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Business and the LGBT Community

From the Cerini & Associates Blog

By Robert Vitelli
Chief Operating Officer
LGBT Network

In 2007, the LGBT Network established a new initiative called Partners in Pride as a way to engage companies in supporting its work as a Long Island non-profit. Met with great success, the program has grown each year to more than 100 businesses, welcoming more and more companies each year – and the expansion of the program shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The LGBT Network, as the only human services organization on Long Island whose mission and services are solely dedicated to serving the LGBT community, offers a unique value proposition for companies: “If you want to reach the LGBT market on Long Island, you’re either doing it through us, or you’re not doing it at all.” The Partners in Pride program offers a unique array of sponsorship, advertising, and strategic marketing opportunities, and companies are eager to jump on-board.

The growth trend is a logical one: More companies understand the value equation of becoming involved with the LGBT community. While engagement is often seen as a demonstration of corporate social responsibility, it is also a smart business decision. Annual research consistently reveals that the LGBT community is a loyal and socially conscious consumer market – one that can be won-over by a company’s LGBT-inclusive and supportive policies and practices.

More Companies Seek the LGBT Dollar

There is clear evidence that companies are employing changes to ensure they can get a slice of the LGBT market. Each year, more and more companies participate in the “Corporate Equality Index” (CEI), a scoring of companies rated by a spectrum of LGBT-inclusive activities and policies issued by the Human Rights Campaign. Eleven of the Top 20 Fortune-Ranked companies received 100% ratings on the CEI, including Chevron, Apple, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, AT&T, CVS, Fannie Mae, Hewlett Packard, and JPMorgan Chase – a clear signal that devoting company resources and attention to the LGBT world is commonplace and big-business.

Each year, more and more companies are also scoring 100% on the CEI, demonstrating growing initiative in corporate America to hook LGBT consumers. LGBT corporate initiatives are critical to increasing market share in this community. Four out of five LGBT people agreed that they were more likely to buy products or services from a company that they knew was LGBT-friendly. In fact, this same ratio of LGBT people reported that they changed brands based upon a company’s support for the LGBT community. 70% cited that they would prefer to buy from a company that markets to them.

Launching LGBT initiatives is a critical step to diversifying market share, as it’s no secret LGBT consumers have a documented higher discretionary spending rate, particularly for premium and luxury items like travel, dining out, and electronics (Community Marketing Inc., 2015).

LGBT Employees, Too

LGBT employees are a company target, too. Companies seek to retain and maximize the LGBT talent they have on staff. This is a benefit businesses have come to recognize when compared with the cost to recruit, train, and retain new employees. One way to keep LGBT talent is by creating a safe, supportive, and inclusive workplace so that LGBT employees do not feel like they have to hide. Harvard Business Review says, “closeted LGBT employees burdened with the daily stress of keeping their private life secret from their colleagues are 73% more likely than their out peers to say they intend to jump ship within the next three years” (2013). This can be considered for family members and friends of LGBT people, too.

The increase in participating companies and higher scores on the CEI reflects that more companies are doing more. Companies are rolling-out workplace initiatives like employee resource groups (ERGs) and peer mentor programs in an effort to support and retain LGBT employees. Also commonplace are non-discrimination policies that offer protections for sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression. Such policies institutionalize support and document an LGBT-inclusive and affirming workplace.

Long Island Businesses

There is great diversity in how and why the LGBT Network’s Corporate Partners in Pride members sign-on and design their partnerships. Some companies focus on brand marketing, while others focus on recruitment and advertising. Others incorporate consumer engagement and education. These traditional focus areas remain effective by incorporating social media and other internet-based activities to offer companies a multi-channel approach. Each component reaches the LGBT target market through a demonstration of support.

There is a shift in what companies want in 2016. More companies are reaching out to the LGBT Network about how they can better incorporate LGBT themes and support in the workplace. In response, we are designing a Workplace Initiative that helps companies do just that – create an LGBT-inclusive workplace that will not only retain employees, but will also provide a higher-quality consumer interaction. It is a paradigm shift in outlook and ethos. Previously, there was only an external approach. Now, companies want to make sure their workplace reflects their community image as a place that LGBT people can not only patronize, but also be a place to call their work home.

How your company can do this?

Your company can get on-board easily to become involved with the LGBT community.

Create an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy.
Update your company’s non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. It’s a definitive way to communicate the values of your company and that LGBT employees, as well as family members of LGBT people, will be respected and affirmed.

Start an LGBT Employee Resource Group. Encourage your employees to form an LGBT Employee Resource Group (ERG) as a way to organize within the workplace. LGBT ERGs support company efforts by holding education programs (e.g. “Lunch-and-Learns”), awareness efforts, and/or local fundraising. Such a group can foster inclusion while also creating opportunity for ownership among your employees, and you might be able to identify some future leadership and management in the process.

Train your staff. The LGBT Network has been providing corporate training activities for years, which help companies “come out” about LGBT issues. Give your staff an “LGBT 101,” or train your human resource team about how to handle interviewing and on-boarding.

Run an awareness campaign in the workplace. For 2017, the LGBT Network is expanding its annual awareness campaign to workplaces and other community institutions. The effort provides a simple and visible way for employees to show their support, get involved, and help move the workplace forward in fostering a greater sense of understanding and respect.

Market to the LGBT community. Place an ad, sponsor an event, partner with an organization – each can help your company begin a process of involvement with the LGBT community, create goodwill, and ultimately, increase revenue.

The opportunities are endless for a company to get involved, demonstrate support, and become a business the LGBT community recognizes as a supporter.

Robert Vitelli is the Chief Operating Officer of the LGBT Network, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with community centers in Woodbury, Bay Shore, Sag Harbor, and Little Neck. 516-323-0011 or

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