Nonprofits, Businesses Adjust After Cancellation of Pride Month
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Nonprofits, Businesses Adjust After Cancellation of Pride Month

Pride programming switched to a virtual experience this year, but businesses still lost out on sales, and nonprofits struggled to raise enough money to stay operational through the year.

Pride wasn’t the same this year. The Twin Cities LGBTQ+ community found other ways of showing up, through Black Lives Matter protests and virtual gatherings, but nonprofits and businesses that typically make significant revenue from Pride weekend in the Twin Cities have had to adapt their year’s plans to the rapidly changing world. 

Twin Cities Pride, the nonprofit organization responsible for the big Pride festival each year, moved what programming it could to a virtual space, said executive director Dot Belstler. Normally, Twin Cities Pride raises around a million dollars over Pride weekend, which costs about $800,000 to put on, leaving roughly $200,000 left to keep the organization operational and donate to other nonprofits.  

“The impacts of Pride obviously are huge,” Belstler said. “We’re still crunching numbers and seeing where we’re at, but we’re pretty hopeful that we can still do what we do year round and make it until next year.”

This year, without the cost of the physical festival, the goal was still to raise the $200,000 for rent, utilities, salaries, and to donate to other community nonprofits. The virtual 5K, sponsored by healthcare behemoth UnitedHealth Group, brought out 850 runners, she said. And individual donors have also really stepped up, Belstler said.

“Normally we have about 400 vendors in the park––nonprofits, artisans, and small businesses. And without having an in-person festival, people weren’t able to discover those businesses like they normally would,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons we had the virtual marketplace, so that people could actually act like they were in the park and could actually talk to the artisans and the nonprofits and learn about those organizations.”

Queen On The Scene, an accessory business operated by and for the LGBTQ+, participated in Twin Cities Pride for the first time last year and decided to opt into the virtual marketplace, said owner and operator Quinn Kathner. 

“I personally didn’t have a lot of visitors come through, but the ones that did, I found myself having longer, more meaningful conversations with,” she said.  

In terms of revenue, the difference between this year and last was night and day.

“Sales were tremendously down on the virtual platform,” Kathner said. “It was a devastating year.”

Last year, she sold over $3,000 of merchandise at Twin Cities Pride festival, compared to $0 this year. However, she said e-commerce sales for May and June were the highest they’ve ever been, even though those weren’t directly related to Twin Cities Pride. 

“As a small business owner in the LGBTQ community, any support is amazing and vital,” Kathner said. “It’s not only about the sales; it’s also about not seeing the people face-to-face that really hurt my heart… It’s not just about making money; it’s about making a difference in the community and sharing your passions with other community members.” 

Moving forward, Kathner said the climate of Pride has  completely changed—a sentiment organizers are deeply aware of.

“With the pandemic and everything, and with George Floyd’s killing and the Black Lives Matter movement, I think Pride is just going to look different in the future. We need to work with the community to figure out what that’s going to be,” Belstler said.

Other community organized events centered around Pride shifted to online platforms too. Mossier’s annual conference Proud to Work MN went from a one-day event at a hotel to a four-day online experience culminating in an ongoing learning community, said executive director and co-founder Nick Alm. Access to the portal includes learning labs and continuing conversations from the conference. 

And with so much else being cancelled, Alm said it was important Mossier continue on and hold the event during Pride month. It was also a financial necessity.

“We need that revenue––it’s a huge part of our revenue for the year, so in many ways we needed to do the event either way. But it needed to be during Pride Month, we believed, to just preserve some normalcy,” he said. “But then the murder of George Floyd put another twist on it, and we have this really renewed and energized focus on Black Lives Matter, on Black trans lives, and on LGBTQ+ People of Color.”

Based on the other executive directors of LGBTQ+ nonprofits he talks with, Alm said everyone is feeling the impact of the loss of Pride Month. 

“It’s going to be tough for the entire community,” he said. “I had brought on a full-time staff member in early March that I had to let go of. We’re going to make it, but I think everybody’s going to be restructuring and looking at  how do we scale back, how do we do more with less.”

And with everything going on in the world, it’s a hard year financially for all nonprofits. Holding people’s attention has become even more challenging, Alm said. Fall is typically when many nonprofits do their big annual fundraisers, and it’s unlikely those will be happening in the same way they have in the past due to the coronavirus pandemic. This hurts not only nonprofits, but individual community members who rely on those resources. 

But, in the gaps created by the lack of a physical pride gathering, there could be the opportunity for other nonprofits to flourish, he said.

“I think there is a renewed conversation around the fact that the Twin Cities is one of the only major cities that does not have an LGBTQ+ community center. We don’t have a central location where people can build community, where people can find jobs, where people can find resources for healthcare or housing,” Alm said. “The pandemic and Pride Month being canceled has exposed this issue.”

With Mossier focused on employment equity, Alm also has big concerns, and big hopes, about the unemployment spike’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community and businesses.

“I would love to see the Twin Cities really kind of capitalize on the opportunity to bring in new talent from around the country, to ensure that our community here is employed gainfully, with living wage jobs,” he said. “And as we think about what really matters outside of a corporate pride parade––jobs, housing, health care have to be the core tenants of the conversation for our community.”