Call to Action: New Sign-On Letter for 501(c)(6) Organizations
Last week we reached out to encourage you to contact your congressional delegation asking them to include chambers of commerce organized as 501(c)(6) organizations in the third COVID-19 stimulus package. Despite the outreach of thousands of chambers and other trade associations, the most robust offerings in the CARES Act were not expanded to include (c)(6)s.
Congress is drafting a new phase four federal relief package, and we are asking for your help again. ACCE is partnering with the American Society of Association Executives on a new sign-on letter to Congress and the Trump Administration. We are working to get as many chambers and trade associations as possible to sign on to a letter urging Congress to:
- Provide $25 billion in immediate capital assistance to trade and professional associations;
- Include 501(c)(6) organizations in the Paycheck Protection Program or similar Small Business Administration loan expansions; and
- Create a pandemic risk insurance program with a federal backstop for prospective insurance claims related to a pandemic or epidemic.
Please add your chambers name to the letter by Thursday, April 2 at 12 pm ET.
We will continue to partner with other organizations to advocate for this change. If you are speaking to your federal legislators, please share the message that chambers – and other associations – are delivering critical community services during this pandemic, and deserve federal support to continue our crucial role.
We will continue to update you on this and helpful resources each week. Thank you for all you’re doing. You are an amazing community.
ACCE Weekly Update on Chamber Response to COVID-19
ACCE continues to support the chamber community as it responds to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are organizing regular calls with chamber CEOs and staff, and we want to share some of the key themes and insights we learned this week.
Remember to check our Coronavirus Resource Guide because we update it regularly with relevant resources. If you are interested in participating in an upcoming COVID-19 roundtable call, contact Will Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calling All Members
Many chambers have instituted an all-hands-on-deck campaign to call every member. Staff are being repurposed, along with chamber ambassadors, to complete this outreach as quickly as possible. For most chambers, the purpose of the outreach is to:
- Check-in and learn more about how each company is being impacted and identify ways that the chamber can help
- Identify inspirational stories to share with broader membership
- Share helpful resources and information and answer questions
- Reinforce how their support for the chamber is especially important in times like these
- Offer potential membership solutions for those experiencing financial difficulty: temporary waiver/deferral, adjust anniversary date, etc.
Navigating the Membership Renewal Cycle
There has been lots of discussion this week around membership renewals. Chambers of commerce are taking a variety of approaches, seeking to find the right balance of showcasing compassion and empathy, highlighting member value and keeping revenue flowing into the chamber.
Adjusting the messaging in your renewal communications is a critical first step. During Membership Development Division (MDD) call this week, participants outlined how they are adjusting their communications:
- We recognize that these are unprecedented times, and the chamber is here to support your business.
- Here are two or three specific things that your chamber is doing to showcase community leadership, support regional businesses and help our community get through this crisis.
- Now more than ever, your support is crucial to help us continue this work.
- If your business is experiencing issues that interfere with your ability to pay dues, we are here to help.
Chambers have taken a variety of actions, from providing relief waivers, adjusting anniversary dates, temporarily suspending dues billing and more. ACCE and members of the MDD advisory board have developed a template your chamber can use as a starting point as you adjust your renewal communications. Additional templates are available on ACCE Coronavirus Resource Guide. More membership information is available on the MDD webpage.
Dealing with Stay-at-Home/Business Closure Orders
One challenge that continues to be raised on the calls is around what businesses are defined as essential within stay-at-home and business closure orders. This can be especially tricky for regional chambers operating in areas where there are multiple county orders but no state-wide order.
If you are in a state or municipality with no stay-at-home order, monitor the situation. When discussions of an order begin, offer your county executive, mayor or governor the chamber’s support to define essential businesses. Once it is implemented, it is hard to roll things back. The Detroit Chamber’s Vice President of Government Relations shared three suggestions for stay-at-home orders
- Use the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance as the baseline for essential services. Though, one key industry CISA leaves out is construction.
- Allow for critical infrastructure to designate its own supply chain.
- Allow businesses to keep minimum basic operations to protect inventory, to wind down operations, and to facilitate working from home.
