COVID 19 Updates
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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