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What Your Business Can Do to Support Spirit Day

Today is Spirit Day, a day when
millions of people take a stand
against bullying and in support of LGBTQ youth.

What does this have to
do with your business? Plenty. There are some very good reasons for you to
support this event, as we’ll discuss in this article. We’ll
take a close look at what Spirit Day is and why it matters, and then we’ll look
at why your business should support it. Then we’ll go through some simple,
practical things you can do to show your solidarity.

Even though it’s already Spirit Day today,
it’s still not too late to take action. You can do some of the things we’ll
discuss in this article immediately, so that you can show your support. For the
other things that require a little more forward planning, consider this your
resource for Spirit Day 2018!

What Spirit Day Is

One fall evening in 2010, 18-year-old Tyler
Clementi left his dorm room at Rutgers University in New Jersey, made his way
to the George Washington Bridge, and jumped to his death in the river below.

The day before Clementi’s suicide, his roommate had used a webcam to spy on him in his bedroom with another man and had
encouraged others to view them on the internet. In the same month as Clementi’s
death, four
other American teenagers
committed suicide after being taunted about being
gay.

Out of these horrific events, Spirit Day was born. High-school
student Brittany McMillan founded it as a day of awareness, acceptance, and
love to prevent such tragedies. With the help of LGBTQ media advocacy
organization GLAAD, Spirit Day grew over
the years, and today, millions of people mark the annual event to stand in
solidarity with LGBTQ youth.

Screenshot from Spirit Day website

Well-known companies like Wells Fargo,
Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s and the NFL, among others, have also become
partners of the event, and many businesses and individuals show their support
in a variety of ways. The aim is to raise awareness of the terrible treatment
that many young LGBTQ people experience, so that gradually, attitudes can
change and lives can be saved.

Why Spirit Day Is Important

Before I hit you with the statistics, I’ll
let you hear from Becky Collins and her gay son Zach, who suffered an
escalating pattern of bullying that led to a brutal attack. I’m sure you’ll
agree that no mother or son should have to go through things like this.


Then there was Michael
Morones
, an 11-year-old boy who was too young to have a strong sexual
identity but was bullied for being “gay” because he liked playing with “My
Little Pony”. He tried to hang himself with a necktie and, although he
survived, his brain was damaged and he is now in a permanent vegetative state. Stories like this are, unfortunately,
not isolated cases—you can find plenty more like them.

Now that we’ve met some of the people
involved, here are those statistics I promised:

Spirit Day stats on LGBTQ youth bullying
Source: Spirit Day website.

I hope that these stories and figures are
enough to show you why this day is important. Large numbers of young people are
suffering horribly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and
some of those young people are pushed so far and feel so isolated and hopeless that
they end their own lives. The least we can do is take one day a year to show
them our support.

Why Your Business Should Support Spirit Day

But even if you support Spirit Day
personally, why should your business get involved?

There are several good reasons. For one
thing, a company is more than just an entity for making profit. A business has
an identity and it has values, and you get to decide what those values are.

If this isn’t something you’ve thought
about too much yet, you could try Julia Melymbrose’s tutorial
on defining your core brand values
. It walks you through the process of
clarifying your business’s values and gives you a free PDF worksheet to help
you define those values.

Once you’ve done that, it’s likely that
you’ll find that at least one of your values aligns with Spirit Day. For
example, Envato’s values make no
specific mention of LGBTQ youth, but the “Diverse and Inclusive” value is in
clear alignment with Spirit Day. There’s also the “Fair Go” value:

Everyone deserves an equal chance and a
fair opportunity. At work, on our sites, and in life we strive to be fair and
consistent in everything we do.

This sounds like common sense, and yet so
often, people don’t get a fair go. It seems pretty clear that Tyler Clementi
and Michael Morones didn’t. So Spirit Day is a natural fit.

But it’s not enough to have a values
statement on a website—you have to live those values. You have to stick your
neck out and support causes that align with the spirit and intention of your
company.

When you do that, you’ll probably see some
other benefits. As we’ve seen in our series
on diversity
, building a genuine culture of diversity and inclusion is not
easy. If this is something you’re grappling with, supporting Spirit Day can
send a powerful pro-diversity message to your staff and customers. It’s a
simple way of “walking the walk”.

Survey data across the world shows that
many employees are disengaged from their jobs—a recent Gallup
poll
of British workers found that only 8%
of them
were engaged at work. Getting people involved in raising important
issues, fostering conversations and creating connections can be a powerful way
of raising employee satisfaction and engagement.

If you’re worried about whether your staff
will want to be involved, consider that the plight of young people is an issue
that resonates with pretty much everyone. There may be staff members who don’t
want to support an LGBTQ cause because of religious or other personal beliefs,
but remember that Spirit Day doesn’t ask people to change their personal
beliefs. It simply asks them to stand up for young people who are under attack
because of who they are. It’s completely compatible with any humane belief system. 

How You Can Support Spirit Day in Your Business: A List of
Ideas

Of course, you can choose to support Spirit
Day in any way that feels right for you. The more individual, the better! But
if you’re stuck, here are some ideas to get you going:

1. Go Purple

This is probably the simplest thing you can
do. The theme of Spirit Day is the color purple, so you can easily show your
support just by “going purple” for a day.

