President's Message: Looking to the future, learning from the past

OGR is built on a strong foundation of over 93 years serving the Independent Funeral Home. With a dedicated board, outstanding staff and members who are there to support one another, we're ready to write the next chapter of OGR’s story. We have begun to implement a three-year strategic plan that was developed by the board, our staff and the leadership at our management company Raybourn Group International.

Mary F. SteeleDesigned to adapt and grow with the ever-changing times, the plan addresses three key focus areas: programming excellence, membership growth and brand identity. With this in mind, our staff is evaluating all the current products, services and educational programs to ensure that they continue to meet our current needs. They also are working together to develop new ideas that will be created into valuable member benefits to enhance each area of our strategic plan. After reading more about our plan below, I invite you to get involved in making OGR an even better association.

Programming Excellence

In order to reach our goal of providing the industry standard for innovation, our programming will offer educational programs and events that are not only relevant to independent funeral home professionals and small business owners, but will push them to be the best they can be as they grow over different phases of their careers. As an international association, we will also harness technology so our programs and events are accessible to all for the betterment of the entire profession. If you would like to have a voice in this, reach out to Emilie Perkins, our talented education and events director, at [email protected] about serving on our Professional Development Committee.

Membership Growth

OGR’s membership team, consisting of Nancy Weil, Alyssa Castille and Krystal Flores, have been tasked with continuing to engage our current members all while recruiting new funeral homes to join OGR. The strategic plan recognizes that our association needs to reflect the face of funeral service today, so we will strive to reach out to a diverse group, based not only in personal demographics, but also size and geographic location of the funeral home. The more new voices we bring in, the more we all benefit from their new ways of doing things.

While strong programming may help us keep existing members, people often don’t join an association like ours for its benefits - people join people. A prospective member who hears from a trusted colleague about the value of their membership is more likely to join than a prospect who gets a marketing piece in their inbox or mailbox, no matter how slick it is. I hope you will keep this in mind when you are speaking with colleagues and share with them the positive experience you’ve had with OGR. Then let Nancy know to mail them information about joining by sending her an email at [email protected].

Brand Identity

Both programming excellence and membership growth & retention - and the entirety of our strategic plan, for that matter - come down to one question: Who will OGR be in its second century of existence? We’ll hit that grand milestone later this decade, but we shouldn’t wait for it to arrive to assess where we are and who we want to be. Our aim is to be considered an industry mark of excellence both within our professional community, as well as by the consumer. The OGR Ethical Standards certificate that I place into every folder that leaves with each family I serve reflects this commitment to the high level of service that is the underpinning of the Golden Rule. Reach out to OGR’s communications director Evan Hoffmeyer at [email protected] if you need a copy of the certificate or any other OGR branding resources.

Excellence Amid the Unexpected

While the strategic plan has been a major focus of my presidency, I have also been called upon to guide our association through a global pandemic that would change some of the most fundamental aspects of our society both in terms of how we live and how we honor those who die.

Luckily, as death care professionals we are no strangers to handling the unexpected. It is something we face on a regular basis, and our members have met the challenge for our families with the highest levels of service we all strive for every day. Four of NFDA’s seven “Best of the Best” funeral homes came from among our ranks; American Funeral Director’s Funeral Director of the Year was Geri Oliverie, who joined OGR the same year she opened her first funeral home; and more than 1,000 funeral directors, embalmers and other employees of Golden Rule Funeral Homes have worked tens of thousands of hours to help the grieving amid their loss - and I think every OGR member would agree that a sincere “thank you” from a family you have served well in one of the most trying times of their lives is worth more than any accolade.

We do still love taking time to honor the amazing work you do, whether it was stepping up to provide outstanding
service or volunteering your time and reaching out to your communities while navigating your companies through a year we will never forget. Please set aside an hour of your time and join me on April 29 for the Golden Circle Celebration, this year’s virtual awards ceremony. This event will also serve as our annual meeting and the formal change of leadership to next year’s board of directors, including Evan J. Strong as your new president.

I am privileged to have been your president this past year and honored to have counted myself among this esteemed association’s number for more than 20 years. I look forward to the day we all meet again in person to share stories and a warm embrace after so long apart.

Yours in service,

Mary Flynn Steele

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