Norfolk Funerals

Charles Cowling

 

Norfolk Funerals, which opened recently, is the UK’s first and only not-for-profit funeral director. It is a charity, based in Norwich, and it offers funerals at cost price for all merchandise plus a fee to cover overheads, running costs and the wages of its employees. 

Eyebrows have been raised. What’s going on here? Why would they want to do this? What’s the real story? Is this some kind of money laundering operation? 

Here at the GFG we’ve had a great many emails and phone calls enquiring about Norfolk Funerals. Misgivings have been voiced, some of them mundane, some exotic. At the same time, we’ve been doing our own due diligence.

With the agreement of Norfolk Funerals, we are offering this page as a place where you can ask questions and have them answered by Norfolk Funerals. 

We hope that this will enable everyone to see NF for what it is. 

Please, ask your question in a comments box below, and Norfolk Funerals will respond directly to it. 

 

 

37 thoughts on “Norfolk Funerals

  1. Charles Cowling
    Richard Woods

    Do you handle direct disposal in the Norfolk area and can you indicate the approximate cost. Thank you.


    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling
      Nick Potts

      Norfolk Funerals no longer exist.


      Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling
    Roland Pascoe

    As a humanist celebrant based in Norwich and working there since 2007 I can say that there is a perceived need for such a service. However I was slightly bemused by the fact that a) I could n’t find any details registered at Companies House and b) charges for services such as collection of ashes were not included in a flat rate fee. After all there is already a basic service that can be purchased from any existing FD for a flat rate fee and even in these tough economic times it is not usually asked for up front.
    Perhaps the comment by Nick Potts is indicative enough.


    Charles Cowling
  3. | The Good Funeral Guide

    […] We looked at Norfolk Funerals in May of this year.  […]


  4. Charles Cowling
    Nicholas Potts

    Norfolk Funerals’ premises on St Augustine’s Street, Norwich is now empty.


    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    Maggie

    I fear there has been a lot of crossed wires here. ‘Not For Profit’ doesn’t mean that a company does not make a profit – it means that any profit made is not for the personal gain of those running the company, but for a charitable cause, e.g, in this case, helping the less well-off with funeral expenses and access to bereavement advice. I too was confused by NFs prices (not being dissimilar to ours), but Charles explained it all very clearly to me and, as such I can only wish Norfolk Funerals the best with their endeavours.


    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Nick (Gandon)

    You make some very perceptive comments. I too believe potential clients will choose who they want to choose.

    Time will tell how it all works out – it’s very early days yet.


    Charles Cowling
  7. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Nick

    The trustees are happy that Norfolk Funerals fits the criteria of a not for profit organisation. I am not an expert in Charity Law, but there is a write up here that you can read. It’s written in plain English rather than in legal terminology:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonprofit_organization#United_Kingdom

    Feel free to give me a call on the office number – 01603 670817 to discuss this, or like Trevor, you are welcome to call in and see me.

    If you would like to you can make an appointment and you can both pop in at the same time. It would be great to see you both.

    Best wishes,

    Wayne


    Charles Cowling
  8. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Trevor

    Feel free to give me a call on the office number – 01603 670817, or even better, come in and see me to have a chat.

    I prefer to speak to people face to face rather than them hiding behind uncontactable internet aliases.

    Our address is on our website – feel free to drop in during office hours – it would be great to have a chat over a cup of coffee.

    Cheers,

    Wayne


    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling
      Monica Broom

      You conducted my husband’s (David Curits Broom) cremation on June 14 th 2012. Is it possible to have a print out of the break down of the costs because I have no longer access to the original invoice. This is not a complaint. I was fully satisfied with your service but it would be of great help to me if you could provide me with a dulicate copy of the invoice. Monica Broom


      Charles Cowling
  9. Charles Cowling
    Nick Gandon

    Well, my opinion on this one (for what it’s worth) is one of “wait and see”.

