8 New Ways to Open Up Your Funeral Home to Your Community
Think your funeral home, chapel, or reception areas are just venues for funerals? Think again! Offering your space to your community for non-death-related events or purposes isn’t just a great public relations move. It’s also an excellent way to demystify and destigmatize the business of death. Here are eight different ways your peers have thrown open their doors and welcomed their neighbors inside the “dreaded” funeral home:
Sponsor a patriotic scavenger hunt
To support its city’s Heritage Month activities, Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin, Illinois devised a Memorial Day Scavenger Hunt event. The Symonds family created community-related trivia questions and a list of patriotic and historic locations around town. Participants can pick up the list at the funeral home or download a copy from Symonds’ website. When hunters finish their quests, they return their completed sheets to the funeral home. They are then entered into a drawing for a desktop wooden flag-building kit.
CD pro tip: In addition to searching for patriotic sites on Memorial Day, replicate this idea and host hunts for haunted places on Halloween, certain storefronts on Labor Day, or historically significant sites on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Host a vaccination clinic
In April Golden Gate Funeral Home in Chicago hosted several walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics at its facility. General Manager Sylvester Dunn partnered with a local vaccination team to give folks in his neighborhood — which was hit hard by the virus — a simple way to get the shots they desperately need. Dunn told his local TV channel that “as long as the need is great, and he can get the supply, he plans to continue this clinic for as long as he can.”
CD pro tip: Consider hosting similar clinics for flu or pneumonia shots, as well.
Demonstrate your tribute video skills for high school graduates
Chances are you have some sort of tribute video program or the skills to create a nice presentation. Last year Johnson’s Funeral Home in Georgetown, Kentucky displayed their expertise by creating commemorative videos for local high school graduates. Each free video contained up to 200 images with accompanying music.
CD pro tip: Think about expanding this to graduating kindergarteners or sixth-graders, day school groups, or even graduating college students within your community.
Hold a professional networking event
You probably already participate in your local chamber of commerce or business professionals network. So why not host a luncheon or get-together? A few years ago Michael Grandi, Manager of Old Bridge & Waitt Funeral Homes, opened his doors to New Jersey’s Matawan-Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce. Grandi offered refreshments, a business card swap, and a presentation on the history of the funeral home during the after-hours event.
CD pro tip: Take the after-hours event a bit further with a classy cocktail hour!
Feed your local first responders
Law enforcement officers’ reputations were collectively hit last year thanks to the actions of a few bad apples. To show their ongoing support of their local police, troopers, and sheriffs, All Faiths Funeral Home in Grand Island, Nebraska hosted a barbecue feast last September. Funeral home staff cooked and served hamburgers, hot-dogs, baked beans and sweets. “It’s just good to have, you know, someone from the community, especially one of the business owners that we work with quite a bit in the course of what we do,” one guest said.
CD pro tip: Extend similar invitations to other first responders, including EMS personnel, firefighters, and volunteer rescue teams, either all at once or on days designated for each group. Instead of an onsite event, you could deliver meals in your funeral home vehicles.
Play matchmaker … of sorts
On every Valentine’s Day since 2014, Lake Shore Funeral Home in Waco, Texas hosts a luncheon for local widows and widowers. The event is open to anyone who has lost a spouse, not just those served by Lake Shore. “This is an opportunity for fun, food, fellowship, and making new connections with others who have lost their partner as well” said Brent Shehorn, Lake Shore owner.
CD pro tip: Another variation of this is a Valentine’s Day movie night?
Honor dads with a car wash
D.O. McComb & Sons Funeral Home in Fort Wayne, Indiana partners with its local Big Brothers/Big Sisters chapter each year on Father’s Day to offer dads a free car wash and refreshments. Funeral home staff and members of the BB/BS organization wash cars, grill hot dogs, and even offer face painting for kids.
CD pro tip: This is an idea that could work for any holiday or commemoration. Who doesn’t like a clean car and a hot-off-the-grill hot dog?!
Hold a community photo contest
In an effort to “bring a different vibe” to its facility, Greenlawn Funeral Home in Bakersfield, California invited locals to submit photographs of their interpretations of “family and moments of joy.” The funeral home put 50 images on display for public viewing, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author chose prize winners.
CD pro tip: You could expand on this idea in so many ways — different topics, allowing local dignitaries to judge entries, or even holding the entire contest on social media.