The Good Funeral Guide Blog

At last, another celebrant trainer

Friday, 8 August 2014

angry_computer_user

 

A flurry of forwarded emails flies into our inbox. “What do you think of this?!?” they all demand.

This?

The NFFD’s freshly launched celebrant training venture. The consensus is that it stinks.

What do we think? Well, let’s have a look.

The NFFD’s given reason for entering the celebrant training market is “growing demand”. Some will question whether, in a supersaturated market, there is any demand whatever. The answer is that market forces may confidently be relied upon to eliminate the less competent. There’s always room at the top.

What quality assurance can the NFFD offer? Selection for training is via “a telephone screening process”. The course, which seems not to be externally accredited, has been “Designed and developed in close conjunction with a number of industry experts” none of whom is named. The course is delivered at an intriguing venue, “our private church chapel” by “Rev Victor Johnson … an Ordained Priest of the Church of England” with “over 20 years’ experience conducting contemporary, civil-celebrant funeral ceremonies.”

The NFFD reckons that “funeral directors … are ideally placed to perform this valuable, satisfying, and lucrative, [celebrancy] role,” which sort of makes you wonder why they never thought of it before. The NFFD adds: “if public speaking isn’t for you, but you have a more confident driver, bearer, or other member of staff, why not give them an opportunity to develop their skills by enrolling them on the course instead?” Whoa, there’s one from out of left field.

The NFFD reckons “There’s rarely more than an hour or two’s work involved” in researching and writing a funeral ceremony. Our view is that if a celebrant were to use a laminated script on which he or she simply rubbed out an old name and wrote in a new one, that time could be halved. There are a lot of celebrants who reckon a bespoke funeral takes at least 10 hours to write but, let’s face it, they’re making a bit of a meal of it, aren’t they? You can’t be any good if you find it that difficult.

The NFFD is keen to help its celebrants to maximise their business. Projected earnings are given as “between £100 and £200 per hour,” a rate they describe as “incredibly lucrative”. Isn’t it, just? And if that isn’t enough, “You will also be invited to attend a one-day course FREE OF CHARGE to teach you how to supplement your income through the sale of pre-paid funeral plans. Given the environment that celebrants routinely work in, selling funeral plans is a brilliant way for you to easily generate an extra £500 – £1500 per week on top of your earnings as a straightforward celebrant.” There aren’t many vocations that make you this sort of dough.

The NFFD has made a name for itself as a creatively disruptive force in a highly conservative industry. It has certainly made feathers fly.

It has exposed itself to market forces and consumer scrutiny, which may be trusted, we think, to do their Darwinian work.

If you wish to comment, please be aware that the NFFD is retributive in the matter of libel.

 

50 comments on “At last, another celebrant trainer

  1. Tuesday 19th August 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Having read the above comments, I can only say that they are loitering on the non-professional and at times extremely vitriolic.

    I believe that the NFFD are producing a course that from the various comments has certain people scared of the forthcoming competition, which in business, competition can only be a good thing. It allows the opposition to analyse their own standards, and if they are so good that no other competition is needed then their standards are so high that they would not worry about any other competitor taking their business away. However, could it be the other side of the coin that the competition could potentially be better than they are and that in itself causes them to worry?

    As far as I know the NFFD have as yet not launched their course, so as yet, it is a totally unknown quantity. In saying that, the course will be run as a certificated one, which in itself would not allow people not up to standard to pass such a course. I am sure that time will tell, but as yet certain people are getting very hot under the collar because a new company has moved into their playing field.

    I believe this can be summed up by the old adage, ‘People in glass houses’.

    • Thursday 21st August 2014 at 9:19 am

      Mr Gardner,

      I do Thank You for your support and very accurate comments however I feel compelled to warn you of the following:

      According to the trolls on GFG, any support whether it be direct or implied for the NFFD will result in you spontaneously combusting and your remains being left to the vultures of the dark world to feast on.

      On the plus side, your loved ones can now find a cheap funeral director in the London area as per his latest blog.

      Good Luck and Farewell Sir!

  2. Monday 11th August 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Are we done?

    Useful and I think necessary to have all this out in the open, unlovely as the debate has been. No mutual respect seems to have resulted. On the contrary, positions have been reinforced and it looks as if trench warfare is the only way forward. In the real world, bereaved people will choose those who can best serve their strong and complex needs and wishes; it is they who will decide the outcome.

  3. James

    Monday 11th August 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Frankly, I’m astonished!! I am looking into general celebrant courses at the moment and stumbled upon this thread and can’t believe what I’m reading.

    I can’t believe a company is being attacked for starting to offer a training course in a field they obviously work within, by, what appears to be, individuals who must have an ulterior motive.

    Having requested one of their prospectus’s and read it carefully, it never states that it’s only a couple of hours work, nor does it imply that you can make an hourly rate of £100? That said, I think getting an actual NOCN qualification is a better route to market than doing it through a trade body but what they offer seems very good.

    It seems they must have contacted funeral directors to offer this service and this is where it states you can earn £200 an hour – Am I correct in thinking this??

    Regardless, I can’t understand why they are being attacked and why it STINKS for them to offer their celebrant training? Would someone enlighten me please why they are getting so much hostility as I am considering applying.

    It seems to me that Mr David Lathem, their MD makes some very valid points about the industry (or some people in the industry) being left in 20th century and not moving with the times.

    Frankly, it’s about time the industry was shook up a little as in my experience, there’s many funeral directors who overcharge, don’t give good service and believe their local community owes them a living!

    Having spent 6 years working for 2 separate funeral directors I have heard some unbelievable statements about how companies in the industry should be run.

    It seems to me that the industry is changing for the better and the old boys network that seemed to exist before is coming to an end.

    Good luck to them!

    • Monday 11th August 2014 at 9:40 pm

      Dear James,

      Usually I’m loathed to respond personally to any comments posted on the, ahem, ‘Good’ Funeral Guide about our Organisation. Call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer to conduct my business, and air any grievances I happen to have, in person, like any civilised, decent-thinking, human being would. In my opinion, that’s the only way to engage in REAL meaningful debate (Charles!).

