Payment for Death Cafe facilitators

Posted by Jon Underwood on Dec. 29, 2014, 10:57 p.m. 11 comments



I'm sure the holiday season is not the best time for this but I need to raise something :)


Our guide to running your own Death Cafe ( is clear that Death Cafes are not for profit. Organisers can ask for a suggested donation if they like, but Death Cafes never have a ticket price. This seems comfortable and appropriate to me.


However our guide does not say anything about payment for facilitators or organisers of Death Cafes. Recently, there have been a number of incidences of people being commissioned to run Death Cafes in return for payment. I have also seen a compainy advertising Death Cafes to organisations as a training exercise for their staff.


As this affects Death Cafe as a whole please could you share your views on what is appropriate in relation to this.


It seems to me that there are 3 main options:

1. hosts should be able able to get paid as much as they want to run Death Cafes in accordance with our guide

2. only being paid a certain amount is acceptable (if so how much?)

3. hosts should not be paid to run Death Cafes


All options would need to be consistent with the guidance we already have i.e. any costs should never be passed on to attendees e.g. as a ticket price.


Also some context is that running Death Cafe (and in particular the work that I do) is currently unfunded. Is it appropriate that some proportion of funds raised would contribute to this?


Please do share your thoughts and I will draft something in accordance to post in our guide.






Death Cafe associate, Death Care Consultant, Hospice Volunteer

Money complicates things, and brings skepticism into the picture. If our motives come into question it will diminish the open, trusting, and loving atmosphere of Death Cafes. Also if organizations require attendance for the staff because they have paid someone to host and facilitate the event, Death Cafe may get negative comments rather than the positive ones we get the way it is run now. I have a gut feeling it would hurt the over all image and diminish the effectiveness of Death Cafe. My question is do you have legal recourse to keep people from using your Brand Name disregarding the not for profit aspect of Death Cafe? Respectfully, A Bolyard

Posted by Death cafe in ONTARIO, OR

Death Cafe Marrickville

Hello Jon and the Death Cafe community.
The notions of not-for-profit and community service, for me, both underpin and provide the framework for what makes the Death Cafe model so philosophically unique and so 'uncommercial'. Conducting a Death Cafe is an opportunity to give something back to the community and that is priceless as far as I'm concerned. As a group facilitator I take no monetary payment, and though a gold coin entry fee for charity is stipulated, that condition is also optional and one never enforced. I always mention that the reason for this donation is that people generally don't appreciate what they don't pay for. I cook all the cakes myself, and I organise and have paid for my own advertising. The hosts of my Death Cafe 'Lazy Bones Lounge' share my idealogies and do not charge me for hire of the venue. Charging fees or paying facilitators seems to contradict the very notion of community service which is an opportunity to give back to the community and to share with others that which life has shared with you. I do get paid, but its not in a monetary sense. My payment is the joy I feel from being of use, from being of service, and from seeing people just overwhelmingly thankful and grateful for the opportunity to simply have a conversation in an environment where there is no judgement, only acceptance. At the end of the day no one person is the holder of anothers conscience. As such, and based on my comments, the only option I would ever choose, would be Option 3. A question I would ask is why does Death Café have to become a commodity? Can we not just give something back, for once in our lives, without putting a price tag on it?

Posted by mknight

Death Cafe - Fremantle

Hi Jon and fellow deathies!

I sentiment mknight's statement above. I am so passionate about facilitating conversations about death and dying that it doesn't matter to me whether I get paid or not. The conversation and its myriad benefits is what counts. I do this because I love it and I love how it benefits everyone, myself included. I feel so full at the end of each Death Cafe I host that payment would seem somehow too base or insignificant. I can get paid in other ways and means. It doesn't have to be by facilitating the Death Cafe's. It's only 2 hours once (or twice if it's in two locations) per months. Let's let that time be sacred giving and receiving that doesn't include money. I don't charge for my cafe's but we're in a cafe and if people wish to buy their lunch/drink/treat or nothing, then they have that option. It's easier that way and it allows people from all walks of life to come along. It seems to work best here in Western Australia anyway. ♥


Posted by Death Cafe - Fremantle

Death Cafe Girona

I agree with your comments. I think falicitators should not be paid by the role they play. I think anyone who wants to contribute to a Death Cafe is in their own personal interests, as human beings, as the participants that attending and participating as a personal need as well. Furthermore, money could contribute to skip the rule "not for profit basis", and start to appear profesional interests. I like this idea from the Death Cafe Guide "In the Death Cafe there are no hierarchies. We all meet simply as people who are going to die. As such any facilitators who work around death and dying should be willing to leave their professional identity at the door."

