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Where Were You?

Posted by Christopher Kuhnen on August 1, 2014

    For those of us who are funeral industry suppliers and/or vendors the “convention season” is just about finished for this year. By convention season I mean the plethora of state funeral director association annual conventions that are conducted anytime from March through July.
    States like Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Mississippi, California and Texas (just to name a few) gather the faithful together in some exotic city in their respective state and share ideas, conduct continuing education classes, hold officer installation banquets and of course, “walk the exhibit booth hall” eyeing the latest industry related goods and services from companies like mine. It’s a time honored tradition that dates back to the 19th century.
    Did you know? At their peak, there were over 100,000 trade and professional associations in the United States. Like most any association, state funeral director and embalmer associations were created to establish, strengthen and unify those who serve in the profession, work toward common goals and objectives. The association and its members would work together to expand their overall knowledge of the profession and the guidelines under which they operate. They would interact with governmental and regulatory representatives on behalf of their members. The overall result of these connections is more informed legislators, a more informed public, and better lawmaking in general.
    They would provide a wealth of information to the public through publications, public service campaigns, educational programs and training services. Membership in your state funeral directors association offered numerous benefits and kept funeral home owners on top of important, ever-changing issues, trends and legislation within the industry. Benefits of association membership include: opportunities to preside in leadership roles within the association; subscriptions to newsletters and magazines; access to seminars, conferences and association events; and access to members-only offers.
    Many funeral professionals, however, believe the greatest benefit of being a member in their state association is the networking and camaraderie that goes on among members. However, to benefit from this, you must participate and be an active member within your association. Paying your annual dues isn’t enough to reap the benefits of association membership. You must also make an investment of time and effort in association activities and become involved. Simply put, what you get out of association membership is directly relative to what you put in.
    I have noticed a disturbing trend the past several years that is troubling to me. The lack of overall attendance at state funeral director association annual conventions. A very noticeable lack of attendance at seven state conventions I attended this year. Many of the states used to have convention hall exhibit floors that rivaled anything the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) or International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) put on. These states held conventions that were second to none. Aisle after aisle of exhibitors with large display booths. Casket companies like Aurora and Batesville had massive display booths that at times appeared to take up a large part of the overall convention floor. State after state they have now become a shadow of their former self. Have you noticed the decreasing size of many of the longtime vendors display booth areas these days? They have shrunk down to almost nothing. It’s a sad thing to witness that some state associations conventions have become so lifeless and insignificant that two or more states will join together just to put on one respectable convention for its members.
    Speaking of members, have you bothered to take a hard look at the shrinking membership rolls of your own state association? Slowly, one by one, funeral homes are not renewing their membership. I have heard all the excuses from funeral home owners who can’t or won’t join their state association. Everything from “the dues are too high” to “I really don’t get any value out of it anymore.” Enough already!
    If we don’t find a way to all come together (large and small, corporate and independent, city and country, west coast and east coast, north and south and everywhere in between) and work for the current and future common good of funeral service…who will? No one will!
    It always has been and always will be up to us to move our profession forward into the future. If you are a funeral home owner, shame on you, if you did not attend your annual state convention this year. Shame on you, if you did not afford your staff members the opportunity to attend. Shame on you, if all you can do is complain about your state association and do nothing to try and make your association better and stronger.
    Remember, if you genuinely believe any aspect of our profession is heading in the wrong direction, the only one who has the power to change things is you. You and all your fellow funeral service colleagues, working together through your state association can make our future bright. United We Stand and Divided We Fall.


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