Support Small Businesses
With the lengthy, and sometimes cumbersome process around SBA loans, many chambers are working with local governments, community development financial institutions (CDFI) and other business and philanthropic partners to create and promote grant and loan programs to provide crucial bridge grants and loans during the SBA application period. Here are some examples:
- Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership worked with local governments to raise $500k to set up the Working Capital Loan Fund for small businesses.
- Asheville Area Chamber is working with a local CDFI, Mountain BizWorks on its NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan program
- The Greater Tallahassee Chamber worked with the Tallahassee-Leon county government as it launched the COVID-19 Economic Disaster Relief Grant program.
- The Eugene Area Chamber is promoting the WaFD Bank Small Business Lifeline
- Several Pennsylvania chambers are promoting the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program.
Financial Support for Chambers
Last week, ACCE worked with the American Society of Association Executives and the U.S. Chamber to try to convince Congress to include chambers of commerce organized as 501 (c)(6)s in the various emergency stimulus programs. While (c)(6)s weren’t included in all the programs, chambers are eligible for aid through some modest avenues. View this U.S. Chamber 1-pager for more details.
It is expected that when Congress reconvenes, it will consider a fourth relief package. ACCE will continue to work with chambers across the country and other partners to raise awareness for the important role chambers of commerce play in the recover and why supporting chambers in the next relief package is vital.
More Chamber Examples
It is inspiring to see just how nimble chambers of commerce can be to support member businesses and provide catalytic leadership in the communities they serve. We will continue to share examples each week to provide inspiration for your activities. Share your examples with our team by emailing Jen Pack at email@example.com.
COVID-19 Resource Hubs
- Asheville Chamber of Commerce
- Allegheny Conference on Community Development
- Lancaster Chamber
- Forsyth County Chamber
- Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
- York County Economic Alliance
- Greater Phoenix Chamber
Supporting Displaced Workers
- Dallas Regional Chamber working with Say Yes to Dallas and other regional partners launched an initiative to connect displaced workers with companies in industries with immediate hiring needs.
- Greater Des Moines Partnership launched the DSM Employment Ready initiative to assist businesses in need of immediate temporary workers and employees who have been impacted due to circumstances related to the COVID-19
- Michigan West Coast Chamber launched a job board to help connect potential employees to employers with immediate job openings.
- Charlotte Regional Business Alliance: The alliance is sharing regular vlogs with members about different areas of operation. During a time when the economic development team isn’t traveling, SVP of Business Recruitment Steven Pearce discussed how the alliance pulled off its first virtual visit with a company considering the Charlotte region.
- Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama: In this video, Chamber President & CEO Jim Page, CCE, IOM, highlights chamber resources available for member businesses and announces a new partnership with the Community Foundation of West Alabama on a Small Business Relief Fund.
- Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Henry Florsheim posts daily video updates to Facebook using the chamber’s #fallsstrong hashtag.
Examples of Virtual Programming
- Grand Rapids Chamber
- Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia
- Gwinnett Chamber
- Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
- Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce
Surveys remain a popular tool for chambers to gain insights on how the crisis is impacting member companies. They are also a great tool for helping to frame response discussions with elected officials and nonprofits proving support programs and financial support. Here are a few examples:
Follow Up Surveys to Track How Impact Is Changing
Highlighting Survey Results
Chambers Respond to COVID-19 Crisis
Chambers of commerce around the world are taking action to provide leadership and help member businesses and their communities deal with the challenges created by the COVID-19 outbreak.
ACCE launched our Coronavirus resource guide, and we continue to update it with relevant links, resources and templates chambers can use as a starting point for communicating with members, staff, event participants and more.
We’ve organized peer sharing calls for the CEOs within our community peer groups and chamber staff professionals within our divisions. We will continue to hold regular connection calls throughout the crisis.
