, succinct and clear articles about subjects that actually affect your business. From explanations of FTC rules to HR issues and discussions of casket selection rooms and new cremation products, Funeral Business Solutions is designed with you, the funeral professional, in mind.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope you find useful information in these pages and I hope you'll let me know what kinds of articles and features you'd like to see in the future.


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I want to keep working, but I was ready to take things like Human Resources and IT off my plate. It was important to me that a successor would preserve our legacy of exceptional service. Equally important, I wanted our team to continue feeling appreciated, with plenty of opportunity for growth. When I met

with leadership at Foundation Partners Group, they were genuinely interested in what we were doing as one of the largest funeral providers in Wisconsin. I knew for our family, it was the right time to join Foundation Partners Group. Maybe it’s the right time for yours, too.

KRAUSE FUNERAL HOMES AND CREMATION SERVICES Foundation Partners Group 4901 Vineland Road, Suite 300 Orlando, FL 32811 Get in Touch 1-800-399-4635

The Beckingtoon Collecctiion

Granite Brick Gold Porcelain Mist INTRODUCINGT h e C r e s s w e l l C o l l e c t i o n TollFree:800-896-0598
6 | May/June Issue 2023 FUNERAL HOME SUCCESS STORY Chandler Funeral Home Caldwell, Ohio 20 FEATURE EDITORIAL 24 Retaining Funeral Home Professionals BY JULIE JUDGE MAY/JUNE VOLUME I, 2023 18 24 BOOK OVERVIEW "All The Ways Our Dead Still Speak" by Caleb Wilde 18 34 FEATURES Redefining Identification Viewings 20
7 | May/June Issue 2023 Professional Online Learning: How We Got Here and Where We're Going BY ANN HEINZ 38 28 56 CONTENTS Families Pay Faster Using Payment Links BY JIM LUFF 28 ERC: Too Good to be True? BY RAYMOND L. BALD, CPA, CFE & RONALD H. COOPER, CPA 42 Top 11 Funeral Podcasts for Industry Professionals BY CHASE DOWNS 52 10 Tips to Help Funeral Homes Build Strong Media Relationships BY JOE WEIGEL 56 Add More Value to Your Preneed Insurance Plan BY TOM HOLLAND 64 The Venue Dictates the Experience BY ALAN CREEDY 62 52 Games to Start Funeral Planning Conversations BY GAIL RUBIN, CT 46 38 42 46 62 64


Kanga-Woo First Call Pouches manufacturers high quality, tailor made first call pouches, cot covers, and baby carriers. Kanga-Woo also provides pouches and carriers for the pet care industry.

Atlantic Coast Life headquartered in Charleston South Carolina is a premier provider of preneed products, including annuities and life products for families. Since 1925, Atlantic Coast Life has been helping families to prepare for a confident and secure future.


Since 1994, Randy Koufalis and his company, RK Productions, have created high-quality memorial products made from real stone, carefully and painstakingly painting each piece by hand with a propietary blend of old word glazes. Each one of a kind urn is made of real stone and entirely produced in British Columbia, Canada.

See what's happening with vendors, distributors, and manufacturers.

Manufacturers and suppliers that make it possible to bring you FUNERAL BUSINESS SOLUTIONS Magazine.

8 | May/June Issue 2023
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Ann Heinz, JD, CDEI, GSI is a writer and editor of professional education courses. As product manager of WebCE's funeral continuing education product line, she is dedicated to providing quality content relevant to funeral professionals nationwide. Reach her at or call 972-616-1079.

Tom Holland is Vice President of National Accounts for Atlantic Coast Life. He is responsible for sales and marketing development in the US. Tom earned his CPC designation through the NFDA and holds a Master's and Ph.D. Degrees in Marketing. He can be reached at 404-229-8648 or by email at

Raymond L. Bald, CPA, CFE is a funeral home tax accountant and consultant with Cummings, Lamont & McNamee, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-7723460, or you may email him at rbald@

Ronald H. Cooper, CPA is a funeral home accountant and consultant with Ronald Cooper, CPA, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-671-8007, or you may email him at

Jim Luff is the Corporate Communications Manager for Aurora Payments, a Merchant Services Provider dedicated to providing service to the funeral industry. He can be reached by email at

Joe Weigel is the owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, a communications firm focused on the funeral profession that delivers expertise and results across three interrelated marketing disciplines: strategy, branding and communications. He can be reached at 317-608-8914 or

Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is an award-winning speaker, author, podcaster, YouTuber, and coordinator of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival. She is also a Certified Funeral Celebrant. Her three books on planning ahead for end-of-life issues are available through her website,

Alan Creedy is celebrating his 43rd year as a consultant to the Funeral Profession. You can learn more about him and the services he offers at his website: https://


Funeral Business Solutions Magazine is published bi-monthly (6 Issues a year) by Radcliffe Media, Inc. 1809 South Bay Street, Eustis, Florida 32726. Subscriptions are free to qualified U.S. subscribers. Single copies and back issues are $8.99 each (United States) and $12.99 each (International). United States Subscriptions are $64.00 annually. International Subscriptions are $95.00 annually.

Visit for content that is updated frequently and to access articles on a range of funeral industry topics. Radcliffe Media provides its contributing writers latitude in expressing opinions, advice, and solutions. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Radcliffe Media and by no means reflect any guarantees that material facts are accurate or true. Radcliffe Media accepts no liability in respect of the content of any third party material appearing in this magazine. Copyright 2023. All rights reserved. Funeral Business Solutions Magazine content may not be photocopied or reproduced or redistributed without the consent of publisher. For questions regarding magazine or for subscriptions, email


For high quality reprints of articles, email us at

10 | May/June Issue 2023 A PUBLICATION OF RADCLIFFE MEDIA 1809 South Bay Street Eustis, Florida 32726 Timothy Totten, Publisher 352.242.8111 Robin Richter, Content Editor 813.500.2819


Reflections by Duey foRmally launcheD

Themed Lifestyle Murals Add Unique Personalization to Any Funeral Service

Kansas City, Missouri – Duane “Duey” Williams has announced the national release of his Reflections by Duey displays. These high-resolution backdrop murals are designed to be placed behind the casket or cremation urn in the funeral home during visitations and memorial services to help personalize the event.

Duey is no stranger to funeral service, having graduated from the mortuary studies program at the University of Minnesota more than forty years ago. After working as a licensed funeral director, he joined Batesville Casket. Following a twenty-year sales career at Batesville, Duey purchased a trade show display business in 2000. Reflections by Duey combines his passion for funeral service with his expertise in the display business.

“As human beings, we select the ideal venue for our weddings, birthdays, or other life celebrations; therefore, the final event of our loved one’s life should echo who they were, what they treasured, and what they will leave behind as a remembrance,” stated Duey. “Creating the picture-perfect setting with a themed lifestyle mural creates a special touch to any funeral service – whether burial or cremation. These murals also make a great personalization element to any funeral home’s service packages.”

Reflections by Duey offers 15 different backdrop designs, with themes that include sports, hobbies, patriotism, and other special interests. Each picturesque mural is 8’ x 10’ and is completely portable for easy set-up and storage. Funeral homes can easily add $75 - $100 per call through the use of

these murals. Given the affordable purchase price to own the displays, the murals can pay for themselves in a very short time!

Duey created his first display murals for funeral homes in the Midwest, shortly after he purchased his display business. However, the demands of running the display company took precedence over the further development of the funeral murals. At the urging of funeral directors, the timing appears right to now expand the Reflections by Duey program.

“Being able to customize the experience for families is what separates the truly innovative firms from all the rest,” stated Brad Speaks, President and CEO of Speaks Chapels in Kansas City, MO. “We have used these murals for approximately 20 years and feel that our families are very well-served by them. With multiple scenes to choose from, we can find something that fits almost any family.”

“My heart and soul have always had a soft spot for families and the funeral profession,” added Duey. “I look forward to renewing my many relationships in funeral service and helping funeral directors to grow their firms’ revenue and family satisfaction through the use of Reflections by Duey murals to personalize funeral services.”

Reflections by Duey is an innovative, easy to use and cost-effective way to help a family personalize a funeral ceremony that "reflects" a central theme of one's life. Visit for more information or call Duey at 913.707.2270.

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stonemoR inc. changes name to eveRstoRy PaRtneRs

Bensalem, Pennsylvania – StoneMor Inc., a leading owner and operator of 389 cemeteries, funeral homes, and cremation locations in the United States and Puerto Rico, has announced a corporate name change to Everstory Partners, effective immediately. Everstory’s network of cemeteries, funeral homes, and cremation locations will continue to operate under their local community names.

The change to Everstory is an exciting time for the company as we continue to grow and expand our services in the death care industry. Everstory is committed to modernizing death care through a unique blend of long-standing traditions of caring for the deceased and a fresh perspective that death is a natural and beautiful part of the human experience that should be planned and celebrated.

Lilly H. Donohue, CEO of Everstory Partners, said, “This rebranding effort is more than just a name change. It reflects our values and our vision for the future. Part of modernizing this business means working to destigmatize death care from both an employee and customer perspective. We intend to invest in our people and our product, utilizing best-in-class systems and processes

from other service-focused companies outside of the death care industry. Our team has worked hard to develop a brand that better represents our new mission and our commitment to excellence.”

Donohue added, “As we move forward with the Everstory name, it is with a renewed commitment to providing compassionate care and support for families during some of life’s most difficult moments and helping families find a positive way forward. We understand the importance of honoring loved ones and we are dedicated to providing meaningful and personalized services to each and every individual and family we serve.”

Everstory Partners, headquartered in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, is a leading owner and operator of cemeteries, funeral homes, and cremation locations in the United States and Puerto Rico. Since 1999, the company has grown to include 389 locations in 24 states and Puerto Rico.

14 | May/June Issue 2023 INDUSTRY HEADLINES

2024 iccfa annual convention call foR PResentations is oPen

Sterling, Virginia - The 2024 ICCFA Annual Convention & Exposition will be held in Tampa, Florida, on April 1013, 2024. Co-chairs Erin Creger and Micah Singeman are looking for presentations with innovative ideas! If you have solutions and best-practices to share in a particular area of cemetery, cremation, pet loss or funeral service, we want to hear from you!

