Rethinking the Chamber Business Model
These are challenging times for chambers of commerce – and for chamber executives. But it’s during times like these that chambers showcase their true value: providing catalytic leadership to address your community’s greatest challenges.
With state and local governments launching efforts to restart the economy and get people back to work, our roundtable calls with chamber executives in communities of all sizes are shifting to focus on economic recovery. As we move to reopen our communities and understand what the next normal will bring, we need to focus on the future of our chambers as much as we focus on the future of our communities.
Many of the influences identified in ACCE’s Horizon Report are more relevant than ever. In the current climate, it is crucial that we dive back into discussions about the nature of belonging and gathering and how many chamber business models rely too heavily on membership and event revenue. How can we ensure the ongoing stability of our organizations during a time of stay-at-home orders and social distancing?
Our ongoing activities serve as a think tank for the future of chambers. But we want to hear from everyone in the industry. How are you thinking about your chamber’s business model? Over the last week, we’ve heard lots of discussions around:
- Increasing mission-based fundraising from individual, corporate and philanthropic sources to focus on solving your community’s greatest challenges.
- Opportunities for fee-for-service revenue. What services can your chamber provide that public and private sector organizations will pay for? Current chamber examples include: business retention and expansion; talent attraction; place-making, workforce solutions; custom economic research; executive relocation services; small business training and programs; diversity equity and inclusion training.
- Exploration of different plug-and-play subscription models.
How are you approaching the future of your chamber? We would love to hear your ideas. There will be lots of upcoming virtual opportunities to provide you input. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#ChamberStrong Updates - April 17, 2020
Chambers of commerce continue to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, helping companies access capital to keep their doors open and find the personal protective equipment they need while also helping their communities plan for the economic recovery.
Here are a few more innovative examples of chamber action that we’ve come across this week. Share your chamber stories online using the hashtag #ChamberStrong and continue to send them to Will Burns at email@example.com.
- The Little Rock Regional Chamber coordinated a partnership with member companies that will enable the production of enough face shields to support six major hospitals in Central Arkansas.
- The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama’s small business relief fund is helping small businesses stay open. "Well a lot of those small businesses that we’re helping, they’re part of this community. They’re what makes Tuscaloosa and Northport special. So we’re trying to do all we can to help them right now,” Chamber President Jim Page said.
- Connected DMV, led by the Greater Washington Board of Trade, launched an economic recovery and renewal task force that will define specific actions to integrate and accelerate economic recovery efforts and restore the region to health.
- The North Central Massachusetts Chamber launched an emergency micro-loan program and leveraged its existing online job board to help recently displaced workers identify new opportunities.
- The Greater Rochester Chamber distributed thousands of masks this week to help companies prepare for new PPE requirements from the state.
- The Boise Metro Chamber is providing personalized support to help businesses navigate the federal aid program, even as it faces its own challenges.
- Florida Chamber President & CEO Mark Wilson penned an op-ed stressing the importance of a careful and research-based economic restart: “Our research, gathered from some of the brightest minds in Florida and around the globe, shows that returning to work will likely be surgical, measured, vary by regions, industry sectors, the type and size of businesses, and more — all while balancing the health and safety of workers.”
- The Greeley Area Chamber and its foundation launched the Greeley Area Recovery Fund to support businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The chamber also launched Greeleytogo.com to support local restaurants and keep residents connected to their local favorites.
- The Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation, along with several community partners, launched a community laptop drive to support the region’s K-12 students who do not have devices at home.
- The Lawton Fort Sill Chamber launched the Keep Calm Shop Local campaign to help connect residents with local businesses. “We want to be able to provide a central location where businesses can get valuable information, resources, but also residents can find ways to support these local businesses, but also get the support they need too during this epidemic,” said Brandi Sims, the chamber’s communications manager.
- A group of regional business organizations; including the Bristol Chamber, Kingsport Chamber and the Chamber of Commerce serving Johnson City, Jonesborough, Washington County; joined together to launch a local business recovery fund.
- The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County teams have teamed up to launch a Rapid Response Team to consult and direct companies to advisors who will assist them in the Covid-19 crisis, on areas of concern, including capital and loan needs, unemployment and HR, legal assistance, communications, marketing and technology.