    There is many a good idea that has evolved from someone trying a different approach. The finished item may turn out to be a totally different “animal” from the expected result…

    Whatever the end product, we (including the charities) are all “in business” and must evolve and make a modest profit in order to survive.

    More often than not, when “buying” a funeral, people will go to who they want to to. Their choice. Even better if it’s an informed choice….


    Charles Cowling
  10. Charles Cowling
    nick

    still don’t see how you can market as not for profit though


    Charles Cowling
  11. Charles Cowling
    Nick Gandon

    Just to clarify – that the poster “Nick” is not the same person as myself – “Nick Gandon”

    Ta!


    Charles Cowling
  12. Charles Cowling
    Trevor

    Wayne, the job I do both honestly and well is reward enough for me. But thanks for the suggestion

    The manager…. who currently remains nameless…. would you care to name him/her yet? Or is it that this person has such a tarnished reputation that it is best they remain nameless?


    Charles Cowling
  13. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Nick

    We will shortly be applying for registration with the Charity Commission.

    When registration is granted the charity number will be placed on our website.

    I am sad to read your comment that you think, “it wont be long before another FD in Norfolk pulls that apart be it an independent or one of the big boys!!”

    Funeral Directors, whether independents, PLC’s or Co-operatives have a long and much admired relationship with the charitable sector. It would serve no Funeral Director to ‘pull apart’ a charity that has been established to help people in extremely difficult circumstances.

    It reflects poorly on you that you see this as the future.


    Charles Cowling
  14. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Andrew

    Thanks for your comments. Having only opened we haven’t made any profit. However, if we do it will be used the same way all charities use their funds – to pursue it’s charitable objectives.


    Charles Cowling
  15. Charles Cowling
    nick

    I feel the “not for profit” bit is terribly misleading. Clever marketing???

    I think it wont be long before another FD in Norfolk pulls that apart be it an independent or one of the big boys!!

    And I agree with Andrew……what charity?


    Charles Cowling
  16. Charles Cowling
    Andrew Hickson

    Hi Wayne

    Thanks for your reply.

    I’m still having real problems with the concept. So you’re a ‘not for profit funeral home’ which makes a profit? You’re ‘established by a charity’ which remains nameless. And most strangely, you are very happy to tell the world that your ‘manager is one of only 16 people worldwide to achieve the UK’s highest possible funeral qualification’ yet he remains nameless. Are the public really more interested in a meaningless (to them) qualification than the name of someone they can contact when they need to?

    Call me cynical, but this kind of withholding of information just makes me think of the “serving the community for 150 years” when it’s actually been bought by the Co-op, and “your family owned funeral director” which is actually owned by some distant family, not the one implied by the advert.

    Why on earth would a business such as yours want to be faceless?


    Charles Cowling
  17. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Nick

    In this area, the commissions are 15-20% for flowers; 10% for press notices (12.5% for the Telegraph and the Times) and 10% from some caterers. There is also a healthy mark-up on coffins, ashes containers, grave diggers, specialist hearses, dove releases, pipers and orders of service.

    In fact anything other than grave purchases, cremation fees, doctors fees and minister/celebrant fees are marked up by some funeral directors in Norfolk.


    Charles Cowling
  18. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Trevor

    I am working for Norfolk Funerals as a volunteer, and I can assure you that I have not been paid a penny for any of the work I have put into the organisation. It’s a rewarding experience, and one I would recommend you try.

    If this situation changes and I am paid for any work I do for Norfolk Funerals then my level of remuneration will be set by the charitable trustees. I am sure this will be set at a lower level than I was paid by my previous employers.


    Charles Cowling
  19. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Nick

    The taxation of charities is a specialised area and it is not one that I can advise on. My knowledge of such matters is very slim.

    I tend to stick to funerals rather than accounting.


    Charles Cowling
  20. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Andrew

    Not for profit does not mean Norfolk Funerals cannot or will not make a profit. Instead it means that any profit that is made will be recycled back into the organisation, rather than being taken as a dividend or bonus.