We receive many more proposals than we can fit into the program, so please be sure to follow the guidelines and clearly explain the value proposition for attendees. Preference will be given to session proposals with measurable learning objectives and take-aways. We are most interested in sessions that share concrete, proven techniques, and programs, as opposed to theory or opinion. Extra consideration will be given to sessions featuring the latest advances in thanatology and innovation within the profession.

Submissions are due by August 11, 2023. Questions?

Please contact Education & Program Coordinator, Tom Crosley, at

Please note that we ask that speakers refrain from discussing pricing or other issues subject to antitrust legislation. In addition, we ask that speakers refrain from any type of promotional marketing or selling of any product or service. Any requests for travel compensation must be included in the proposal. No honoraria are offered.

The International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) represents all segments of the cemetery, funeral service, cremation and memorialization profession. The association is comprised of more than 10,000 members in the cemetery, funeral home and crematory industries, as well as supplier and related businesses worldwide. It serves and supports these members through a host of benefits designed to increase their management proficiency and improve their businesses–from regular updates on government and legal issues, to educational meetings, to a variety of services and products tailored to meet their needs.

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fiRst eveR soliDifieD Remains containeR RevealeD by aRil

Parting Stone solidified remains are quickly becoming an expectation of families across the United States. This company’s April 2023 appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank is partly driving this success. Parting Stone reports that over 5,000 families have chosen to receive stones over ashes in the last three years. The company’s founder Justin Crowe shared that this volume began to reveal trends in what families have done with Parting Stone’s new form of remains.

“We began to read dozens of letters from families describing how they were searching for beautiful containers to store the stones in,” says Crowe. “We realized inventing a new form of cremains created an entirely new merchandise market. Traditional cremation containers hide and conceal the unsightly ashes, but families that chose solidified remains seek ways to display, hold, and share them.”

Aril Memorial LLC is a cremation merchandise company launched in 2012 to provide products that focus on design simplicity and reverence for materials. Their products feature wood as both subject and palette, with particular attention to texture and natural hues. Aril, previously Memento Memorials, gained recognition in 2017 after launching the Meta Cremation Urn, the company’s flagship product.

“Modern life surrounds us with objects of planned obsolescence, poor craftsmanship, and inconsiderate use of materials,” explains Aril founder Chris Harvan. “Shouldn’t our rest and remembrance be honored with durability, a loving touch, and quality?”

With the unique design challenge of containing AND displaying remains rather than hiding them, Harvan worked through dozens of concepts and prototypes to arrive at a design he calls “Stay.”

“When kept in the home, our products visually stand out among other decor, but what makes our work special is the generosity

of materials and attention to texture,” says Harvan about Aril’s aesthetic. “This creates a space for a loved one’s remains that is austere and calm. With the Stay, the growth rings of the wood create a liminal space, a transition, between the living and those they are honoring. Accessible, yet protected.”

At the top of the Stay solidified remains container is a hollow in the red oak intended to display a handful of the family’s favorite stones. The interplay between the natural wool and variation within each stone creates harmony and integrates into daily life with a Zen feel. The powder-coated metal vessel interior can hold the majority of a loved one’s Parting Stones. (a “full amount” set of solidified remains is typically 60-80 stones).

Out of consideration for the planet and the health of the craftspeople making Stay, the wood is protected with a nontoxic, vegan wax that is hand applied and buffed. Aril relies solely on recycled and recyclable packing and shipping materials for all its product lines.

“Every person’s stones come out different hues, textures, and colors,” explains Crowe. “Now there is a beautiful way to highlight the uniqueness of our loved ones in daily life while keeping them close enough to hold.”

“We are excited to have the Stay container available for all families and funeral homes we serve. This is a perfect opportunity to bring more value to the cremation experience.”

fema funeRal ReimbuRsement to enD sePtembeR 30, 2025

Since FEMA began accepting applications for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance in April 2021, the agency has provided nearly $3 billion in assistance to more than 438,000 people, with an average award of $6,400.

As you may have heard, the COVID-19 public health emergency ended on May 11, 2023. FEMA has announced that it will continue to provide funeral assistance until September 30, 2025, to those who paid for the funeral of a loved one who died due to COVID-19.

Please continue to encourage families you have served who experience the death of a loved to COVID to apply for FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance. Information about how to apply can be found on FEMA’s website.

16 | May/June Issue 2023 INDUSTRY HEADLINES

Phone: 980-231-1476 • 617-971-8590



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Funeral Director Caleb Wilde's second book explores the profession even further.

While funeral director and author Caleb Wilde’s first book was a memoir about his life around death and the ways that he fulfills his role as the sixth-generation funeral director of his family firm in Pennsylvania, his newest book, All the Ways Our Dead Still Speak, goes even further to explore the traumatic stresses of the job and leads Wilde to ultimately face the biggest question: should I continue in this career?

Wilde, who first built a social media following through viral tweets and later an insightful blog about death and our relationship with it, has followed up his successful first memoir, Confessions of a Funeral Director, with a 200-page discussion about varied funeral rituals, direct cremation, neuroscience, the weight of racism and ancestry, Christian views of heaven and hell, and the effects of secondary trauma. More personal than his first, this book confronts these difficult topics with contemplative consideration and the patience of a funeral director who’s seen a lot during his short few decades but bears the history of five previous generations of funeral directors in his family.

It should be noted, before we delve deeper, that Wilde is tilling in a wide field that has seen precious little cultivation. With the notable exception of Thomas Lynch, few funeral directors have found a national stage to share their experiences and even fewer have laid bare the emotional realities of someone serving client families day to day. In his first two volumes, Wilde has chronicled the daily life and inner thoughts of a generation of caregivers. Having just turned 40, he may also be revealing to an older generation of funeral professionals what their younger counterparts are dealing with on a daily basis.

Wilde focuses much of the book on an exploration of how we interact with death and our dead. Through composite characters, Wilde tells common stories from his funeral home experience to elucidate what funeral professionals experience and how they interact with grieving families. He also uses these stories to share his own fears and hopes. Like in a short aside in a story about a couple who die within weeks of each other, where he describes the “recurring nightmare that I show up to work a funeral with no clothes on.” While mining it for some humor, Wilde spins the story into a discussion of the decorum woven into funeral services, from the color of dress shirts and the way you hold your hands to the accepted expressions and tone of voice when talking to the grieving public. “Being naked” in his dream equals “not being prepared” for the proper role and decorum required for the profession.

Wilde also sheds important light upon the skills required to be an effective funeral director, including listening, reading non-spoken cues, and oftentimes putting words to a grieving person’s feelings. Describing both his father

and his grandfather, whom he calls Pop-Pop, Caleb paints portraits of men who give up their Christmas Days to do removals during a snowstorm, who work into their eighties, and who strive to treat everyone “like he’s our family.”

While he shares several stories about grieving families and how their reactions help him to reconcile many of his own questions about death and life, Wilde does some of his best writing as he describes the weight of six generations of funeral service and his own obligations to that legacy.

In a chapter titled “A Small Part of a Bigger Story”, Wilde traces his own family roots in funeral service to events leading up to the American Civil War. Recounting the details of the Christiana Resistance, which saw undertaker Isaac Wilde provide services for the man who touched off the resistance by attempting to recapture runaway slaves in Ohio, Wilde connects his family’s own start in the funeral trade with the beginnings of the Civil War and the introduction of embalming and modern funeral practices in America.

From commiserating with a minister about the “scars on the stairway walls from caskets” at the local church to a shoutout to industry answering service ASD (Answering Service for Directors) and a rational explanation that no-funeral disposition “grates against our humanity,” Wilde brings a contemporary and relatable flavor to what is, in the end, a rumination on how we speak to and hear from our dead.

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out our July / August issue for an exclusive interview with Caleb Wilde!

Perhaps most important for a history of funeral service today, Wilde rounds out the book with a discussion of the COVID pandemic and how it affected not only his 170+ year old family company but how it shaped his own future plans. Recounting the way the early directives for COVID prevention limited funeral sizes and reduced funeral directors to sterile disposers of potentially-infected remains, he shares that “the pandemic stripped away the parts of our job that made it meaningful.”

With the funeral home turned into a “dead person factory” due to the increased workload, the pandemic threatened to take away the deeply personal interactions that inspired Wilde

and his employees to remain in deathcare. As he looked to his family’s history for guidance, old records showed that during the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic, the firm had gone from averaging 40 calls a year to more than 100. Could his own 300-call firm handle even a 50% increase, let alone a 100+ percent rise in volume?

Wilde’s book is certainly infused with death, but at the same time, he find a renewed sense of life by considering what it means to be a funeral director and a discovers a way to reconcile a long family legacy of funeral professionals while finding his own path forward.

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funeral home success story 20 | Sample Issue 2023 CHANDLER

The story of Chandler Funeral Home can be drawn with circles; a collection of full circles to be exact. Founder and owner Bryan Chandler was raised in Caldwell, Ohio and returned from Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science to open his hometown funeral home in 2004. The funeral home is a renovated and repurposed grocery store where his family shopped and where his grandmother worked in the meat department. In Chandler’s youth, his father cared for several township cemeteries and later went to work with his son when they added a monument business. From graduating from PIMS to today celebrating 15 years as an adjunct professor with the school, Chandler sees a new generation of funeral directors on the horizon, including his niece who has recently graduated from the Institute and is looking forward to her apprenticeship.

We sat down with this hardworking funeral home owner to discuss what it took to build the largest funeral provider in his county and what strategies he deploys to properly serve his hometown community in Southeastern Ohio.

Tell me about yourself and how you became involved in the funeral industry?

