As the cost of living rises, it seems as if the cost of dying is rising along with it. The average cost of a funeral these days is between $6,000 to $7,000. With such huge costs, it should come as no surprise that crowdfunding funerals has become a better option than ever before.
There are many websites such as justgiving.com, funeralfund.com and gofundme.com that allow you to run a crowdfunding campaign to fund the funeral of a loved one. The money raised in some cases goes directly to the funeral home. Campaigns usually raise a significant sum that reduces cost of burial.
Running a crowdfunding campaign for a funeral is a tough task and there are many things you need to watch out for. This guide is going to give you everything you need to know about the process.
Costs of a Funeral
Funeral costs have always been a touchy topic. The fact is that this is an emotionally difficult time for everyone involved and as a result, the possibility of making a rash decision is magnified.
As a result, while the average funeral costs $7,000, added services can easily get the value to increase past $10,000. Some of the typical expenses associated with a burial include:
Grave site fees
Cost of burying the remains
Opting for cremation is cheaper with the average cost of this method estimated at $6,000. As you can see, even this method isn't exactly cheap. There are lower end services you can opt for that will cost you around $2,000.
The average costs that are often quoted for funerals don't include the cost of transportation of of ancillary services such as flower arrangements. For example, flowers alone can cost you anywhere from $500 to $1,000 depending on the arrangement.
Another expense that adds significant cost is the plot itself. Cemeteries are separate from funeral homes and typically, the cost of a burial plot is between $1,000 to $4,000. In metropolitan areas, these prices are higher.
Some cemeteries charge an annual maintenance fee or service charges annually. Others might bundle them into the cost of the plot.
Headstones and grave markers add anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the degree of complexity in them.
All in all, funerals are expensive no matter which way you cut it. This doubly hurts if your loved one passed away unexpectedly and didn't have an insurance plan that paid for costs.
Traditional Payment Options
Given the high costs of funerals, it stands to reason that paying for them can be a burden. One option that is gaining in popularity these days is to opt for a prepaid payment plan.
These are typically structured as insurance policies and are classified into two types: Preneed and Funeral Trusts
Preneed policies come with certain tax advantages and can be paid in monthly installments. Typically these plans are transferable to other funeral homes.
Funeral trusts usually involve some growth plan along with them and are tied to a funeral home. Speaking to a preplanning professional is the best move when it comes to figuring out which choice suits you.
If insurance isn't an option then some banks offer what are called 'pay on death' accounts. These accounts are a good way for people to pass money onto their heirs with having their assets go through a probate.
The way to set them up is as straightforward as opening a regular bank account. The only additional task to be carried out is for a beneficiary to be named. This is the person who will inherit the money in the account upon the primary holder's passing.
You could even consider credit card or funeral loans. Obviously, these have higher than usual interest rates attached to them and they might not be the best financial decision.
If none of these options work and if you cannot afford funeral costs, you can check with the county coroner's office and inquire about government assistance programs.
Typically, if you declare to the coroner that you cannot afford a funeral, the state and county will allocate funds for a cremation or a basic funeral. You can claim the ashes for a fee. If not, the ashes will be buried in a common grave.
The federal government does provide a one time social security benefit but this amounts to just $255. The payment is released to either the surviving spouse of the heirs of the deceased.
If the deceased was a veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs will contribute $2,000 toward funeral expenses.
In case of death that occurs during a Presidentially declared disaster, FEMA will contribute a sum towards the funeral. However, this amount varies from state to state.
While these are the traditional payment options, crowdfunding offers grieving relatives the chance to raise money that cover all costs of burial expenses.
Let's take a look at how this works.
Crowdfunding for Funerals
Like with any traditional crowdfunding campaign, there are some basic steps for you to follow that will ensure you'll raise the money you need to give your loved one a proper farewell.
Step #1 - Find Your Platform
This first step is the most crucial one. The most successful crowdfunding campaigns are those that attract the highest levels of traffic.
It stands to reason that the higher the level of traffic a platform has, the better your odds are of raising money. This is doubly true if your loved one's passing was unexpected.
Keep in mind that the site will collect fees depending on how much money is raised. You need to factor this into your funding goals.
Typically, these fees vary but you can expect to pay anywhere from three to 10% of the total amount raised as fees. Before you set a funding goal, you'll need to speak to the funeral director to determine an estimate of costs.
Some funeral directors are affiliated with crowdfunding websites that cater towards funeral fundraising and they will be able to provide you with guidance.
Keep an open mind at this stage since the directors might stand to earn a referral fee for convincing you to use their recommended platform.
A platform such as GoFundMe works best since it is a huge platform that receives hundreds of thousands of visitors per day. It is not affiliated with any private service provider either so its fees tend to be the lowest.
Some platforms offer additional services such as keeping track of funeral invites and so on. These aren't strictly necessary but if these services seem like a good choice to you, then you can opt for such platforms as opposed to general ones.
Your primary aim should be to launch your campaign on a platform that receives high levels of traffic, if not the highest. Always keep this in mind.
Step #2- Pre Launch Tasks
A crowdfunding campaign contains many moving parts. Given the accelerated timeline that most funeral campaigns face, they can be challenging to deal with.
Before you launch your campaign, you need to spread the word about your fundraising efforts. Let everyone know about your campaign and that you need help to raise funds.
It also helps to get in touch with the local newspaper or TV station to see if they can run a story to help you out. Inform them of your campaign and time it in such a way that by the time the run your story, your campaign will be in its first or second day.
