Increase Employee Engagement During Black History Month (Plus, What's Everyone Else Doing?)
Each February, we observe Black History Month (BHM) to honor the history, struggles, and triumphs of the Black community in the U.S. and around the world. Throughout the month, individuals and organizations alike come together to recognize and elevate Black voices in their communities. Although Black history and achievement should be studied every day, BHM is the perfect time to pay homage, take time for reflection, and boost employee engagement by creating opportunities to learn and grow in allyship.
However, organizations must understand how important it is to celebrate and honor Black History Month in a meaningful way. Don’t just scratch the surface, this is the perfect opportunity to amplify Black voices and incite critical change within your organization with a year-round DEI initiative. So before we dive into some innovative ways companies are celebrating this month dedicated to Black history, culture, and people, let’s lay down some ground rules.
Black History is Being Made Today
“For brands looking to celebrate Black History Month, that starts with understanding that this is more than a month. Black history is not just a thing of the past, as we often treat it, but that history is now happening really within the organizations that we all work for. While we celebrate Black History as a month, brands need to continue on the journey of building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive system that they promised and celebrate Black people always.” --Kristen Rice, a Senior Data Analyst at Sprout SocialAvoid the Performative Activism. CyberGrants shares insight on how to make a real impact this Black History Month: Click to Tweet
Black History Must be Black-Led
This does not mean that Black individuals must take on all the responsibilities and planning for Black History Month employee engagement. However, it does mean activities should center around their accomplishments, needs, and expectations. Some organizations honor Black History Month by having their white employees lead the charge. As a result, tokenization and a misunderstanding of BHM are often the outcomes.
It’s imperative that when celebrating BHM, events and activities are led by Black employees or individuals. Here are a few ideas your company can support:
- Host an event or panel discussion on race and racism moderated by POC
- Create a reading list of books written by Black authors
- Sponsor a local youth organization or after-school program focused on Black history or culture
- Offer to let your employees sit on monthly diversity panels
- Create an allyship group to discuss ways white people can support POC
- Hold a fundraiser for a local grassroots organization supporting Black communities
Companies should provide the support, resources, and leadership buy-in for these events and ideas, but it’s crucial they are led by Black individuals and amplify Black voices. Don’t assume your Black employees want to spend their entire February educating everyone in the organization.
Black History Goes Beyond February
Companies must begin organizing their DEI initiatives, but where can they begin?
- Look both internally and externally. How does your company treat Black individuals as employees, consumers, partners, or vendors? Commitment to equality often shows up in the data. You can also explore how your company is using data to make decisions, especially when it comes to the demographic makeup of your workforce. Consider if you really have a diverse group of people making decisions for your organization?
- Make events highlighting Black culture a regular thing. Plan meaningful activities year round that can educate and inspire, thereby strengthening bonds between your team members.
- Pass the Mic. The Pass The Mic movement is dedicated to amplifying Black voices all year long. It’s a great way to elevate often underrepresented voices on social media. Hire Black speakers in your industry to speak to your organization, both about race, your industry, and business processes in general.
- Invest in racial literacy education. To increase employee understanding of America's history with race and racism, every employee should participate in basic racial literacy training at least once per year.
- Ensure leadership shows their involvement. Leaders cannot sit silent any longer. If your company chooses to celebrate BHM, leadership should be on-board and committed to true systemic change in the organization.
We’ve gathered a few ways your company can celebrate BHM this February and carry on throughout the year, plus a look at what other companies are doing to acknowledge and celebrate the occasion.
Amplify Black Voices (4 Ways):
Invite Black employees to share their stories, whether for an internal publication or a digital story on your website. This is an incredible opportunity for your staff, your clients, and your communities to hear from Black perspectives first hand. Allowing these employees to share their experiences, perspectives, and insights can foster the inclusion we all so desperately need.
TIP: At the conclusion of every company-sponsored event, employees are encouraged to reflect on their learnings and how it has impacted them personally. Employees should also discuss how these events can apply to their day-to-day work environment, so there is an opportunity to discuss how to apply company culture throughout the entire company.
Hire Black speakers in your industry to speak to your organization. Panel discussions or keynote speeches on relevant topics is a unique opportunity to provide an educational experience and a boost in reflection during Black History Month.
Give the gift of books by Black authors. Parade.com provides a list of 25 books to read for Black History Month, selected by Black booksellers and by Black authors.
Start an Ambassador network. A representative from each level of the organization who is interested in diversity and inclusion should attend, whether it is two or 6 people. By enhancing diversity training throughout the year - not just during Black History Month - these individuals will help create a healthy and inclusive work environment. They can also be a leading voice in supporting the company's efforts in this area, keeping you informed of feedback from their networks.