For example, you could change the color of
your company’s social media profile pictures to purple to mark the day. Or you
could turn your website purple for the day, either in whole or in part (e.g. a
purple header, purple banner, purple highlights, etc.). Or create a purple
version of your company logo and use that on your website, social media
profiles, and in any emails you send out.

If your business has a physical location
like an office or shop, you could festoon it with purple balloons, purple
banners, or anything else you can lay your hands on. You could encourage staff
to wear purple clothing to work.

You can also make a public pledge to go
purple over on the Spirit Day
website
(just click on the hand icon where it says Take the Pledge).

2. Educate Yourself and Others

A key part of Spirit Day is raising
awareness, so educating yourself and others about the issue of the bullying of
LGBTQ youth is a great step to take.

You can find some useful resources on the Spirit Day website—click on Learn the facts to download a free
resource kit that will help you learn more. And there’s plenty more out there
on the internet and in books, so just get searching and reading and learning.

As for educating others, that can be as
simple as starting conversations and sharing what you’ve learned. Or you could
go further and organize formal events, perhaps inviting experts or victims of
bullying to come and speak to your staff or to customers in your store.

3. Work Social Media

Changing your profile picture is a good
start, but you can do a lot more on social media to get the word out.

For example, you can write posts stating
your support more explicitly. Here’s some suggested text from the Spirit Day
website:

Take a stand against bullying and support
#LGBTQ youth by going purple for #SpiritDay on Oct. 19:
http://glaad.org/spiritday

As usual on social media, a more personal,
heartfelt message will probably work better, but the suggested text is a good
starting point.

And because visuals tend to gain more
attention on social media, why not post a photo of yourself or your staff
decked out in purple or holding up messages of support?

Or you could take things a step further and
create some compelling images like a purple avatar with a message (this one is from last year, as you can see, but you could create something similar for 2017):

Purple Spirit Day avatar

Or maybe a portrait of yourself or someone
from your business in purple:

Purple portrait for Spirit Day

You can find out how to create images like
this in the following tutorials:

Things like this take more time to create,
of course, and they require some design skills, but they’re likely to get
shared more widely on social media—helping to spread the word about Spirit
Day.

More sharing, of course, also means a
chance to boost your company’s profile. But be sure that anything you do is
genuine and focuses on standing with LGBTQ youth first and foremost. Any
transparent attempt to “cash in” on an event like this for your own gain is not
cool, and is very likely to backfire.

4. Go Shopping

The Spirit Day website has an online shop where you can buy
merchandise like T-shirts, baseball caps and mugs—all in purple, of course. You
could order some of these items and distribute them to your staff or customers.

There are a few advantages to this
approach:

  1. The money you spend goes to support Spirit
    Day and GLAAD’s year-round efforts to combat bullying.
  2. Some of the items include slogans like
    “Against Bullying”, helping to get the message across more clearly to people
    who may not be aware of the significance of simply wearing a plain purple
    T-shirt.
  3. Everyone loves a freebie! By giving out
    these items to staff and/or customers, you’re also indirectly helping to build
    important relationships.

5. Write a Letter

Doing what you can to get the word out is
great and support the cause is great, but sometimes you can achieve more by
convincing someone with more power to take action.

In the free resource kit I mentioned
earlier, you can find sample letters you can send to public officials, asking
them to help make schools safer for LGTBQ kids.

And because many letters are better than
one, you could also organize a letter-writing event where you encourage staff,
customers or people from your local community to send their own letters.

6. Donate and Raise Funds

A simple donation goes a long way—Spirit
Day itself takes money to organize, and GLAAD also does important year-round
work to support LGTBQ youth. You can easily donate online via the Spirit Day
website (just click the Donate link
at the top).

Or, as with the letters and other ideas,
you could take it a step further and involve larger numbers of people. You
could organize fund-raising events on the day, which will help to maximize the
impact, both in terms of awareness and donations.

7. Become a Spirit Day Partner

As I mentioned earlier, it’s possible for
companies to partner with Spirit Day—you can see their names listed on the
website.

To find out more about what’s involved, contact GLAAD or fill out
the partner
signup form.

8. Get Media Attention

As a local business, you’re in a better
position to get a story in the local newspaper or on radio or TV than a private
individual would be. If you’re doing something special for Spirit Day, approach
your local media outlets to let them know and see if they want to cover it.

Or you could write an article or op-ed
opinion piece for the local paper or for magazines, blogs, news sites, etc.
Those are great ways of getting the word out.

Conclusion

In this article, you’ve learned more about
Spirit Day: what it is, why it’s important, and why your business should get
involved and support it.

You also now have plenty of ideas of what
to do on Spirit Day, from the simple and immediate to the more complex. And
remember, this is not an exhaustive list by any means. I’m sure you can use
this as a jumping-off point to come up with much better ideas of your own. And
you can find more help and information on the Spirit Day site.

What are you doing for Spirit Day? Let us
know in the comments.