By Thomas A. Parmalee

Funeral homes will rightfully go to incredible lengths to get members of the community to visit their facilities, whether that means hosting an open house, inviting residents to a pizza and preplan extravaganza, showing a movie or teaming up with another community organization to conduct a program.

Almost every funeral home does one or more of the above.

But something as simple as making sure your funeral directors are notary publics, and encouraging members of the community to stop in and get something notarized whether or not they’ve used your funeral home in the past?

You don’t hear about that quite as often.

Corey Gaffney, however, who is working on a dream in Washington state, has been offering the service at his funeral homes for several years.

While it is not a magic elixir that will solve all the funeral home’s problems, he’s heard numerous times how much his community appreciates the fact that his funeral directors are notary publics – and it allow shim to run his firm more efficiently, as well.

We recently caught up with Gaffney to learn more about why he’s taken this step – and why other funeral homes should consider doing the same if they haven’t already.

When did you start having your funeral directors become notary publics and why?

Eight to 10 years ago.  We are constantly seeking out ways to differentiate our brands from others.  This seemed to be a low-risk way to achieve this – and client families really appreciate the convenience.

How many other funeral homes do you think do this? Why don’t more do so?

I’ve heard several colleagues say they do this as well, but most that I’ve encountered have someone in the administrative department handling it.  We think that the funeral director is the best fit for this since they are the primary ones to foster the relationship between the client family and the funeral home.  More should do it, frankly.

What is the expense, time and training involved?

In Washington state, it’s really not that big of a hurdle to clear.  The notary public application is $40; a $10,000 surety bond is $45, and the cost of the stamp and notary log book is maybe $40.  We have our co-workers who obtain their notary publics read a short training paper on what the boundaries are for notarizing documents, and then it’s on them to stay up to date on any changing regulations.  I myself am also a notary public, so if I see something new coming into play, I let my co-workers know about it.

How does this help your funeral home be more efficient? What benefits does it provide?

We do not handle insurance assignments in house; we partner with an assignment company to look after the process.  Most insurance assignment applications require those forms to be notarized, so it helps streamline cashflow for the company in that respect.  As client families complete disposition with the funeral home, most quickly shift into settling the matters of their loved ones’ estate.  Knowing they can come back to the funeral home to get one or more documents notarized instead of paying for this service gets us tons of accolades.

Do you also offer this to families for items not involving a funeral? For instance, if a family you’ve served in the past wants to simply drop in and get something notarized for whatever reason, is this allowed? Encouraged?

Encouraged.  The fact that most people do not want to be at the funeral home is not lost on us.  Any opportunity to drive foot traffic and strengthen interactions with our caring and compassionate team is something we want to focus on.

Should other funeral homes explore this as something that might slightly move the needle in their favor and/or generate goodwill?

Our philosophy is the best business conducted is where both parties make out in the end.  Zero-sum transactions where someone has to win and the other has to lose are those we stay away from. This improves the client relationship, strengthens goodwill and helps a client family move forward with paperwork and their loved ones’ estate.

Do you have any other thoughts to add?

We promote this two or three times a month on our social media platforms: Facebook, X, LinkedIn and Google My Business.  I’ve had people reach out to us asking if it would be OK if they came by to get our help with notarizing something and we’re happy to assist.  It’s another way to differentiate your funeral home from others.  With 72% of consumers viewing all funeral homes as the same, opportunities like this help dispel that myth and create a mote around your customers.

Corey Gaffney is dedicated to helping his community and his fellow funeral directors. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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