The new frontier for online fundraising arguably has the single steadiest revenue source in the world: Funerals.
It would cost about $10,000 to bury your dead ass right now. I’m talking to you, 18- to 35-year-olds. With VICE's readership being what it is (it’s been a good year), someone reading this will drop dead pretty soon, statistically speaking. If you die penniless, your family could and should consider going the crowdfunding route on Giveforward, Donationto or Graceful Goodbye.
That $10,000 is just an average figure for a simple American funeral. It assumes you’ll be embalmed, rested in a lined casket, placed in a room for people to visit, grieved over at a modest ceremony at a funeral home, driven to the cemetery in a hearse, lowered into the ground, buried and have a few flowers placed next to your humble, flat headstone. Funeral directors get $6,600 of that, and the rest goes to the cemetery.
Giveforward currently has 325 active fundraising campaigns for funerals, and they run the gamut of sadness from melancholy and touching, to straight up sad as fuck and gut-wrenchingly depressing. That third link is to a fundraiser for a woman in Windsor, Colorado who lost all three members of her immediate family to separate illnesses over the course of three months. She needs $20,000, and please, oh my God, give it to her. Seriously.
In the case of Giveforward, the site was originally designed to pay for people’s medical bills (Yeah, yeah. “Only in America!” I know the drill), so when the chemo doesn’t work, keeping the fundraiser going to help with final expenses was the next logical thing.
In the case of Graceful Goodbye, the leap in logic that led to its genesis is a little less than graceful. The new funeral-only crowdsourcing site takes 4 percent of every dollar raised and their founder, Josh McClung, who had previously worked at Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley, gives the following account:
“On December 14, 2012, I watched the news as a terrible tragedy unfolded at the Sandy Hook elementary school. Like people all over the world, I watched in complete disbelief wanting to help this community in need.
This unfathomable event coupled with having recently learned about the exorbitant expenses associated with funerals got me thinking about the importance of community and ways in which to help families cope with this financial burden.”
I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with this. Just that, personally, I didn’t have any potentially profitable ideas when I was reading the news about Sandy Hook, but that’s my problem, not Josh McClung’s.
Before crowdfunding, though, it seems responsible to inform your bereaved family about what they’re paying for when they suddenly have to dispose of your corpse. Some things that are treated as compulsory, aren’t. Jewish traditions, for instance, forego embalming, viewings, the whole indoor ceremony and the flowers, and I can tell you from experience that Jews still grieve pretty well without all that stuff.
Cremations average $3,200, less than half the normal cost, and that assumes a wooden casket gets incinerated with the body. Costs can be cut down further by just burning you in a cardboard box.
Urns don’t have to be a price hit either. The most modestly priced receptacle at Costco is only $89.99, and it’s much fancier than a Folger’s can.
via Creative Coffins
That cardboard coffin option isn’t as bad for conventional burial, either, but most cemeteries in the US discourage them because your otherwise photogenic gravesite can sink when your coffin caves in over time. Cardboard coffins in the UK can feature custom prints of things like vikings and sunflowers.
Even without funeral and burial expenses, a grieving family is going to need some costs covered. They might need to deal with expenses the departed family member used to provide, help faraway family members fly in for the funeral (assuming they’ve never heard of Skype. Just kidding! Or am I?), and serve some lunch meat tray with a little liquor at the post-funeral get together.
But if I were a crooked funeral director, I would see directing customers to these new fundraising opportunities as an alternative to letting them glimpse the last page in my "menu of services" marked in fancy cursive “For The Bereaved of Humbler Means.” Why show a customer the cheaper option if I can direct them to a source of money instead?
In some cases, maybe that would be an honest, win-win scenario for those who want to give their loved one a good send-off without breaking the bank. But as for me, I would rather tell my family to stick me in a bag and toss me into the woods (which is legal in my state) than have them ask for money online to fill a funeral director’s coffers.
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