Through this outreach we’ve pulled together examples and best practices, but we know that what we have now is just the tip of the iceberg. We encourage you to share your most innovative initiatives with us so that we can share it across the network. Email your examples to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Actions Chambers Are Taking
Keep Members Informed
Examples of chamber of commerce COVID-19 resource webpages:
- Arvada Chamber
- Charleston Metro Chamber
- Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
- Los Angeles Area Chamber
- North Carolina Chamber
- Orlando Economic Partnership
- Salt Lake Chamber
- Wichita Falls Chamber
Examples of member communication:
- Metro Atlanta Chamber COVID-19 Emerging Trends Report
- Grand Rapids Chamber Message to Our Members
- Charlotte Regional Business Alliance Daily Digest
- The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro: 7 Things Your Business Should Do Right Now
- Greater Louisville Inc.: COVID-19 Update for Small Business
- Many chambers are also calling all of their members. Here is a sample outreach script from the Greater Scranton Chamber.
Hold virtual programs on topics relevant to business needs:
- Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber: COVID-19 Business Briefings
- Association of Washington Business: COVID-19 Business Impact Webinar
- Greater Spokane Incorporate: Weekly Business Leaders Call on COVID-19
- Gwinnett Chamber: Virtual Networking
- Nixa Area Chamber: Weekly Mastermind Calls
Send video updates to members:
Survey to Understand Impact
Member surveys can gain a sense of the economic impact and how the chamber can be most helpful.
- Greater Des Moines Partnership
- Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
- Greater Spokane Incorporated worked with community partners on a regional business impact survey
- Given rapid developments, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance followed its original survey with a “quick pulse” follow up survey.
Support Local Businesses
We’ve seen lots of activity focused on encouraging support for local businesses, with a heavy focus on restaurants due to mandated closures. Examples include:
- Help businesses find access to capital by making information about federal and local grant and loan programs easy to find:
- Tips and reminders to buy local:
- TakeOut Blitz to support restaurants:
- Other ideas for supporting restaurants:
- Answering member questions:
- The Indy Chamber launched a Rapid Response Hub, partnering with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business to engage faculty, students and alumni to expedite answers to business inquiries.
- The Kentucky Chamber is leveraging its staff expertise and coordinating with experts from member businesses to answer business questions.
- Greater Louisville Inc. is working with business and community leaders to share answers to frequently asked questions.
- The Greater Gainesville Chamber created a door sign to help explain the modified hours and capacity restrictions
Coordinate with Community Foundations and Other Stakeholders
Chambers do this all the time, but it’s especially important during times of crisis. Work with your community foundation on efforts to support businesses, employees and vulnerable populations within your community:
- Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia worked with the city, the community foundation and other corporate and philanthropic partners to establish a fund to support local nonprofits on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The PHL COVID-19 Fund will distribute money to nonprofit organizations that have a track record of helping at-risk groups such as seniors, people with disabilities, the economically disadvantaged and people experiencing homelessness.
- The Baton Rouge Area Chamber promotes the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s Employees First program. The program helps employers set up a grant to provide financial assistance to employees impacted by COVID-19 and receive beneficial tax deductions while doing so.
- The Greater Des Moines Partnership promotes the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines Disaster Recovery Fund, which focuses on disproportionately affected communities by addressing economic needs and the health impact on vulnerable populations caused by COVID-19 related closures and other impacts.
- Greater Louisville Inc. was part of a community coalition who recently launched the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund, which will rapidly deploy resources to individuals, businesses and community-based organizations working at the frontlines of our region’s coronavirus outbreak.
Chambers are working with a host of other partners to address short- and long-term challenges related to economic recovery.
- Several Oregon chambers joined other community partners to release a joint statement encouraging swift action on a number of vital priorities.
- Many chambers are working with businesses and workforce partners to connect displaced workers to job opportunities.
Chambers Not Included in Latest Federal Stimulus Package – ACT NOW
Congress is debating a massive economic stimulus package. The current bill language includes “nonprofit organizations” as eligible for the $350 billion in support for small businesses, but they define nonprofits being included as exclusively 501(c)(3) groups. The package does not include 501(c)(6) organizations. Contact your elected officials and encourage them to ensure all associations are eligible for the emergency stimulus included in this package. We have been working with the American Society of Association Executives on this issue. You can use their platform to send a message. Whether sending email directly, or using this online platform, here is an updated message you can send that is specific to chambers of commerce. Act quickly as this is moving fast. Thank you!
