A group of people sitting on top of a cement block.

6 ideas for meaningful Pride Month events at your small business

Hosting an event during Pride Month is a meaningful and fun way for small business owners to show their pride and support for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Deciding what event to host can be a tough decision, so to help you out, we've gathered six ideas for Pride events that you can host. The best events are often centered around support, advocacy, education, and social opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. 

Of course, you and your employees can also show support for your local LGBTQ+ community by sponsoring and participating in all kinds of Pride events, such as parades, drag shows, and festivals. You can also check event calendars, news sites, and social media to connect with organizers in your area.

Before hosting a Pride event, consider how welcoming and inclusive your business and space are. Pride events should be an authentic expression of your business's values. Organizing an event will come more naturally if you support the LGBTQ+ community year-round and have built relationships with customers, employees, other business owners, and community members before June rolls around. 

1. Banned books open mic night

The past year has been a record-breaker for banning books in schools and libraries across the country, with 1,858 books targeted. "Most of the targeted books were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color," the American Library Association said in a news release.

Host an open-mic night at your store and invite customers to read their favorite passages from banned books with LGBTQ+ themes. Consider partnering with a local bookshop to sell books, or invest in a collection of popular banned books to sell yourself. These seven titles all top the most-banned books list for 2023 and would be good to have on hand:  

  • “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe
  • “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson
  • “This Book Is Gay” By Juno Dawson
  • “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
  • “Flamer” by Mike Curato
  • “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins
  • “Let’s Talk About It” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan

Be sure to set up a "stage" area with a microphone and sound system. Create a cozy and inviting area for customers to listen to readers and have discussions. Drinks and snacks are a great way to encourage customers to engage with one another during the event. 

2. Panel discussion or featured speaker

Open up your business or rent space at a local library or college to host a discussion about LGBTQ+ issues. This kind of event can be as formal or casual as you'd like. Speakers could be members of the state legislature or city council, or they could be customers who'd like to share their experiences.

Topics for a speaker or speaker panel could include:

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace
  • Health care and the LGBTQ+ community
  • LGBTQ+ rights in your city or state
  • Allyship
  • The history and celebrations of Pride Month
  • Something related to your business, like a panel of LGBTQ+ creators or entrepreneurs

3. Pride-themed trivia night

Partner with a local brewery — or host it yourself! — to hold a Pride-themed trivia night. You can look for free quizzes online, work with a trivia host, or develop questions yourself. Be sure to have pencils, paper, and a writing surface for participants. The trivia host should have a microphone and sound system as well as a structured way to score trivia teams. Drinks, snacks, and music can create an upbeat atmosphere. Be sure to have a donated prize for the winning team.

Trivia games usually last about an hour and have multiple themed rounds. Consider using themes that feature well-known LGBTQ+ actors, celebrities, and advocates; historical firsts and events; music written or sung by LGBTQ+ performers; and fun facts about Pride Month. The best trivia nights are the ones where everyone learns something new, so have fun creating the questions!

Two women waving a pride flag

Explore the small business guide to Pride

Find the tools and resources you need to be a strong ally to your customers and employees, support the LGBTQ+ community, and make an impact year-round.

4. Volunteer day

Business owners who facilitate volunteering opportunities get two kinds of benefits: happier employees and the opportunity to help their community. Research from 2022 suggests that "company-sponsored volunteering works its two-pronged magic by boosting social bonding among coworkers and creating a sense of identification between employees and employers," according to Insights by Stanford Business.

Invite customers to join you and your employees in a volunteer effort that supports local LGBTQ+ efforts or organizations. Volunteer opportunities could include working at a community Pride event or behind a booth for groups like the Human Rights Campaign. Local nonprofits or other organizations supporting the LGBTQ+ community may have other needs that you can support. You can also gather signatures for and share information about proposed legislation or ballot initiatives.

5. Fundraiser party

Who doesn't love a party? Hold a black-tie soiree or a swinging Pride bash with tickets to raise money for a local or national LGBTQ+ organization. Rent out space in a park, event center, or community center, open up your business, or partner with a business with room to move.

Ask for donations of live music, food, drinks, prizes, or auction items so all funds can go to the nonprofit you're supporting. Or bring in vendors, like food trucks and mobile bartenders, who will also donate a portion of sales for the evening. Activities like games, photo booths, and silent auctions can be a fun way to raise additional money — or just to have a good time. Giving your fundraiser a theme is a great way to attract attendees and have a little more fun.

6. Virtual event for web-based businesses

Your business doesn't have to have a brick-and-mortar location to host a Pride event! For e-commerce or service-based businesses that operate online, virtual events are a great option to bring people together. It's important to have the right technology in place for the kind of event you'd like to host; a quick online search can help you find what you need.

These are some of our favorite ideas to bring people together to learn, support one another, or just have fun with a virtual event:

Live shopping sale 

Live shopping — using the live video functionality on a social media platform to sell items in real time — is gaining popularity. Hold a sale for Pride Month, and donate proceeds to a local charity that supports the LGBTQ+ community. You could also gather donations from other local small businesses to auction off during your live shopping sale. Be sure to advertise your live shopping sale ahead of time to maximize participation.

Virtual speaker, roundtable, or coffee chat

Invite lawmakers, journalists, or LGBTQ+ advocates to speak with your customers in an intimate virtual setting. Inspirational and informational speakers make for excellent webinar-type virtual events, where only one person speaks. Topics that benefit from multiple viewpoints and perspectives are great for roundtable events. Coffee chats — brew your own coffee! — let community members divide into breakout rooms to engage in discussions amongst themselves. Be sure to have a moderator to introduce guests and let participants know what to expect. 

Online trivia game 

See Idea 3 above for trivia ideas that give customers the chance to have fun and learn about Pride. Find a platform that makes hosting trivia online a blast, and be sure to reward your winners with a prize. 

Still looking for ideas? Just ask. 

Engaging with local advocacy groups and getting involved in the LGBTQ+ community is the best way to understand what kind of Pride events would be helpful and meaningful. It's not too late to reach out to nonprofits, chambers of commerce, or other organizations to ask for ideas. No matter what kind of event you host, be authentic, be inclusive, and have fun!

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