      However, in this instance, James, I feel compelled to respond, seeing as the last (and only) time someone said something even remotely supportive of our efforts on the Good Funeral Guide, the ever-impartial Mr Cowling intimated (publicly, of course) that it must have been posted by an NFFD stooge. To be fair to Charles, I can see how he arrived at that conclusion given the sheer rarity of the occurrence. But the fact that all it took to arouse his suspicions were the words ‘Good Luck’, surely means your positively brazen declaration of support must surely been seen, in Charles’s eyes, as having all the hallmarks of an classic inside job!

      With this in mind, I’d like to thank you for your kind sentiments, and for your refreshingly reasoned and sensible assessment of what the National Federation of Funeral Directors stands for.

  4. Monday 11th August 2014 at 2:10 pm

    These offerings from NFFD may prove to the benefit of families by their response from the marketplace. We shall see.

    But it’s the shrill tone trumpeting from the very top that chills.

    It would not be possible for me – or any celebrant I use – to knock out a service in 1 – 2 hours and for it to be personal, heartwarming, and unique.
    Eulogy lite is what it would necessarily be.
    I’m afraid I found the incredibly successful TV show self serving and creepy.

    • Monday 11th August 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Glad you watched the show – we go again this Wed, no doubt you’ll find that equally “creepy” –

    • Thursday 14th August 2014 at 10:56 am

      Hi James, Assuming you are ok after another “creepy” show yesterday, it would be great to hear from you!

  5. Monday 11th August 2014 at 11:35 am

    As a funeral director, a course like this isn’t something I would be interested in and nor would I send a bearer or arranger on this course either.
    As I bring the deceased into my care, sort out all the paperwork as well as arrange and conduct the funeral myself, I wouldn’t have the time to spend two days on a course.
    Also, I have found that drivers and bearers don’t want to be that involved with the family. As for arrangers, most see their next career step as being taught how to conduct a funeral rather than take the service.

    There is a reason I use trained celebrants and that is because they are excellent at what they do.
    While training as a celebrant may be another ‘string to my bow’ it doesn’t mean I would be any good at it and just because I have paid, gone on a course and got a certificate, doesn’t conclude that I would be any good taking the service.

    When arranging a funeral, I am very conscious of the families needs. Some want to go through and arrange everything as quickly as possible (some arrangements have taken me just 20 minutes) and some want to spend a long time deliberating over every decision and it has taken over two hours.

    I know where my talents lie. I like to think I am brilliant when dealing with families and reading people. I have excellent drivers and bearers who do a fantastic job and do little things like moving flowers to the correct place at the Crematorium without me asking so I can take care of the family. I have an amazing woman who dresses people for me and takes real care making sure they look as good as they possibly can and an excellent receptionist who sits in my office when I am out on funerals.
    I simply can’t do everything and don’t want to be a ‘jack of all trades, master of none.”

    While the celebrants I use have been trained by two different bodies, I couldn’t be happier with their work. They take so much time and care not only with the families, but also creating the service.

    While I appreciate this is a business (and yes I do own mine) I am also very aware that I am not here to rip anyone off. I want them to feel they had real value for money (and my direct competitors are the countries two largest chain funeral directors and therefore I already charge at least £500 less on my fees as standard anyway).
    People in any industry are experts in their field. I don’t feel that I would be any good as a celebrant and while it may be “incredibly lucrative” for my business, it wouldn’t sit well with me to charge someone £100-£200 per hour for something that I would be completely sub-standard at.

    The NFFD has said it has been asked to provide this course, and if that is the case, why wouldn’t they provide one? If there are funeral directors out there that want to send a driver or arranger on this course, then why wouldn’t they invest in their development?

    There is one point that I just can’t get over though….again, while I appreciate this is a business, there should never be phrases like “incredibly lucrative” associated with my industry.
    When speaking to a family, I don’t “up-sell.” When someone can’t get through the arrangement because they are crying, it doesn’t mean I simply continue to “plough on” to get the information I need because I am charging them a flat fee rather than per hour. When someone has lost their child and asks me to “leave the light on at night for them,” or someone asks me to place their Mother’s favourite photo in her hands, my company ceases to be a business.
    It is about one person genuinely caring for another and wanting to help them as much as possible.

    Phrases like “incredibly lucrative” are exactly why I left multi-million pound national companies and started my own.
    While I may never be a millionaire by not treating my company like a business, I know I have absolutely done the very best for each and every family who has ever asked for my help, and I can go home every day and sleep at night without my conscience keeping me awake.

    • Monday 11th August 2014 at 12:13 pm

      Hi Lucy,

      Firstly, many thanks for offering a well-balanced argument with no hidden agenda.

      The points you make are incredibly fair and represent perfectly one side of the consensus and this is exactly why we offer the service to the alternative thought bearers.

      We try not to generalise as to whether drivers or bearers are capable (or not) of delivering such a service but we ask their employers to make that judgement and either put them on the course or not.

      In terms of being lucrative, an average price of a simple cremation from NFFD members is circa £1800, the national average price for a celebrant and/or minister is £180 so I would say being able to increase your turnover by 10% on every funeral, for two days on a course, is lucrative.

      Thanks again,

      Will

      • Monday 11th August 2014 at 12:59 pm

        I would rather not increase my turnover by 10% and use celebrants who have always provided me and the families I serve with exceptional service.

        Again, I appreciate my company is a business, but believe it or not, it isn’t always about money.

        If someone wants to invest their money in your course above any of the others out there, that is entirely up to them. I have no idea if you are any better or any worse than companies who do the same thing.

        My objection comes from the language used surrounding money and the suggestion that all funeral directors are worried about is their bottom line so by training up a member of staff (irrelevant of their usual job within the company) they can make even more money on each funeral.

        In my opinion ay funeral director company owner, this is actually the last thing they would be thinking about when speaking to a family.

        I have always said that my company is a business and my prices are based on the fact I have bills to pay, but in my first year of trading I have never taken a wage from the company so I can keep my prices as low as possible.
        I don’t have the luxury of coming from a rich family, so like a lot of people who have started their own companies in the last few years, I have a second job.
        I actually work as a bouncer in a local nightclub on the weekends so I don’t have to raise my prices. I currently work between 60-70 hours a week so I don’t have to worry about “increasing my turnover by 10%.”

