New business model for funeral industry

By Patricia Ann Speelman -

SIDNEY — A Sidney funeral home has partnered with a national firm to provide services utilizing an innovative business model.

Salm McGill & Tangeman Funeral Home joined forces with ChurchFunerals Direct Inc., based in Wilmington, Delaware, earlier this year.

It was not a merger and ChurchFunerals Direct did not purchase Salm McGill & Tangeman.

“They don’t own anything of the company,” local funeral director Doug McGill told the Sidney Daily News. “We thought their concept was a good idea.”

That concept, according to Mark May, who manages the east coast region for ChurchFunerals Direct, is to leverage excess capacity. The result is a lower price to the consumer for the same quality of service that otherwise would cost more.

“In our model,” May said, “(a funeral home) has a fixed overhead. They serve a tiny, small market. They wouldn’t generate business from (areas not close to their market).”

If a funeral home does one funeral a week, the family buying the services must cover the whole cost of the week’s overhead for the funeral home.

“The entire cost of operation gets loaded onto your shoulders,” May said. If a home can do a funeral every day, the fixed overhead is spread over more families.

The founders of ChurchFunerals Direct contract with “top-notch” funeral directors in licensed funeral homes, he added, and increases the number of funerals they do. The network widens the geographic areas they serve by scheduling funerals in local churches rather than in the funeral homes.

“Churches are the proper places for funerals,” May said. “A church is a positive place to go. That’s one of the ways we’re making funerals better.”

Another is encouraging the funeral director visit the home of a family the day after a death to discuss funeral options and arrangements. May noted that most people don’t like going into funeral homes.

“Now, Salm McGill can service people in multiple counties. The family doesn’t have to come to Sidney,” he said. Don Tangeman, of Salm McGill & Tangeman, can drive to Preble county to pick up a body, take the body to Sidney for preparation, return it to a Preble County church for visitation, the service and burial.

“We now have a 16-county radius in which we’ll service their calls,” McGill said.

In ChurchFunerals Direct’s network, a partner funeral director can be anywhere within an hour, day or night, May said.

“If Salm McGill (for instance) picks up one funeral per month, the profit goes right to the Salm McGill bottom line,” he added. The partnering funeral home pays ChurchFunerals Direct a fee for each network funeral it conducts. It is free to conduct non-network funerals, too, and no fees are due for those.

The model has drastically lowered the cost to consumers.

“We can offer an affordable way for people not to have to go to cremation because they can’t afford a regular funeral,” McGill said. “It allows the overhead of the use of the funeral home to be taken out of the price of funerals.”

According to the ChurchFunerals Direct website, “The concept … began as a research project into how to make the funeral experience better for the grieving family that had just lost a loved one. It did not begin with the goal of reducing the cost of a funeral … The past decade or so has seen the number of people choosing cremations increase every single year, with 2015 estimated to be the year in which more people select(ed) cremation than a traditional funeral. Most people choose cremation as an option because it costs so much less.”

Both McGill and May stressed that the services a grieving family receives for a church-based funeral will be the same whether they opt for one through ChurchFunerals Direct or through a non-network funeral home.

“(But) why would you spend $7,000 to $10,000, if you could get the same thing at a fraction of the cost? There is an incredible markup on funerals. We’re 40 to 60 percent less,” May said.

The website,, advertises a service, including a casket, for $2,995. That includes removal and care of the deceased, embalming and dressing for viewing, a 20-gauge steel casket, same-day visitation prior to the service, a full funeral service at the church, transportation to the grave site, a graveside committal service, preparation of an obituary and death certificate and the services of a funeral director and staff.

Other items are optional at additional cost.

The partners also make pre-need arrangements. So far, there have been more calls here for pre-need appointments then for time-of-need services, May said.

For information, visit the website or call ChurchFunerals Direct at 800-308-3590 or Salm McGill & Tangeman at 492-5130.

By Patricia Ann Speelman

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.