June marks the arrival of Pride Month all over the world, a month dedicated to commemorating the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, which marked a sea change in the LGBTQIA+ community. Generally celebrated with public events such as parades and concerts, this year’s celebrations for the queer community and its allies will look markedly different due to social distancing. That might be one of the greatest gifts to the Pride movement, too.
“Because of the rise of virtual events, the amount of people who can take advantage of Pride celebrations is wider than ever,” says Jonathan Lovitz, senior vice president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). “We have the opportunity for what’s probably the largest audience for Pride celebrations in this country’s history.”
If your business is looking to participate in Pride this year but feels hindered because public events have been canceled or put on hold, that’s understandable. The ideas below from leaders in the queer community can help guide you towards crafting events that are both accessible and in alignment with the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Begin with an Internal Audit
With both social distancing and the country’s awakenings surrounding racial justice, it’s essential to look at your company’s motivations for participating in Pride. If you’ve previously participated in Pride for a publicity bump but haven’t extended that support to the queer community year-round, you can change that this year by taking actions to make your business and its Pride participation more inclusive and enduring.
To help your company evaluate past Pride efforts and shape this year’s events, these three tips can help ensure your actions are inclusive and enduring, not just performative:
- Revisit previous partnerships. Assess the nonprofits and other businesses you might have partnered with in your community to ensure their commitments to the LGBTQIA+ community align with yours. Now’s the time to hop on the phone with partners to ask tough questions and how your partnerships can create meaningful support for the queer community.
- Invite guidance and collaboration. Your company’s employees can be one of your most significant resources for ideas to shape your actions around both Pride and enduring support. Reach out to invite members of the queer community to add their insights, stories, and recommendations voluntarily. A simple questionnaire can help you solicit thoughts, and the option for anonymous responses can help ensure a diversity of voices.
- Look beyond Pride Month. For every action your company takes during Pride Month, ask how that action can be carried out for the other 11 months of the year. For example, if your company is donating a percentage of sales to a queer-affirming nonprofit for June, look for a way to continue supporting that nonprofit through a year-round sales strategy.
“Now is the time to be doubling down on supporting inclusive businesses so that all our communities feel seen, supported and empowered throughout—and long after this moment,” says Justin Nelson, co-founder and president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).
Explore Your Backyard
Once you’ve revisited your company’s intentions for Pride and the year as a whole, you may find that this year offers a unique opportunity to double down on efforts to lift your local queer community. This carries over into popular alliances businesses tend to form with nonprofits during Pride.
“National organizations are great and deserving, but consider starting in your own backyard,” says Krystal Peak, former community engagement and marketing manager at the Sacramento LGBT Community Center and now-account executive with Gravitate PR. “Maybe your local LGBT center needs your attention more. Think locally.”
While you likely won’t be marching in a Pride parade alongside leaders from local queer-affirming nonprofits, you can create low-contact campaigns to raise both awareness and support.
- Come equipped. Peak advises that businesses interested in partnering with nonprofits during Pride, especially this year when everyone’s working remotely and under increased stress, come to the conversation with both an offer to help and ideas for how you might like to help. “Nonprofits are typically both understaffed and underfunded,” says Peak. “Ask if they have any immediate needs and come with a few ideas that would be easy for your company to pull off. Be both willing to listen to the nonprofit and do some of the mental labor.”
- Let your employees steer advocacy. While business leaders might have an affinity for a particular queer advocacy group in your community, your LGBTQIA+ employees can steer towards organizations that have had an impact on their lives. “Maybe you have employees that are transgender or nonbinary who can help inform and shape your partnerships,” Peak says.
- Reach out to your local LGBT chamber of commerce. If you’re at a loss for ideas or want guidance on local organizations that need your support, Lovitz recommends reaching out to your local LGBT chamber affiliate. They can advise on nonprofits and both queer-owned and black queer-owned businesses in your community that you can support. “Their recovery is our recovery. Taking care of our community takes care of all communities,” he says.
Consider Virtual Events to Expand Your Impact
Using the strategies above, your business can expand both its Pride reach and impact this year through virtual events.
“Because this year’s Pride celebrations are going to be so internet-focused, it’s a good time to remind folks that the internet is the great equalizer. This means you’re not bound by your geography to take part in celebrations,” says Lovitz.
Your virtual events this year can break down barriers to access for those who need Pride celebrations more than ever. Consider those in communities who don’t have the support of a local queer support system or queer-affirming businesses. Your virtual events can remove the expense of travel from the equation and leverage your brand’s power to make Pride a genuinely accessible event inclusive of those previously marginalized by disability, geography and socioeconomic status.
Here are a few ideas to spark your virtual event planning:
- Video conferencing panels/talks. Consider sponsoring a panel with leaders from the queer community in your area and live stream that event for public access.
- Amplify with social media. If you host a virtual event, offer it for live stream on channels like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can also record the event and create snippets centered on critical topics to share at later dates.
- How-to segments. Partner with local queer-owned businesses and restaurants and sponsor virtual how-to classes. Topics could include a signature cocktail series, crafting, home improvement projects, or even social activism strategies like letter-writing campaigns and how to join a virtual phone/text bank.
And finally, your business can participate in Pride year-round by re-upping your commitment to investing in queer-owned companies and creators in your community. This commitment endures through any economy and regardless of social distancing requirements.
“As we’re recovering from COVID and reacting to the nation’s awakening to racial and economic injustice, we have the ability and obligation to take care of our community by doubling down on our Pride spending,” says Lovitz.
Because this year’s Pride celebrations are going to be so internet-focused, it’s a good time to remind folks that the internet is the great equalizer. This means you’re not bound by your geography to take part in celebrations.
—Jonathan Lovitz, senior vice president, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
Look for opportunities to contract with local queer-owned businesses for your company’s food and beverage needs. Make sure your company’s Pride t-shirts are printed by a queer-owned vendor. And most importantly, ask LGBTQIA+ business owners for their recommendations for other queer-owned businesses your company can support through its regular purchasing activities.
“As the economy regains its footing in the months ahead, leading with a commitment to diversity—as a business owner or consumer—can help supercharge our economy and our community back to where we should be with our $917 billion LGBT purchasing power,” says Nelson.
Photo: Getty Images