By Robin Dillard, Photo by Your Favorite Shots, LLC
The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is the largest global not-for-profit advocacy organization dedicated to expanding the economic opportunities and advancements of the LGBT business community. Beyond having a best-in-class diversity certification program, making NGLCC the exclusive, national third- party certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses, the organization is the preeminent voice of the LGBT business community. Each NGLCC affiliate chamber — 52 domestic and international — provides programming in support of its business and professional members, as well as its local corporate partners. This powerful constituency is a voice being heard around the globe. With this voice there is a great responsibility to contribute to the local community that supports, and in some cases provides for, local LGBT businesses and families.
Throughout 2014, Affinity Inc Magazine will showcase an affilliate chamber with programming or an initiative that is intended to build the broader LGBT business equality community. The first affiliate and program featured is National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce New York and its appropriately named Nonprofi Spotlight. AIM sat down with Derrick Brown, NGLCCNY’s executive director, to discuss the innovative program implemented in 2013 with great success.
Affinity Inc Magazine: What is Nonprofit Spotlight?
Derrick Brown: I created and added the Nonprofi Spotlight element to NGLCCNY’s Members’ Monthly Mixer events in September 2013. I wanted the chamber to be able to utilize our platform and membership base to advocate for the nonprofit organizations that provide much needed services for our community. At each M3, we select a nonprofit to spotlight and allow it the opportunity to educate our members and guests about the organization and the work it does in the community. I feel that by exposing our membership to the nonprofit organizations, there is not only a chance for greater visibility and education, but also for the opportunity to recruit and solicit potential board members, volunteers, donors, event sponsors and vendors. In addition to the opportunity to address the group at our event, the nonprofit organization is also given article space in the follow- ing month’s Excelsior! newsletter and is included in all branding and marketing of that month’s M3.
AIM: Has Nonprofit Spotlight impacted NGLCCNY and/or NGLCC membership in terms of renewals, reclamations and new members?
DB: Since implementing the program, we have seen an influx of new nonprofits joining the chamber to be a part of the Nonprofit Spotlight experience, and it has helped to elevate the value proposition of why a nonprofit should be a part of its local chamber of commerce. One of the great mutually beneficial outcomes from this new program is the synergy that we demonstrate to our corporate partners and sponsors that NGLCCNY and the nonprofit are unified in the struggle for full LGBT equality. They are all thrilled to see that we are working together as a united front to further the LGBT and ally business and equality movement.
An additional benefit for the chamber has been our exposure to the community supporting the nonprofit that is, in large part, made up of business owners, other professionals — employees of potential corporate partners — and LGBT businesses and allies who are equally passionate about their cause. This exposure has allowed us to bring in new members and partners, as well as strengthen our ties with current members alike.
AIM: How do corporate partners and professional members benefit from this initiative?
DB: Again, the opportunity for education and the call to action to become more involved in supporting the community is probably one of the biggest benefit to our corporate partners and business members. I constantly hear that they want to get involved and support the community, but are not sure where or how to start that process. And, in a city of hundreds — if not thousands — of nonprofi becoming engaged can be a daunting and overwhelming task. By providing this connection to the nonprofit and the work they do, our stakeholders are able to do what we at NGLCCNY do best — network!
AIM: Does this initiative help to foster a sense of community?
DB: I believe that it has. There has to be an organization that serves as the connector and conduit for both the nonprofit and the business worlds to find a way to work together. Moreover, I think that it is incredibly important to be a gathering place for the many diverse organizations and foster a sense of community and shared vision that we are all working towards the same goal without being in a threatening or competitive environment.
AIM: Who has been spotlighted?
DB: Since we introduced this program in September, we have had five organizations spotlighted, including New York City Anti-Violence Project, Imperial Court of New York, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders, Brooklyn Community Pride Center and amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.
AIM: How do you determine which nonprofit will be spotlighted?
DB: In the beginning it was based on those nonprofit members that I had a chance to meet and get to know since starting with the chamber in April 2013. Now, we are working on an annual calendar and reaching out to our nonprofit members about when they would like to be in the spotlight, depending on their event and program calendars, along with the marketing and branding messages they want to convey to our membership.
AIM: What feedback have you received from the organizations that have been spotlighted?
DB: We have had an amazing amount of positive feedback from the organizations that have been in the spotlight and those that are scheduled for the upcoming months. Moreover, Nonprofit Spotlight has allowed NGLCCNY to step into the space of being the community connector that every chamber of commerce strives to achieve. I am excited about the continuation of this program and how we look at expanding the reach and exposure we are giving to our nonprofi members and their programs.
This Community Showcase is proof positive that building a broader LGBT business equality community builds business. The passion and drive to support a socially mindful nonprofi in the local community is similar to what it takes to run the local chambers, along with the essential ingredient of an entrepreneurial spirit. Periodically joining forces to raise awareness, encouraging participation, showing unity and connecting with more people is how the voice for business equality will be heard and true equality for all will, ultimately, be realized.