How to get your small business involved in your local Pride parade

How to get your small business involved in your local Pride parade

On June 28, 1970, activists in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago presented a united front: the first Pride marches in the country, commemorating the Stonewall Uprising, celebrating the LGBT+ community and, above all, demonstrating the importance of social justice and equal rights. Since then, Pride has grown exponentially; not just across the country, but around the world.

If you’ve been looking to get your small business involved in your local Pride celebrations — and particularly, a Pride parade, here are a few tips to get started. 

First things first: check your motivation

Pride parades are a ton of fun, so it’s no surprise that companies large and small want to take part. But before you sign up to volunteer or sponsor, take a moment to reflect on your company’s mission and goals. Do they align with LGBTQ+ allyship and advocacy?

Jo Trigilio, vice president of Boston Pride for the People — the organization hosting 2023’s Pride Month celebration in Boston, Massachusetts — says it’s important to consider. “My question for most small businesses that want to get involved with Pride is, What is your mission? What's your purpose? Why do you want to get involved? Do you consider yourself an ally?”

Naturally, many small businesses that support Pride have a personal connection to the LGBTQ+ community. “LGBTQ-owned businesses and small businesses that serve the LGBTQ population have always been part of Pride,” says Trigilio. Additionally, some have LGBTQ+ family members or friends they want to support publicly. 

But if your business isn’t directly connected to the LGBTQ+ community, that’s okay too. What’s crucial is that as a business, your core principles are in alignment. That means having LGBTQ-inclusive employee policies and benefits, as well as training to help customer-facing employees interact positively with LGBTQ+ individuals.

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What’s crucial is that, as a business, your core principles are in alignment.

“They should [also] look at their business practices to make sure they're not in some unwitting way contributing to anti-LGBTQ initiatives or practices that harm LGBTQ people who are most disenfranchised,” says Trigilio. Recently, some companies have come under fire for “rainbow washing” — a term defined by FairPlanet as “using rainbow-themed symbolism in branding, advertising, merchandise or social media, ostensibly to support LGBTQ+ people during pride month, but without active support of LGBTQ+ people’s identities or rights.” That includes withholding valuable funding or resources or, worse, donating to anti-LGBTQ legislators. 

“The younger generation is very much aware of it and unhappy about it,” says Trigilio. “And they'll call it out when they see it.” 

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.

Second, consider creative ways to help

Most small businesses shouldn’t have any trouble locating a webpage for their local Pride parade and events. From there, you should see a “get involved” button or tab. Some sites will list out ways to join, including parade registration, volunteer sign-ups, entertainment applications, or donation pages. Others simply display an email address, inviting community members to reach out and make a personal request.

This is the part where your small business may have an opportunity to shine, be it creatively, monetarily, or perhaps in the form of in-kind donations.

In-kind donations are non-cash gifts made to nonprofit organizations. They include goods, services, time, and expertise. For example, if your small business is a sandwich shop, you might consider donating lunch to organizers the day of the parade. Coffee shop? How about some pro-bono caffeine? Equipment rental companies, print shops, and even advertising agencies all have products or services that could be useful and much appreciated if they’re supplied for free or at a steep discount. 

Another way to be a creative and thoughtful partner is to get involved with small Pride events, as well as the major parades. “We're planning the Boston Pride event, but there's a lot of little suburbs in Boston outlying areas that have smaller city prides at local parks,” explains Trigilio. Such events might not have the same turnout as big-city Prides, but they’re excellent opportunities for making a larger impact, while simultaneously letting folks know who you are as well. 

Whether your involvement is large or small, as long as your gift is genuine, you can be proud of that contribution. And yes, it’s okay to request that, in exchange, your business name be featured on the organization’s list of community partners.

Lastly, put a reminder on your calendar

Pride parades typically occur in the summer, following the precedent set by the original Pride marches of 1970. That said, plenty of Pride parades happen in late summer or even fall; Phoenix Pride Festival is in October, while Palm Springs Pride takes place in early November.

If your local Pride parade is still a ways off, you might not be able to register now. But don’t miss your opportunity. Take note of when the organization expects registration to open, and set a reminder for yourself to check back. If it’s something you plan to stay involved with, year after year, set that reminder to recurring. You’ll be glad you did.

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