NOTE: Views or opinions presented in this blog post are those of the NFFD and should not be construed as being the views or opinions of the GFG. What follows is a response to comments made on this blog post.
We would like to extend our gratitude to all commentators for showing such a keen interest in the National Federation of Funeral Directors. We are delighted that the Good Funeral Guide, by bringing your attention to the NFFD’s cause, is arousing such strong interest. When I first approached Charles to inform him of developments at the NFFD, I felt that his blog would provide a conduit through which the NFFD could finally connect on a meaningful level with that somewhat closeted section of the industry whose attitude, generally, is to automatically reject any organisation (not just ours) whose ambitions could possibly unsettle the status quo that has been serving some operators just a little bit too well, for too long.
Formed in 2010 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 ultimately help safeguard the independent industry at a time of mounting pressure from the corporate giants. 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.
It is our belief here at the NFFD that the funeral industry is poised for some level of reform. Though the notion of the traditional ‘family funeral director’ still exists, the fact is that current economic pressures combined with greater choice and universal internet access, means the modern consumer is much more willing to shop around for best value when tasked with arranging a funeral. There was a time when funeral directors enjoyed a certain level of guaranteed business. Frequently, a single firm might have served an entire community, and though the majority of funeral directors were then, as now, fine, upstanding characters, such a lack of competition meant those who perhaps weren’t so scrupulous didn’t have to worry that over-charging, or under-performing, would result in diminishing business. But those days are well and truly over. We all know that there is currently a huge influx of new funeral directors, all of whom come into the industry believing, quite rightly, that it is possible to provide the exact same standard of service (or better) that traditional, established, funeral directors do, but at a fraction of the cost. For any funeral director to believe he can continue making 2, 3, or perhaps even 4 thousand pounds in profit per service, when another down the road might accept less than 1, is fool-hardy in the extreme. It is perfectly true that the quality of the cheaper services will sometimes be poor, but as countless disgruntled consumers will attest to…you can pay top rates and receive even worse.
It is telling that the vast majority of NFFD funeral director Members are relatively new to the industry. They routinely tell us they have been shunned, and in some cases had their businesses and reputations subversively sabotaged by their more-established peers within the trade. Why should this be? Is it because their attackers think it’ll cause the competition to fail and disappear, thus restoring the old order whereby they can continue charging more or less what they want without fear of being challenged? The theory the NFFD prefers is that these incidents are borne out of a genuine, heart-felt, concern that cheap services, conducted by relatively inexperienced operators, might damage the reputation of the wider, established, funeral industry. If that is indeed the case, then wouldn’t it be far better for established funeral directors, using the NFFD as a link, to offer the benefit of their skills and experience to actually help these new firms? That way, the established, traditional, slightly more expensive providers could make a good living catering for the element of the market that is willing and able to pay for a bit more luxury, while the cheaper, newer firms could cater for those on a more limited budget. The whole effect would be to increase standards at both ends of the spectrum, and lower costs for those poor unfortunates who currently can’t afford to give their loved ones a respectable send-off.
Though we applaud the work of the NAFD and SAIF and understand the public credibility both bodies bring to firms displaying their logos, we realised that the NFFD’s comparative lack of history means we must instead offer our Members something useful in a practical sense if we are to distinguish ourselves and move closer to our ultimate goal. Contrary to the opinions of some commentators here, the NFFD is, currently at least, a not-for-profit organisation. For a nominal fee of just £25 a month to cover running costs, our Members enjoy exclusive access to a range of tools and services, all of which are designed to help them stay as competitive as possible without compromising the values and traditions that must always be the independent funeral director’s most marketable features. Our services include:
- Free funeral management system (including automated invoice generation)
- Low / 0% finance facility on all funerals and funeral related products (subject to status)
- Free use of our ingenious online ‘Candle Memorials’ service.
- Free, enhanced, advertising on the Funeral Directors Register
- Free service stationery
- 10% discount on all Funeralstore products (including body-bags at £1.99 each postage paid!)
- Rights to sell SafeHands Funeral Plans (admin fee just 1%, plus you can draw down an instant deposit of anything up to £500!)
