Today’s families want more than ever from their funeral home experiences. No longer content with the “standard service” packages that satisfied previous generations, these customers want their funeral directors to provide them with meaningful, customized experiences and a personal connection.
Certainly, the added burden that this places on your business can be frustrating. However, smart funeral home directors should look at this desire to memorialize losses as an opportunity to maintain contact with the families they serve well into the future.
Any of the following ideas on how to commemorate the lives of the deceased can be used to both provide value-added services and to build brand recognition within your community.
For more unique ways to honor the memory of a family’s loved one, download Tribute Center, our all-in-one customization suite.
Idea #1 — Hold a holiday remembrance ceremony
Many of the funeral homes we work with host annual holiday remembrance ceremonies and find that these events represent an ideal opportunity to commemorate the lives of lost loved ones and to maintain top-of-mind awareness with potential future customers.
According to Kevin Spitzer of Spitzer-Miller Funeral Home in Aberdeen, SD:
“The service is open to the community. We make this offer available to anyone, regardless of which funeral home they have used for their loved one. We have people who have attended several years because they find the service to be healing.”
Idea #2 — Put together a remembrance quilt
Invite the families you serve to create customized quilt squares commemorating their loved ones. Then hire a seamstress or bring on a trusted, crafty friend to transform the squares into a finished quilt that can be hung in your funeral home and displayed during any annual remembrance events you host.
Idea #3 — Mail handwritten notes on important anniversaries
While it’s true that technology offers funeral directors unprecedented opportunities to personalize the services they conduct, it’s also safe to say that these advances have removed some of the personal touches that used to build important relationships between directors and their customers.
Sending out handwritten notes is a quick and easy way to mitigate this disconnect. A simple note saying, for example, “Our thoughts are with you as you mark the one year anniversary of the passing of Fred Johnson,” lets you pass on a deeply-felt sentiment while also placing a piece of logo stationery in front of surviving family members.
Idea #4 — Place flowers on the graves of the deceased
Want to make an impression on the families you serve? On the one-year anniversary of every funeral service that you conduct, place flowers on the grave of the deceased and send a picture of your gift to the grieving family. For maximum impact, pair your snapshot with a handwritten note (as described above) letting family members know that you’re keeping them in your thoughts.
Idea #5 — Send small gifts to surviving family members
As an alternative, consider sending a small memorial gift on funeral anniversaries, holidays or other important dates. Frazer Consultant’s memorial ornaments, for example, make a great, easy-to-personalize memento that can be gifted to family members during your funeral home’s holiday remembrance services.
Idea #6 — Plant a memorial garden
If your funeral home has the space to do so, consider planting a memorial garden. Even a small garden planted with low-maintenance perennial plants can provide a peaceful spot for grieving families to commemorate their loved ones.
Idea #7 — Create a remembrance bench
Whether as part of your memorial garden or as a separate fixture on your business’s property, a remembrance bench can be a great way to recognize the families you’ve cared for. Look for a bench with a slatted back, onto which engraved plates can be added bearing the names of the deceased. Conduct a small ceremony each year at which time new names can be added to the bench at the request of interested family members.
Idea #8 — “Plant” a tree in the deceased’s honor
If you don’t have space on your property to maintain a memorial garden, you can always add to the nation’s forests with a tree planted in honor of the deceased instead. For a minimum donation of $10, the Arbor Day Foundation will plant a tree in either the Superior National Forest or the Blackwater River State Forest. You’ll receive a beautiful customized card marking the donation, which can then be passed on to the grieving family.
Idea #9 — Host a yearly memorial event
Outside of the holidays, create a meaningful space for families to grieve by hosting a yearly memorial event. This could be a walk, a fundraiser or a presentation given by a speaker — whatever you believe will serve your community best. This type of event can be a great way to support your customers while also securing positive press for your funeral home in the local media.
Idea #10 — Conduct an annual balloon release
In conjunction with your yearly memorial event — or as a separate occasion altogether — try a balloon release in honor of your families. Have the name of your funeral home or event custom-printed on the ballons, and write the names of the deceased on the balloons using bold markers.
**Note — In order to protect the environment, use only 100% biodegradable latex balloons and do not attach ribbons or other items to the balloons you plan to release.
Idea #11 — Release Chinese lanterns
On a similar note, if you’re located near a large body of water, you can launch Chinese lanterns instead of — or in addition to — remembrance balloons to create a truly memorable sight. As with balloon releases, be sure to use a biodegradable product and to only release lanterns in safe, wind-free conditions. Check your state’s fireworks regulations first, as lantern releases may be prohibited in some areas.
Idea #12 — Create art using the names of the deceased
Carly Marie is an Australian artist who creates stunning sand drawings in memory of infants lost to miscarriage and stillbirth. And while you don’t need to be an award-winning artist in order to commemorate the losses your families have suffered, customized arts and crafts can provide the personalized touch that surviving family members crave. Get creative and leverage the artistic talents of your staff members to create something truly memorable.
Idea #13 — Make a donation in honor of your customers
One final way to commemorate your customers’ losses is to make a donation to a local charity in honor of the deceased. Be sure to select a neutral charity (nothing religious or political) and consider making a series of donations — rather than one lump sum — which will allow you to give money in honor of every person you’ve served. Notify the families of your donation using either a handwritten note or a customized card provided by your chosen charity.
These are only a few of the different ways that you can commemorate your customers’ losses. If you use others at your funeral home, share your recommendations in a comment below!