Service. This word is inexorably woven into the fabric of the funeral profession and people who work in the business. As devoted as funeral professionals are to helping families and friends when they experience the death of someone close, many also spend a great deal of time and energy in community outreach. The benefits of community involvement go well beyond building your personal and professional brand; it is one of the few ways a funeral professional can interact with people under happier, calmer circumstances.
Here are 10 ways to improve your funeral home’s community outreach. Each of these are fairly easy to implement and can make a positive impact on your brand:
1. Be a fundraising engine.
Many funeral professionals work in or close to the communities where they grew up. Use your personal and professional “spheres of influence” to help support fundraising efforts. Monetary donations aren’t the only way to assist worthy causes – support comes in many forms, including promotion through traditional advertising as well as social media.
2. Sponsor community events such as a local 5K run.
Sponsored events can take time to organize and manage, so offer some resources and promotional support. You can provide staffing for registration, refreshments or first aid stations. Consider sponsoring a team to run in the event. Again, some events offer visibility just for providing volunteers — it’s not always about money.
3. Assist your local schools and students.
Unfortunately, all too many school districts are underfunded. Work with your local school board, principals and teachers to identify things you can do to help. Art classes might need paper and supplies. Students from underprivileged families may need help with material fees. Be a collection point for book drives. Volunteer to help at-risk or learning-disabled students. If you speak a foreign language, you might be invaluable support for teachers working in classrooms where English is a student’s second language. Participate in career days and talk about funeral service as a profession. You might also consider providing financial aid in the form of scholarships for graduating high school seniors attending local colleges, trade schools or universities.
4. Help with children’s causes and events.
If a children’s festival exists in your community, participate. You can make your booth fun and relevant by having an activity designed for children and their grandparents or parents to complete together. Create a booklet or a template that helps a child “interview” her grandparent to learn more about their life, accomplishments, hobbies and so on. What better way for kids of all ages to learn more about their family history? Done right, it will be an experience to remember long after the event itself.
5. Make a day in the life of a senior a little brighter.
Many businesses focus on obvious ways to be advocates for seniors in a community. Get creative. Most seniors, whether they live at home or in an assisted living situation, will appreciate opportunities to socialize and be entertained. Host a luncheon featuring a speaker such as a locally known news/sports personality or comedian to provide light and happy content. Work with a movie theater to host as event so seniors can enjoy a first-run movie or a classic favorite. Engage seniors in ways that help them remain active and social, and their families will thank you for it!
6. Support military, police, fire and EMS personnel.
There are so many things a community can do to show appreciation for the people who protect our freedom and safety. Make sure you’re connected to their support organizations. Try to remain informed about veterans, police officers, firefighters and paramedics who might need community support due to illness, injury or financial hardship. Consider sponsoring or co-sponsoring an annual event to raise awareness and money for organizations that provide services for these heroes.
7. Educate your community about what you do.
Workshops and seminars discussing what you do and how you do it are excellent community outreach opportunities. There are still far too many families who are unaware that advance funeral planning exists and that it’s possible to choose both cremation and a traditional funeral. Don’t assume folks know all their options simply because they’ve attended or even planned a funeral. Frequent community events are valuable to engage people in your community and help them envision how they want to be remembered.
8. Partner with the local animal shelter.
Aside from the growth in pet memorial services provided by many funeral homes across the country, firms are finding value in partnering with local animal rescue organizations to promote pet safety, pet adoption and pet therapy awareness. Some funeral homes sponsor a weekly or monthly pet adoption segment on radio or television programs. Many work with rescue organizations to arrange pet therapy visits to nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
9. Be active on social media.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are among the social media channels you can leverage to engage your community, promote your events before, during and after they occur and encourage discussion about things that are relevant to your client families. Cross-promote your social media presence on your funeral home website. Ask your web designer how to show your active social media feeds on your website.
10. Encourage and support volunteerism in your funeral home.
Good help is definitely hard to find these days, but you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you hire people who demonstrate an affinity for community service. Whether you pick a cause or event to support as a team or encourage staff members to volunteer for things they find rewarding, your firm can benefit from a culture of volunteerism. Not only will you extend your community outreach, but your employees will also appreciate the time you give them to help others in need.
There are countless ways to reach out to your community to promote your services and the value of end-of-life planning. But, as is often the case in funeral service, what works best will depend on the unique needs of each firm and its community. I encourage you to share your community outreach best practices in the comments below.
Dean Lambert is the Senior VP - Marketing & Communications for Homesteaders Life Company. He is a frequent presenter at funeral association events and has published numerous articles on funeral home marketing and PR. Click here to learn more about the leadership team at Homesteaders.