Small Chamber Big Ideas
In northwest Iowa, there is a small town named Sioux Center with a population of 7,500. It boasts a small private university and a hospital, as well as several sectors of business, including genetics, agriculture, construction, and major employers like Pella Corporation and Smithfield. Like many chambers across the country, the Sioux Center Chamber heard complaints from member businesses about not being able to expand. Businesses couldn’t grow because there wasn’t anyone to hire; they needed new talent, and talent that stays. Businesses charged the Sioux Center Chamber, led by Barbara DenHerder, to help.
To address the issue of talent attraction, the chamber implemented the Homecoming Grant in 2017. This $6,000 grant pays off student loans for students who graduated from the local high school. The amount is paid over four years, and graduates must hold a job in Sioux Center. The grant is framed as a reverse scholarship that is given at the conclusion at the student’s education, instead of at the beginning. Twenty people have applied to date, and two people have been awarded the grant. The chamber is working to raise awareness about the program with the goal of continuing to encourage students to look for and get jobs in their hometown.
To address talent retention, the chamber started Leadership Sioux Center in 2015. Like many other leadership programs, 20 young professionals participate in the eight-month cohort program with a session once a month. This has created a talent pool of younger leaders who are the first to receive notifications for board openings, volunteer opportunities and local civic positions. Of the 100 people who have completed the program, only two have left Sioux Center, making it a very effective tool for talent retention.
To help expose students to the many career opportunities in Sioux Center, the chamber started Your Future@Work. The event begins with a keynote, followed by interactive breakout sessions and a business expo with 65 businesses. For the breakout sessions and the business expo, the chamber works with businesses to focus on the skills needed for working in that industry, rather than the benefits of working for that specific company. For example, a manufacturing company might do an activity with robotics to show students the types of skills they need to get a job in the sector. The event has grown and is now mandatory for the 500-600 high school sophomores in Sioux county. The chamber continues to work with the school district to maintain consistent post-event messaging.
With a staff of three, Barbara DenHerder has responded quickly to member needs. The strength of their chamber is largely due to the tremendous support of the businesses and their willingness to partner with the Chamber in many ways. With an entrepreneurial approach to closing the talent gap, the Sioux City Chamber continues to push for bigger and bolder solutions for its community.
Are you implementing some of the same programs as the Sioux Center Chamber? Do you have an innovative strategy or program that addresses significant issues? Please email Emily Counts (email@example.com) to share.
Helping Students Map Career Paths
This post was authored by Robin Willis, Associate Vice President, Talent Pipeline Strategies at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
As Chambers, we are all experiencing tremendous workforce strain in our communities. Just like you, we are hearing members express serious concern over finding and keeping skilled talent.
The Charleston metro region is the 75th largest metro in the county but ranks in the top 10 for job growth. We’ve evaluated the data and have projected there will be 35,000 new jobs in our region in the next 5 years.
Our Talent team works directly with school district leaders, guidance counselors and teachers. As we have communicated the local skills gaps data we noticed another cause for concern: students and parents were experiencing information overload. Instead of using the data to choose a high demand career path, they were lost in a sea of opportunity—hundreds of certificate or degree options in our market alone. Students needed simplified information that showed them there are multiple, but not infinite, pathways in high demand industries that can lead to a career with high potential for growth.
Enter a new publication called Mapping Your Path. It highlights several pathway options in six of our region’s high demand industries. Each pathway has been validated by 17 of the region’s leading employers. Students, or adults reentering or changing careers, can see starting and stopping points from Certifications to Associates Degrees through Masters Degrees.
School districts have embraced the information—giving print and electronic versions to students and parents as part of state-mandated planning meetings with school counselors. We envision producing an updated version with live online links, and ultimately the development of a mobile-enabled portal.
Childcare Matters: Improving workforce compensation is the key to quality and availability
This post was authored by Mary Manner, Great Start Coordinator, TraverseCONNECT
A new article about child care seems to pop up in the news almost every week, focusing either on the high cost of care or the shortage of quality care, or both. At their core, these issues are two sides of the same coin and the currency is workforce compensation.
