Aftercare is a critically important part of any successful funeral home business. A thoughtful aftercare program can equip you to care for your community in new and different ways, build your brand and help you remain top of mind when families need a funeral provider.
There are countless ways to approach your aftercare — from follow-up phone calls, visits and cards to community events for families who grieve during the holidays. Discover nine simple and creative ideas to complement your existing aftercare program while helping you stand out from other providers in your area.
1. Stay in touch
Continuing to stay in touch with the client families you’ve served helps you foster relationships throughout the community. This easy yet critical practice will help increase the likelihood that you’ll be the funeral provider families choose (and eventually recommend to others) for all of their funeral service needs.
Enroll Families in Text-Based Aftercare
Text-based aftercare is a highly personal and engaging way to deliver aftercare messages to your families, but it’s no additional work for you or your funeral home staff. Learn how text-based aftercare can help you provide better customer service and support to families immediately following their loved one’s service and transform your aftercare program.
Make Follow-Up Phone Calls
A simple phone call can make a huge difference in someone’s day. Setting reminders to call client families at specific intervals, like two or four weeks after a service, can be a simple way to start a funeral aftercare service. If you are unsure what to say, try writing a short script that touches on all of your main points before you begin. The goal of your phone call should be to build your relationship with the family member and remind them that you are still a resource in their time of need.
Offer A Grief Support Newsletter
Consider working with a grief expert to offer an ongoing digital or print communication to families you’ve served. Homesteaders’ exclusive Families in Transition® newsletter program provides valuable aftercare content for at-need and preneed families. The beautifully designed newsletters offer a gentle aftercare approach. The newsletters are customized with our eligible funeral home customers’ information and mailed quarterly on their behalf for one year to selected family members. This great program can help firms stay in touch with client families and better serve their end-of-life needs. To find out if your firm qualifies for Families in Transition,® contact your account executive.
Send Cards or Personal Notes
Mailing sympathy or ‘thinking of you’ cards on holidays and important anniversaries is another great aftercare idea. If your firm keeps a database of your client families, set reminders to send cards for holidays that can be difficult after a death, like birthdays and wedding anniversaries. With this approach, you can be as detailed or as simple as you like. A handwritten note to say you’re thinking about a family can be a welcome gesture and keep your firm top of mind.
Other Ways to Stay In Touch
- Invitations: Ask families you’ve served to join you for special memorial events or to accept a gift (such as a holiday ornament) in honor of their loved one.
- Volunteering/Donations: Invite the families you’ve served to join you in giving back to the community or donating to a local non-profit.
- Social Events: Host small groups for social discussions or regular meetings, which can also take place online.
2. Offer Grief Support Materials
An on-site grief support library can be helpful for those who visit your funeral home in person and need resources to help them after the loss of a loved one. It can be a great starting point for individuals who are not yet ready to attend an in-person seminar or meeting.
During times when individuals are not able to access on-site aftercare offerings, you may also consider keeping a supply of printed booklets or other materials that you can mail to families you’ve served. To learn more about grief support materials such as our Seasons of Change aftercare kit, contact your Homesteaders account executive.
When your funeral home has extra grief support materials available, consider donating them to area churches, schools, libraries and hospitals. Before distribution, attach a label indicating the materials were donated by your firm.
Provide GriefPlan Booklets
The Finding Hope booklet series provides grief information for specific situations, like the loss of a husband or wife, parent or even a beloved pet. The booklets are tailored specifically to women, men and children. Writing a quick note in the cover of a booklet and presenting it to a client family can work similarly to sending a card while also providing them with professional information from grief expert Dr. Jason Troyer. Homesteaders offers these booklets at a reduced cost to our customers through the Marketing Order System.
3. Try Video Messages
Instead of sending a generic email, consider filming a short personal video message with your smartphone and sending it to a client family. Video is becoming the most popular means of communication, so utilizing it not only shows that your firm cares about its families, but that you are also technologically savvy. Similar to a phone call, you can create a short script highlighting a message you would like to send. Unlike a phone call, you can easily practice and edit the video message until you get it just right.