My name is Bryan E. Chandler, I was raised in Caldwell, Ohio my entire life and only left for a few years to attend the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science and complete my apprenticeship in Zanesville, Ohio at the Bolin-Dierkes Funeral Home. I am married to Kimberly Chandler and we have three children Preston (16) Ella (14) and Pyper (5). We have two dogs Tucker and Max. I grew up in a lower middle class family so my father worked several jobs to support us and one was to care for a couple township cemeteries. Early before school we would run up to the cemetery to make sure the graves didn't have water in them and make sure they hadn't caved in. After school following the funeral we would fill the graves in by hand. So ever since a very young age I found myself in cemeteries. I attended high school and college at the same time and planned to attend college for engineering. Due to a snafu I was deleted from their system and told I couldn't start until the next term. In the meantime I had attended college with a friend that was attending CCMS. After some thought I decided to change career paths and since PIMS was closer I applied there. So I moved from Caldwell to Pittsburgh. That's the beginning of my Funeral Service Career.

How did you become a funeral home owner?

Following my apprenticeship I took a job for a small corporate funeral company based out of San Diego, CaliforniaThe Hamilton Group. I became the youngest location manager that the corporation had ever had. Following managing for a year or so and gaining some very important knowledge and experience, I decided it was time to try it on my own. There was a former IGA grocery store that had closed in my hometown that had sat empty for a year or so. Following an agreement with a contractor and securing bank financing, it was time to take the dive. Following many months of construction we were able to have an open house and open our doors February 14, 2004 Valentine's Day weekend. It took a while to build a business from scratch but we are headed in the right direction.

What makes your funeral home unique?

I'm not one to brag about myself so I would answer this by speaking about the physical building. We were blessed to convert a one level building that was free spanned and able

to place walls wherever we would like. There are no steps, ramps, or elevators. We have a large visitation room and even larger chapel. We have the only funeral home with a children's playroom in the area. We have a modern kitchen/refreshment room with many conveniences. We have a comfortable arrangement room with the only casket selection room in our town and a very large parking lot, which is something that is hard to come by in our village. We’ve made a big investment in technology, with large wall mounted video screens in every room to display memorial tribute videos or to use as a live feed from the chapel for seating overflow, so you are not staring at a wall. We have a fully colored digital screen outside to announce services to the public.

What does excellent customer service mean to you?

It has been such a blessing to be entrusted by my community to care for their families. I strive to meet every possible need my families have, especially the ones they can't verbalize. Having to call upon a funeral home is one of the most difficult tasks one must do. I try to make this process as seamless as possible so that no added stress is placed upon the families I serve. I want to blend into the background while always being there the instant they have a question or need I can rectify. From the very first phone call to the delivery of flowers and aftercare, I want families to know they are my top priority and will always have my attention anytime they need it.

What do you feel has been the biggest factor in your success?

I'm always afraid to call myself successful because I am always working to assist more families in a better way than I did yesterday, so I see success as something on the horizon to strive towards. I feel people just want to know you care and you will treat their lost family member as if they were your own. I grew up and we didn't have much in terms of materialistic things, but I was taught how important it was

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to respect everyone no matter what their status in life was. I feel it's important to be able to relate to people. We all have something in common and sometimes it is that little thing that can connect us on a level that allows trust. I am very detail oriented and want everything just perfect for every family from the appearance of their loved one to that one special song the family requested be played prior to the funeral service.

Do you have any advice for other funeral homes?

I'm not one to give advice as if I'm one of those Funeral Directors that claim to have the secret to Funeral Service. My only advice would be to have compassion for everyone, including your employees. You never know what a family is

going through. Everyone's relationship is different. In my early days and I believe still to this day, I work hard. If I'm not working on a funeral related task, I am working for the monument company that we operate. I still love serving families in a suit and getting dirty setting a headstone for a family to visit for years to come.

How are you involved in your community?

I love the community I serve and it's my privilege to get to be involved in any way I can. I served on the local Board of Developmental Disabilities until I maxed out following 12 years of service. I had served as President and loved serving these very special people in our community. I am a member and have served as secretary for our local Masonic Lodge. I've served on advisory boards for the local school and colleges. I'm happy to assist with my children's extracurricular programs. I've served on the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors as Secretary as well. I'm very active in the Noble County Chamber of Commerce, serving on the executive board, where I often emcee events such as the State of the County and Meet the Candidates.

What excites you for the future?

What excites me most for the future is in two words: "motorcycle riding." Yeah, yeah I know what you are asking but let me explain. There is a warehouse next to me and every day the sun shines, a gentleman that stores his motorcycle there can be found with his car parked and out for a ride. I hope to be able to one day stop in and ask if the staff needs my assistance in any way. If they say no I too hope to be out in the sunshine riding my motorcycle, golfing, or whatever people are doing in those days. Funeral service has changed so very much in the last year and honestly I'm excited to see what the future will bring in our great industry. I also get excited when someone calls the funeral home for another of my associates which makes me feel like just maybe I have helped to create a culture of people helping people and what else can you ask for in your career and life.

Anything else you would like to include or say to our readers?

Funeral service has offered great satisfaction as a career for me and put food on my family's table. I can't say the industry or career is perfect by any means. The thing about making a decision is that you will never know how the alternative choice would have turned out so why even give it any thought. If there

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is anything I've learned is that this life is so very short and our time is limited. Enjoy your family, your friends and your career as they are truly all blessings.

I also like to refer to myself first as an embalmer; I think it is because for as many years as I've owned a business I have also served colleagues as a trade embalmer. We should be making great embalming a priority. For too long we have let the appearance of loved ones not be where I feel it should be. Let's do the small things to give a great lasting memory for families.

I have always been involved in the monument industry since I've been in funeral service. We have been blessed to start our

own headstone business, Chandler Monuments. Over several years, we have become the largest monument provider in the county and we also serve many of the surrounding areas. I believe nothing is as important as a permanent cemetery memorial. I enjoy assisting families in designing, ordering, and installing these monuments. It can be very difficult for some families as the last item they have to take care of following a death. I am always enamored to think of the years to come these monuments will stand up to the test of time in these cemeteries. There are few things you can accomplish today that will last for hundreds of years like setting a monument.

Bryan can be reached at

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23 | May Issue 2023

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HERE TODAY, HERE TOMORROW: Retaining Funeral Home Professionals

What’s the secret to attracting and keeping great team members? The answer isn’t what you think.

Regardless of the industry, recruitment and retention are two areas of vulnerability for today’s businesses, large and small. Financially, it costs twice the annual salary of a current employee to replace them. And from a human perspective, a company with a high churn rate creates a negative-energy workspace as fewer workers are forced to take on more work.

There is no golden ticket to achieving steady recruitment and retention rates. In today’s competitive workplace, attracting and keeping the best employees involves several factors, including salary and benefits, healthy work/life balance, and open, two-way communication between team members and their managers.

Recruiting and retaining funeral directors, embalmers, crematory operators, and other exempt workers in the funeral service industry has particular challenges. While attractive salary and compensation packages will always be necessary for successful recruitment and retention, they’re not the only factors that make or break a company’s attrition rate.

A recent Forbes article revealed that salary isn’t the No. 1 reason people leave their jobs. In a survey of over 2,200 workers, more than 62 percent of respondents cited a toxic work environment as their primary reason for quitting. Salary was the second most common answer, but most responses had nothing to do with wages. Many respondents cited poor management and a lack of a healthy work-life balance.

26 | May/June Issue 2023

Funeral professionals dedicate their time and talent to making a difference on the worst day of a person’s life. The toll on team members’ personal lives can be tremendous. Like first responders, final responders seek employers that offer a holistic balance between work and relaxation.

Employees Seek a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Like other companies, fluctuating labor levels and worker availability have affected Foundation Partners Group. Unlike other businesses, the deathcare business has specific requirements unique to the services and products it offers families. Funeral directors must be trained and licensed. So do crematory operators and embalmers. And even before the COVID-19 pandemic, front-of-house funeral professionals were stressed by the emotional and physical demands inherent to the industry.

The funeral business is not a nineto-five weekday-only job. Funeral providers who understand the risk of burnout and act accordingly tend to keep team members longer. Train and educate managers about staggered shifts and other methods to help prevent burnout.

A healthy work-life balance is particularly attractive to recruiting the younger and more diverse workforce that will sustain the funeral industry’s growth. This leads to another factor in effective recruitment and retention: cast a wide net to ensure your company has a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Remove Bias in Employee Screening

For decades, funeral directors were almost exclusively men. Today, more women are entering mortuary science programs. LGBTQ+ representation matters in the funeral industry, too. Building a culture of engagement and inclusivity depends on removing bias at the beginning of the hiring process. Create a hiring process based on an individual’s skill set.

In addition to aptitude tests for job openings, there’s value in personality assessment testing. Before a company invests time and resources into a candidate, determine whether a candidate is compatible with the firm’s values early on. Companies often use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator during hiring, but other assessment tools exist and can be deployed to assess personality and aptitude.

Continuing Education with Loan Forgiveness & Scholarships

Another perk that companies might consider to help recruit and retain employees is an attractive continuing education package. The deathcare industry has specific educational, training, and apprenticeship requirements that can be a financial barrier. Helping employees attain required licenses and degrees can improve retention, loyalty, and productivity. An incentivized or mandatory training program for managers is also a good idea.

Talk, Listen & Survey

Employees leave for many reasons, but one of the leading contributors is a poor relationship between themselves and their managers. To combat this trend, ask new hires if they are willing to complete a survey within their first 90 days about how they prefer to be motivated and developed. The funeral industry tends to have higher-than-average attrition within the first 90 days. Offering a voluntary survey within that time can help management to avoid losing a new hire.

Encourage continuous, two-way conversations between team members and managers to reduce friction and attrition. Most people aren’t motivated to work at higher levels after a single performance review. Regular feedback and communication help build a stronger team. When a team member leaves, it’s wise to conduct exit interviews. Our human resources team uses that information to improve relationships and communications.

In Conclusion

Finally, retaining exceptional team members starts with recruiting. Look for every opportunity to promote your company’s positives through organic search terms, community events, and philanthropy, such as a scholarship program.

27 | May/June Issue 2023 FEATURE EDITORIAL
The funeral industry tends to have a higherthan-average attrition within the first 90 days.
Julie Judge, a 25-year human resources professional, is senior vice president of human resources for Foundation Partners Group. She oversees all aspects of recruitment, training and implementation of resources and benefits.

