An open letter to the National Association of Funeral Directors

Fran Hall

This afternoon an e-mail was sent to all members of the National Association of Funeral Directors announcing that Mandie Lavin, the CEO appointed just under 15 months ago, is no longer employed by the Association.

No explanation has been given for her abrupt departure, but as the current President steps in to take the reins of the ‘Voice of the Profession’, we have received a guest post from Louise Winter, a progressive funeral director in London, in which she puts forward some thoughts that the organisation might like to consider as they look to the future.

 

 

An Open Letter to the NAFD
Dear National Association of Funeral Directors,

In light of the sudden change in leadership at the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) which was announced today, and as the leading trade association representing the funeral profession in the UK, there are a few considerations I’d like you to make when debating the future of your organisation and appointing your next CEO.

Funerals are important.  A good funeral can be profound and transformational in helping to acknowledge and accept that someone has died.  As the homepage of your website points out, ‘funerals matter’.

With this in mind, please consider the following:

  1. To introduce an underlying commitment to better serve the needs of the bereaved public and to make this the determining factor in any decision that is made.
  2. To become a force to be reckoned with, representing both traditional, modern and progressive funeral directors, corporates and independents.
  3. To be seen as universal – as interested in the smallest independent funeral directors as the needs of the biggest corporate firms.
  4. To share best practice and encourage collaboration for the sake of the future of the funeral profession.
  5. To offer modern, useful and thorough training to develop the next generation of the funeral profession.
  6. To improve the reputation of the funeral industry in the interest of making funerals a desirable career path for the brightest employees of tomorrow.
  7. To behave as a forward-thinking organisation that helps funeral directors to prepare for the market of tomorrow, where complacency and arrogance is not encouraged.
  8. To take immediate, effective and decisive action over those funeral directors who do a disservice to the funeral profession by behaving in an unprofessional manner.
  9. To not just encourage complete transparency regarding prices, but to make it a requirement of membership.
  10. To provide a clear and transparent procedure to allow complaints to be dealt with in a professional, unbiased and effective manner.
  11. To employ a diverse workforce of thought leaders who are enacting actual change.
  12. To be at the forefront of leading this change whilst retaining the values of the past.
  13. To be responsible for creating a network of funeral directors of which the UK can be proud.
  14. To value integrity, openness, honesty and transparency in all matters.

I hope that the NAFD will be the change we need to see in the funeral profession and wish you all the best in the appointment of a new CEO.

Yours,

Louise Winter

 

Louise Winter
Progressive Funeral Director
Director of Life. Death. Whatever.
Proud member of the Good Funeral Guild
Not a member of the NAFD

20 thoughts on “An open letter to the National Association of Funeral Directors

  1. Fran Hall
    Mary

    Sorry if my post below sounds irrelevant but, what I was trying to say, was that while all these funeral trade associations and their members continue to turn a blind eye to stuff like the example I mention, what does it matter who is in charge. Maybe all these various associations need to sit up and listen to the public more and provide some real facts as the profit margins are surely dropping with so many landowners now trying to set up crematoria etc on bits of green belt land they own and “new ” forms of corpse processing trying to take over from “traditional” crematoria.


    Fran Hall
  2. Fran Hall
    Mary

    I do not know why this well qualified person would leave this job so quickly. But, I also do not know why these various funeral trade associations and a generally informative guide like gfg, give so much airtime and positive coverage to ecoLation by ecoLegacy when they have not yet, in any of their trade presentations in 2016 and 2017, provided a description of the ecoLation process which makes sense and sounds feasible. In August 2016, they applied to south Dublin county council for exemption from planning permission for an r and d unit to test things out on pieces of meat from the butcher. They were told they needed planning permission. There is no record they applied. This was from their Airton road address in Dublin. In May 2017 , the glasnevin trust applied for permission to place an ecoLation unit in the new dardistown crematorium. Fingal county council asked a page full of questions about the process proposed for that site and still has no answer. The application has a written description of the process but it makes little sense. E.g. The second stop involves turning the frozen corpse into small pieces by water erosion. All the water from this erosion process and drying out the corpse prior to pyrolysis / gasification,, is proposed to be sent up the existing crematorium chimney as steam.


    Fran Hall
  3. Fran Hall
    Charles Cowling

    Thoroughly agree with your last point, Louise – ‘Do the funerals of today fulfil their purpose?’ Yes, what good does a funeral do? What’s the point of them? Where’s the value? The absence of thought leadership on this has at the NAFD has been remarkable, the more so given the commercial impact of direct cremation.


    Fran Hall
  4. Fran Hall
    Mark Shaw

    Louise, your list is commendable. Do you think the NAFD should have authority to apply/enforce such matters on non member firms who have not yet taken steps to show compliance to standards already in place?


    Fran Hall
    1. Fran Hall
      Fran

      I would have thought that any such suggested enforcement of standards on non members of a trade association should be left to a regulating body.

      Surely the role of a regulator in any industry conflicts with a trade association that ultimately is answerable to the interests of its members?


      Fran Hall
    2. Fran Hall
      Louise Winter

      Wouldn’t that make them a regulatory body rather than a trade association?


      Fran Hall
      1. Fran Hall
        Mark Shaw

        Point 8 of your list implies you would like the NAFD to be able to take action against those who bring the profession into disrepute, and there are many such examples. Taking that view implies a regulatory rather than association based role.