Your campaign should not run for more than four or five days. This is because you want to complete the burial as soon as possible. Preserving the remains of your loved one adds charges to the funeral service so you want to minimize this.
Maximize social media as well. Put the word out to your friends and encourage them to share the fact that you will be launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the funeral.
Once these tasks are done, it's time to move onto the next step.
Step #3- Prepare Your Campaign
You will need to carry out this step in the most efficient manner possible and yet speak directly from your heart.
Don't be afraid of putting it all out there since this is about giving your loved one the farewell they deserve.
You should start off by describing the incident as factually as possible.
For example: A few days ago my beloved husband Jerry passed away in an unforeseen accident. My kids and I will miss his charming demeanor and his positive attitude towards life...
The next part of your text should describe who they were as a person and why they were beloved by their family and community. Be natural in your tone and don't try to paint them as someone they were not.
You should always be honest in your description, Include any relevant photos within your text since this will help your audience get to know your loved one better.
Next comes the most important part of your campaign pitch. You need to describe why you're looking for help with their funeral.
Explain the situation in detail and be completely honest about how you'll use the money. If you're using a platform such a GoFundMe then you'll need to be as detailed as possible.
This is because the money that will be donated will go to you directly. In case you're using a platform that will direct the money to the funeral director, then contributors know they can trust you.
It seems harsh to say this but trust is always a factor in such fundraising campaigns. Your backers don't know you and as you'll shortly see, there have been instances of unscrupulous people using such incidents to steal money.
Either way, be honest and upfront about your situation and explain how you'll use the money. Do not hold back!
Step #4 - Spread the Word!
Your crowdfunding campaign's success depends on how much traffic you can drive to it. With this in mind, do everything you can to raise awareness.
Share it on your social media accounts and send the link to your friends and relatives so that they can share your campaign.
You've already informed them that you'll be starting a campaign so you should witness a lot of interest in this.
A good idea is to share the link with someone from the workplace of your loved one. Either a current colleague or a former one. If they recently retired, there will still be people they worked with who remembered them.
Share the link with your local church and community groups as well since there will be a lot of people who will have interacted with your family. They'll be aware of your situation and will be inclined to help.
If your loved one belonged to any clubs or associations then share the link with the members of those organizations as well.
Most people focus on just online promotion but this is only utilizing half of your available resources. Offline methods are still extremely powerful.
You could run a bake sale or a movie night or some event that will bring people together. At this event you could spread the word about your campaign and ask people to donate.
It's for a good cause and they will be inclined to do so.
Step #5- Track
There's not much for you to do in this step except track your campaign's progress towards its funding goal.
Crowdfunding platform algorithms tend to take the activity of the campaign into account when deciding which ones to promote on their front page. If you've run your events well then you will receive a boost from the platform.
Consider adding a video update or even a text update after a couple days to send a message of gratitude to everyone who has donated. Aside from being the right thing to do, this counts as activity as well and you will receive a boost.
Things to Keep in Mind
While crowdfunding is a great option for you to try, keep in mind that it shouldn't be your only option. As you learned in the earlier portion of this article, there are ways you can save on funeral costs.
The fact is that crowdfunding isn't a guaranteed source of raising funds. Research indicates that less than 40% of crowdfunded campaigns are successful.
While funerals and memorial form close to 15% of all GoFundMe campaigns, this doesn't mean you'll successfully raise all the money you need.
If you plan on using crowdfunding to raise money, make sure you check with the funeral director first and keep them updated. The reason for this is the fact that funeral directors are wary of people trying to raise too much money.
They might ask you to sign a contract that ensures they get paid irrespective of the success or failure of your campaign. This makes it even more important for you to plan all expenses ahead of time and compare costs before deciding on a service provider.
Another practice to watch out for is when unscrupulous funeral directors might upsell you services just because you're crowdfunding.
Paying for a more expensive casket, a shinier urn and so on are examples of upsells so watch out for these charges to come at you.
Not every funeral director will behave in this manner but it is something you should keep in mind. After all, these people are running businesses and sometimes, lines can get blurred.
You're in an emotional state so you should watch out for signing up for something you aren't fully on board with.
When choosing your platforms, take special care reading the ownership structure of the company. This is because many funeral crowdfunding platforms are owned by funeral directors.
For example, fundthefuneral.com is owned by Fisher Funeral Chapel and Cremation Services. If your funeral director recommends any particular platform, they have to disclose any ownership stake or commissions they might receive from the platform.
Keep an eye on the fees being charged as well. Some of these platforms charge a five percent fee.
In contrast, GoFundMe does not charge any fees for memorial fundraising.
In short, there is the possibility of a conflict of interest so you need to watch out for this. Some platforms have been known to run fake campaigns to get the attention of funeral home directors.
As I mentioned earlier, it's best to stick to platforms that witness high traffic numbers and that host a large number of campaigns. If you trust your funeral director then go ahead and use the platform they recommend by all means.
Just keep in mind that they need to be completely transparent with you and disclose any interests in the platform.
As funerals grow more expensive than ever, more people are turning to crowdfunding as an option. It's important to keep in mind that this is a risky source of raising funds and you're not guaranteed to raise the amount you need.
Furthermore, there is the chance of the funeral director deliberately steering you towards this option due to greater earning opportunities for them.
Do your research and shop around before settling on crowdfunding as an option. You'll find that as tough as the current times might be, there are always ways you can get over the financial burden of a loved one passing.