This year, Petal It Forward, the Society of American Florists’ popular pay-it-forward floral initiative will look and feel a little different when it kicks off on Oct. 21. Through Petal It Forward, participating industry members from across segments give pairs of flowers or bouquets to surprised recipients, one to keep and one to pass on. The feel-good effort is especially needed right now.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, roughly one in 12 American adults reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder at this time last year; now it’s more than one in three.
“When the SAF board of directors met earlier this year to talk about Petal It Forward, the first question the group tackled was, ‘Can we do Petal It Forward in 2020 — and, also, should we?’” said Kate Penn, SAF’s CEO. “Our primary concern was health and safety during the pandemic, but we were also very aware of the challenges industry members face that make participation harder: lean teams, razor-thin margins, work/life balances that have been turned upside down.”
Still, since it launched in 2015, Petal It Forward has been a flexible, highly customizable event, with SAF encouraging participants to plan giveaways that work for their business. With targeted adaptations and new support materials and guidance from SAF, the association’s volunteer leaders feel confident Petal It Forward can continue safely this year, Penn said, and that the event has never been more necessary.
“This is a time for our industry to shine and to help people who are struggling with their mental health and feelings of isolation find ways to reconnect,” she explained. “As industry members, we understand the healing power of flowers. We see it every day. Petal It Forward is a way to share that message with communities across the country who are hungry for good news and positive feelings.”
Crucial to the success of this year’s event, say industry members who have been active participants in the past: advanced planning and some out-of-the-box thinking.
“[This year], we are asking this simple question for our Petal It Forward: ‘What is our intention behind this event?’” said Stephanie Cutts of Expressions Unlimited in Greenville, South Carolina. “To share the power that flowers have to lift people’s spirits and make them smile. To give someone else the chance to be the stone in the pond and see how far the ripples of kindness will go.”
SAF will be unveiling updated resources, including social media shareables and tips and printable, customizable materials next week. Look for more information at safnow.org and via SAF publications.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.