🌸 What do florists do with all their extra, unsold flowers? They become Secondhand Flowers! 🌸
Hello! My name is Sarah Brooks, and I am a strategic organizational communications student with a certificate in floral design. For my project, I wanted to find something that I have a deep passion for and also something that allowed me to use a good majority of my strengths and talents. First and foremost, I love working with people; I enjoy being able to provide them with opportunities, resources, service and community. While working with Secondhand flowers as their community outreach coordinator, I was able to use these strengths and skills to help with a project that I have a deep passion for. It was a perfect fit!
This semester, I have been so grateful and fulfilled to have to opportunity to work with Secondhand Flowers as their Community and Volunteer Coordinator. Secondhand Flowers is a nonprofit organization that receives donated flowers from grocery stores, funeral homes, floral shops, and independent artists who have extra flowers, destined for the compost bin. Many of these extra flowers are still in wonderful condition, but because they are “old”, they cannot be commercially marketed. That’s when we come in! These donated flowers come to us and, with the help of many wonderful volunteers, we arrange them into beautiful bouquets to give to local senior homes in the community. Because of our efforts, we are able to decrease floral waste, bring together a community of volunteers, and brighten the day for many senior citizens in the Rexburg community.
How it all began
I found out about Secondhand Flowers through a posting on the website “Just Serve”. I had reached out many months before I started this project with great interest in offering my help! After many months passed by without any contact or communication about my interest in helping, I forgot about the opportunity.
When it came time to begin my senior project, I reached out again, this time not only offering my help with arranging flowers, but I wanted to help improve organizational communications for this nonprofit. I did some searching and found an inactive Facebook page for Secondhand Flowers. I sent a message, waited, and then miraculously and got a response! This was when the project took off.
My role in this organization was to improve organizational communications. Elaine, the founder of Secondhand Flowers, and I brainstormed together some initiatives to undertake. We came up with these three organizational priorities:
- Increase BYU-Idaho student involvement in Secondhand Flower volunteer opportunities
- Promote and offer publicity to flower donors
- Encourage others to start up secondhand flower organizations in other communities
Initially, I wanted to start a new branch of Secondhand Flowers that was focused on targeting BYU-Idaho Floral Design students as volunteers. However, after reaching out to several grocery stores and floral shops, finding enough floral donations to supply a new branch proved to be difficult. Albertsons in Rexburg currently supplies all the flowers for the organization as well as various funeral and public flower donations. Because I could not find any other local donors, I decided to bulk up what organization we already had going on by bringing in volunteers to help support Elaine as well as raise more awareness for Secondhand Flowers.
Step One: Work closely with BYU-Idaho Floral department
By coordinating with the horticulture department on BYU-Idaho campus, I was able to reach a lot of students who were particularly interested in working with flowers. I distributed a sign up sheet to students by meeting with professors and explaining the opportunity. These professors then advertised the organization in all their classes. Because we got to work with mainly BYU-Idaho students, who call all parts of the world “home”, we were able to spread the idea and purpose of the organization to those who can take it elsewhere if they so choose.
Step Two: Manage Secondhand Flowers’ Social Media
In order to attract an audience base and spread awareness of the organization, a social media account was necessary. Elaine had already created a Facebook, but it had been inactive and had a small following. Rather than reviving the Facebook, I chose to create an Instagram because I know that many of the BYU-Idaho students use Instagram as their primary social media platform.
To curate a following, I targeted followers of the BYU-Idaho Bloom Room Instagram, the BYU-Idaho Plant Shop Instagram, and various local floral shop Instagram accounts. This proved to connect me with the right audience—an audience that would be interested in volunteering.
With this Instagram account, I posted frequently about the organization and the work we did, I maintained a theme that would be attractive to my audience, and I did some advertising and informational posting to keep my audience engaged.
Step Four: Offer Publicity for our Donors
We wanted to make sure that donors received recognition for the generous donations they offer Secondhand Flowers. Without them, we would not have enough flowers to keep senior homes filled with flowers. I created a small tag to go on each vase we placed on the tables of the senior homes that had a thank you message to floral donors (see attached image). This proved to be effective in letting those we served know who was taking part in providing donations to the organization.
Step Five: Monday Assembly and Delivery
As I maintained the Instagram and coordinated with volunteers, I also helped lead out the Monday morning assembly and delivery processes for donated flowers. Volunteers would meet up and we would go pick up hundreds of flowers from Albertsons. We would then have to process them, design them, and finally deliver them all to the Homestead in Rexburg and the Senior Center.
Normally this process would take Elaine nearly 7 hours to complete herself, but with the help of volunteers, we would get it done in nearly half the time!
By the end of my project, I was able to cultivate a volunteer base of 25 people. When we started, it was just Elaine. I was also able to increase efficiency by decreasing the assembly and delivery time in half. It used to take Elaine six plus hours; now it takes at most four. With the help of all volunteers, we were able to arrange thousands of flowers and put hundreds of arrangements of the tables of the two largest senior homes in the community.
I have been able to thoroughly enjoy my time coordinating volunteers and curating a community for Secondhand Flowers. Bringing people together to support such a cause as serving the elderly community brings me much fulfillment. I have been able to utilize many of my communication skills working with Albertsons floral, BYU-Idaho student-volunteers, senior home management, the elderly populations of Rexburg, and other various, local flower donors. I have always had an interest for nonprofit organizations and learning what makes them successful.
It is the people. It is the relationships. It is the community.
These three things together make a successful nonprofit organization. As I was able to strengthen these aspects of Secondhand Flowers, I was able to see the organization take off.
As I graduate this semester and leave Rexburg and the Secondhand Flower organization and volunteers behind, I have put much thought into how I may generate sustainability for the efforts made this semester.
Keeping engaged volunteers is at the heart of sustainability. As I have worked with the BYU-Idaho Floral department, I have been able to make Secondhand Flowers an ongoing opportunity for future semester students. Instructors will continue to distribute the information needed to become involved.
I will also be looking into starting a new branch of Secondhand Flowers in the New Orleans area where I will be moving. I will also be transitioning the social media account to focus on this location. Because of this transition, I will direct all current followers, many of whom are located in Rexburg, to the Facebook page that Elaine more frequently posts on now and which has all necessary information.
It is difficult to leave a community that you helped build. I have grown to form deep connections with volunteers, seniors, and my dear friend, Elaine. I am confident, however, that the operations of Secondhand Flowers will continue to flourish well into the future.