4. Host Support Groups
Consider opening your location to host local grief support groups, or creating one of your own. Connect with a local grief counselor and work with them to set up regular support group sessions for people in your community. This service could truly help someone who needs it. Plus, offering this service in your funeral home will position you as a thought leader in grief support and will keep your name top of mind for past client families.
When it isn’t possible to meet in person, grief support workshops can be held online. In those situations, you might consider offering each participant a gift card to a local coffee shop with a drive-thru or a restaurant with delivery options so they can enjoy refreshments or a meal as they participate.
5. Create Community and Holiday Events
Much like support groups, community and holiday events are meant to bring people together to share their experiences. Gunderson Funeral Home in Fort Dodge, IA, hosts a yearly holiday event called “A Time for Angels.” The event is open to the public and features speakers from different faiths who give short addresses about grief and spirituality. At the end of the event, each attendee receives an angel ornament in honor of the loved one they lost.
Phil Gunderson, funeral director and owner of Gunderson Funeral Home, said, “We recognize that grief has no timeline, therefore the event is open to anyone and everyone in the community who has experienced the loss of a loved one. Many times, it takes a year or more for people to feel comfortable attending, so we welcome them at any time.” Local events like this can show goodwill toward your community and also create a preference for your firm, even from those who may not have used your services in the past.
6. Give Holiday Gifts
One of my favorite examples of holiday gift aftercare comes from outside funeral service. The ALS Association is a nonprofit that is close to my heart. Their mission is to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, as it currently has a 100% fatality rate. The Iowa Chapter of The ALS Association has its own version of holiday aftercare for the families and widows of those who have lost their battle with ALS. Each holiday season, the staff sends personalized forget-me-not ornaments to those who lost someone within the past year. The gift is just a small reminder that the organization cares about the family members and the memory of the person who had ALS. Funeral homes can easily mimic this gift-giving opportunity for their own client families.
7. ORGANIZE A RUMMAGE SALE
Many of your client families have experienced the same problem: Their loved ones may have died weeks or months ago, but they live on in the items they’ve left behind (houses, garages, trailers and sheds full of clothes, household items and collectibles that no longer have an owner – or a home).
You could help families figure out what to do with their loved one’s belongings by organizing a semi-annual community rummage sale. You could collect items year-round at your funeral home, or partner with a storage facility in town. Then, ask for volunteers (perhaps a widow or two who is looking for a new project) to help sort the items a couple of times a year and staff a town rummage sale. You could even partner with a local non-profit to collect the proceeds and organize and distribute any leftover items to those who are most in need.
8. HOST A QUARTERLY AFTERCARE FAIR
One of Homesteaders’ most popular resources is an aftercare checklist, a simple document listing a few dozen tasks that must be completed in the days, weeks and months after a loved one has died. While funeral providers are available to help in the days immediately after a loss, they often do not have resources to help close out an estate, sell a house or file for Social Security benefits. But there are likely others in your community who are experts in those fields.
Consider hosting a quarterly aftercare fair so the families you’ve served can connect with others in your community who could help with these tasks. There are many subject matter experts you could invite – here’s a short list to get you started:
- Monument makers
- Lawyers, accountants and estate managers
- Representatives from Veterans Affairs
- Cleaning & lawn care providers
- Animal shelter volunteers & pet fostering groups
You could invite a local catering company to provide refreshments and offer referral bonuses for any vendors who recommend your funeral home to their clients.
9. ORGANIZE A REGULAR WALKING GROUP
The loss of a loved one is consistently listed among the most significant stressors most adults will ever experience – right up there with the loss of a job, divorce and chronic illness. This is no surprise to those who care for grieving families every day. There are many, many things that must be done after a loved one has died – and they all must be done during what is often a time of emotional and psychological distress. When unaddressed, the stress associated with these tasks can significantly impact overall health, leading to weight gain (or loss), insomnia, high blood pressure, diabetes and even heart disease. One of the best ways to manage stress is to get regular exercise.
Consider inviting the families you’ve served recently to be part of an early-morning walking group. Invite them to park at your funeral home and spend an hour walking around the neighborhood. Exercise and fresh air will be beneficial for their physical health, and social engagement will help ease their mental load.
What other creative ideas have you tried with your funeral home aftercare? Share your experience and expertise in the comments below!