Families Pay Faster Using Payment Links

If you have ever used an app from Starbucks or McDonald’s, you likely used a payment link to pay for your purchase. Disguised as a “Pay Now” button on popular apps, that button facilitates your payment to merchants by offering up your credit card details to pay for the purchase or perhaps you’ve linked your computer or mobile device to a bank account to use payment links to pay from your checking account.

The Convenience

We all enjoy the convenience of the “set it & forget it” concept. Enter your credit card details into an app onetime or pay a bill or make a payment through your phone, laptop, tablet or desktop and your card information or banking details are securely stored for future use with a single click. If you have an Amazon account, you know payments are made fast and easy on subsequent purchases.

Getting Paid for Services

Looking at it from a merchant’s point of view, the most important aspect of your business is getting paid for your services. Making it easy and efficient for families to pay in their time of grief is greatly appreciated by those who embrace technology. Payments are received 40% faster when payment links are offered by death-care providers. The payment experience should be easy and not add more stress to the family. Payment links are also a great option for collecting money on outstanding invoices quickly and easily.

What is a payment link?

A payment link is a way to request payment from families to collect fees for services instead of using a credit card terminal to run the credit card. Invoices or quote presentations include a “Pay Now” or “Pay Invoice” button. Invoices can be emailed or sent by text message to a phone. The recipient clicks the payment button, and they are taken to a payment page showing the amount due and various options to pay, including the option to use PayPal.

Using PayPal as a Payment Method

Because PayPal can be used as a form of payment through most Merchant Service Providers, family members can contribute to a single PayPal account that can then be used by the responsible party to make payment after receiving a payment link. PayPal is a payment option like MasterCard, Visa or American Express. This eliminates funeral homes and other death-care providers from being forced to accept multiple family member payments and promotes collection as a single payment.

Benefits of Payment Links

The biggest benefit of a payment link is making it easier for families to pay. Payment links provide a broad range of payment methods, including PayPal. On average, invoices are paid 40% sooner than any other billing method because 95% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes from the moment they are received. Payments are usually made within 20 minutes. That gives you an idea of how fast you could be paid by providing families with a payment link. If you are making arrangements inside the family home, you can email or text a payment link that can be paid on the spot from the recipient’s mobile phone.

How to Implement

Merchant Service Providers, also known as credit card processors, can create payment links for your business and even customize your payment page with your own logo and branding colors. Using payment links reduces the workload of your accounting department and saves time. FBS

Jim Luff is the Corporate Communications Manager for Aurora Payments, a Merchant Services Provider dedicated to providing service to the funeral industry. He is very knowledgeable about funeral home operations, cemetery operations and the needs of families paying for arrangements. Jim retired as the CEO of The Limousine Scene after 25 years of service contracting with numerous funeral homes in California. He worked with funeral directors to arrange and provide family transportation. He can be reached by email at

28 | May/June Issue 2023
The Death Care Industry's Preferred Low Cost Processor Sign up with Aurora Payments by October 31st and get $10,000 in FREE processing! NEXT DAY FUNDING INCLUDING AMEX GUARANTEED SAVINGS PREFERRED MEMBER PRICING DEDICATED ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVE PCI COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE CHARGEBACK PROTECTION CASH DISCOUNTS SURCHARGES DUAL PRICING Take advantage of our new Zero Cost Processing Fee Program today & start saving with... Come visit us at Booth 1963 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV Sept. 10-13 If you can’t make it, contact your industry expert, Jim Lu , at (661) 706-7955 or 2023 NFDA INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION & EXPO

Interesting Products at


Weighing just 15 pounds with an urn inside, this cylindrical vault can withstand thousands of pounds of pressure and requires just an 18” augured round hole. Distributed in the US by Terry Bear.


Worn to symbolize grief, the inner token can be removed and shared with another griever when the time is right. The outer circle remains with the giver. Available from


Fitted into the standard register book with all the typical pages of names and information, is a new thin video display that stores the memorial video of the deceased. Available from A Simple Thank You.


This innovative gift symbolizes the loved one who has falled from the family tree. Worn to identify the family during a service, the pin also provides a lasting reminder and an opportunity to share the stories of those we grieve.

30 | May/June Issue 2023

Who is Kanga-Woo and what product and/or service do you provide?

Kanga-Woo First Call Pouches is a company who manufacturers high quality, tailor made first call pouches, cot covers, and baby carriers. Kanga-Woo also provides pouches and carriers for the pet care industry.

How did Kanga-Woo get involved in the funeral industry?

Owner, Al Schiavone has been a licensed Funeral Director for the past 33 years. Al has made numerous first call removals of all kinds using the standard products that have not changed or improved for years. This lead Al to re-design and patent a more efficient, accessible product for the funeral professionals and first call removal techs.

What makes your initial product, the first call pouch, unique? What sets Kanga-Woo First call Pouches apart from others is our "revolutionary" design.

The Kanga-Woo first call pouch has many features including a built in, full length mattress sleeve. This design prevents the mattress pad from sliding out of place when making a first call removal. The pouch is 6 inches deeper than the standard pouch and has 2 inner and outer pockets along with 2 built in pillow sleeves. These features, in combination with the heavy duty zipper allows the pouch to be placed on the cot in either direction.

What innovations did you add to your cot covers?

The unique design on the Kanga-Woo cot cover is a magnetic "flip up" end. This flip up end prevents the cover from getting caught in the wheels while placing the cot in the vehicle. A built in pillow sleeve allows for the convenience of carrying a pillow or other supplies needed.

What is your newest product?

Last, but not least, we are very excited to introduce our newest product, the Kanga-Woo First Call baby removal carrier. Our baby carrier is not only very professional looking, but is so easy to use. The carrier is 100% collapsible for easy storage when not in use. As with all our products, we use only high quality upholstery fabric which is 100% polyester and machine washable. All our products are offered in several different fabric patterns to choose from.

What are the benefits to using products from Kanga-Woo?

Did we mention.... Kanga-Woo products are proudly hand made and designed in The United States. All KangaWoo products are designed to make the removal process easier and more efficient. The first class design will provide compassion and professionalism in your funeral home.

How would a funeral home contact you?

You can reach Kanga-Woo by visiting our website at, email us at or call us at 1-800-645-8966.

32 | May/June Issue 2023
Kanga-Woo 800-645-8966





Introducing the Chaise Bed Viewer: A Q&A with Starmark

can be easily positioned through the end door. The insert effortlessly slides into place using the roller system along the bottom. The unique J-Channel™ feature provided by Starmark allows for easy placement of the shroud interior, which can be adjusted to cover the body according to the family’s preferences. After the viewing, the insert is easily removed and can then be sent for final disposition. The linked video, showing an elevated viewing experience, was produced with families in mind, as it illustrates how easy the Chaise Bed Viewer is to use.

Why was the Chaise Bed Viewer Created? What inspired its creation?

The Chaise Bed Viewer® was designed in response to a critical need for Funeral Directors across North America. Recognizing the growing number of immediate or direct cremations and the desire to enhance the final moments for families before cremation, the Starmark product design team recognized that there could be a better option, something that could help restore expectations for what that final moment for families could look like prior to cremation. Drawing inspiration from ideas, including the slumber bed dating back to the Victorian era, the concept of the Chaise Bed Viewer emerged as an ideal solution. This product was designed with witnessing, ID viewings and private farewells in mind, offering families an economical yet dignified option.

How is it used?

The Chaise Bed Viewer is designed to be simple and userfriendly. Like a Ceremonial Rental Casket, it features an insert that is specifically designed for the Chaise Bed Viewer and

How does the Chaise Bed Viewer benefit Funeral Directors?

The benefit to Funeral Directors can be viewed from a variety of different lenses. From a family’s perspective, the Chaise Bed Viewer offers something different – a dignified, affordable, and unique option for a type of service where traditionally there haven’t been many choices. Financially, the Chaise Bed Viewer is a high payback investment and can be used to set a funeral home apart from its competition.

Made with high-quality construction and backed by Starmark’s Built to Last™ promise, the Chaise Bed Viewer is both affordable and durable. With proper care, it can pay for itself in just two uses on average and can be expected to be utilized hundreds of times before replacement. Not only is the Chaise Bed Viewer good for families and Funeral Directors, it is also a great option for those considering environmentally friendly options for their loved ones. In short, the Chaise Bed Viewer exemplifies Starmark’s commitment to finding Sensible Solutions® that directly address the needs of Funeral Directors and contribute to the betterment of the industry.

34 | May/June Issue 2023
“We have had a great experience with the Viewers. They look nice, families appreciate the quality, and we will definitely continue purchasing.”
Sandy Vester and John Jacobson, Preparation Managers and Funeral Directors at Hamilton’s Funeral Home
With Foot Cover Without Foot Cover Optional Foot Cover

Where does the Chaise fit in my cremation merchandising program?

At Starmark, we categorize the merchandising of product groups in a “Good, Better, Best” framework. When thinking about cremation, there are usually two avenues to consider: immediate cremation with an ID Viewing or small family gathering, or traditional funeral services.

Under the “Good” category, Starmark promotes the use of high quality, strong and leak resistant immediate cremation containers, with a variety of options based on your needs –think Strongbox™, EZ Fold®, Safeway® or the Safewood™ for example.

“Better” options include the use of the Chaise Bed Viewer or any of the Starmark alternative container options. These options include a wide variety of fiberboard based, fully crematable caskets, which are also suitable for burial. Some of our most well-known units in this category include the Transporter®, Artisan Vista™ series, Nature’s Way® series (suitable for Green Burial and cremation), and cloth covered units, each tailored to the specific needs of funeral directors over the years.

The “Best” option steps up to the use of a Ceremonial Rental Casket. Starmark’s Ceremonial Rental Caskets are Built to Last™ with high-quality and replaceable components. They are engineered to be the number one choice for traditional funeral services with cremation. This unique offering, unlike any other in the market, provides families with a memorable and positive experience when saying goodbye to their loved ones.

What purchase options are available?

