3 Lessons Crowdfunded Funerals Can Teach Us


What happens when you combine a lack of transparency in pre-planning, record high funeral costs and a general fear of discussing mortality in the U.S.?

A lot of people trying to scramble together funds for an unexpected funeral.

Traditionally, when a family loses a loved one, everyone hands over their credit card to make sure that mom, dad or grandma gets a proper sendoff. But when the average cost of a funeral reaches between $7,045 – $8,343 (according to the National Funeral Directors Association), it’s nearly impossible for one family to foot the bill.

That’s where funeral crowdfunding comes in.

The history of crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a concept that gained a lot of traction in the early 2000’s as a major funding resource for budding entrepreneurs and startups who were looking for help to make their next big idea a reality. By 2011, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and other crowdfunding platforms began emerging.

With the creation of those crowdfunding platforms people began to raise money for other reasons than business ideas. Crowdfunding quickly became a way for members of a community  to work together and support a good cause. The most popular campaigns raise money for college funds, medical emergencies, travel, volunteer work, and now… funerals.

In fact, crowdfunded funerals have become so popular on these platforms that at this very moment, 11,685 memorial campaigns have been launched in the last 30 days alone. Crowdfunded funerals have become so big, there are now crowdfunding platforms being launched just for supporting funerals – Graceful Goodbye, YouCaring and Funeral Fund, to name a few.

So what can the world of crowdfunded funerals teach us? A lot, it turns out.

3 lessons the world of crowdfunded funerals can teach us

After browsing several dozen campaigns online, the first one that stuck out to me was one created by someone to plan their own funeral. It was the first campaign I’d seen started by someone for their own funeral, and it was a really touching story. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma and wanted a proper burial for himself. In his story, he says “ I do not want to ignore the inevitable and leave my family to deal with the financial burden of trying to pay to bury me. I am trying to fight as long as God allows me to.”

His campaign touched me not because it was a devastating situation, but because he was trying to take control of it. It touched me so much, I wanted to share with you the three lessons I learned from his story and many others I read while researching crowdfunded funerals:

Lesson #1: Crowdfunded funerals create awareness of the cost of a funeral

Not just the costs, but how hard it is to cover them. In the world of crowdfunded funerals, paying for someone’s wake isn’t a private matter any more, it’s a public matter where people all over take part. I think it has created a sense of transparency. After all, we wouldn’t know that it’s impossible to get life insurance if you’re already in bad health. Or that some people can’t even afford to travel to attend their loved one’s funeral, let alone help pay for it.

The takeaway:  By creating different package options and offering them in an easy-to-find, transparent way, we can encourage families to educate themselves on the cost of funerals… and how to save up for them.

Lesson #2: Crowdfunded funerals inspire people to think about their own mortality

When’s the last time you really sat down and thought about your own demise? Like, really thought about it? And without having an anxiety attack immediately after. Reading all of these stories inspired me to think about my own mortality so much so that I’ve actually started taking the first steps in planning my own funeral (stay tuned for that blog, it’ll be coming soon).

The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to encourage people in your community to plan for their own mortality. It doesn’t have to be a big deal – it could simple be a meetup at a local coffee shop where people can start having those conversations with one another.

Lesson #3: Crowdfunded funerals force us to be held accountable for our own deaths

Just spend ten minutes browsing through memorial campaigns and you’ll notice that whether it’s a young person who passed away unexpectedly or a 90-year-old woman who’s had stage four cancer for the last year, no one’s ever really ready to die. But by holding ourselves accountable and preparing for the worst, we’re not only lessening the burden on our loved ones financially, but we’re also allowing ourselves to die honorably and properly. I read a statistic a few weeks ago that reported less than 30% of people report setting aside any funds for their own funeral. Imagine how much the attitudes towards death and funerals would change if more and more people started saving for them (think weddings)?

The takeaway: Take the initiative in your community and find an approachable way to educate people on how to save up for their own funeral. Create an infographic, a brochure, or even an online program designed to help them save.  

One last thing…

If there’s one thing the world of crowdfunded funerals can teach us more than anything, it’s that death is an integral part of life, and it’s time we started treating it that way. Let’s embrace the media attention towards funerals and death to create awareness, accountability and creativity when it comes to celebrating life. Sure, crowdfunded funerals can be just another trend. But it’s a step in the right direction. And for me, one step is all we need to start connecting with our families better. Tell me in the comments below if you’re with me!

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  1. Betty Evans

    I believe a form of crowdfunded funerals existed prior to the 1980’s when friends and family sent cards with money in them. We do not see the happening now.

  2. BT Hathaway

    The primary thing that crowd funded funerals “teach” us is that these are hard times for millions of people. I see it every day. People wrestling with the funeral director and each other over a few hundred dollars because there’s heat and light bills to cover.

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