A large group of people with colorful flags.

How small business owners can support the LGBTQ+ community during Pride and beyond

It can be tempting to paint your business in rainbows for Pride Month, but the LGBTQ+ community needs support year round. 

From a brand perspective, there's a good reason to make your small business’s support for the LGBTQ+ community as loud and consistent as possible. In 2021, Finnish scholars found (based on data from 657 publicly traded US businesses) that LGBTQ+-friendly policies can lead to higher profitability and higher stock market valuations. 

Still, there’s a difference between truly showing up for the community and simply signaling allyship for profit. (The latter is called “rainbow-washing” and is best avoided at all costs.) Thankfully, it’s not hard to ensure that your Pride efforts ring sincere. All it takes is a little brainstorming and commitment. 

Start at home

Before you start looking into give-back sales models or ways to convince employees to volunteer, make sure your small business’s internal practices support the LGBTQ+ community as well. 

To start, consider basic questions like whether your business is a safe place for LGBTQ+ employees and customers. Do you already have a non-discrimination policy in place, and perhaps an employee resource group? Next, examine your professional network. Do you already do business with LGBTQ+-owned businesses, or is there an opportunity to make new connections?

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Begin by developing policies that protect everyone.

Begin by developing policies that protect everyone. To start, the Society for Human Resource Management recommends harassment-prevention training (including specific scenarios representing LGBTQ+ issues), as well as incorporating LGBTQ+ demographics in your diversity and inclusion data and developing gender-transition resources for employees. Let your LGBTQ+ employees lead the way whenever possible.

Once you’ve fostered a comfortable environment for all, you’ll be ready to start looking outward. 

Share your profits

One of the most efficient and direct ways to support the LGBTQ+ community might be to donate a small percentage of your business’s profits to an appropriate cause—either for a limited time or on an ongoing basis. 

Interested in sharing the love? Use the IRS’s search tool to confirm the organization is registered as a nonprofit; that way, you can confirm that your donations will be tax deductible. 

Once you’ve come up with a budget and vetted your chosen organization, it’s time to decide what donation model might make the most sense—for instance, a percentage of total profits or a percentage from each sale of a specific product. 

Then, it’s time to start giving. Incremental donations might feel small, but if your small business makes them a long-term commitment, you’ll be amazed how they add up. To keep the process simple, make your donations at the end of each quarter or year. Be sure to keep thorough records of your donations for tax purposes.

Incentivize volunteering

If your small business operates on a tight budget, remember: your time can be valuable, too. What if, for a few days out of each year, everyone in your company could volunteer on the company’s dime? 

Work with your local Chamber of Commerce to identify ideal organizations to suggest, and try to prioritize volunteer work that could best leverage your employees’ skills—through mentorship, pro bono work, or otherwise. (Just make sure that you’re also leading by example and putting in your hours!) Once your program takes off, consider sharing the fruits of your labor on social media, where your efforts can become more visible.

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Remember: Your time can be valuable, too.

Another option to maximize your employees’ contributions to the cause? Provide an annual donation stipend to each employee to spend at their discretion, either to a nonprofit of their choosing or to one from a pre-approved list. 

Sponsor an event

A more public facing approach could also involve sponsoring an event for a local, community-based LGBTQ organization—perhaps a sports league, advocacy organization, or community center. Why just sell merch at the local Pride festival when you could sponsor the event itself? 

To choose the right cause for your business to support, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recommends examining their mission, staff, and accomplishments. Look for an alignment of missions, and when in doubt, consult your employees and see what they think. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, reach out to local groups to see where your goods or funds could make the greatest impact. 

Start a referral program

A more unique option, depending on your small business’s area of work, might be to incorporate LGBTQ+ philanthropy into a referral program. To get your program started, Entrepreneur suggests advertising that for each referral, your company could donate a set amount to a cause of your choosing. As your business grows, so will your impact.

Get involved politically

Whether you’re a regular at City Hall or just a beginner in local politics, there’s never been a better time to get engaged. As a small business owner, you have political capital. Why not use some of it to support legislation that affirms and protects LGBTQ+ people? It’s crucial, however, to do your research to understand the issues at hand—including, if at all possible, by speaking directly with LGBTQ+ members of the community.

Hold a Charity Drive

If your organizational skills are up to a real challenge, you could tap into the broader community for either funds or goods to donate to a local charity. 

Coordination is key. Reach out to a representative who can collaborate with you and confirm whether a monetary or in kind donation would be preferable—or an in-person drive versus online. The more communication between you and your chosen organization, the better to ensure that your efforts are really meeting their needs.

You won’t want to do this alone. Consider which contacts in your company and broader network might want to help plan your drive. Depending on the scale you envision, you might also consider partnering with another local small business to share the workload. According to the fundraising platform Donorbox, duties might include meeting with your chosen nonprofit for planning purposes, marketing and promotion, event organization, and/or accounting.

Of all your options, this might be the most ambitious. At the same time, it will serve as a strong affirmation of your allegiance to the community—and it’s just one more way your small business can walk the walk.

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.

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