Starmark understands the unique needs of Funeral Directors. Similar to selecting a piece of furniture, like a daybed, there are assorted styles that could be selected depending on your needs or preferences. With the Chaise Bed Viewer, Funeral Directors can choose between 24” and 27” inside widths. Additionally, there is an option to have swing bar handles for easy transport, or no handles if you’d prefer it remains in one place. There is also a wide selection of wood finishes and painted metallic colors available. Further, the insert has an option to include a fiberboard foot cover, which can give the foot end of the unit a smoother look if desired.

“Dahl Funeral & Cremation Service believes that everyone should be treated with the utmost respect ... We use the Bed Viewer Insert with the pillow and lining as our basic cremation container and provide the Chaise Bed Viewer at no additional cost to families that prefer to view their loved one.  Our families seem to be very receptive to our philosophy of treating their loved ones with the respect they deserve and are always very pleased with the presentation and care that we provide.”

Does the Chaise Bed Viewer come with an insert? What benefits are offered with the insert?

The Chaise Bed Viewer has a unique insert designed specifically for its use. While sold separately, the insert itself is economically priced lower than most alternative containers. One of the most useful parts of the Chaise Bed Viewer Insert is the J-Channel shroud blanket system unique to Starmark. The J-Channel eliminates the need and time spent fussing with hook and loop fasteners (Velcro), and is simple to use, saving you time. Another benefit of the insert is that it contains a leak-resistant liner as well as a moisture resistant exterior, increasing the integrity of the product. As previously mentioned, the Chaise Insert also has an optional feature. This is the fiberboard foot cover – which when used is placed below the shroud blankets, and is designed to provide a more dignified and polished look to the Chaise Bed Viewer insert. The foot cover softens the appearance of feet sticking up under the shroud, creating a seamless and more refined presentation. Finally, Starmark specifically designed the Chaise Insert to help minimize storage space. The inserts are packed together in pairs, allowing two inserts to be stored in the space typically occupied by one. These features make the Chaise Bed Viewer, along with the single-use insert, another Sensible Solution® offered by Starmark for cremation merchandising.

Justin Davis is the President of Starmark. (888) 366-7335 ext. 248 /

Landon Elder is the Director of Operations for Starmark Local (888) 366-7335 ext. 283 /

Handle Options

35 | May/June Issue 2023 | Sample COVER STORY
Charles P. Fisher, Owner and Mortician at Dahl Funeral and Cremation Services. J-Channel Insert Viewer Insert




Who is Atlantic Coast Life and what product and services do you provide?

Atlantic Coast Life headquartered in Charleston South Carolina i s a premier provider o f preneed products, including annuities and life products for families. Since 1925, Atlantic Coast Life has been helping families to prepare for a confident and secure future. Our mission is to bring sound products and solutions for our funeral homes and distribution partners. Growing from our home state of South Carolina, we now have product in 39 states across the US with states targeted for expansion. We are committed to having state of the art service and competitive consumer product offerings and are well-positioned to maintain our financially strong and stable platform.

What makes Atlantic Coast Life Unique?

Our partners are paramount and we are here to support them with a variety of growth rates, product options and seamless transactions including our E-App for paperless submission of business, remote sales platform, claim processing, EPO quotes and ordering of supplies. All of which can be transacted on a smart device, laptop, desktop, and I-Pad. Descendant coverage is included in our Life plans for Children, Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren. All transactions can also be accepted by email, fax, and mail.

What are the benefits to funeral homes working with Atlantic Coast Life?

Our funeral home partners tell us they love the options in growth rates from simple to a compounded rate, and a simple easy to use product offerings for their families. We also offer an aftercare platform and marketing support options. Our customer service team continues to receive great feedback from our funeral home customers and partners. New business, commissions and claims are processed without delay. A dedicated concierge phone line is provided to our funeral homes and partners for when they need us and we are here to answer their call.

How does Atlantic Coast Life provide a solution for funeral homes?

Atlantic Coast Life provides simple, easy to understand product solutions, great customer service, and business reports needed to track your business with confidence preneed claims will be paid on a timely basis. Local support with our many Regional Sales Directors and Marketing partners is another plus with Atlantic Coast Life.

How does funeral homes reach Atlantic Coast Life?

You can contact us by visiting or call 404-229-8648, or reach Tom by email at


Whenthe COVID-19 pandemic hit, most people were forced into online learning. However, even before the coronavirus changed our lifestyles, online learning had already entered the mainstream—and for good reason! As technology has advanced, so have the benefits of online learning. Some of these benefits aren’t new. Distance learning itself has been appreciated for years and has a long history, one that may go back further than you think.

Distance learning began long before the internet—by over two and half centuries, in fact. In 1728, a teacher by the name of Caleb Phillips began advertising the world’s first known correspondence course in the Boston Gazette. Courses where instructors would teach students by mail continued to be offered throughout the 1700s, but it wasn’t until the nineteenth century and the advent of uniform postage that distance learning truly began to flourish.

In 1843, the Phonographic Correspondence Society was established in England which taught shorthand to students by mail, and only fifteen years later, the University of London began offering degrees through distance learning programs. Later in 1873, Ana Eliot Ticknor founded the first formal correspondence school in the United States, “The Society to Encourage Studies at Home,” a network dedicated to furthering the education of American women. By the mid-twentieth century, most major universities offered some type of mailbased learning program.

And as communications technology advanced, new distance learning opportunities were created. In 1919, professors at

the University of Wisconsin created the first radio station dedicated to educational programs, and three years later, Pennsylvania State College began offering radio courses. By 1925, over 200 colleges and universities in the United States had been granted radio licenses.

The invention of the television was the next distance learning milestone. In fact, in 1953, the University of Houston even offered college courses on TV! Colleges also began filming courses that could be ordered by mail, and institutions even started taking advantage of the telephone. In 1965, the University of Wisconsin created the first statewide telephonebased education program.

Naturally, personal computers and the internet were the next big step up from correspondence, radio, television, and telephone programs, and instructors began utilizing the internet for distance learning almost immediately. In 1989, the University of Phoenix began offering online educational programs, and three years later, the Electronic University Network was offering the world’s first online Ph.D. program. By the late 1990s, we had firmly entered the era of online learning.

But while some college courses were available online during the 1990s, there were few professional development and continuing education learning opportunities on the internet. Initially, funeral directors and other professionals could order professional development material and course books online, but online classes themselves took time to be recognized by state and professional boards. As technology continued to progress, professionals and state boards began to appreciate

38 | May/June Issue 2023

Almost Every Bulb for Almost Every Socket Since 1978!

the success and benefits of online education. Over the years, more and more states and professions have begun to adopt online learning for their licensing and continuing education programs.

While online learning used to be niche, the tide had turned by the end of the new century’s first decade. In 2012, surveys showed over 75% of academic leaders believed online learning was equal or superior to classroom learning, and more recently, a 2018 study revealed 85% of students who had taken both face-to-face and online courses felt their online courses were the same or better than their in-person courses.

Currently, COVID-19 has made online learning a necessity for most, but the main benefit of distance learning has been appreciated for over a century: namely, it can be done at a distance. Online learning, like its technological predecessors, does not require traveling or being present in a classroom, and most courses can be completed at the learner’s own pace. This allows professionals to save money and enormous amounts of time.

COVID-19 has also highlighted one of the previously unappreciated benefits of online learning: when disasters occur that restrict travel or prohibit an in-person setting, online learning can continue uninterrupted. When COVID-19 began, almost all in-person education was suddenly suspended. Meanwhile, those completing their education online have been able to continue their courses without disruption.

Even before the pandemic, the number of professionals utilizing online learning over traditional classrooms was expected to increase, and COVID-19 has almost certainly sped up that timeline. More and more professional organizations have adopted and will likely continue to adopt online learning for professional development across numerous industries.

Fortunately, modern technology has made remote learning more accessible and more convenient than ever. With mobile phones, learners can literally carry study materials anywhere in the palm of their hand and can complete their education on their own schedule, day or night. Our company and others even have courses with additional features like video and audio to make lessons more engaging.

If history teaches us anything, the best is yet to come. Professionals will undoubtedly continue to see and embrace the quality and convenience of remote learning for years into the future. FBS

Ann Heinz, JD, CDEI, GSI is an experienced writer and editor of professional education courses. As product manager of WebCE's funeral continuing education product line, she is dedicated to providing quality content relevant to the [daily job functions/working lives] of funeral professionals nationwide. To learn more about WebCE, visit or, to connect with Ann, email or call 972-616-1079.


Raymond L Bald, CPA/CFE


Phone: 603-430-6200/603-772-3460

Fax: 603-430-6209


40 | May/June Issue 2023
Exceptional service from a firm
that knows the funeral home industry.
118 Portsmouth Ave, Ste D206 Stratham, NH 03885 PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS 908 475 1711 *packaged for sale *family identifier *precious keepsake *conversation starter

ERC - Too Good to Be True?

Over the last several months, have you been contacted by consulting firms promising you thousands in tax refunds under the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) program? I certainly have. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive at least a few such calls promising me big bucks. But is it true? Like practically all answers to tax questions, it depends.

The ERC is one of the many tax breaks rolled out by Congress to partially alleviate the negative economic effects of the Covid pandemic. It’s a refundable payroll tax credit for businesses that continued to pay employees during the Covid pandemic from March 13, 2020 to September 30, 2021. (The credit period was extended to December 31, 2021 for “recovery startup” businesses.) Depending on the period for which it is being claimed, the credit can be up to $5,000 - $7,000 per quarter for each eligible employee. The credit is reported on the applicable quarterly payroll tax return and reduces the amount of payroll taxes owed. If you already filed your payroll tax returns without claiming the credit, you can amend those returns and get the credit refunded. However, the catch is you must qualify to avail yourself of these credits. So who is eligible?

There are basically two ways to be eligible for the ERC. The first is by passing a “decline in revenue” test. Generally speaking, you qualify for the 2020 credit if your gross receipts in a quarter decreased by at least 50% when compared to the same quarter in 2019. You similarly qualify for the 2021 credit except the decrease in revenue threshold is 20% rather than 50%, and it applies only to the first three quarters of 2021. Although certain factors can complicate the decline in revenue test (e.g. having to combine multiple commonly owned businesses when applying the test), it’s basically a math exercise. The other way to qualify for the credit is a bit hazier.

