By: David Navarrete

As death care business professionals, we are constantly looking for new and creative ways to attract new people into our funeral homes and cemeteries. In doing so, it is essential that we bring these people into our businesses in ways other than just for funerals and burials…certainly if we expect to serve them when they suffer a death and our services as death care professionals are needed. Over the course of my career, I have held events that have accomplished exactly that – attracted new people to my locations who would otherwise have never passed through my door. I accomplished this by hosting a number of community events – events that weren’t centered on funerals, burials or cremation…”death care” per se, but rather the opposite. LIFE CARE…strategies for living a healthy lifestyle, and toward this end, we became the resource and advocate for our community. In this article I will delve into how my teams and I developed and executed these events … and what the payoff could be for you, your families, and your businesses.

The original idea sprang in a meeting of a committee that I was appointed to at our company’s headquarters. This committee was put together by senior management in an effort to increase our community involvement throughout our entire organization. “Community involvement” is a broad term, and it’s thrown around more than a football at the Texas vs. OU weekend. I knew there could be much more to the concept and I was bored with the same ol’ same ol’ “community involvement” stuff – church visits, hospice visits, minister breakfasts, etc. While I believe these types of events are all extremely necessary and fruitful, I wanted to take it a step further and be different. I wanted to set us apart from all others in our community, and I knew this could be an exceptional opportunity to introduce our company and our team to new people.

An idea was mentioned by another participant about how they used to hold blood drives at their funeral homes. In and of itself, this sounded like a great idea, but I knew that it could be so much more. When I returned to my office, I gathered my team for a meeting and introduced the idea of hosting the first ever Community Health Fair at our funeral home. The team loved it and was instantly brainstorming some great ideas. The meeting was in mid January and on April 22nd we hosted our very first Community Health Fair. It was amazing! We had a DJ playing fun music, a local church selling healthy concessions, local area healthcare providers performing various health screenings including blood pressure testing, diabetes testing, mammograms, massages, games for the kids, bounce house, door prize give-away, and much more. We ended up hosting 46 different healthcare vendors from our area, all providing different screening and services. The best part for the community – It was all FREE!!! And while our Health Fair turned out to be unbelievably fun for both our the families and our staff, it also proved to be the single most valuable event in terms of gaining awareness and attention to our business as well as attention to the great people on our team.

For this first event, we had over 400 attendees and as I said 46 local healthcare and business leaders. What these partners witnessed was a funeral home that truly cared for its community and their well-being, plus we made it fun! Think about it – these folks came out to receive valuable health screenings, have some healthy food and have a great time with old and new friends and who do you think they called when a need arose for death care? Not to mention all the vendor participants who had us on their minds when asked for a referral??? The answer is obvious – it was us, the people who opened up their hearts and business to literally care for our community. After our first event, we continued holding two of these events each year, one in the spring time – our Community Health Fair, and one in the fall our Fall Festival.

The cost on these types of events is about as much as you would spend on a holiday service or even less. 90% of the program was donated by the vendors, because they got as much out of this as we did. We worked hard and found ways to minimize costs because we weren’t able to spend much. It takes planning and negotiating, but when you are putting together something that will better your community, people are eager to help and all of this only elevates your presence as well. It may seem to be grass-roots, but it is also very progressive. Very few funeral homes host these types of events because some think “we aren’t supposed to.” I say, that’s when we act, when someone says we can’t. Through my experience, I have found that this is the type of opinion that has stereotyped us in the first place. At the end of the day, we are people who care about others in death and in life. As such, I believe we should show more of our care for life. When you show your care of life, it’s you they will call when it’s time to care for their dead.

What I really want each of you to consider after reading this is, “am I truly doing the right things to set myself apart from all others? Am I the one constantly searching for that new and different way to open my heart to my community and truly make a difference and care for them?” When we simply work to achieve the status quo, we will get exactly that – nothing more, nothing less. It is when we do special things that we achieve special results. From these types of events we held, our preneed business grew the first year by 15% and our at-need business grew in the first year by an astounding 13%. Those numbers are great but the amount of increased business and exposure over time, is what will be immense, as well as the empowerment and satisfaction you and your teams will feel through this process. Through these types of events and outreach, think of where you could be in 10 years? In 15 years? You will transform from a death care provider to a vested partner within the community you serve, as a caring provider. That’s true growth and the anti-status-quo. FBA


David Navarrete Headshot (Web)David Navarrete is Senior Vice President of Funeral Home Gifts, Inc., the nation’s premier weaver and supplier of tapestry Tribute Blankets to death care providers throughout North America. Navarrete is a licensed funeral director and top producer whose 20 plus year career has included leadership and senior management positions with both corporate and privately held funeral home locations. He can be reached at his office at 682-323-4076 or by e-mail at [email protected]