Is Your Funeral Home Inclusive?
Is your funeral home a welcoming place where people from all walks of life can feel comfortable? More importantly: if you claim your funeral home is an inclusive place, do members of the community know this? Many funeral homes claim to strive to be all things to all people, yet their online presences present a very different picture.
I recently conducted an informal study of the online presences of a wide range of funeral homes throughout the United States. They were from all across the nation. I looked at funeral homes in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The funeral homes ranged from small, single-location firms to large firms with a handful or more locations. As you might expect, there was significant variety in terms of website design, user experience, and features. But there was one major consistent element that ran through this diverse group. There was almost no meaningful attention paid to diverse and inclusive website content.
The State of the Field
Funeral homes serve everyone. A funeral home is involved to at least some extent the overwhelming majority of the time when someone dies. Funeral homes provide a service used by virtually everyone from every community. Do their websites reflect the reality of those they serve? An overview of a large number of funeral home websites suggests that many funeral homes could do more to show that they are here to serve everyone.
The images used on funeral home websites provide valuable information into who funeral homes see as their ideal or typical clients. Aside from photos of the staff and the facilities, most of these photos tend to be stock images. The overwhelming majority of photographs show elderly white people, often posed to present as straight couples. There are very few photos of any people of color or anyone from the LGBTQ community. The majority of people depicted are of retirement age or older.
The written content tends to be no more diverse. Most of the concern for diversity surrounds religious views on various forms of disposition. This is an important topic that should absolutely be addressed. The problem here is one of omission. There is an assumption, sometimes made explicit, that all people using the funeral home will be religious and want a ceremony that reflects the norms and customs of their religious community.
Building Inclusivity is Good for Business
Having a website that more accurately reflects the community around you is good for the families you serve, and it’s good for your business. Death is hard, and planning a funeral is no small task. Anything you can do to make the experience more comfortable will be appreciated. Creating a welcoming web presence lets people know that they won’t be judged when they come into your funeral home. An inclusive environment is not just for the families of those in your care. It also sends a powerful signal to those who might be attending a viewing or funeral at your facility that they are welcome. Most funeral homes are not intentional about cultivating an inclusive online presence. That means this is a great place for your funeral home to be able to differentiate itself.
Steps to a More Inclusive Online Presence
The good news is that making your online presence more inclusive is actually fairly simple. The first step should be to use images that reflect the community you serve. The photos on your website should mirror the diversity of your area. Look at the photos in your obituaries and compare them to the other photos on your website. Do these look like two separate groups? If so, you know where there’s room for improvement.
Make sure the content on your website acknowledges the diversity of beliefs and experiences of those you serve. Strive for a “both and” approach that provides a variety of resources for people of all walks of life. For example, you can mention the options for religious funeral services while also noting the availability of celebrants who provide custom services individually tailored to the deceased.
Be authentic about what you do. If your funeral home is an active member of LGBTQ groups within your community, your website should find a way to draw attention to this. Likewise, if your funeral home is a part of organizations that serve particular religious or ethnic communities, highlight this on your website. At the very least, your funeral home should make it clear that it is happy to serve all people from all communities. Make sure your online presence is as welcoming as you are in person.
Be Intentionally Welcoming
It’s my firm belief that the lack of diverse and inclusive content on funeral home websites stems from unintentional oversight and not malice. I have yet to come across a funeral home that markets itself as being overtly exclusionary. After all, nearly all funeral homes exist to serve wide swaths of their communities. Take inventory of the images and content on your website and see if they accurately reflect your values and who you serve. A few simple changes can go a long way towards showing off just how welcoming and inclusive your funeral home is.