But we’re not just here to help those within the funeral industry. We receive countless calls from members of the public concerning issues of funeral quality and affordability. There is clearly growing consumer awareness that many funeral directors’ fees are wildly disproportionate to their costs. It was in response to this that we created the Fair Price Charter. In essence, it is a database of independent funeral directors who, by subscribing to the Charter, confirm that they are willing to conduct a standard cremation (hearse / 2 bearers / service) for a fee that we
agree is ‘fair’ both for the funeral director and consumer alike. We do not publicise the fee, as that could compromise the director’s ability to charge more on other occasions when it is perhaps appropriate to do so. However, to learn what the fee is please click here. to complete a contact request form. Fair Price Charter subscribers are provided with a web-link and enhanced advertising on both the NFFD and Funeral Directors Register (www.funeraldirectorsregister.com), plus certification to display in their premises. But most usefully, we will signpost to them any enquiries we receive from members of the public seeking the most affordable services in their local areas.
It was for similar reasons that we created the Funeral Directors Register (www.funeraldirectorsregister.com). In addition to being a simple public information service, the Register acts as a single point of reference where members of the public can leave feedback about the quality and value for money of the services they receive. The same concept works brilliantly in the travel and hospitality sectors, so just imagine its potential in the funeral industry where it’s even more important to consumers that they make the right choice first time! We are currently investing heavily to bring the Funeral Directors Register into the wider public domain, so make sure you claim your company’s listing today so you can replace the generic filler text that currently populates your entry. To register your company, or to claim your company’s listing click here Contrary to what some commentators have suggested, it is completely free to appear on the Register. You do not have to join the NFFD, nor do you have to subscribe to the Fair Price Charter, but if you do, then your company’s listing will appear towards the top of the search results in your local area.
The question has been asked ‘who are the NFFD?’ For the record, our team comprises a non-executive Managing Director (David Latham), an executive director (Malcolm Milson), an Operations Manager (William Eccleston), two IT specialists (Peter Bennett and Emran elBelushi) and an Administrator (Mandy Peters). Our registered headquarters is in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, although for logistical reasons we are based primarily at offices in Wakefield. As a not-for-profit organisation, our success is owed, in part, to our ability to deliver our services digitally and provide our ongoing support and aftercare remotely. For £25 a month, you won’t get Chairman’s Balls I’m afraid, but you will get a suite of practical, useful, no-nonsense services and 24 hour support, which, if properly utilised – will more than pay for themselves!
We also enjoy a close working relationship with SafeHands Funeral Plans, who, thanks to our support and influence, have become the UK’s fastest growing funeral plan company. SafeHands operates on exactly the same premise as the industry’s other leading plan providers in so much as their plans can be allocated to any independent funeral director. Funeral directors who sell SafeHands Funeral Plans are at 3 distinct advantages: 1) SafeHands plans are proven to be the least expensive on the market, making them more affordable for the client to buy 2) because SafeHands charge an admin fee of just 1%, it means the funeral director receives a bigger sum at the point of death than they do through other plans 3) funeral directors can draw down an instant deposit of anything up to £500.
One anonymous commentator on the GFG has implied, libellously, that SafeHands plan-holders’ investments aren’t secure. In response, the SafeHands Trust, which is held by the HSBC bank, is managed by Pitmans (PTL) Trustees – a firm of specialist pension trust managers based in Leeds, and is administered by Gordons LLP. Drawing on the NFFD’s expert knowledge of the industry, its growing bank of ambitious members, and ability to present a sensible, reasoned, unarguable, case when offering business to the few independent funeral directors we encounter who do initially consider declining, SafeHands enjoys a 98% first-time plan acceptance rate. Even better than that, to date, there have been no complaints whatsoever from plan-holders or their families regarding the services they have received.
Another commentator asks why SafeHands Funeral Plans are not registered with the Funeral Planning Authority. There are numerous reasons: Firstly, 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.
If you would like to learn more about SafeHands, the SafeHands Trust, or the Trust Managers, then please go to http://safehandsplans.co.uk/trust-us.php
I hope there is enough here to satisfy any doubters that the NFFD’s mission is entirely honourable and that everything we do is in the best interests not just of ourselves, but the wider independent funeral industry and its consumers.
The NFFD is currently offering all prospective new members a FREE 3-MONTH TRIAL of all its tools and services. To apply, please click here or call us on 01937 919045.
Thank you for your kind attention and we hope to serve you soon.
4/6 Bridge Street