        I would rather work 80 hours a week in the knowledge that what I charge people is honest, fair and they are having the very best professionals working with them and for them rather than take advantage of them when many are at their lowest ebb.

        Again, knowing I am absolutely doing the right thing does come at a price to me….mainly lack of sleep, but it never comes at the cost of the family.

        • x.piry

          Monday 11th August 2014 at 5:15 pm

          Lucy, you sound like a great gal.

          From the outside your workload sounds a little unsustainable, but only you know how long you expect to be doing both jobs and you are best placed to judge what is right for you.

          If I were in the same area as you, I would be honoured to work as a celebrant for you. (And BTW, I charge nowhere near £180!)

          More power to you x

  6. Michael Jarvis

    Monday 11th August 2014 at 11:06 am

    It’s worth considering what a member of the general public with no working connection to the funeral trade would make of all of this. There are sufficient advertisements to make them aware of rising funeral costs, and whilst it may be true that many seek provision using the qualifier ‘cheap’, all would surely accept that any costs will have a profit element built in to ensure the continuity of the business.

    There is a well-documented rise in direct cremations. If we leave that segment on one side and concentrate on those families who want a funeral ceremony, then it’s fair to say that they will all aspire to something appropriate and meaningful. That might entail the local priest using the Order for the Burial of the Dead (or variations thereon) but, as we all know, the increasing secularisation of society in this country has given rise to an exponential rise in non-religious ceremonies. Would our hypothetical Joe or Janet Public care who the celebrant was? Not per se they wouldn’t. They would care about their competence though. If they have had the patience to work their way through this thread then in all probability they will be shaking their heads and asking for some tangible evidence by accreditation that Mr/Mrs/Ms Celebrant is suitably qualified. Unfortunately the rise in the number of celebrants has been matched by any number of celebrant trainers some of whom clearly see the chance of a ‘nice little earner’.

    It might be difficult to bring about regulation, but surely it is desirable?

    • Monday 11th August 2014 at 11:31 am

      An interesting point Michael –

      As you will have seen, our prices are very competitive and are designed to cover the cost of the trainers (and their accommodation etc), the venue and the learning material – also the refreshments we provide.

      If it is a crime to have a business that offers a decent, honest and open service whilst turning a small profit, then I suggest you haul me away now –

      As for Joe public, we respect greatly their opinion and understand that some will want a full accredited celebrant. With that said, can you provide me the details of how many “civilians” you know of that have asked their celebrant for certification of ability? This would go a long way into helping us improve our services even more 🙂

      • Michael Jarvis

        Monday 11th August 2014 at 12:45 pm

        You have slightly missed the point of my argument: While I have certainly come across people who wanted to be sure that a given, suggested, celebrant was properly trained and experienced that wasn’t the point I was making. It seems to me that any ‘civilian’ having read this thread would be quite likely to query the nature and quality of the training organisation.

        I am in the fortunate position of being able to express an opinion; no more, no less. I’m not in the business of ‘hauling people away’.

        • Monday 11th August 2014 at 3:17 pm

          And opinion is most welcome, Michael. One thing we do share however is the need for regulation across the funeral industry. From plans to fees and everything in between, we at NFFD would welcome ANY regulation in the industry however unlikely that is to occur.

  7. Monday 11th August 2014 at 10:43 am

    Mr Eccleston, thank you for clearing up that query about the link between Alliance Funeral Care, SafeHands and the NFFD. A question I am often asked is whether this is the same Alliance Funeral Care registered at Companies House as Company No. 08160574 and currently listed as dissolved?

    Another opportunity for you to wash some clean linen in public.

    • Monday 11th August 2014 at 11:02 am

      I would usually suggest you ask them – but as i’m in the mood, Alliance Funeral Care – Company No. 08160574 was the original company which branched out over several locations, the existing AFC is Company Number: 07966492 – Part of the new Funeral Alliance, Company Number: 08870442 – .

  8. x.piry

    Monday 11th August 2014 at 9:02 am

    Wading in (sorry I’m late – painting a house yesterday)

    Well, what an interesting post and set of comments.

    Like other celebrants here, I am concerned about the “2-3” hours work aspect.

    IF we accept Mr Eccleston’s suggestion that the Funeral Director has already spent time with the family, presumably that would be to make practical/ logistical arrangements as much as go through content. Would the FD (or the family, for that matter) also want to go through the info required for any eulogy or tribute at the same time?

    Maybe I take too long to put a ceremony together, but on average, the meeting is 1.5 – 2.5 hours, the writing is 2-2.5 hours (especially if sourcing poems or readings on usually hobbies etc), then there are the emails and phone calls (if the family wants to read the eulogy before the day, for example, or change details of speakers and music).

    There is the checking, the reading aloud to make sure it flows properly, the preparation of a nicely printed copy to give to the family after the ceremony, the arriving early at the crem to make sure the music is all okay, the delivery of the funeral itself, including the last minute (“oh, can uncle Arthur speak for ten minutes” that you occasionally get asked at the chapel door), and then the hand shaking afterwards.

    If one is acting as FD and celebrant at the same time (and not all would want to, if my unscientific straw poll is any gauge), then some of these tasks overlap with other duties, but not all, and certainly not the writing etc.

    Greater transparency and efficiency in the industry? All for it.
    Increasing profits? Sure,, we’ve all got to eat.
    Taking less time than is needed? Nah, not for me thanks.

    Love and peace to all.

    • Monday 11th August 2014 at 9:22 am

      Thanks X –

      Firstly it’s nice to have a sensible and fair comment for once –

      When brining the course together and constructing it’s content, we spent many weeks in meetings, attending services and visiting families alongside celebrants (and ministers) in order to make sure that we were offering a course that is reflective of the work involved –

      I am pleased that you have mentioned your total time spent constructing a funeral could be up to 5 hours or more – One person yesterday suggested a minimum of 12 hours – what we have here is a clear indication that there is no hard and fast rule, that celebrants work differently and to, what appears to be, hugely differing timing schedules.

