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Part 5: Inside Look at Fascinating 2017 NFDA Convention Workshops

by | Nov 15, 2017 | Funeral Profession

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Couldn’t make it to Boston for the 2017 NFDA Convention? Or didn’t have time to go to all the workshops? We’ve got you covered with highlights from some of our favorite workshops we attended.

This is the final part of a five-part series about some of the informative 2017 NFDA Convention workshops.

Create Experiences, Gain Market Share

In this session presented by Justin Baxley and Erin Whitaker of Foundation Partners Group, we learned the difference between Direct, Value, and Premier funeral providers and how Value brands have been growing in recent years.

These three types of providers differ in the experiences they offer the families they serve and how they operate their businesses:


  • Minimum required services, no ceremonies
  • Lowest price in the market, which is advertised aggressively
  • Arrangements made by phone or online
  • Widespread service area


  • Range of products, services, and ceremonies
  • Lower prices than Premier due to reduced overhead — smaller chapels, smaller staff, used vehicles, etc.
  • Arrangements made by phone, online, or in person
  • Moderate service area


  • Offers virtually all products and services available
  • High-end products and services and prices to match
  • In-depth arrangement conferences in person
  • Limited service area, highly localized

Justin and Erin used the example of Marriott Hotels to demonstrate how these different levels cater to different consumers and seize different shares of the market.

With Marriott, you have luxury hotels like the Ritz-Carlton brand that cater to high-end consumers that want all the bells and whistles. You then have the more value-based brands, like Sheraton, that cater to mid-level spenders who want some amenities but nothing over-the-top. Lastly, there are hotels like Courtyard and Fairfield Inn & Suites, which are for the consumer that just needs the basic amenities and a place to stay.

How the Future of EDRS Affects You

The Electronic Death Registration System is changing, and the project leads want input from funeral directors.

In this session presented by Dr. Katharine Lewis, Robert C. Moore IV, and a small panel of developers, we learned about some of the challenges the U.S. currently faces with registering deaths in a national database. Each state has different systems, different technology, and different requirements, so the National Center for Health Statistics is working to create a more standardized solution.

Their current project, Nightingale, has been in the works for a little more than a year. Their goal is to standardize the way deaths are recorded across the U.S. to improve the data they receive from these records.

According to their website, this data is important because “Vital statistics data guide investments to improve health and help measure the success of those investments. Vital statistics provide insight into important trends in health, including the impact of chronic conditions, progress on reducing deaths due to motor vehicle accidents, and the evolving challenge of substance abuse.”

To get involved, you can visit their site and sign up to provide input and receive updates on the project.

Understanding Suicide and Its Effects on Grief

This presentation by Dr. Janet S. McCord, Associate Professor and Chair of Thanatology at Marian University, talks about suicide — its causes, effects, and how funeral directors can better help families facing loss due to suicide.

One of Dr. McCord’s main talking points was the importance of reducing stigma when it comes to talking to and working with families dealing with death from suicide. Her first suggestion is to move away from phrases like “commit suicide” or “complete suicide” and say instead that someone “killed him/herself” or “died by suicide.”

Dr. McCord also advises funeral directors to be aware of the unique stress and trauma that comes with suicide. Families facing a loss due to suicide are not only grieving the loss of a loved one, but often they have added feelings of guilt, shock, denial, shame, or even relief.

On top of these additional emotions, some family members may have been traumatized by discovering their loved one after they killed themselves. In these cases, they often have also been questioned by police to determine that the death was not a homicide — further adding to the emotional trauma and stress of the situation.

Funeral directors can help undo some of this traumatization in several ways:

  • Find out how families can get personal effects back from the police, including a suicide note if there was one.
  • Point families in the direction of suicide grief resources like books, support groups, online forums, etc.
  • Ask the family how they would like to address the suicide in the memorial, service, and/or obituary and let them know it’s okay to talk about it if they prefer to.
  • If the family chooses to address the suicide in the obituary, help them express themselves by using this brochure as a resource.
  • Get involved with your local Survivors of Suicide (S.O.S.) group or consider starting and hosting one for local families.

Did you attend any of these NFDA Convention workshops? What did you learn from them? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!


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