Money & Business

As Population Pivots to Cremation, Funeral Directors Adapt

By / Jul 25, 2019 (Anze Furlan /iStock/Getty Images Plus)

A new study by the National Funeral Directors Association reveals that more consumers prefer cremation and green burial options. This means that both NFDA and its members must make changes to stay relevant.

A new report from the National Funeral Directors Association finds that American attitudes toward funerals are changing, with the cremation rate expected to increase to 78.7 percent by 2040 and just 15.7 percent of people seeking traditional burial.

These trends and other data in the study mean that NFDA and its members need to adapt to changing consumer preferences to remain relevant.

“Listening to and learning from members and consumers is incredibly important so that we can evolve as an association and meet the ever-evolving needs of our members,” said NFDA CEO Christine Pepper, CAE. “We really want to make sure we’re listening to what it is consumers are telling us about their end-of-life preferences and to what our members are saying about the challenges—and opportunities—they see as they are serving families every day. This research has helped us to identify trends and deliver education and programs to help our members better serve families.”

When it comes to NFDA’s 20,000 members, Pepper said many have taken steps “to evolve their business model to meet the needs of families that prefer cremation.” Some of those changes include adding an onsite crematory, remodeling their funeral homes to allow families to host different kinds of memorial and funeral services, and requiring or encouraging staff to become certified crematory operators.

Beyond cremation, another emerging trend noted in the report was green burials: 51.6 percent of those surveyed said they were interested in exploring green funeral options.

According to Pepper, NFDA is already helping it members on this front by offering “a certificate program to help members distinguish their funeral homes as leading providers of green funeral services in their community and demonstrate their commitment to environmentally responsible business practices.”

Although changes lay ahead, one aspect of funerals remains the same. Even though internet research is often the norm prior to a purchase, the NFDA report shows that isn’t the case when it comes to funerals. Most people (75.6 percent) chose a funeral home because they had previous experience with it, had a relationship with a funeral director, or had heard it had a good reputation.

“This highlights the importance of maintaining high customer-service standards,” Pepper said. “During times like this, we turn to the people and things we trust, and certainly a funeral home that has served your family or a friend well in the past would be a business you could rely on to also serve you and your family in its time of need.”

While research like this helps associations keep track of what’s changing and what’s staying the same in their industry, so does member feedback.

“When I or my staff have an opportunity to have conversations with members, we’re always carefully listening to what it is they say,” Pepper said. “Sometimes, the idea for a new program or member benefit has come from a simple conversation with a member.”

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is an associate editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips. More »

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