In my home state of Michigan, as in many other states, the decline in the number of child care providers is alarming (find your state’s info here). As economic conditions here have improved in the last five years the demand for quality child care has increased yet the supply is on the decline, especially for infants and toddlers. On average, thirty providers close their businesses every month, and the reason most often given is to seek better pay and benefits.
If workforce compensation is fundamental to increasing the supply of quality child care, what can Chambers do to have an impact? The first step is to recognize child care providers as professionals who deserve to earn a livable wage for the important work they do educating and nurturing our youngest citizens, and the second step is to understand how families pay for care.
Fortunately there are some resources we can look to for guidance. The T.E.A.C.H. program, administered by the T.E.A.C.H. National Center, provides support for child care providers who want to access higher education. A related program, WAGE$, is a wage-supplementation program designed to increase quality through higher educational attainment of providers. Both programs depend on significant public and private investment at the state level to achieve the goals of raising quality and establishing compensation parity between early care professionals and kindergarten/elementary educators. Find out what your state is doing to raise workforce compensation and how you can support the effort.
How families pay for child care is the flip side of compensation. With child care nearly as expensive as college tuition, quality care is already out of reach for many low- and middle-income working families. Raising prices enough to elevate wages is not an option, but there are other ways to capitalize the system.
One solution is to infuse more cash into the system by increasing the utilization of the child care subsidy. Eligibility for the subsidy, paid out of a combination of federal Child Care Development Funds (CCDF) and state funds, varies widely by state. The national goal is make subsidies available to families earning up to 85% of the state median income (find your state’s data here), however many states still have a long way to go to meet that goal.
Recently I asked several center directors to calculate the per-child cost of their programs. The results were disheartening. Providers are charging about forty percent of the actual cost of providing high quality care and making up the difference with summer camps for older children, corporate underwriting, and/or fundraising. Given this business model, it’s hard to see how this path could toward increasing workforce compensation and program sustainability without additional inputs.
Shared services is one promising approach to improving child care business practices and cutting administrative costs, thus freeing up time and money to improve program quality and compensation. The state of Texas has a put together an excellent review of how shared services works for child care. Chambers of commerce may be uniquely able to support local shared services initiatives and provide business expertise.
In my conversations with local child care providers, the one question that keeps coming up is why the Chamber doesn’t do more for them, yet few are chamber members. Maybe it’s the cost, or believing that membership is only for big businesses, or simply being too busy, as owner/operators, to participate. Whatever the reason, perhaps it’s time that we do more to reach out with support and encouragement. It will benefit all of us.
For more information feel free to contact Mary Manner
Changing the Job Search Process in Huntersville
This post was authored by Jill Swain, Executive Director, Huntersville (N.C.) Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.
Huntersville, NC has been growing for nearly 30 years. Located north of Charlotte and at the crossroads of several active highways, Huntersville has positioned itself to be a hub for large business and corporate headquarters. Despite the success of bringing in a strong contingent of larger companies, Huntersville has seen downsizings and restructurings, and citizens sometimes look for employment elsewhere. We have underemployed experienced workers and executive level talent, but our corporate HR departments will spend thousands of dollars on job postings and relocation packages, even though the talent is right here.
With citizens coming to the Huntersville Chamber asking for networking assistance to find local job positions, it became clear that the traditional methods of job searches were not working for our local talent. As a chamber that works diligently to make direct and personal connections, we knew we had to change the job search scenario.
Working with Job Hubbub, our chamber established a local job search board, HuntersvilleWorks.com. We offer free job postings to our members and encourage residents to share the site with family and friends through social media. The site connects directly with Google Jobs, so anyone searching "jobs near me" locally is directed to our local Chamber member open positions.
A more personalized, local approach to job searches also allows our chamber to directly connect people to potential jobs. Although the site is easy to use and self-sustaining, we can monitor incoming jobs and applications and, when possible, make direct connections. The previous mentality of networking and trying to find someone in each company to get a foot in the door is now morphing toward a more direct effort to hire local and stay local in job searches.
