With the Dead Beat’s permission, we are sharing at a column they ran earlier this summer. An anonymous contributor suggested that Death Care associations are headed for obsolescence. The author noted that attendance at Midwest conventions have dropped dramatically, and attributed this in part to a failure to adapt meetings and conventions to the needs of the industry’s Millenniums. That column offers antidotal evidence that young directors are complaining that the association convention fails to offer information or skills that can be taken home and incorporated into their business. The knock against association membership not providing an adequate return on investment is not new. Mortuary Management ran a similar column (Colleague Wisdom) in 2008. But, while the Mortuary Management column didn’t offer any suggestions for improvement, the Dead Beat column does.
To cut down on time demands, the Dead Beat column recommends that association board business be conducted by conference calls. We would take that recommendation a step further, and recommend one of several video conferencing software options. A video conference allows participants to share documents and judge each other’s reactions to ideas and recommendations.
We also like the recommendation about webinars, but would also take that suggestion further. Allow educational webinars to be sponsored by vendors. Webinars that provide good content will be popular with association members, and provide vendors the marketing opportunities they seek.
To get out of ‘a rut’, associations need to actively court Millenniums, women, and growing ethnic communities. The column appropriately suggests recruiting from mortuary schools. But, associations also need to recruit the ‘corporates’, who can be valuable sources for industry trends.
The Dead Beat column suggests that associations are losing members to other types of leadership groups and roundtables. Associations should give thought to developing roundtable groups in lieu of spending funds on high dollar motivational speakers. We have heard industry members express interest in attending association meetings if they could hear from peers (and the big boys) on issues such as sales programs, staffing, and compliance.
These kinds of changes require time and leadership. Unfortunately, cemetery associations tend to be dependent upon volunteers, and funeral associations have limited budgets and personnel. Accordingly, we would suggest that death care associations give thought to banding with other state associations, or (God forbid) reaching across the competition divide to cemeteries, crematories and monument builders. The Southern Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association is a good example. The SCCFA is also somewhat unique in its allowing vendors to participate in the association’s leadership.