According to the IRS’ ERC website, a business will also qualify for the credit if it “sustained a full or partial suspension of operations limiting commerce, travel or group meetings due to Covid and orders from an appropriate governmental authority.” As you can see, answering this question is not a straightforward math exercise. It’s actually quite subjective and therein lies the problem. There has been an explosion of firms aggressively marketing to businesses that they qualify for the ERC under this “suspension of operations” option. They further entice their potential clients using a win-win scenario wherein their fee is based on a percentage of the ERC refund. If you don’t get the refund, the consultant doesn’t get paid. What do you have to lose? In fact, you could lose a lot if you’re not careful; let me explain.

Thousands of businesses have been filing amended payroll returns to claim ERC’s. Prodded by Congress, IRS has been working diligently to process these returns and get refunds issued spending little time examining the legitimacy of these amended returns. In the meantime, businesses are receiving their refund checks and consulting firms are collecting their agreed-upon “share” of the refund. If a business is later audited and IRS determines it does not qualify for the credit, the business (not the ERC consultant) will owe the refund back along with interest and penalties. The business’ only recourse will be to sue the ERC consultant to recoup its fee and other applicable damages, assuming the firm is still in existence.

Considering the IRS’ low audit rate, you may conclude it’s worth the risk. However, keep in mind the IRS is fully aware of these aggressive ERC promotors and issued a warning to taxpayers in March 2023 about them (News Release IR-2023-40). The IRS’ warning clearly states that it is the taxpayer’s responsibility to review the ERC guidelines to ensure they qualify for the credit. Recent

42 | May/June Issue 2023

Moment of Reflection is a unique service that links a video to a QR code on the display that is easily visible and can be scanned at the grave. This service changes forever the way we remember and celebrate our loved ones.


federal budgets have also significantly increased IRS funding for more auditors, and IRS disclosed it is training examiners specifically for ERC audits. Although overall audit rates may remain relatively low, expect ERC audit rates to be much higher given the rampant abuse going on.

Despite the higher audit risk, it’s still worth investigating whether you qualify for the ERC. However, be smart about it by “audit proofing” yourself to the extent possible. First determine whether you may qualify under the far more objective “decline in revenue” test. It is far easier to support your position using good old mathematics than relying on a spongy qualitative argument.

If you don’t meet the “decline in revenue” test but believe you may qualify under the “suspension of operations” test, build the best argument you can by clearly documenting how your business was negatively affected by a government ordered suspension of operations. Back it up by clear examples of how you may have had to limit hours of operation, how revenues from a particular service declined due to government restrictions (e.g. on-site memorial services), or if your suppliers were unable to deliver critical supplies to your business. If you do work with a thirdparty consultant, research their history and reputation. Speak to other businesses who have used their services,

particularly those who may have been audited by the IRS and how supportive the consultant was during the audit.

The ERC is a potentially large credit for which you may qualify. However, like many parts of the tax code, determining if you qualify can be complicated and may require the assistance of a trained professional. Despite what many consultants are promoting, qualifying for the credit is not always a slam dunk. It’s up to you to properly vet the ERC consultant you’re working with to ensure they have your best interests in mind and that you are truly entitled to the ERC you are claiming.

This article is meant to provide general information and should not be construed as legal or tax advice or opinion and is not a substitute advice of counsel, CPAs or other professionals.

Raymond L. Bald, CPA, CFE is a funeral home tax accountant and consultant with Cummings, Lamont & McNamee, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-772-3460, or you may email him at

Ronald H. Cooper, CPA is a funeral home accountant and consultant with Ronald Cooper, CPA, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-671-8007, or you may email him at

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Do you wish there was an easy way to get people to talk about death and funeral planning? Playing a game can make planning ahead for end-of-life issues an enjoyable experience. Funeral homes can incorporate any number of conversation-starting games into educational outreach activities.

As a pioneering death educator, my first foray into death education gamification was Newly-Dead® The Game. It’s like the old TV game show, The Newlywed Game, but the questions focus on how well a couple knows their partners’ last wishes.

The game debuted at the 2011 Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival in Nederland, Colorado, a wild and wacky celebration of all things dead and frozen. Couples eagerly signed up to play in several sessions of the game. (And yes, there is real dead guy kept frozen by dry ice who resides there.)

There’s also a Singles edition of Newly-Dead® The Game that allows everyone in the audience to play along, testing how well prepared they are with disposition plans, a will, advance medical directives and a final resting place. The better prepared you are, the more points you get. Each question includes four answers, with the last one being “I don’t care, I’ll be dead.” That answer gets you zero points. It also becomes a crowd chant, which helps break the tension over the topic of dying.

Both versions of Newly-Dead® The Game provide an opportunity to teach about funeral planning issues and explain the importance of gathering information and legal paperwork. Initially, the game was offered as a digital download, but a physical product is coming in 2023. Learn more here:

Now I’ve created a word Bingo game focused on death education issues: Death Ed Bingo! Just like a traditional Bingo game, players receive a game card with randomized words instead of numbers. As each death- and funeral-related

word is called, there’s a brief teachable moment focused on each word. Words in the game include Pre-Need Planning, Funeral Directors, Green Burial, Wills & Trusts, POAs, Pet Loss, Obituaries, and Insurance.

Death Ed Bingo! can be played in-person with physical cards or online within a Zoom meeting. It can be used for funeral home pre-need outreach or part of a Before I Die Festival in your market.

Other end-of-life conversation starting games include Hello from CommonPractice. com, The Go Wish™ Game from CodaAlliance. org, Morbid Curiosity from, The Death Deck from TheDeathDeck. com, and the Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards from the NFDA’s RememberingALife. com. Many of these games work better in smaller groups.

By the way, if you’d like to get a set of Death Ed Bingo! cards and NewlyDead® The Game, check out the Before I Die Festival in a Box®: https:// It provides a host of upbeat ideas and tools to start end-of-life planning conversations and pre-need funeral arrangements.

My motto is: Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant and talking about funerals won’t make you dead. Let’s get those conversations started! FBS

Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is an award-winning speaker, author, podcaster, YouTuber, and coordinator of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival (www. She is also a Certified Funeral Celebrant. Her three books on planning ahead for end-of-life issues – A Good Goodbye, Kicking the Bucket List and Hail and Farewell – are available through Amazon and her website,

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INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Randy Koufalis of RK Productions

How did you get started with your company?

As an artist, I founded RK Productions in 1994 as a manufacturer of hand made natural stone products. My background in the Vancouver film industry as a sculptor, props specialist and set decorator as well as his history of making award winning clay animated films, is what the company evolved from. Items such as mirrors, bowls and wall plaques were both designed and produced by the company and sold all over North America. Everything RK Productions makes is manufactured in Canada using real stone.

How did the company become involved in this industry?

In 2007, I decided to add cremation urns to its offerings. I wanted to provide families with a high quality, well designed urn that did not look like a traditional urn. In fact, so I set out to do the exact opposite. I wanted to create designs that would stand out from the crowd and allow a family to display them in their home as pieces of art, rather than urns. Over the next several years these Funeral Products began to become a more significant part of RK Productions designs and eventually have taken over the entire direction of the company. We now design and produce well over 50 urns, keepsakes and candle holder urns for Funeral Homes worldwide. They can be found proudly on display in peoples homes and cemetery niches and funeral homes.

What is your favorite thing about what you do?

There is really two things: one is the ability to design new products from the ground up. Starting with simple sketches and 3D models and turning these into products that can be manufactured one piece at a time. This is a very exciting process that can last for several months and even years.

The second thing is our incredible staff. We have put together a very creative team of talented artisans, that take incredible pride in what we produce. Each one of our urns and keepsakes is hand made and hand painted one at a time.They care deeply about the products we make and they are very connected to how these items can impact other families lives. This is a very rewarding thing for an owner to experience.

What do you wish you knew when you first started?

Understanding which marketing paths and in particular which conventions are worth participating in. I’m still learning every day, and have always believed people around me have lots to offer, but you have to be willing to listen. And ask the right questions.

What is the most challenging aspect of your career?

Most people would probably say finding good people. But that’s something we have been very good at. The real challenges are encouraging funerals directors to try something different and to trust us when we explain how families truly appreciate our designs.

How do you set personal goals for yourself?

In the shower! This may sound absurd, but some of my best ideas, solutions to problems and goals to achieve, happen when I’m in the shower. My goals tend to manifest themselves from smaller ideas that can seem insignificant at the time, but become increasingly apparent in months to follow. I’ve always been driven by creating things or building things with my hands. In many cases the hands on approach to all things in my life, including goals, is how I start the process of achieving them. I also tend to surround myself in a quiet and natural environment such as a forest or a river. The clarity that can happen there has been very rewarding.

Why have you stayed in this industry for so many years?

This is a very small industry. One which I thought may not be large enough for us to sustain our designs into. But I have learned that due to how small it is, and because our designs are so unique, we have been able to stand out among other products in a more significant way.

What has been the most important factor in your success?

Creating meaningful designs that families will choose because they connect with the art and the design, that memorializes their loved ones. And focusing much of our efforts on the best quality and best customer service we can provide. This industry has changed dramatically in the past few years.

How has that affected RK Productions and your career?

In Canada the cremation rate is one of highest in North America and we were very comfortable introducing new products into these markets. In the US market, cremation has dramatically increased as a percentage of overall deaths from well below 50% to well over 50% in the past 15+ years. The most successful funeral homes in Canada have been doing what the US funeral homes are now experiencing for many years already, as the cremation rate in Canada is above 80% across the country. The key to success in a changing industry is to embrace the change and more specifically in the funeral industry, to make sure all families know (not just burial families)what kinds of options there are for them to choose from. There is a sense of “oh, it’s just a cremation family” here is our basic cremation package. What I hear many successful funeral directors tell me, is they offer all of the same things to a cremation family as they do a burial family. And what I hear families tell me is they had no idea they could do all these things. We tend to forget a family may be in the funeral home for the first time in their life and they have no idea what to expect. It’s very important for the future of any funeral home, to make sure they give every family, not just the burial family, every opportunity that is available to memorialize there loved one. The results may be very surprising…

What are you most proud of so far in your career?