We wanted to ensure that the system meets the needs of applicants and employers. Job-seekers receive an update if their application was read, so they didn’t have to wonder if their application went to some national headquarters “black hole”. We have also begun locating job kiosks at local establishments to increase business foot traffic and to make sure that people have access to search jobs throughout town. HR professionals can rate applicants and keep a file for any applications that come in for job positions. With the connection to Google Jobs, clicks to jobs listings on our site also improve SEO for member companies that post jobs on our board.
We are seeing a consistent increase in clicks and usage, currently at over 260,000 clicks a month and rising. We are about to launch a partnership with a local media organization to link our open jobs to their website and publications. Because HuntersvilleWorks has become a connector for our residents, we have developed the application to be utilized for other chambers of commerce. For example, Union County, N.C. is now utilizing the application as UnionCountyWorks.com and has launched with great acclaim.
We created the Job Hubbub platform to be the new way communities link job applicants to open, local positions. In a world of unlimited budgets, we would have launched an advertising campaign to encourage people to shorten their commutes and work where they live. Nevertheless, we are seeing a positive response to this new way of connecting, and offering this amenity has helped us attract new members. We would love to share the same application with any interested chamber. With potential for banner ads and paid chat features, it can quickly pay for itself!
Encouraging Entrepreneurship in High School
This post was authored by Danielle Britton, Talent and Education Director, Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce.
The Greater Binghamton Scholastic Challenge is an annual event in Binghamton, NY that brings together innovative minds of high school students and local businesses in a unique way. Founded by Modern Marketing & Commerce, GBSC gives high school students the opportunity to develop ideas and businesses that directly impact our community, all while competing for a chance to win scholarship money and internships.
The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and MMC partner to provide students with business connections and an inspiring final event. On Tuesday, May 21, MMC held its 10th annual Greater Binghamton Scholastic Challenge at Binghamton University in partnership with GBEOP. There were over 50 teams from 8 different local high schools who worked all year on the perfect business plan to showcase at the event.
Students worked with their teachers and business mentors to develop business ideas, create award-winning business plans and hone presentation skills. While given the choice to work individually or in teams, students were strongly encouraged to work together to learn communication and people skills. As part of the competition, the student or group was required to provide a professional tradeshow booth and business idea pitch. Local entrepreneurs and business leaders could then mentor or judge their business plans, which provided great connections and networking opportunities for the students.
To see a video from the 2019 Scholastic Challenge, click here.
The New Strategy for Afterschool
Over the past few years, chambers have increasingly focused on using afterschool as a strategy for career awareness and to decrease the skills gap in their communities. Afterschool has traditionally been used as time to do homework before parents get out of work, but it can be so much more. Afterschool can be the time when students are exposed to career opportunities, learn in demand skills and apply what they learned in the classroom to real life scenarios.
Chambers that have seen the potential of afterschool as a talent strategy are capitalizing on their investment in the workforce of tomorrow. Greater Spokane Inc, is taking advantage of afterschool opportunities to raise awareness of STEM possibilities and continue education past the bell. Check out the webinar featuring the Greater Spokane Inc’s work here. The Casper Area Chamber offers afterschool programming to improve students’ soft skills. Whether your chamber provides direct programming or supports other existing programs, there are many helpful resources at your disposal.
If you are considering your next steps for developing deeper partnership in the afterschool space, you may find ACCE’s afterschool partnership model helpful. This model illustrates how chambers can evolve a new partnership into a mature, effective collaboration. You can find other helpful resources on the Afterschool STEM Chamberpedia page.
Linda Barton of the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance, Erin Helms of the Casper Area Chamber, and Elissa Ruckle of Elevate Wyoming presented a webinar titled How Afterschool Can Shape Your STEM Workforce. This webinar also included perspectives from aftershool experts Ron Ottinger from the STEM Next Opportunity Fund and Kari Pardoe of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Do you use afterschool as part of your career awareness and closing the skill gap strategy? We would love to hear from you. Email Amy Shields (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know what you are doing.