Amplify Black Voices - Levi’s
Elizabeth A. Morrison, Levi Strauss & Co.’s Chief Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Officer, made it clear: “We are history makers as we continue to strive for equality, fight bigotry and bias, and celebrate the joy and wonder of Black courage, Black culture, and Black brilliance.”
This February, LS&Co. and their brands commemorate Black History Month through a series of partnerships with artists and activists and sharing incredible stories highlighting a range of Black voices.
Levi’s released a statement with the following. “Black History Month isn’t just about the past — it's about honoring the movements happening now. This year, we’ve teamed up with @blackfutureslab & @LiveFreeUSA to help amplify their shared vision of Black History now with a multi-part original blog series” Learn more about this special project here.Tips to make an impact this Black History Month (plus see what other companies are doing) in the latest article from CyberGrants: Click to Tweet
Support Racial Justice:
Celebrate BHM by donating to local or national causes fighting for racial equity and equality. Your company can make a donation, create a campaign encouraging employees to donate, or both. Some great places to start are the Southern Poverty Law Center or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP.) If you are committed to racial justice, making a donation to local organizations in your community that serve the Black community can be powerful.
The possibilities for getting involved with racial equity work extend far beyond making a donation. By making it easy for employees to sign petitions, donate to organizations in need, and attend events, you can encourage them to take action. Participate in local and national organizations, attend workshops on race and social justice, and create groups that address local and global issues.
Many nonprofits offer internships and volunteer opportunities for people of all ages. Curating a list of these opportunities makes it easier for your employees to become involved.
Consider supporting or sponsoring events or campaigns held by these charities to encourage the work they’re already knee-deep in. You could also donate to a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) or non-profit promoting education equality among young children.
This is also a great time to consider recurring giving, so you and your employees can maximize donations year round, not just during Black History Month.
Build Initiatives that Close the Gap- Capital One
“Creating and sustaining momentum to close longstanding racial equity gaps lies at the heart of our Mission to Change Banking for Good. As we continue to look at our investments, we hope to help level the playing field and accelerate opportunities for everyone.”
--Kim Allman, National Racial Equity and Social Justice Lead and Senior Director, Community Impact & Investment at Capital One. Capital One launched the Impact Initiative in 2021 – a $200 million multi-year commitment in community grants to help close gaps in equity and opportunity. This built upon their earlier pledge of $10 million to organizations advancing the cause of social justice for the Black community.
Capital One invested in national organizations dedicated to the fight for racial equity and justice — including establishing a new relationship with the Obama Foundation and expanding upon existing partnerships with the National Urban League, My Brother’s Keeper, and HBCUs to ensure access to education and increase career prospects.
Support Black-owned Organizations:
17% of Black women were in the process of starting or running new businesses in May of last year. That’s compared to just 10% of white women, and 15% of white men. Yet only 3% of Black women are running mature businesses. So the stats look pretty grim. But take heart, there are several ways you can help Black-owned businesses and boost Black History Month employee engagement.
According to Sharon Taylor Founder & Chief Executive Officer at The Business Vision & Development Center, organizations with large budgets that offer to help Black entrepreneurs ought to do more than "check the boxes."
“The more you do it authentically, the more impactful it becomes.”
In addition to supporting Black-owned businesses, companies can support organizations that work in the community, and offer “informal education experiences” with a focus on equity and inclusion.
Research finds that Black entrepreneurs struggle to gain capital compared to their white counterparts. A great way to celebrate Black History Month is to support Black business owners for employee gifts, catering opportunities, or ongoing business services. This support and visibility through your organization can be an effective tool in driving more business for them in the long run.
Support a Black-Owned Business - Target
This year, Black History Month employee engagement is all about the Black team members, designers, visionaries, and entrepreneurs behind Target's exclusive product assortment and the latest Black Beyond Measure marketing campaign.
Target’s Black-owned merchandise ranges from apparel and accessories to stationery, decorative home, beauty, books, food and beverage, music, toys, and more — including products featuring designs from three HBCU Design Challenge winners.
Every Day is a Good Day to Start
Black History Month is an ideal starting point for companies that want to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive company culture, while also providing opportunities for learning and reflection. As illustrated here, BHM is simply a starting point. True commitment to DEI and celebration of Black culture and contributions require a long-term strategy and hard work.
Although Black history and achievement should be celebrated every day, BHM is the perfect time to pay homage, be intentional with your support, and grow in allyship. Every small act is necessary in making a difference. CyberGrants can help maximize your impact this Black History Month with:
- Seamless Grantmaking
- Employee Giving Plans
- Recurring Giving Programs
- Flexible, Innovative Volunteer Management
And so much more! Our unique Giving Ecosystem allows you to streamline your CSR initiatives, and allows you to supercharge your Black History Month employee engagement. Visit CyberGrants here.