2017 Year End Reports

Read 2017 Committee Reports as pdf: 2017 Committee Reports

2017 NHFA Committee Reports

September, 2017


Message from the President

Lee Webster, President

As with most conference years, this one has been taken up with the many details and efforts necessary to bring a roomful of home funeral enthusiasts under one roof for three days of moving, educational, and inspiring engagement. At the same time, we continued to grow our membership, our Facebook followers, and our recognition by the media and the public.

This conference marks the end of my three years as the third president of the board of directors, and three before that serving under the first two presidents. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Char Barrett and Beth Knox, both of whom were instrumental in birthing the NHFA and in guiding me through what it means to lead this particular nonprofit. It was their creativity, kindness, and visionary energy that has kept me going all this time in the role.

The work of the NHFA is another story, and to do that it took a strong team. I have been fortunate to have served with women from all over the country on the board, in committees, and on task forces, and I can’t imagine any better or more devoted. Among them are two shining stars in their own right, Donna Belk and Kateyanne Unullisi, whose dedication and skill combined with sharp minds and big hearts to make every project a success. Both are completing their terms this fall and they will be missed. There is nothing in the world as satisfying as working shoulder to shoulder with people who are professional, clever, inventive, level-headed, and as much fun as these two. I will always be grateful to the NHFA for the opportunity to serve, and to all of these amazing women and more who linked arms to make this organization what it is today.

Message from the Treasurer

Angie Ward, Treasurer

Note from the President: Angie has graciously agreed to serve just recently, taking the place of Jessica Caldwell, a fellow Washingtonian. Jessica had taken over for Donna Belk, interim treasurer, several months ago. Big thanks to both of them, and to Angie, for committing to perform this vital task that ensures the financial health of the NHFA. We are assured that the NHFA bank balance is sound!

Advocacy Committee

Terry Skovronek, Chair

The AC is tasked with educating about the laws pertaining to home funerals, advocating for families’ rights, and monitoring pending legislation on a state and federal level. This year, I have acted as the point person for legislative challenges and communicated with state legislative bodies, primarily by phone, to advocate for home funeral rights.

In two cases this year, the wording of pending bills was changed with just one phone call; in both cases the language change I suggested was not contested and the simple changes were made. In both cases, the changes appeared immediately, and led to more clarity.

The AC maintains a subscription to LegiScan, a national bill tracking system which provides daily reports on state and national bills searchable by key words. This allows one person to monitor all 50 state and federal bills. Meaningful legislative developments are reported to the board and action is taken on a larger scale as needed.

The task of developing materials to educate the public about their rights and responsibilities has largely been met by Lee Webster by way of co-authoring several books on the subject of home funerals and developing power point presentations available to and for use by the public.

The Advocacy Committee will be following the newly chosen board paradigm of dismantling the committee structure and becoming a more nimble body, allowing energy and forces to be funneled where needed rather than to have our human resource limited to one committee. This will apply to the Advocacy Committee in all ways except for the job of legislative monitoring. This will require one or more regularly dedicated member(s) to stick with Legiscan for the length of at least one legislative cycle. Following a bill over a 10-month legislative cycle needs one dedicated observer for the sake of consistency, institutional memory and effectiveness in the task.

In addition to monitoring legislation for the NHFA, the AC has also been monitoring legislation for the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Green Burial Council.

Communications Committee

Kateyanne Unullisi, Chair

The following activities have been accomplished or addressed by the Communications Committee during the past year:

