Pride Parades Can Raise Your Organization's Visibility and Help LGBTQ Youth Feel Safe and Respected

The crowd at a pride festival.

June is Pride Month, an opportunity for youth- and family-serving organizations to raise their visibility as welcoming places with resources for LGBTQ young people. Among the most popular events of the month are pride parades, which are often accompanied by fairs surrounding the route. To find out how programs can take advantage of these community events without straining already tight budgets, we spoke to veterans of pride celebrations. Here are their tips:

Ask about discounts, and raise money. Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon who leads the Mormon contingent annually in the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade, says the participation fee is greatly reduced for many nonprofits.

The same is true in Washington, DC. Devin Hansen, DC Capital Pride’s special projects coordinator, says his organization offers up to 75 percent off for nonprofit participants.

To pay their way, community-serving programs often host fundraisers like car washes and donor banquets, Hansen says. Capital Pride helps out sometimes, too, he says, sending a bucket brigade out to collect donations throughout the parade and donating a percentage of the cash to local nonprofits.

Join up with another group. Nonprofits and faith-based organizations can make good partners. Candace Gingrich, associate director of LGBTQ-rights group Human Rights Campaign’s Youth and Campus Engagement Program, suggests seeing if you can partner with a gay-straight alliance from a nearby high school or college. For his part, Mayne says that marching in Pride Parades was a joint effort with Mormons across the country.

It's a good idea to approach businesses, too. Hansen says that he's seen nonprofit organizations get sponsorships from grocery stores, major telecommunications corporations, and even a piano shop.

He also says, “We invite anyone who would like to volunteer to be involved. We’ve got local college students who are working on their degree in photography. They get to go backstage [and photograph the] entertainers.”

Have youth from your program staff a pride fair table. Young people from your program are your best representatives. If you can afford them, or get them donated, get t-shirts emblazoned with your organization's name for youth to wear. Ask youth to hand out literature and tell other young people about their experiences.

Create your own pride event. Ellen Kahn, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Children, Youth and Families Program, suggests hosting a panel discussion led by youth from your organization. Invite speakers from LGBTQ organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign, the Trevor Project, or Mormons for Equality. Keep in mind that not every city celebrates pride in June, so stay informed and coordinate with pride groups in your area.

Make sure your facility is welcoming during Pride Month--and throughout the year. Gingrich and Kahn suggest putting up rainbow decorations or a photo display of LGBTQ people in history. They also say that a pride banner on your website—with links to experiences of LGBTQ youth, lists of resources, and fun facts—can make your program more welcoming as well.

Facilities that don’t have gender-specific bathroom facilities, they add, are more welcoming to transgender young people. Mayne says, “We give better lives for our kids when we adults let them know that we are their advocates, championing them and being a safe zone for them.”

Thanks to Capital Pride for use of their pictures.

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