      Again, division of opinion is fully accepted and we welcome any constructive feedback –

  9. Monday 11th August 2014 at 8:57 am

    Hi Charles
    Thanks for sending me this. I am already in correspondence with David Latham about how appalled I am, and from our own celebrants the response has been similar, that NFFD believe they can train someone (bearers and drivers don’t tend to have much real contact with bereaved families) in 2 days and encourage them to spend just 1-2 hours on a funeral so they can make £100-£200 per hour. And then to claim this will save families money. Durrr! I don’t need to add to that – the grave is being deeply dug by themselves.

    • Monday 11th August 2014 at 9:09 am

      Thanks Simon,

      We noted your email to David. And thanks to Charles for sending this out to drum up support –

      We are in the business where the art digging graves is accepted, having the balls to then hover above the open grave in order to provide an alternative service should be commended and not lambasted.

      In none of our statements here, or otherwise, have we suggested that everyone has to agree with us. We offer something that has been askd for and have many uptakers – hardly a crime.

      But good on you for giving it a go!

  10. Sunday 10th August 2014 at 11:34 pm

    Mr Eccleston, you say “ask away”. Here goes:

    In terms of governance and financial structuring, what is the relationship between the NFFD, SafeHands and Alliance Funeral Care?

    I have more questions to follow.

    • Monday 11th August 2014 at 8:56 am

      As you, and everybody knows, Alliance Funeral Care were one of the founding members of NFFD. Essentially they came into a new area and faced rather tough reactions from the existing FD in the town and turned to NAFD and SAIF for membership and assistance. Neither trade body were interested in accepting membership. The Guys at Alliance Funeral Care decided to set up their own trade body to look after new funeral directors, The NFFD was born. These days, the businesses run completely independantly of one another and AFC are simply a member of our club if you like. SafeHands has no relationship with the NFFD other than they use NFFD as their sole vehicle to get funeral plans a) to market and b) to be accepted by funeral directors (we currently have the highest first time acceptance rate out of all the funeral plan providers so must be doing something right) – Safe Hands rent a small office from Alliance Funeral Care at one of their offices in Featherstone as they have had to significantly grow their admin team following a huge upturn in plan sales – probably on the basis that they offer the best price to the consumer, funeral director and introducer alike.

      Other than that, there is no Directorial, Financial or Governing connection between the three businesses.

  11. Sunday 10th August 2014 at 8:09 pm

    I can’t help but notice David Latham’s response has not been shown! GFG, the personification of integrity and freedom of speech – laughable at best!

    For those who are interested, we will respond via other mediums if the latest response is not allowed to be made available for the 5 readers of GFG.

    • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 9:17 pm

      Calm down, Mr Eccleston. Mr Latham’s comment went into my spam folder because of its hyperlinks. I have just seen it and elevated it from junk status.

      • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 9:24 pm

        Last week’s readership of the GFG was 10,204 — average for a quiet week when fewer people are dying and many of those who work in the industry are on holiday. It may interest you to know that readership of of this blog post and the comments beneath it are particularly high today. Can’t give you an exact figure, but you’ll be aware of increased traffic.

        • Monday 11th August 2014 at 2:41 pm

          Indeed we are Charles, our Celebrant training has risen to page one of google almost overnight – bravo!

  12. Sunday 10th August 2014 at 7:39 pm

    On behalf of everyone here at the National Federation of Funeral Directors, I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all commentators for showing such a keen interest in our organisation and its activities. I can see that my colleague and friend, Will Eccleston, is performing a sterling job in instilling some perspective in the minds of the many GFC ‘disciples’ who all-too-readily turn to the wayward compass of self-appointed Judge, Jury, and Executioner – the esteemed Charles Cowling – for moral guidance whenever someone with ambition and foresight has the temerity to exercise their right to use it.

    William, I know, has more than enough wit, intelligence, and ammunition to dismantle any of the individual points made, so I’ll leave the minor ‘skirmishes’ to him if he considers them worthy of attention. However, in my capacity as Managing Director of the NFFD, I feel it appropriate that I formally set out our vision in the express hope it finally eliminates these perpetual (and, yes, franky boring) misunderstandings amongst GFC followers about why we’re here and what we’re all about. If you’re a funeral director, then I suggest you read on with interest, because a lot of what I’m about to say WILL affect you and your business.

    Formed a couple of years ago by a group of new, ambitious, and forward-thinking funeral directors whose modern approach and highly-competitive pricing saw them stonewalled by the wider industry ‘community’, the NFFD’s aims from the outset have been to aid and encourage new business, promote transparency, increase value for money, and streamline working practices – all of which will ultimately benefit the industry and the consumer in equal measure. We believe that if the sector is to survive and prosper, then new firms, concepts, and ways of working should be embraced – not derided and dismissed. Here at the NFFD, we’re under no illusion that a certain proportion of funeral directors will always hate us. But we make no apologies for being brave enough to turn the mirror on the industry and expose one or two rather uncomfortable home-truths.

    Contrary to what our detractors (Charles Cowling amongst them) would have everyone believe, we’re not a rag-tag bunch of militant anarchists or some underground guerrilla movement out to cause trouble. What we are is a ‘federation’ of honest, conscientious and ambitious businesspeople, all of whom hold an unshakable conviction that the key to success in this increasingly congested and confused marketplace, is to ignore old industry myths and misnomers that rather sanctimoniously say you shouldn’t enthusiastically advertise, that good quality service only ever comes with years of experience (not to mention a hefty price-tag), or that it is somehow ethically wrong to seek more profitable ways to do business (even though, by doing things the NFFD way, the all-important customer always pays less, for more, in the end)

    The NFFD was originally conceived as a non-profit making organisation, there purely so that others breaking into this mysterious and generally hostile industry could find the help and support too often denied to newcomers by some of the longer-established trade bodies. But over the last 12 months, what we have been delighted to discover (and only too keen to embrace), is the commercial value in our organisation. Of course, on our most basic level we’re still here to provide funeral directors with support, advice, and unlimited access to an entire suite of practical and useful business tools and services (for which we charge just £25 a month, by the way). But now we also have numerous other interests and concerns – all funeral industry related, all completely transparent, all ethical, all profitable, all revolutionary, all exciting, but most importantly – all of which have been designed and conceived to better serve the industry and its consumers.