Posted by Death Cafe Girona


Hello: I am holding my first DC near the end of January, so am just a beginner. I have attended three DCs at two different venues, and I think payment for hosts/facilitators is a bad idea. It seems to me that it subverts the whole idea of Death Cafe, and is opening the door for "for-profit" meetings to follow. In any event, if hosts/facilitators are paid, then it is in fact "for-profit" at least for those operators.
I vote NO.
Ron Weinert
Scottsdale Death Cafe
Scottsdale, Arizona

Posted by octogenoman

Nuances in guidelines for payment

The question of money and death cafes has been around since the beginning. I do not feel that hosting death cafes should be a money-making enterprise and am personally annoyed when see how commercial some Death Cafes have become. HOWEVER, we need to be careful in distinguishing rules about payment because I see quite a few organizations now that are hosting Death Cafes. (I thought that we were supposed to have people host not, organizations...) If the hosts of these events are employees who are getting "paid" for their time to host on behalf of the organization, we don't want to create a rule that eliminates all of these situations. In Bernard's book, he talked about other people organizing events and that he would come and host, as long as his expenses were covered. The big question is, "Is time an expense?" There are some organizations who believe strongly in the concept of Death Cafe but do not feel that they have the staff appropriate to host. For these groups, the only way they may able to have a Death Cafe and/or find a host is to offer to pay for one. There is a difference to me of being offered money versus "charging a fee" for hosting. The commercial stuff all gives me a sick feeling.

Posted by Lizzy Miles



Thanks very much to everyone who has commented so far. It is really useful to hear your opinions.

Thanks A Bolyard who asked "do you have legal recourse to keep people from using your Brand Name disregarding the not for profit aspect of Death Cafe?" The term Death Cafe is trademarked in the UK and US so in these countries yes, otherwise no.

In terms of the options, there seems currently to be a clear preference for option 3. hosts should not be paid to run Death Cafes.

That sounds great and I think we should proceed on that basis. If you think otherwise please speak soon!

There is then the question about how this should be written into our guide

Although Death Cafe is not for profit it does not mean that Death Cafe never deals with money.

Our guide currently allows for donations towards the organiser's expenses (8.2) or these to be paid by a sponsor (8.6).

How do these elements of the guide fits with the option we're talking about (3. hosts should not be paid to run Death Cafes)?

When we agree that we can draft some wording for comment.


Posted by Jon Underwood

Payment for Facilitators

I must echo the remarks previously posted here. I actually prefer that I do not receive any money for what I consider a gift of my time, wisdom and experience to people interested in end-of-life issues. For me, this work is a passion and a hobby. I am so pleased to be a part of such an important worldwide movement!

Posted by Paula Schneider

Hopefully if each of us paid a small fee to Death Cafe it would not impede a person from facilitating meetings.
I would rather there not be a charge to come to DC meetings. I feel it is an offering to others to address life's preeminent issue...
Sustainability is important and the skills you and Megan provide are important...How to compensate you and others in the future, just not sure...This is what happens to a great great idea, now to come up with a great idea to keep it going. Keeping anything grassroots is always a challenge.
Thanks for the good work, Jon.

Posted by Mary Jane Lee

I have facilitated 6 DC's so far and am committed to many more in my home area of southern Vermont in the US. I follow the guidelines of no fees for DC . We collect only for expenses. I believe it is important for this rule to be followed for all the reasons stated by others. But I do have a related question; How are those who do NOT choose to follow this guideline, held accountable?

Posted by robin g taft


Hi Robin,

Thanks very much for your question "How are those who do NOT choose to follow this guideline, held accountable?"

In terms of checking people abide by the Death Cafe guidelines, everything on this website (apart from comments) is moderated by me before being published.

Also sometimes I see things that are contrary to the Death Cafe guidelines in a google alert or on another website, and sometimes people tell me about these. In these cases I follow up and ask people to abide by the guidelines.

Also other people who are connected with Death Cafe will approach people who are not following guidelines. Generally I would say that people are not following the guide through error rather than intention. People, when approached openly, tend to respond positively but not always!

Also I think this question brings into focus issues around governance in relation to Death Cafe. At the moment there is no structure for Death Cafe apart from:
- me who is holding the project including maintaing the website & guide
- Megan who runs the facebook page
- Death Cafe hosts and facilitators who also take on other roles as mentors and media spokespeople among others

This seems to have worked ok so far but there are risks relating to sustainability. Also perhaps there is a need for wider accountability / shared decision making / something different?

Apologies if this is unclear, I'm just thinking aloud. Thanks all for your contributions, it is good to be discussing this with you <3


Posted by Jon Underwood

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