Bouquets make a difference

By Lynn Sygiel, editor, Charitable Advisors

At Random Acts of Flowers (RAF), recipients of the arrangements are touched and surprised.

“The calls we get from these recipients, they just make you weep because you know what that arrangement looked like. You know it was not a big extravagant bouquet, it was a tiny little happy, made-with-love arrangement to a stranger,” said Alison Kothe, Indianapolis’ RAF executive director

One Eskenazi Hospital patient called the week after a delivery and left a voicemail saying, “‘They’re making me go to this rehab place way out on 38th Street, but they cannot make me not take my flowers. They may kick me out, but I’m taking my flowers.’ It was so cute, and it was wonderful to think that a week after we made the delivery, her flowers were still well enough to go to the rehab place,” said Kothe.

Volunteers have a similar reaction. Recently two Indianapolis-based Avant Healthcare employees were involved in a corporate team-building activity.

Their experiences were similar.

“By the end of the day, after you’ve sorted through all that has come in, it’s beautiful to see all the “new” flowers put together that are ready for bouquet arrangements. It was so much fun volunteering at RAF,” said Abby Flick, an Avant Healthcare employee.

“What an amazing organization. I love the idea of brightening up the day of someone in need with beautiful flowers,” said her colleague, Jamie Burns.

How does Random Acts of Flowers choose its cities?

Founder Larsen Jay said there are four things they look when selecting cities.

  • Is it a place where a lot of events are held? Galas?
  • Is there access to health care facilities?
  • Is the community known for philanthropy and volunteers?
  • Is there potential for long-term sustainability?

Each new branch gets help from the national organization to set the course. With an eight-year track record, Kothe said they know what works and doesn’t. work. Each potential local site has to present a plan to the national board for approval.

“They know what doesn’t work. They’ve been very helpful steering us away from doing things that people suggest that they know are just not going to fly,” Kothe said.

Marketing materials are provided for each local site from the national office, helping provide a consistent look from bureau to bureau.

According to RAF, each arrangement costs $17, which includes overhead costs. Indianapolis raised $100,000 from donors before it opened its doors. Start-up costs vary from city to city, and depend on a lot of factors, including real estate. In the first year, Indianapolis gets $50,000 each quarter from the national organization to help ensure the branch’s success.

Locally, one way each bureau raises income is through sponsorship cards., the cost of which can be underwritten by companies and organizations. Each bouquet is delivered with a card that includes the volunteer who made the arrangement and the source of the flowers.

Kothe has a wish list for the organization:

  • An individual with clout with Roudebush Veteran Affairs Medical Center, so that RAF can begin to deliver arrangements to the veterans.
  • Community groups willing to donate vases. Must be between 4 and 9 inches tall.
  • Six corporate sponsors for delivery cards for the six months remaining in RAF’s fiscal year.
    Cost: $1,000 per sponsor for 1,000 cards
  • A sponsor to underwrite the annual cost of “gas money” for the RAF van. Cost: $3,000 annually
  • An individual or sponsors to underwrite the cost of the composting effort.Cost: $5,000 annually
  • A sponsor for RAF’s volunteer appreciation event.Cost: $1,500

If you are interested in contributing, visit http://indianapolis.randomactsofflowers.org or email Alison Kothe at alison@rafindianapolis.org

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