I am very proud of being able to say we manufacture all our products in North America. Way too much manufacturing has

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Sample Issue 2023

left the country and there is a significant price we are all paying for this. Keeping our manufacturing here, allows us the ability to keep our quality at the highest level possible and control our inventory. In fact, during Covid while many suppliers were running out of products, we were producing more of our urns and keepsakes than we ever had! Because we could…

The other thing I am particularly proud of, is setting an example to my children, how anything is achievable if you are willing to work hard and believe in yourself and what you are trying to achieve. I want them to be able to see this, and we share a considerable amount with them how this works. One of my favourite things I repeat oftenis “I don’t want to hear why we can’t do this, I want to hear how we can!”

Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? What are you most concerned about?

It is exciting to be in an industry that is changing and from my perspective growing. This creates opportunities if your willing to see them. In my opinion, personalized memorialization is going to continue to become one of the most demanded things

families will be wanting. But, I’m probably most concerned we, as an industry, are not providing families with enough information about how we can do this. We need to provide clearer guidance. Families do not know what, they don’t know.

Do you have any advice for other business owners in this industry that might be struggling?

As I’ve said, this is a very small industry. Not every idea is going to make it into this market, you need to recognize when that is. Many companies think they will make heaps of money selling or providing services to the funeral industry. But I’m surprised how many don’t realize there is only approximately 2 million deaths each year in the United States. This is in relative terms a very small number. In the years when RK Productions sold products into gift shops, gallery’s and home decor stores we could sell to over 300 million Americans. 2 million is a substantially smaller number. Recognize when your product or service is not going to work and listen, listen, listen. FBS

You can learn more at

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The Top 11 Funeral Industry Podcasts for Funeral Professionals

The funeral industry is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult for funeral directors and deathcare professionals to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, technologies, and practices. One way to stay informed is by listening to podcasts.

But in the sea of podcasts that are readily available, it can be difficult to find the podcasts that cut out the fluff, get right to the point, inspire you, teach you, and help you connect with others in the profession. So here's 11 top podcast recommendations for funeral professionals.

Undertaking: The Podcast

Hosted by Ryan Ballard and Brian Waters, Undertaking: The Podcast covers a variety of topics related to funeral service, including grief support, green burial, and funeral home operations. The show features interviews with industry experts and personal stories from funeral directors.

The Mortuary Show

Hosted by Michael Cooney (a wellknown funeral director based out of Illinois), this is a podcast that talks about death, embalming, funerals, and anything else that pops up in the ole cranium. They regularly invite new guests, morticians, and deathcare professionals onto the show to tell their most morbid stories, explore new trends in funeral service, and much more.

The Death Deck

Hosted by Lisa and Lori, The Death Deck is a podcast that covers topics related to death and dying in a fun and engaging way. The show features games, trivia, and conversation starters that can help deathcare professionals and their clients have more open conversations about death.

Confessions of a Funeral Director

Hosted by author Caleb Wilde, Confessions of a Funeral Director is a podcast that explores the world of funeral service. Wilde shares his personal experiences as a funeral director, offering insights into the unique challenges and rewards of the profession.

Funeral nation TV

Hosted by Jeff Harbeson and marketing guru Ryan Thogmartin, Funeral nation TV is a weekly video podcast that covers the latest news and trends in the funeral industry. The show features interviews with industry experts, discussions on current events, and tips for improving funeral home operations.

NFDA: A Brush With Death

As mentioned on their website, NFDA has launched A Brush With Death – a podcast to help funeral professionals be more responsive to the evolving needs of families and better respond to the issues shaping their businesses. The podcast is hosted by Gabe Schauf.

Death Curious

Hosted by Alexandra Jo (They/Them) of Parting Stone, Death Curious is a platform for death exploration and a community of like-minded, deathpositive people. They imagine a future in which talking about death is no longer taboo. They also bring on several funeral service professionals to explore trends, changing family preferences, and much more.

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Death in the Afternoon

Hosted by Caitlin Doughty, Louise Hung, and Sarah Chavez, Death in the Afternoon dispels myths about death and dead bodies, dives into history and dark tales you’ve never heard before, and much more. The team behind “Ask a Mortician” created this new podcast that takes a playfully serious approach to normally morbid topics to promote more death-positive conversations.

Funeral Boss Inc.

With a long career in death care, most of us know that there are 3 sides to every death story – the funeral Directors, the families & the decedents, and you wouldn’t believe whose side gets left out. Hosted by Elaine Valdez, this podcast brings forward REAL funeral professional stories that keep you on your toes and give you every angle on the world of death care.

WSFDA: Member Talks!

Rob Goff, Executive Director of the Washington State Funeral Directors Association, hosts this podcast that gives funeral service and death care professionals actionable advice, real-time insights, and many more resources.

You’ll Die Trying

Nathan Morris, the extremely talented mortician (and musician), takes people on a journey in You’ll Die Trying, a podcast that focuses on humanizing funeral directors and gives the public a closer look into the world of funeral service. In addition to his podcast, Nathan posts great, resourceful content on his TikTok channel, which is followed by more than half a million people.

Chase Downs joined Gather in 2022 as a funeral service and death care advocate. He's excited to help share Gather's incredible story. He's been featured in several funeral service publications on a variety of subjects including software, marketing, technology, and funeral service. Reach him via email at, or learn more about Gather by visiting

54 | May/June Issue 2023 FUN
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10 Tips to Help Funeral Homes Build Strong Media Relationships

Most funeral homes don’t have a PR department or a dedicated person to handle their communications. Therefore, it is not always as easy for funeral directors to build relationships with the local media because a funeral home owner must wear so many different hats.

That doesn’t make connecting with editors and reporters any less important. In fact, in some cases, effective media relations can help funeral homes generate publicity and be a complement to advertising campaigns, so your relationship with your local newspapers and TV stations deserves some attention.

Here are ten excellent suggestions for funeral homes that want to build strong media relationships in their community, but don’t have the dedicated personnel to spend a great deal of time on it.

1. Polish Your Pitch

Don’t assume that you always need to write a press release to reach editors and reporters. Every funeral home should have what’s called an elevator speech ready to go. It is called an elevator speech because it is short enough to tell someone about your firm and what makes you unique during a ride

in an elevator. Take the time to put your pitch in writing. It is also always a good idea to have at least three different length pitches developed: short, medium, and long. That way, you will have a pitch ready to fit any occasion.

2. Find the News Angle

Unless the journalist you are targeting writes specifically about small businesses such as funeral homes, there must be a news angle in your story for it to appeal to them. Find an interesting point to help make the connection between your firm and a news story. That connection can be your location but also explore if your story can tie into current events, trending topics, or something else that makes it newsworthy, like a charity you are supporting or being environmentally friendly.

3. Know Which Journalist to Contact

Your story may not appeal to all reporters. If a reporter is working on a story or regularly writes about small businesses or a topic that is relevant to your funeral home, that is the journalist you should try to reach out to. Doing so will save you time; no need to pitch your idea to someone who has little to no chance of being interested. Keep your list of reporter contacts handy for future reference.

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4. Send Personalized, Targeted Emails

Customize your communications and be sure that you are sending them to the right journalists. Your communications should appear to be individually sent, even if they are not. Be sure that you are sending relevant messages to the correct journalist that covers the types of topics you are suggesting, that way you will also have fewer notes to send. If your correspondence looks like it was automated or a copy-and-paste note, your efforts will not get the same attention that you will get by making it personal.

5. Connect on Social Media

By connecting on social media, I mean being social and engaging with journalists regularly, not just when you need something from them. On occasion, comment, like, and share their articles or blog posts. Just don’t comment or engage only when you want their attention. That way, when you do make contact, they will remember you from previous interactions. But don’t overdo it. For example, don’t ask a reporter you have never met to become a LinkedIn connection. Request that you get “Linked” only after you’ve connected personally.

6. Be Honest

Honesty is the best policy. I shouldn’t have to say it, but it is essential to understand this when dealing with the media. It is necessary because being exposed for not being truthful by the media can be quite a public affair. This could create a publicity nightmare for you that you can’t afford.

7. Learn How to Be Quotable

Make the reporter’s job easier by giving quotable comments. The less editing and work a journalist must do, the more likely your news or release will get published. Keep your comments short and to the point, and offer a point of view, not a complete story.

8. Be Timely

Old news is no news. Being timely can have a dual meaning for journalists: It can mean making sure that the news is relevant or putting a current events perspective on your news, and it also means respecting a reporter’s deadlines. Don’t take for granted that just because a reporter is not with a newspaper or radio station that there isn’t a deadline. When reporters work on deadlines, they might need to check back with you to clarify confusion or ask another question. Give them access to you and set guidelines. If you don’t mind them calling you late, let them know if it is OK. This is likely to help your story get to run or for you to be quoted in a story when a reporter is working late on a deadline and your competitor may not be accessible.

9. Offer Exclusives

Whenever possible, providing an exclusive to one special media contact will help drive your story or news. This may sound like something that a professional corporation might do, but offering an exclusive can be your funeral home’s ticket to receiving all the press you need from just one source.

10. Help Them Out

One of my favorite tips is to be a resource for your local media. These days, newspapers and magazines are short on staff and working harder than ever. So, if on your way to the funeral home, you see a huge fire, call the newsroom at the local radio station or if you learn of a great human interest story about one of your neighbors, contact the local newspaper. Even if they already know about the fire or decide not to do the feature story, they will appreciate the fact that you reached out to them.

Five “Don’ts” When It Comes to Dealing

with the Media Funeral home owners and their employees tend to be very passionate about their business. The key lesson here is don’t take it personally. Media professionals, writers, and reporters live in a world of deadlines and cut-offs.

1. Don’t complain in public if a story didn’t get the coverage you hoped for or if you are misquoted. If there is an error, contact the reporter, point out the mistake, and politely as for a correction. As one of my mentors would put it – praise publicly, criticize or reprimand privately.