    With our intimate knowledge of the funeral industry and our ability to identify and exploit commercial opportunities within it that less-astute operators frequently miss (or feel it is safer to ignore) the NFFD has been pivotal to the growth of a host of successful funeral-related companies and ventures – all of which owe their incredible success to the combined virtues of hard work, honest commerce, vision, ambition, conviction, bravery, and an all-important belief in the age-old (but seemingly forgotten) tenet – GIVE THE CUSTOMER WHAT THEY WANT, AT A PRICE THEY CAN AFFORD!

    So what are the NFFD’s successes, and how does everyone benefit?

    Since the start of the year, the NFFD’s input and direction has been instrumental to SafeHands Funeral Plans becoming the UK’s fastest-growing pre-paid funeral plan provider. By carefully monitoring the funeral plan market and scrutinising the business models of competitors for deficiencies, we helped the company devise newer, smarter, more-transparent, ways to operate. This included taking the brave and revolutionary step of becoming the first funeral plan provider to advertise its products on national television. The show, which aired in July on the Sky TV channel, Ideal Homes, was an unimaginable success. And by re-investing the revenue it generated, we have now commissioned a series of subsequent programmes – starting at 2pm on Wednesday 13th August with a special hour-long live feature. By engaging with the NFFD and acting on our advice, not only is SafeHands acknowledged to be the UK’s most-affordable funeral plan provider (meaning the customer pays less), but by charging the funeral director an admin fee of just 1% (instead of the 15 – 25% some other companies charge) he receives far more in his pocket than he otherwise might. There are further benefits, too. SafeHands’ ability to keep their prices so low is due, in part, to the fact they do not employ a dedicated, in-house, sales force. Instead, using the NFFD as a vehicle, they have engaged with, and in many cases, trained, a national network of almost 500 will writers and estate planners to promote their product as part of their normal course of business. Consequently, SafeHands’ funeral plans are sold much more ‘softly’ than those from some other providers, again benefitting the consumer by making the buying experience less stressful, pressured, and invasive. SafeHands also take great care to explain to their clients that whilst they can nominate a preferred funeral director, if, at the time of death, that funeral director is for any reason unwilling or unable to undertake the service, that it will instead be assigned to an alternative, reputable, firm in the local vicinity (preferably, but not necessarily, one that is a Member of the NFFD). By assigning plans to funeral directors at the point of death rather than when they are first written, and by ensuring the sums paid out to the director are at least equal to those offered by the competition, SafeHands now enjoys a first-time acceptance rate of 99% – dispelling the convenient and disingenuously-propagated myth that people shouldn’t buy funeral plans that aren’t allocated to a director in advance of the client’s death. We are also sometimes asked why SafeHands Funeral Plans is not endorsed by the Funeral Planning Authority. Our answer is simple, logical, and unequivocal:

    Despite the FPAs claim that it is “staunchly independent and impartial in all its dealings”, due-diligence reveals clear conflicts of interest between members of FPA’s executive board and members of the boards of the funeral plan companies that the FPA currently endorses. Also, because the FPA (just like the NFFD) is a self-regulatory body there is no obligation, legal or otherwise, for any funeral plan company to be FPA registered. Lastly, though the NFFD and SafeHands recognises there is some merit to FPA registration as a means of providing consumers with ready confirmation that a funeral plan company adheres to a certain set of standards and values, given SafeHands is a professionally run and managed organisation, they feel perfectly capable of demonstrating their adherence to those same standards and values themselves, without having to resort to 3rd party assistance.

    2014 has also seen the successful launch of the Funeral Directors Register (www.funeraldirectorsregister.com). On a basic level, it is a simple public information service to help people to find the best and most-affordable funeral services in their local areas. However, in order to explain the FDR’s enormous value to you as a funeral director, and why it’s so incredibly important that you claim your company’s listing on the site, I must first explain the reasons behind its conception…

    Historically, the funeral industry, to outsiders at least, has always been shrouded in mystery and intrigue. A closed-shop, an institution…call it what you will. Until very recently, there was an almost universal tradition amongst UK families for automatically turning to the same undertaker whenever there was a funeral to arrange. The roots of this tradition can of course be traced back to a time when most communities were served by just one or two local firms. With relationships between families and funeral directors spanning multiple generations, the sense of faith and trust that people felt in their regular undertaker, combined with the lack of alternative choice, meant that nobody even thought to shop around…they certainly never thought to question the cost!

    But what every funeral director today needs to understand, accept, and prepare for, is that those days will very soon be consigned to ancient history. And if you can’t accept that, then forgive my bluntness, but your future in the industry is bleak. Don’t believe me? Well consider this…

    Go back 10 years and less than 2% of consumers would look online to find a funeral director. Today, that figure is more like 50%! And which search words do you think it is that are most commonly used? ‘Reliable funeral directors’? ‘Trustworthy funeral directors’? ‘Dependable funeral directors’? ‘Traditional funeral directors’? No! The most commonly used Google search word with respect to funeral directors, is ‘CHEAP’!

    Unfortunately, many long-serving funeral directors have been too slow to react to the simple fact that your modern, working class, cost-conscious, computer-savvy, consumer can not, should not, and will not be remotely likely to spend four or five grand for a funeral from a so-called ‘family firm’, when a quick search on Google reveals a whole host of alternatives all charging around £500 plus disbursements.

    Like it or not, the internet has completely revolutionised commerce and the way business is won, not just in the funeral trade, but in every other sector of industry, too. Every TV ad break seems to feature a price comparison or review site of one type or another. Hotels, restaurants, home and car insurance, holidays, even fast-food joints and takeaways. But, strangely, given you only get one chance to get a funeral right, until the launch of the NFFD’s Funeral Directors Register (www.funeraldirectorsregister.com), there wasn’t a single site where people could search for reputable, affordable, funeral directors, and base their choices on consumer ratings, feedback, and reviews. Already receiving thousands of hits every month, and on Page 1 of Google results in most areas for searches relating to cheap or affordable funerals, there are currently over 3000 firms now featured on the Funeral Directors Register, so you’ll probably find yours on there, too. If you do, and you’d like to change the generic ‘filler text’ that currently populates your page, then it’s vital you claim your company’s listing. Once the listing is claimed, we will provide you with access to your page so you can personalise it as you see fit. It is also important you encourage your clients to visit the site to post positive reviews and rate your standards of service. Our site administrators take great care to screen all reviews for authenticity, and funeral directors are always notified, and given ample opportunity to address any grievances, prior to us publishing unfavourable comments. If you cannot find your company’s entry on the site, then please contact us at info@nffd.co.uk and we’ll happily make sure it gets featured.

