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.
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:
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):
Or maybe a portrait of yourself or someone from your business in purple:
You can find out how to create images like this in the following tutorials:
- How to Create an Awareness Avatar Action in Adobe PhotoshopMelody Nieves20 Oct 2016
- Create a Purple Monochrome Portrait for Spirit Day in Adobe IllustratorSharon Archer-Thomas16 Oct 2014
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:
- The money you spend goes to support Spirit Day and GLAAD’s year-round efforts to combat bullying.
- 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.
- 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.
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.