  • maintained the NHFA website, including directories and archives
    • created, updated, and maintained robust Conference 2017 website section
    • enhanced the law section
    • enhanced the Resources section
    • solicited first person home funeral stories
    • worked with several home funeral guides to edit and publish their stories
  • coordinated promotion on social media, Facebook, Twitter
    • robust social networking on FaceBook and Twitter have helped increase membership and outreach
    • Facebook likes up 25% in past year, from 2286 to 2807.
    • 84% women
    • >35 countries; 41% are women 35 – 54
  • published one e-newsletter a month
  • created and wrotea dozen blogs
  • retired monthly phone conferences and began partnering with Dr. Karen Wyatt
  • enhanced our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChl_pvS5dCLYtAgRZzQFf6Q
  • supported conference needs at Pearlstone Center
    • conference publicity local and national
    • email copy for board members to send personally
    • frequent and complete website updates
  • responded to email queries from members, the public, and the press
  • designed and published advertisements in Natural Transitions Magazine
  • arranged and participated in interviews for radio and written articles by multiple reporters
  • responded to various blogs and online newspapers with info on home funerals and the NHFA
  • supported the fundraising committee with the Fall Online Fundraiser
    • created branding and raised $8,000 goal

Events Committee

Lee Webster, Substitute Chair

After a highly successful first event-related fundraiser in the fall of 2016, work on the 2017 Biennial Conference began in earnest. In November, Anne Murphy, who had shepherded the project through the initial location selection and signing of the contracts with the Pearlstone Center in Reistertown, Maryland, resigned from the board to tend to local commitments back home in Minnesota. Lee Webster, co-chair, stepped up to refocus the committee into an advisory body, rather than a monthly committee. The new approach helped streamline the planning process, giving committee members a chance to weigh in on options independently and in their own time, resulting in a cohesive vision for the advocacy and skills programming aspects of the conference. Details such as housing and meals were handled by the venue, and additional offerings and events were taken up by the Threshold Support Circle, based in Baltimore. This left the contract details and recruiting speakers to be dealt with on their own. This approach not only involved a maximum number of people to participate, it also made the different tasks clear while allowing people to run with whatever ball they chose to carry. Notes from past conferences highlighted needs that were helpful in setting the schedule regarding timing (more time to interact), breaks (more time to process), activities (better focused and related to one another if possible), and so on. To date, the conference has exceeded our expectations regarding attendance, and for once may not have burned everyone out!

Fundraising Committee

Sara Williams, Chair

The goal of the Fundraising Committee is to seek and raise funds to support the operations and programs of the National Home Funeral Alliance. Since our last conference in 2015, the following achievements have been made:

  • The decision was made to no longer “bombard” our membership with the annual “ask” letter in December. Instead, in conjunction with the Communications Committee, we organized a week-long webinar centered on “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) in November 2016.
  • We successfully reached our goal of $8000!!
  • We still encourage our members to sign up for and use “AmazonSmile.com” which means every time they make a purchase on Amazon.com, we get a portion of those sales.
  • We have been working on getting donations in the form of gifts/prizes for our “Silent Auction” at this year’s conference in Reisterstown, Maryland. There are no vendors at this year’s event, and so the Silent Auction will act as our big fundraiser!  We have done a lot of publicity around this event, including articles in our newsletters as well as a video.

Membership Committee

Sarah Crews, Chair

The year began with board member Sarah Crews. taking the helm of the membership committee from Zalene Corey and Peg Lorenz. The board wants to acknowledge Anne Murphy for taking the lead on facilitating the monthly member teleconferences which were suspended early in the year. After Anne completed her board service in April, Sara Williams joined Sarah Crews in monitoring the membership through our fantastic user-friendly membership software, Little Green Light.

This spring we identified several members at large to ask about serving on the board of directors. We were thrilled to find several enthusiastic, skilled, brilliant, home-funeral passionate people willing to rise to the occasion.

We are delighted to welcome Barbara Trites as your new, go-to board member for all things membership. We know that she is coming to the position with great energy and a lot of ideas for expanding membership participation in the work of our mission.

Since last year we have welcomed more than 322 new members to the NHFA!  We believe our growth is largely due to our presence on social media, the improvements to our website, and our increasing identity as the leading national authority on home funerals, but most importantly, our growth is because of the work our members are doing to spread the word in their own communities about the transforming power of family-centered, home-based after-death care!