    The NFFD’s latest project is the re-launch of Interest Free Memorials – the UK’s ONLY provider of 0% and low-interest finance for headstones and other commemorative products. Using the services of a talented Master Stonemason, Interest Free Memorials are able to produce, deliver, and install any commemorative stone or plague anywhere in the country. Again, by ignoring perceived ‘wisdom’, (which in this case states you can’t sell headstones on credit) we are now able to say we’re the ONLY nationwide company to offer people on limited budgets and who are affected by the loss of a loved-one, access to commemorative products they otherwise couldn’t possibly afford. But best of all, because NFFD Member funeral directors who refer IFM customers also receive commission to the tune of 20% of the total cost of the order, once again, everybody – the funeral director, the stonemason, the NFFD, but most importantly of all, the customer – WINS!

    Our business interests also extend to Funeralstore (www.funeralstore.co.uk) – the UK’s leading provider of heavily discounted funeral and mortuary equipment. By taking advantage of our industry contacts and our acute commercial awareness, Funeralstore now offer the full range of products, from body-bags (£2 each to NFFD Members) all the way up to 6-man fridges and everything in between. NFFD members are also eligible to claim a further 10% discount on all products featured, meaning it’s surely worth paying the NFFD’s monthly membership for this particular service alone!

    Members also enjoy unlimited use of our bespoke Funeral Management System. Unlike many similar software products, the NFFD’s system is functional, useful, and incredibly simple to use. If you have a number of funerals to organise, and all are at different stages, our Funeral Management System allows you to quickly, easily, efficiently, and cheaply, keep track of all the arrangements. Particularly useful is its facility to automatically generate bills and invoices.

    Our Member benefits don’t stop there, either. We also own and operate the http://www.candlememorials.com. This ingenious facility, just like all the NFFD’s products and services, has many benefits for both funeral directors and consumers alike. From the consumer’s point of view, it provides a means where people who have lost a loved-one can leave a lasting tribute in memorandum of a lost loved-one. It works by funeral directors handing out special cards at a suitable point following a funeral, inviting mourners to visit their company website, through which they can access the Candle Memorials page to leave a personal tribute in memorandum of the deceased. Tributes can be viewed by everyone who attended the funeral and/or who knew the deceased, and also shared via Facebook and all other forms of social media. Of course the aim, from the funeral director’s commercial point of view, is to drive more traffic to his website, studies in the US (where this concept was born) have proven that this subtle and ‘subversive’ style of marketing funeral services is much more effective, and much more in tune with consumers’ sensibilities, than a business card thrust tactlessly into a hand.

    Though I’m confident I have captured the most pertinent and important features of the NFFD and our services, we are continually striving to find new and innovative ways to improve the industry for everyone who comes in to contact with it. And let’s face it, that’s each and every damned one of us!
    We’d love more support in our quest, but we’re also realistic enough to know that some people (usually ones who are slightly less-scrupulous than they’d perhaps be prepared to admit) see change and new ideas as a threat…as something to fear. To be honest, if that’s you, then thanks for reading, and good luck.

    Yours sincerely,

    David Latham
    Managing Director

    • The Real Radical Front for Liberated Anarchist Celebundertakers

      Sunday 10th August 2014 at 9:32 pm

      Bored and filibustered to death. Bravo snore.

    • TonyB

      Wednesday 13th August 2014 at 7:50 am

      “2014 has also seen the successful launch of the Funeral Directors Register (www.funeraldirectorsregister.com). On a basic level, it is a simple public information service to help people to find the best and most-affordable funeral services in their local areas.”. For Twickenham you list seven FDs, several actually in Whitton which is a separate community, and the list gives no indication that three of them are Dignity outlets (‘affordable’?) and the two Andrew Holmes branches, are I think, are owned by Funeralcare. Meanwhile Lodge Bros (who in the past have always seemed to me to do an excellent job when I have been at a funeral they are responsible for) Twickenham doesn’t get a mention. If the aim of the list is to help people it fails lamentably IMO.

      • Thursday 14th August 2014 at 1:03 pm

        Thanks Tony for reiterating a point made on the BFG months ago – nice to see you are on the ball – Our response now is the same as it was then. Any funeral directors not on there can easily email us and add themselves. maybe time would be better spent doing that than moaning about not being on? Just a thought

  13. Sunday 10th August 2014 at 9:56 am

    Yawn!

    Yet another flurry of funeral directors jumping at the chance to join your proverbial band-wagon Charles I see.

    What is again interesting, and somewhat laughable, is the GFG’s continual poor journalistic tendencies. Write first, await reaction, ask later…. Something tells me that there is nothing else to write about……

    Ignoring the other NINE firms who have been offering these 3 day courses for many years, it makes me wonder what else is going on in the industry that the stalwarts have not yet picked up on.

    The NFFD have been asked by many FD’s (some even not NFFD members) whether we could do training like this. I guess the fact that most of our courses are fully booked up and paid for is lost on the painful minority that read this blog?

    I couldn’t help but notice a lack of blog about the NFFD’s first live TV appearence – I guess maybe there was little to lambast on that occasion!

    In what has proven to have had the complete opposite effect in antagonising the NFFD, I do hope that you can continue to publish your dreadfully out of touch posts for your 3-5 regulars to comment on!

    For people who claim to be industry experts and astute writers, your powers of reading between the lines in order to create scenarios that don’t exist is nothing short of Harry-potteresque wazardry!

    I do however applaud your latest attempt to bring the NFFD into disrepute and Thank you for AGAIN bringing us to the mind of the industry (assuming you have more readers than comment makers that is)

    What I would say to anyone still reading is rather than post in the privicy and security of the GFN, have the decency to pick up the phone or email direct with any concerns as you will find all of your issues are resolved and you can go back to waiting for the next comical blog/rant/witchhunt etc….

