Cemetery Mergers: Fixing A Problem That Didn’t Exist

By David Fleming, Jr.

 An excerpt from The Broadcaster, the New York State Association of Cemeteries newsletter.  Spring 2021 

In recent years, New York has been impacted by the abandonment of more than 100 non­profit regulated cemeteries. This is an evolving crisis not just for the families they serve, but for the local governments that are required to assume the operation and maintenance of these abandoned cemeteries.

Outmigration, insufficient income from investments, and the rise in cremation rates, have all compounded the challenges of running a cemetery in 2021.

At the heart of these challenges, however, is New York’s antiquated and burdensome regulatory system that unintentionally promotes cemetery abandonment rather than supports these vital public service operations.

The Forest Lawn Cluster Strategy

A Plan to Save New York State’s Cemeteries

With New York State’s new cemetery mergers law in place, Forest Lawn can continue the 20 + year strategy of mergers we have used to create the Forest Lawn Group of Cemeteries, which includes Forest Lawn, St. Matthew’s Cemetery in West Seneca, Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg, the Williamsville Cemetery and Gethsemane Cemetery.

The Forest Lawn “Cluster Strategy” envisions the creation of groupings of multiple, geographically close cemeteries – a “cluster” that achieves a critical mass of endowment and revenue dollars, which can then be managed more effectively for revenue growth, economies of scale and cost reduction.

This enables both growth in total revenue, and a reduction in expense per acre. Multiple, geographically spread locations draw business from a larger population base, injecting new energy into a staid, stale business model for attracting and developing new, younger employees for sustaining our business long-term.

If you are a Trustee, Director or Officer of a not-for-profit, New York State regulated cemetery and would like to learn how Forest Lawn’s cluster strategy can help your cemetery, please contact us at (716) 885-1600.