Many cemeteries are facing reduced revenue due to the decreasing rates of burial in Australia and most other Western countries. Burials alone are often not providing enough revenue to maintain the cemetery grounds and infrastructure. But there are ways to diversify revenue streams by using cemeteries and their facilities for more than just funerals and burials. For the larger cemeteries who are big enough to have conference style facilities it is an easy step to offer events such as weddings, conferences, tours, etc. But for the smaller cemetery struggling to maintain the grounds such events are not possible.
But that does not mean smaller cemeteries cannot hold events for the community, events like historical tours, ghost tours and Halloween inspired events - anything that can help engage with the local community can help to raise the profile of your cemetery and bring in much-needed funds. And many of these events will be appealing to Millennial's and families opening your business to new generations and a new audience.
With the growing popularity of Halloween, albeit seen as an 'American trend', why not consider a family-friendly Halloween tour of the cemetery. Then later in the evening you can arrange something scarier for the adults and share some ghost stories, or tales of local celebrities, legends and mysteries. Have you considered ghost tour? Are there other businesses in your area who might like to participate and have a larger tour that could travel throughout the town and visit key sites? Talk to your community and see what they would be most interested in attending and other businesses too – then decide what type of event best suits your business and grounds.
Cemeteries provide a rich example of the changing architecture, demographics, culture and even settlement of a town or city. The local historical, genealogy society or library can help with research to find out who the interesting figures in the community were. Use these local celebrities or characters to showcase the history and changes in the community. Interest in genealogy is still growing and interest in history and our ancestors shows no sign of waning just yet. Some cemeteries even use actors to play historical figures and to re-enact significant events for tours.
This revenue isn't once off, you can build your customer base and promote all sorts of events including memorial ones like Mother's and Father's Day, Easter, and other celebrations.
Your cemetery may already be famous online, Tombstone tourism is alive and well and many social accounts are purely for people to showcase the cemeteries they have visited, photos taken, and information on the history and burials there. It is possible your cemetery is already being promoted online and you may not even know it.
Planning an event is easy; you have established the type of event the community is most interested in and identified local famous or infamous characters you are ready to start the detailed planning. Do you have a date and time in mind? Make sure you have appropriate resources for the event and established a budget. Finalise the venue or path the tour will take, let all relevant businesses know and check your insurances are up to date. And most importantly decide what you want to achieve from holding an event; it could be revenue raising, growing your community or increasing awareness.
The event is organised so now you need to promote it. Consider what resources are available to you within the community and online to promote your event. The benefit of promoting events online is that they can easily be shared, you can keep track of interest and attendees – do you have a website or any socials channels such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Can other local businesses or the council help promote the event on their pages? This promotion also allows your cemetery to grow their presence and reach in the community.
With any event it is important to take stock and a realistic review of what worked and what did not. What was the feedback on the day like, did the organisers and participants have similar feedback. What worked and what did not. Did you achieve what you wanted too, did you bring a new audience into your cemetery? What worked well and what could you do better next time. Did participants express an interest in future events, and if so what sort of events?
Even though burials are declining, and many smaller cemeteries are struggling to bring in revenue there are other ways to bring in new customers and promote your grounds. Engaging with the local community through events; be they Halloween or other social activities can increase awareness of your services and promote your business. Millennial's and the younger generation are living in a digital world, by visiting and participating in events they are almost certainly sharing this online and promoting your business taking you to a new audience who you probably would never see in your grounds otherwise.