    Yours Still Bored,

    Will
    01937 919045
    07707 918768
    Will@nffd.co.uk

    • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 11:04 am

      Mr Eccleston, I have been aware of the NFFD celebrant training course since you announced it on your website. In my own judgement it was a non-event. But because the GFG is a forum for public debate where many may evaluate conflicting arguments, I responded, a little wearily, it has to be conceded, to the requests of the many people who contacted me to open the matter for discussion. The GFG does not break stories. You broke this one yourselves. My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that, like your big announcement here a while back, it speaks for itself. I am perfectly happy for the market to be the final arbiter. I do not express any concerns in the blog post above. Why, then, would I have wanted to ring you privately? I have not incited the responses you have read; they are responses to what you, yourselves, have written, especially in the email you sent a few days ago. Why make private something you have made public?

      You have to opportunity here to address the concerns of those who question your training course. Rather than respond with a yawn, I’d have thought you’d be pleased to rise to the occasion. This is your chance to make friends of enemies, to demonstrate your good faith and offer reassurance. Be grateful.

      • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 12:15 pm

        As you well know Charles, the yawn was aimed at the comments. I’m all for decent debate but the blog, no matter how “on the fence” your good nature intended it to be, isn’t at all representative of the news I broke about the courses.

        Surely a discussion on the take up, opinion and need for such a course would have fuelled a much more exciting blog!

        It does bore me that people (many of whom are anonymous or unidentifiable) have nothing better to do than comment without substance.

        My responses to two of the comments were fair and justifiable and therefore I don’t see that I haven’t engaged in the spirit of good, honest debate – despite my serious tone.

        I notice you have still failed to commend us on our TV show – is that because the months of due dilligence from the TV network have obviously silenced ALL of your previous blogs and respective commentors? Wouldn’t be my place to suggest that however –

        Ratherr commically, everything we do in NFFD is in response to demand as we are here for the future of the industry – not the traditional past!

        I am a tad disappointed however, with your sudden and rather substance lacking response – maybe you are more suited to Westinster than Funerals.

        We’re not here to friend enemies, that’s their prerogative to remain against change or move with the industry and if and when they do, my door is open. Similarly, I have no time nor inclination to pacify those who feel that bringing the NFFD down on GFG will have ANY impact on the way we do our business.
        Research would highlight that we are the fastest growing trade association in UK, offering the leading seller in funeral plans working with the largest network of will writers, IFA’s Accountants and solicitors and that is DESPITE your 3-5 regular readers disapproving with what we do (or more to the point how we do it) without engaging with fact!

        My invitation for communication was for any potential comment-maker and not from yourself as I love the exposure you give us time and time again.

        Good, bad or indifferent, the only time I would worry is if nobody was talking about us.

        • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 1:35 pm

          William

          1. I linked to the TV programme in the blog above. Can you give us the viewing figures, please?

          2. You claim to be fast-growing but there are FDs listed on your map who have asked to be removed without success. I know; I’ve checked. How many paid-up FD members do you have?

          3. Your combative responses seem to be designed to alienate friends and naff people off. Odd diplomacy, I’d have thought.

          I’ve got other questions I’d like to ask you, by the way.

          • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 2:41 pm

            1) Viewing figures is not something I have but we had over 200 calls in the hour to purchase SafeHands Funeral plans. As a result, we have been invited back at least every month for the next 12 months in an exclusive deal.

            2) Firstly please indicate who is on the map that shouldn’t be – as for paying members, this number is growing on a daily basis and you would need to speak to the guy in charge of FD’s for current figures.

            3) My responses my seem combative and justified as we seem to be continuously forced to defend ourselves against you and your followers. The blog you have written is FAR from impartial as you well know. You have a lady using deceased infants to push a point and another acting as an IFA.

            We, and certainly I, will always divide opinion but don’t think for one minute that this approach will change as sometimes, in order to force change in an industry set against it, you have to be tough.

            Interestingly, the only negative vibes we seem to get are driven from here. I have little interest in creating “friends” through work, my job is to provide funeral directors tangible resources whilst ensuring consumers get a fair price and I am quite happy with the network I already have and am in no doubt that this will continue to grow without the need for me to go out of my way just to please folk.

            What you are searching for is something you won’t find with me! If you are scared of straight talking, no nonsense business then you’re duelling with the wrong fella!

            I’ll drop you an email after a meeting I’m having next week and we’ll see if the tune has changed.

            Finally, ask away –

    • Michael Jarvis

      Sunday 10th August 2014 at 12:05 pm

      I hope that Mr Eccleston may permit me to make a small, but nonetheless charitable suggestion.

      Having read his piece I do not feel that he should engage in any form of instruction which involves the use of the English language without first taking a refresher course himself in that subject.

      • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 12:20 pm

        With the risk of failing to lighten the mood, I shall refrain from attempting to justify my mistakes by suggesting mistakes are to appear more personable!

        Apologies Michael, I am clealry uneducated!

    • Jonathan

      Sunday 10th August 2014 at 8:23 pm

      Mr Eccleston,

      If you really felt the contempt that you protest for this blog and us three to five commenters, why would you have wasted your time in contributing two-fifths of the comments, and in such an apparently belligerent and defensive tone?

      Tell me this, please: if your own baby were to be run over by a bus and die in hospital, and you were presented with such an offensive attitude from a funeral celebrant as you can go back and read for yourself in your own comments, would you be pleased to pay several hundred pounds to engage him to commemorate her at her funeral?

      Jonathan Taylor
      funeral arranger and celebrant

      • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 8:40 pm

        Mr Taylor, firstly the fact that I have contributed almost half of the comments further proves my point.

        Which celebrant offered such an offensive tone?

        You have made 2 points, barely, neither of which make sense.

        It’s very easy to suggest that my wording is defensive but if YOU were to actually read it, all I have done is respond to more ridiculous comments and being matter of fact and straight to the point eliminates any uncertainty over my stance.