    This approach allows charities to grow in the manner you described, but ensures their financial management is overseen by trustees who receive no financial reward for carrying out their role (other than reimbursement of travel expenses for attending meetings, etc).


    Charles Cowling
  21. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Jenny

    The most obvious use of profits to benefit the local community would be by providing a partly subsidised funeral for those who have no other means to pay. An example of this would be to pay the fee for a minister or celebrant when a DWP claimant has no other access to funds.

    Another example would be the use of profits to provide a funeral for the £700 payment made by the DWP (so a local burial or cremation, with a service provided by a minister or celebrant, with the cost of a standard coffin included in the £700).


    Charles Cowling
  22. Charles Cowling
    Nick

    “To ensure that our funerals are as affordable as possible we supply everything we order for our clients at cost price. Where we receive a discount from a supplier, we pass this on too”

    That’s just coffins and maybe 10% florist discount then. I don’t know many FD’s that get a kick back from caterers and press notices.

    Why is it seen to be so bad for a business to make a profit. There are not many millionaire funeral directors!!!

    In any other line of work it is ok to run a business and, for all of your hard work, pay yourself a wage and put a bit away into a pension. We are not all driving round in Lamborghini’s ripping people off.

    We have risked a lot to start up a business, we work unbelievably long hours and some of us actually offer very good value for money and care a great deal about the families we serve.


    Charles Cowling
  23. Charles Cowling
    Trevor

    Can one assume Wayne will be working as a volunteer for this company?…No. I didn’t think so. Sounds all very dubious. I suspect Wayne and co will be on Watchdog before too long….


    Charles Cowling
  24. Charles Cowling
    Nick

    I’m struggling with his as well. As an independent we make a profit while being much cheaper than the big boys but we need to hold on to profits to re-invest. Also, due to the seasonal nature of our work we need to hold on to profits to see us through those times as well.

    I do not make a fortune from my business but I have a decent living, working long hours (24 hours a day on call) which I feel is fair considering the risk when starting, investment and hours worked.

    If the business is established by a charity and is not for profit does that mean that you don’t have to pay taxes. If that is the case then I could probably be even cheaper than my competitors.


    Charles Cowling
  25. Charles Cowling
    Andrew Hickson

    Sorry, it says “…established by a charity” not “owned by a charity” – I was trying to do it from memory!


    Charles Cowling
  26. Charles Cowling
    Andrew Hickson

    Hi Wayne

    I too love the concept of this, but I echo Jenny’s ‘concerns’ in that your prices don’t seem very dissimilar to Jenny’s or mine. Certainly your direct cremation is £1 less than mine. I make a reasonable profit on a direct cremation, so how do you not make a profit?

    I have to say that I find “…is owned by a charity” a big turn off on your home page. As a consumer I would not accept those words without knowing what charity it was.

    I just can’t get my head around this idea that a business is not for profit. I wish I could, but I can’t. Businesses need to re-invest to grow don’t they? What happens if you need a new car? Without generating profit how does your business avoid stagnancy? My own business, opened less than 2 years ago, is constantly changing to make it a better place for both my clients and myself, but it can only do that by using the profit it generates.

    I can see why people are suspicious. If I’m totally honest, I am too. But that said, if the concept works I’d be one of the first to follow it as a proposition.

    I’m genuinely interested in your response.

    Thanks

    Andrew


    Charles Cowling
  27. Charles Cowling
    Jenny Uzzell

    Hi, Wayne
    Thank you for that. By my calculations your prices are very similar to ours (www.saintandforster.co.uk) which are also clearly displayed on the website. Please do feel free to have a look. We have also aimed to make the website a resource in its own right as a source of information and, we would like to think, inspiration.

    As for the use of profits to benefit the local community, would you be able to give some examples of how you do, or plan to do this? Like Jon I suspect that you are a ‘good thing’ and wish you well, but am just trying to get my head around exactly how this works in your case.
    Many thanks,
    Jenny


    Charles Cowling
  28. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Dear Nick

    Thank you for your kind and considerate comments. Your website is a credit to the service you offer, and it mirrors your own extremely high standards. I am personally aware that you offer excellent service at amazing prices, and I would like to say that your success is a result of the hard work that you have put into your business.

