How Does a Cemetery Make Money?

by Faith O

Cemeteries as the final resting places of our loved ones are broadly regarded as sacred. For the most part, cemeteries make money by selling burial plots, collecting maintenance or membership fees and endowments, to mention a few. The location of a cemetery as well as local laws and whether the cemetery is public or private determine what cemeteries do and how they typically get paid.

Private Cemeteries

Private cemeteries raise funds through a variety of means. These include selling new plots, selling exclusivity such as special headstones or special spots, memberships for maintenance and endowments, as well as fundraising through grants. For example, the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York, in its Blue-Sky Mausoleum, designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, has special glass sculptures in special crypts, which cost at least $125,000.

Public Cemeteries

Public cemeteries in addition to some of the methods used by private cemeteries, within the confines of local regulations, can also raise money from the tax payers. In some places, cemeteries get a portion of the local property tax. Also some cemeteries that are national or state memorials also get appropriations from the federal or state government. A good example is Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, which is managed by the National Park Service.

Creative Fundraising

Many cemeteries, especially those that are running out of or have run out of plots to sell for new burials, have found creative ways of raising money to maintain their operations. Many have turned the cemeteries into tourist destinations. Some have periodic themed productions, such as Titanic Day at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, while other cemeteries have become dog parks (Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.) with a membership fee being charged.

About the Author

Faith O has covered politics and general news in Washington DC, Chicago and Maryland. Her writing has appeared in the Associated Press, Prince George's Sentinel, Northwest Indiana Times, Chicago Defender and Daily Southtown, among others. She has a Masters of Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School and a Bachelor's degree from Hampshire College in Amherst.

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