        Fran Hall
        1. Fran Hall
          Michael Jarvis

          Mark, I have no right to say that I know exactly what Louise meant in her paragraph 8, but I suspect that her point was that part of the NAFD’s role should encompass the monitoring of standards with the power to impose sanctions for non-compliance. Let’s be clear, because I think this is a crucial point, that’s not the same as regulation.

          Two quick thoughts about regulation:

          First, and this is a general observation rather than any specific comment on the NAFD, trade and professional bodies can have a tendency towards entrenchment and protectionism thus making progress difficult for incomers. It is beyond silly to suppose that any such organisation should contemporaneously be a regulator.

          Second, although arguments can be advanced in favour of regulation and licensing, the problem is that the weight of argument against is so great. Those who see regulation as some sort of panacea should look carefully at the evidence from the USA where it has created a costly sub-industry the funding for which comes, inevitably as it must, from the end user, the general public. A grim prospect for those devoted to fighting funeral poverty.


          Fran Hall
        2. Fran Hall
          Home

          I only meant that they should address the behaviour of their own members.
          I would not want the NAFD to become THE regulatory body.


          Fran Hall
  5. Fran Hall
    Mark Shaw

    I agree fully David that excepting for legal sensitivities, we as members should know something of what went on. From what I saw of Mandie, she brought excellent skills and knowledge, especially as we face regulation. The letter however raises some questions. To a non member, what happens at NAFD would seem to be of little concern. In fairness many of the points requested within the letter are already well accommodated by NAFD. If you want to have influence, pay your dues, attend meetings, vote and get involved. GFG and NDC would do well to ensure that non of their award winning members give ridiculous reasons not to make price information readily available. Progress in all areas needed.


    Fran Hall
    1. Fran Hall
      Lucy Coulbert

      As a GFG Award winner and as a GFG & NDC Recommended Funeral Director, I not only have my prices online, but I have my bespoke prices, “Select options” including direct cremation laid out fully but I also have a price calculator all on my website. That is three pages of pricing information.

      Dignity, Co-op and one local independent, all NAFD members don’t have even the merest hint of prices on their websites.

      I’m afraid Mark, many funeral directors I know of don’t want to “pay our dues” and get involved because what exactly are we getting involved in?
      While I understand the NAFD do a lot of lobbying to Government, having been a part of those meetings and giving evidence to the select committee, believe me, I wouldn’t want any part of that organisation.

      In fact, in one particular meeting I was literally ashamed to be in the same room as the NAFD “representative” who spent 20 minutes talking about how the NAFD couldn’t define a “simple funeral” yet when challenged with “well if the industry isn’t prepared to determine what a simple funeral is, then who should,” that representative completely backtracked.
      That is just one example over many meetings.

      I would be happy to “pay my dues” to influence change if I wasn’t completely patronised by those members I have met in the upper reaches of the organisation.
      Of course there are one or two exceptions but overall the majority treated me like I knew nothing and shouldn’t be involved in the conversations I was involved in because it was just all too much for my little head to understand.

      As a non-member, I believe what ever is happening within the NAFD is my concern. They are the self-professed “voice of the profession” so what ever they do and say will have an impact on the whole industry and not just their members.

      As for the NAFD enforcing standards to non-members, the NAFD isn’t a regulator but they are trying to put themselves in the position to be exactly that.

      A regulatory body should always be independent to associations or unions. That way there is impartial judging on standards (and I would be more than happy for any regulatory body to take those standards from the NAFD) but also there is accountability for anyone bringing the profession into disrepute and not meeting those standards that we don’t just aim for but exceed.


      Fran Hall
      1. Fran Hall
        Mark Shaw

        It’s very interesting to sit between the likes of NAFD and GFG and see some of the positives and challenges in both camps. NAFD however is an independent organisation (think Marmite). I’m not sure of the logic in saying we don’t like your organisation and don’t want to join it, but would you mind changing your practices to accommodate our views.


        Fran Hall
        1. Fran Hall
          Home

          When they are the leading trade association representing the funeral profession and have connections and influence at every level, I’d like to think that they would honour every single one of the points above, regardless as to whether I’m a member or not.


          Fran Hall
  6. Fran Hall
    Sandy Weatherburn

    Thank you Louise.
    After reading your excellent letter, I took some time to read some of the history of the National Association of Funeral Directors that is on their website. I can see that 9 objectives were put in place at a meeting over 100 years ago. I was interested in objective 7 ‘To aid all influences calculated to increase the usefulness and improve the recognition and the utility of undertaking as a profession, and to incorporate reforms wherever necessary.’ I feel that all of the points in your letter must then clearly be taken into consideration by the NAFD.


    Fran Hall
  7. Fran Hall
    David Holmes

    As an NAFD member I have written to the acting CX, demanding the right to know what exactly has gone on here, and if I am not satisfied with the response, I will consider resigning, making sure the membership knows exactly why I quit.

    I will not pay for another cover-up.


    Fran Hall
  8. Fran Hall
    Jo Loveridge

    Thank you Louise – you put into eloquent words what we all feel!!


    Fran Hall
  9. Fran Hall
    David Holmes

    Impossible to argue with these excellent points. The few NAFD meetings I have attended whilst enjoyable, do resemble an old boys club, not that I am a member of any of those!
    As far as I can tell, the NAFD hierarchy has always been dominated by the old established order, it’s definitely time for a serious shake up?


    Fran Hall
    1. Fran Hall
      Louise Winter

      I think it’s time to reassess everything about how we handle our dead and our living. Do the funerals of today serve their purpose? Are we happy with the people who deal with our dead? Does the current system do what it needs to do? So many questions, and so few answers.


      Fran Hall

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