    Some of pages at http://www.norfolkfunerals.co.uk are password protected as they haven’t yet had their content uploaded. I believe Charles has had a look behind the password protection so he can vouch for this.

    There is no commercial or otherwise ulterior motive; it is more of an interweb teething problem. We are a small charity, there is much to do and we have only been open a little over a month. I will see about getting the passwords removed and some explanatory text added to the pages instead.

    The full content will be available shortly.


    Charles Cowling
  29. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Dear Jon

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to explain how we do business. Like all good funeral directors we arrange and conduct the funerals that our clients request.

    One of our priorities is to keep the cost of funerals as affordable as possible, which is why we operate as a not for profit enterprise.

    To ensure that our funerals are as affordable as possible we supply everything we order for our clients at cost price. Where we receive a discount from a supplier, we pass this on too.

    We do charge a fee to arrange a funeral, as like all enterprises we have overheads to pay. Our prices are clearly displayed on our website for any potential client to see before they contact us.

    We believe that clear and affordable pricing is the best way for a not for profit funeral home to work, and it the way we do business.


    Charles Cowling
  30. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Jenny

    Thank you for what is an astute and a very good question that I am sure many funeral directors will also be considering.

    You asked about the advantages to a client who used our services as opposed to the services of a for-profit funeral home that offered funerals at a similar price. As far as I am aware there are no for-profit funeral homes in our county that offer the public similar funerals at not for profit prices.

    That said, I don’t think the answer to your question can be found in comparing goods, services and prices. Instead, I think the real answer comes from comparing the vision and values of a for-profit and not for profit funeral home.

    If you look at other not for profit examples (such as fair-trade products, or FSC wood, or charitable credit cards), you will see that consumers do want to exercise their right to support really great projects which have an outstanding vision that supports the community. Clients can do this with a not for profit funeral home.

    The ultimate answer to your question is to follow the money potential clients would pay for their funeral. The owners of a for-profit funeral home can and usually do use their business profits for their own benefit. A not for profit funeral home uses all of its income for the good of the community through fulfilling objectives that are for the public’s benefit.


    Charles Cowling
  31. Charles Cowling
    Wayne

    Hi Maggie

    Thank you very much for your kind words and your support – it is very much appreciated.

    Best wishes,

    Wayne


    Charles Cowling
  32. Charles Cowling
    Nick Gandon

    Hello,

    May I compliment you on a clearly worded, very attractive website.

    I should also like to thank you for not “borrowing” any copy from my sites (almost every other site out there offering direct cremation has been a little too free with their computer’s copy and paste function re my copyrighted material – oddly enough, when contacted, it is never the site owner “wot dun it” but some spotty geek that should know better and is not currently contactable).

    However, I am curious as to the purpose of so many “password protected” sections of your site. Is this a commercially orientated decision, or are you too fearing the attention of those people out there that can’t write their own material?

    Good luck with the new business…

    Nick


    Charles Cowling
  33. Charles Cowling
    Jon Underwood

    Hi Norfolk Funeral,

    My instinct is that you’re a good thing. I’d like to ask what being not-for-profit means in terms of the way you do business.

    Many thanks,

    Jon


    Charles Cowling
  34. Charles Cowling
    Jenny Uzzell

    Hello, there.
    Could you explein to me, please, what the advantages are to a client in using your services as opposed to a conventional funeral home offering funerals at a similar price?
    Thanks,
    Jenny


    Charles Cowling
  35. Charles Cowling
    Maggie Brinklow

    wishing all of you at Norfolk Funerals the very best of luck – I was one of those who emailed Charles with a question (which he has answered with a phone call – thank you Charles x). If you (NF) ever need any help with anything at all, please feel free to contact me. Keep up the good work. x


    Charles Cowling