        The reason I, and the NFFD continue to respond is that this site continues to try, albeit poorly, to discredit our organisation. A fitting point is that my MD, David Latham has replied in great detail. It appeared and disappeared almost instantly – and you wonder why we moan –

        We can almost guarentee that yourself and the chap from Kingfisher Funerals will comment on every NFFD related post.

        Again, there is plenty of opportunity to speak to me directly buy, like the others, you hide on here! Is it because there is no tangible argument? Wouldn’t be for me to say!

        • Jonathan

          Sunday 10th August 2014 at 9:00 pm

          You make my point for me, Mr Eccleston: you just don’t know how to stop, do you!

  14. Quokkagirl

    Sunday 10th August 2014 at 7:06 am

    Lol indeed (allegedly).

    Silly me to have spent my hard earned cash to train with an externally accredited training organisation. I could have learned so much more on this NFFD course – like how to earn £200 an hour and to do a ceremony in a couple of hours. So a funeral which takes two hours to construct (and perform) will, according to this blurb, pay me £400? What a fool I’ve been all these years. The baby funeral I am about to perform, which has so far taken me 12 hours and has yet to be performed, will be very lucrative then……I’ll be quids in.

    Oh, and while I was speaking to the bereft family about their dead baby, perhaps I should have been selling them a funeral plan – for the next time presumably? After all, this celebrant is going to cost them a lot of money at £200 an hour.

    • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 10:53 am

      Assuming you are a real person, Quok, then the points you make are concerning. For a start, you clearly know exactly what is on offer and haven’t just replied to the blog so therefore know that this course is for funeral directors who ALREADY spend hours with families and could easily construct a funeral in the time.

      If indeed you have attended an externally accredited course that lasted significantly longer than ours, how about you come on one of our courses, for free, and make a list of everything missed?

      I’m almost 100% sure that the poor family of the deceased baby you mention are quite thrilled with your attempt to utilise the passing of one so small to prove a point on the internet. Having lost a child myself, I don’t see this tactic as being professional or caring in the slightest and not only seriously suggest you should consider your future content when spouting but would not have wanted you anywhere near my baby’s funeral – poor show

      Finally, we have many celebrants who recommend pre paid funeral plans as quite often, it is them who their local community approach in the first instance.

      Enjoy your Sunday

      • Vale

        Sunday 10th August 2014 at 3:24 pm

        It’s good that you are so actively involved in these comments Mr Eccleston – it’s a welcome chance to get some clarification from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
        I was working my way through your prospectus to try to understand how, on your model, you think it might all work – because there are some big claims in there. Like the suggestion that the work might be worth £100/ £200 per hour.
        If I understand your response to Quokkagirl though, your figures are based on the time that is already spent with families (and already charged for as part of the professional fees for the funeral), yet the charge for celebrancy will be additional and no less than if an external celebrant was retained?
        That would make sense if so – although I do wonder if any of your industry contacts have suggested it might be tending to the exploitative given that many of the overheads an independent celebrant carries and which goes into their fee, would not be incurred by an internal member of staff.
        There are risks too, aren’t there? Taking part in the arrangement meetings are one thing – and can take quite a time in themselves – but it isn’t clear to me that you’ve factored the time taken to write the service into your total, unless you are assuming something fairly standardised will be used.
        And then there is the chance that there will need to be changes, late additions, new family speakers and so on – all to be managed, all needing a thoughtful, caring response and all tending to reduce that hourly rate.
        It would be good in this context to have your view on how long you think an average ceremony will take to prepare, write and deliver.
        On top of that, if it is a bearer, driver or arranger taking the role on, let alone a funeral director, who will be doing their job, while they are celebranting? What’s your view on this? Will the additional earnings justify the cover a business will need?
        It would be good to know too, at which point in this process you feel would be the right time to open the subject of future provision for family members?
        I am not asking these questions frivolously. As a celebrant I have valued this blog because it was one of the first to start to champion the development of innovation and best practice in the new secular celebrancy. I think that what we are doing is both responding to people’s needs and making something new. It is so important for both the families who call us and for us practitioners that the highest standards are promoted.
        Unfortunately there are trainers out there who are less altruistic. They are often distinguished by over-commercialism and unrealistic promises in their promotional material. Some have even shown a tendency to present celebrancy as a chance to make something of a killing. All very opportunist, unfortunately.
        As you say, though, you are an industry body responding to industry demand, It would be good to be reassured that the your own model of training, lower cost and shorter than many is both realistically based and aimed primarily at promoting the best possible support for families rather than the advantage of the industry.

  15. Saturday 9th August 2014 at 9:52 pm

    WOW! I know I couldn’t craft a ceremony in 1-2 hours as a celebrant – my visit with the family would be at least 2 hours, before I even started co-ordinating all the information and writing. Maybe the OCN accredited course I attended with the IOCF wasn’t such a comprehensive one? It was longer than two days though….I wish I earned £100-£200 an hour – that would be extraordinarily lucrative. I wouldn’t feel comfortable selling funeral plans as a celebrant. I usually suggest people put their funeral money in an ISA for safekeeping.

    • Sunday 10th August 2014 at 10:57 am

      Evelyn,

      I extend my invitation to join us on a course to you to put some fact and substance behind your comments.

      I assume you are a qualified IFA too? If not, offering people who trust you financial advice, especially very poor advice as ISA’s are amoungst the least well performing financial investments available, isn’t in the spirit of being a celebrant!

      Food for thought!

      • Evelyn

        Sunday 10th August 2014 at 3:25 pm

        Thank you, I will consider your kind offer.
        For the record, I don’t profess to be an IFA, just an ordinary person who often deals with families on very low incomes. Several have asked me if I provide plans (in my role as a new FD) and I say that they should seek professional advice, but my personal preference would be an ISA. No saving schemes are offering very good returns at the moment, and at least in an ISA a family could get it out to use in an emergency should the need arise.

        I meet families whose parents bought a so called ‘inflation proof’ funeral plan in the past only to be told it doesn’t now cover the cost of say a celebrant, or include a limo, or order of service sheets, or a time of their choice for the funeral…. There are some very bad eggs out there.

  16. Saturday 9th August 2014 at 7:47 pm

    LOL (allegedly)

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