2. Don’t add editors and reporters to the email list for your company newsletter (unless they ask to be added).

3. Don’t be too aggressive with your follow-up. Be respectful of the journalist’s time.

4. Don’t expect a reporter is required to run your story. That attitude will do you no good now and in future conversations.

5. Don’t get angry with a reporter or journalist. A very old saying is, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” Be respectful and let cooler heads prevail.

Conclusion and Takeaways

Although many of these tips for dealing with the media and journalists might sound like common sense, they are many times forgotten, overlooked, or even new to you if you don’t live in the world of PR and media. As a funeral director, you have some advantages over corporate PR professionals in that you can provide a genuine story and real-life perspective. Not every journalist or writer wants a slick, professional press release. As you venture into the field of building media connections, your funeral home status will help you get your news published and make it even more valuable when you establish real connections with real people. FBS

Joe Weigel is the owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, a communications firm delivering expertise and results across three interrelated marketing disciplines: strategy, branding and communications. For more information, he can be reached at 317-608-8914 or

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One of the revelations of the Funeral Service Foundation’s research “Breaking the Consumer Code” was the common perception among consumers that conventional funeral facilities are, in their words, perceived as “lonely lifeless tombs.” Here is an actual image the respondents selected to express their opinion:

The research goes on to report that consumers find conventional facilities confining and too gloomy. Those of us who have read this research realized that funeral homes are typically built inside out. The public areas often have no windows or the windows are heavily draped. The colors are, at best, neutral but often dark. The atmosphere tends toward the gloomy and, in my experience, either stark or too crowded.

I don’t even have to point you to specific websites to make my point. Randomly pick funeral home websites (maybe even your own) that display photos of the interior and imagine yourself to be a consumer. What does a photo like the one below convey to you? Better yet, how does it make you feel?

Contrast that with the photo below and you might begin to understand what they are saying.

In her book, “The Art of Gathering,” a book about gatherings in general, not specifically funeral service,

The Venue Dictates the Experience

Priya Parker makes the galvanizing observation that the venue of a gathering dictates the experience. She points out that the impact of a gathering is dramatically impacted by the venue in which it is experienced. Think about the experience of attending a high school football game in a small rural community vs. the Super Bowl. Priya believes we need to control the venue in order to control the impact.

But what are we to do? Few if any of us can afford to tear down our buildings and build from scratch. More to the point, at least in my experience, most of the architects who specialize in funeral homes are still devoted to the architecture of the past, which emphasizes functionality over impact.

Well, it seems there are two things we can do:

1. If, in fact, we are building new, we should study this research. We should buy airplane tickets and visit the few 21st Century facilities that have opened. (The one above is in Toronto, Canada.) I know of others in Texas and Colorado. If you want an excuse to write off a trip to Europe, the best one is in Scandinavia.

2. We should engage professionally licensed interior designers to upgrade our facilities with an emphasis on upbeat colors, happy surprises, and lots of lighting.

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"The impact of a gathering is dramatically impacted by the venue in which it is experienced."


I recently visited a facility outside Pittsburgh that is a perfect illustration of what to do with a conventional building. This location is humble and it is in a humble part of town. The owner can’t move.

What he has done, instead, is decorate in ways that overcome that “lonely lifeless tomb” feel and elevate it to a warm, upbeat, and friendly atmosphere. It is not a place where people just want to come to pay respects. Its décor, lighting, and layout is such that one is encouraged to stay and visit.

He has taken what he has and turned it into something that is so remarkable that it actually makes some of his competitors facilities look sinister. That visit taught me that a good decorator can transform humble or even negative facilities to something special.

The 21st Century facility incorporates the outdoors with lots of outside lighting. If you have the ability, providing access to an outdoor party patio with a fountain, fireplace, and barbecue pit could be ideal. I have been to a number of facilities that have back or side yards that would be perfect for features like

a gazebo and/or a garden. How would conducting a funeral in something like this impact the experience?

All of this is both affordable and doable for most funeral homes. But, most important, it’s what customers want.

Alan Creedy is celebrating his 43rd year as a consultant to the Funeral Profession. You can learn more about him and the services he offers at his website: https://

Priya Parker's book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, was published in 2020. It is currently avaialble wherever books are sold. Click here to view they book's listing on Amazon.

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Add More Value to Your Preneed Insurance Plan

We are all very familiar with the concept of using insurance to fund preneed funeral contracts. This option is widely available, and insurance is as popular as a trust for the funding choice. A recent Life Insurance Company (LIC) survey of participating preneed companies showed the average coverage of a preneed insurance contract issued is on average around $5,600 - $6,000.

These contracts covered the traditional services of visitation, reparation, casket, and transportation. Did the counselor and the consumer miss the opportunity to set aside any other amounts on the G&S agreement that the family will need at death? That is not the customer's fault. Many of them are not aware of these offerings to even consider during the prearrangement process and rely on the Counselor to guide them. Look at these non-guaranteed items you might want to talk with your Prearrangement customer about and why they should think amount setting funds aside now. How about other bereavement items such as funds for a monument or marker? What about lodging, travel expenses, and meals for the out-of-town family that will travel after the death of the family member?

Expand your prearrangement, and think about what else will the family need funds for. An introduction to these services by the preneed professional can result in an insurance-funded Preneed contract in the order of 50% higher than the average of the basic funeral goods and services agreement. Notes from a consumer: "I wish I'd spent more on the monument because the monument is all that's left to be seen after the funeral." And "I did not think about the other expenses related to my Funeral after my death." Let's take the example of adding funds for just a monument or marker. Granite headstones average between $3,000 and $6,000.

Have you thought about adding funds for lodging? Will any family members be traveling from out of town for the service and to spend time with other family members or settle to spend time setting affairs? If the family plans for a memorial service. Since you would add these items as Non-Guaranteed and funded with a Preneed Plan with credited growth, the

funds will be available at need and when they are needed the most.

Your Preneed Insurance plans present a very convenient and affordable way for the customer to manage these largeticket items through monthly payment plans and first-dollar coverage. The consumer's purchase is protected as long as they keep the Preneed insurance plan in force by paying the required premium.

These costs can vary and are outside the control of the funeral service provider, the customer however does get the peace of mind that these funds will be there when needed and services will all be taken care of, and the deceased will be treated with dignity.

Increase revenue per file.

In today's challenging business climate, setting aside additional funds for monuments, markers, food, lodging, airfare, and other items are valuable additions that increase your revenue and margins per file. They are also easily funded by your preneed insurance plan and complement your services to families. Be the Funeral Home known as the "full service" provider in your community by offering your Prearrangement family more options and benefits. You will solidify long relationships ensuring family loyalty and referrals.

Tom Holland has been helping Preneed Counselors for over 25 years. Tom's field positions include Agent, Manager, Training Sales Director, Director of Conservation, Director of Development/National Accounts, and Vice President of Sales/Chief Marketing Officer.

Currently, Tom is Vice President of National Accounts for Atlantic Coast Life. He is responsible for sales and marketing development throughout the US. Tom earned his CPC designation through the National Funeral Directors Association and holds a Master's and Ph.D. Degrees in Marketing. He can be reached at 404-229-8648 or by email at

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66 | May/June Issue 2023 31 57 19 14 33 23 41 59 61 43 13 53 34, 35, 55 9, 68 54 Advertiser Index THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING OUR ADVERTISERS! Alan Creedy AP Lazer Applied Lighting Solutions ASD Atlantic Coast Life Insurance Aurora Payments Bereave BSF Cremation Association of North America Cherished Keepsakes Cummings, Lamont, McNamee PLLC 800.333.5233 | Eagle's Wings Air Element by The Living Urn
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·Confidentiallysellyourfirmto therightbuyerattherightprice ·Protectyourreputationin thecommunity ·Maintaintheheritageyouʼve spentyearsbuilding ·Maximizeyourfirmʼsvalue withtherightstructure ·Simplifytheprocesstoensure asmoothtransition Matt Manske (913)343-2357 Direct TOP SECRETS FOR BUYING, SELLING, & FINANCING FUNERAL HOMES Visit today to get your free eBook on buying, sellingand financing afuneral home. CONFIDENTIAL FUNERALHOME TRANSITIONS

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Add More Value to Your Preneed Insurance Plan

pages 64-67


pages 62-63

The Venue Dictates the Experience

pages 60-61

10 Tips to Help Funeral Homes Build Strong Media Relationships

pages 56-60

The Top 11 Funeral Industry Podcasts for Funeral Professionals

pages 52-55

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Randy Koufalis of RK Productions

pages 48-51


pages 46-47

ERC - Too Good to Be True?

pages 42-45


pages 38-41


pages 36-37


pages 34-35

Interesting Products at

pages 30-33

Families Pay Faster Using Payment Links

pages 28-29

HERE TODAY, HERE TOMORROW: Retaining Funeral Home Professionals

pages 26-27


pages 18-25

Partner with Cherished Keepsakes to Stand Out, Save Time, and Grow Your Funeral

page 17

fiRst eveR soliDifieD Remains containeR RevealeD by aRil

pages 16-17

2024 iccfa annual convention call foR PResentations is oPen

page 15

stonemoR inc. changes name to eveRstoRy PaRtneRs

page 14


pages 12-13


pages 10-11

The Beckingtoon Collecctiion

pages 4-9


page 3


page 2

Add More Value to Your Preneed Insurance Plan

pages 33-34

10 Tips to Help Funeral Homes Build Strong Media Relationships

pages 29-32

The Top 11 Funeral Industry Podcasts for Funeral Professionals

pages 27-28

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Randy Koufalis of RK Productions

pages 25-26


page 24

ERC - Too Good to Be True?

pages 22-23


pages 20-21


pages 18-19

Interesting Products at

pages 16-17

Families Pay Faster Using Payment Links

page 15

HERE TODAY, HERE TOMORROW: Retaining Funeral Home Professionals

page 14

CHANDLER FUNERAL HOME funeral home success story

pages 11-13

fiRst eveR soliDifieD Remains containeR RevealeD by aRil

pages 9-10

2024 iccfa annual convention call foR PResentations is oPen

page 8

stonemoR inc. changes name to eveRstoRy PaRtneRs

page 8


page 7


page 6


pages 2-5
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