Our History and Purpose
In 1952 individuals from the Friends Society and Unitarian denominations, plus some members of the Co-op Grocery Store in Palo Alto, CA, banded together to investigate lower-cost, simpler, and more dignified funeral alternatives for families who wished to avoid the excesses then promoted by the funeral industry. They formed a non-profit corporation in 1953. Volunteers ran the organization, first with a five, then seven, and now 9-12 member Board of Directors. We have members from every known religious group now, and a broad spread of ethnic groups. In April 2002, we celebrated our 50th Anniversary. We serve all areas of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, and we are expanding into the wider Bay Area. We particularly want to reach families who can least afford large funeral expenses.
It became evident that people who planned well ahead of need could make deliberate, rational decisions about what they wanted done with their bodies and the kind of ceremony with which they would be comfortable. They could evaluate plans, products, services, and funeral homes and with comparison shopping were much more likely to spend less. This has proved to be a great relief to the survivors, as they don’t have to make hasty decisions, guessing what the deceased would have wanted—especially at a time when they are experiencing grief and so many things to do regarding the estate, friends and relatives visiting, and the last health bills to take care of.
We provide the information and forms, and people are enabled to select the type of religious or memorial service desired (or not), location, burial, cremation, or donation of their body or its parts for medical research or organ transplants. They could choose funeral homes, caskets or urns, and extra services ahead of time, with full knowledge of the cost. When investigating the cost of funeral plots locally, they learn they can save money by shipping their body “back home,” buying from a cemetery property reseller, or opting for cremation and scattering. Copies of the plan are kept by the family, and can be sent to the chosen funeral home.
The BA-FCA knows that most families who don’t know about us shop for funerals at the last minute, choose the closest funeral home no matter the cost, and rely heavily on advice from the funeral “counselor” there who is not impartial. His or her aim is to sell the most expensive casket, services, and funeral possible. They play upon the family’s grief and lack of knowledge, desire to express their love for the deceased, and perhaps demonstrate their status in the community. The family spends $10,000, it all seems so necessary, and they don’t realize they could have a nice goodbye ceremony for a whole lot less if they had just contacted Bay Area Funeral Consumers Association.
We advocate for the funeral consumer, the only local nonprofit organization with such a focus. We give advice about options available for redress when there is a problem with a funeral home. We give referrals to other agencies or services. We publicize such things as our findings in price surveys. We are called by the local press for viewpoints on cemetery or mortuary problems. We act as a watchdog in the funeral industry.