A family’s experience with your funeral home doesn’t end immediately after the funeral, and neither does their potential need for grief support. Your firm can serve an important role in this capacity, providing aftercare that offers much-need resources during difficult times and helps extend relationships within the community you serve.
If you don’t have an aftercare program (or if it’s been a while since you’ve evaluated your current aftercare offerings), there are some steps you can take to create a program that meets the needs of local families and your firm.
Establish a team.
A new project, especially one with a potentially large scope such as an aftercare program, needs to have the support of your staff. Identify the key people who will be responsible for the day-to-day success of your aftercare efforts, and involve them in the project from the early planning stages.
This serves several valuable purposes. First, you can get great ideas about potential aftercare offerings and how to share them with the community. You can also obtain feedback about how this new program will fit into your team’s workload. Perhaps most importantly, getting the team involved in the planning process will encourage ongoing collaboration as the program evolves.
Research community needs.
Every community has different needs when it comes to aftercare offerings. For example, one community may already have excellent support groups but lack personalized digital grief support resources. Another community may need educational programs to help people navigate the practical challenges that sometimes follow the death of a loved one.
Work with your staff to identify where gaps in aftercare resources exist in your community, and brainstorm ways to better serve families through offerings such as:
- Grief support groups
- Workshops presented by local experts
- Holiday memorial events
- Cards/small gifts for holidays or on significant dates
- An on-site grief library (and/or collections of resources at locations throughout the community)
- Mailed grief support newsletters
- Online resources (website content, email affirmations, etc.)
- Movie events or other social gatherings
There are many other ways you could serve your own community through events (ongoing and for special occasions), printed materials and digital support. In addition to input from your staff and other influential members of your community, review survey feedback and market research as you brainstorm and prioritize the ideas.
Assign roles and set expectations.
Once you’ve identified the resources you plan to provide, start assigning responsibilities to members of your team for coordination and follow-up. If you plan a series of seminars, for example, determine who will be responsible for tasks such as setting up the venue, arranging for vendors and speakers, publicizing the event and managing RSVPs.
Also consider how you will measure the program’s success in meeting your goals and the needs of the community. For support groups, what does the facilitator consider to be an ideal number of participants? What kind of response would you like to receive from your mail pieces? How many people would you like to attend your holiday service?
Ask for feedback.
Attendee counts and occasional comments from families won’t be enough to gauge the effectiveness of your new aftercare efforts. You’ll also want to plan a way to formally gather feedback from the people you serve.
Your request for input could also include a way for aftercare program participants to opt in for notifications about upcoming events or additional resources via email or mail. In addition, it’s an opportunity to encourage families to stay connected with you on your funeral home social media and share information about your offerings with others who might benefit from them.
A final thought: As you plan what you’ll offer for aftercare, always keep in mind who you’ll offer it for. Aftercare can have a broader reach than you may initially think, and anyone who has an experience with your firm – including preneed families – might benefit from aftercare programs or resources.
If you offer aftercare at your firm, what has gone well? What would you have done differently? Share your thoughts in the comments below.