ACCE COVID-19 Updates – April 17, 2020
ACCE has been busy, hosting roundtable calls and webinars to help chambers leaders connect with peers and navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Here are a few links to recent ACCE COVID-19 calls and reminders of upcoming programs during the next couple weeks.
ChamberChat Podcast: ACCE President & CEO Sheree Anne Kelly joined Brandon Burton on the ChamberChat Podcast to discuss the many ways chambers are showcasing creativity and catalytic leadership as they lead their communities through the COVID-19 crisis. Listen Now
Demonstrating Member Value in a Crisis: This webinar, facilitated by membership expert Cathi Hight, explored how chambers are engaging with members and prospects and building a pipeline for the future by demonstrating the value of chamber membership, especially now when it is needed the most. Download recording and slides.
Events Division Roundtable Call: Event professionals share ideas and experiences on cancelling/rescheduling events, holding virtual events, keeping sponsors engaged and more. Download recording and saved chat.
Finance & Operations Call: ACCE held its first finance and operations roundtable call. The call featured discussions on finance topics such as budget forecasting and adjustments; virtual bill pay and deposit protocol; membership, event and sponsorship forecasting; retention payroll tax credit and more. Listen to the audio here.
Upcoming Webinars & Roundtable Calls
Here are a few upcoming ACCE calls and webinars to help chambers navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
COVID-19 Roundtable Call: Membership Development Division
April 21 @ 2 p.m. EDT | REGISTER
Join your Membership Development peers for an all-division roundtable to share solutions, opportunities and strategies to help one another and our communities and chambers during the COVID-19 crisis
COVID-19 Roundtable Call: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Division
April 21 @ 3 p.m. EDT | REGISTER
This call will explore strategies and tactics for chamber board diversity, but we will also checkin on how chambers are approaching the COVID-19 crisis from a DEI perspective.
COVID-19 Roundtable Call: Finance & Operations
April 22 @ 1 p.m. EDT | REGISTER
Join your chamber finance and operations peers for this best practice-sharing roundtable conference call moderated by Jodi Owczarski, vice president of the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce. This call, the second in our COVID-19 Finance & Operations Roundtable Mini-Series, will feature discussions on HR topics such as: remote employee management; eliminating personnel costs; staff engagement and morale (virtual happy hours/ flexible schedules, EAP).
COVID-19 Webinar: Virtual Office Management
April 22 @ 2 p.m. EDT | REGISTER
With most states issuing stay-at-home orders, many chamber staffs are working remotely. Learn how the Salt Lake and Tri-City Regional chambers pivoted and retooled their existing teleworking policies to meet the demands of the COVID-19 crisis.
COVID-19 Webinar: Events Pivoting to Digital
April 22 @ 3:30 p.m. EDT | REGISTER
Join your peers for ACCE's 30-minute webinar series on virtual chamber events to help you adapt to this ever-changing environment. This week Cally D'Angelo of the Gwinnett Chamber will share on the “digital pivot.” Learn how the chamber converted all chamber programming and events to a digital format and continue to evolve to meet member needs.
Webinar: Outsourcing Finance and HR - Pros, Cons and How to Make it Work
April 23 @ 2 p.m. EDT | REGISTER
Are you considering outsourcing your finance or human resources staff functions to save administrative costs? In this webinar, a panel of your peers will discuss the advantages, pitfalls and lessons learned on how outsourcing can be an effective organizational management strategy – and when it has not worked. Panelists will also discuss how their decisions, with respect to outsourcing, have impacted operations during the COVID-19 crisis.
COVID-19 Roundtable Call: Finance & Operations
April 30 @ 1 p.m. EDT | REGISTER
Guided by participant comments and questions, the call will feature discussions on chamber operations topics such as: new processes (mail, voicemail, etc.); rent abatement and deferrals; and loans (mortgages and other loans). Jodi Owczarski, vice president of the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce will moderate this call, the final in our COVID-19 Finance & Operations Roundtable Mini-Series.
America's Chambers of Commerce Need Relief
Dependable, local chambers are locating the economic lifeboats
for their members, but they can’t climb in
Peak COVID-19 hospitalization is quickly approaching in Little Rock, Arkansas. The local medical community realized they are reaching a critical PPE shortage, with face shields top of the list. Dr. Larry Whitman, Dean of Engineering at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock found a medically approved 3-D model for a face shield online, and he sought ways to source its production. He reached out for help.
To ensure medical-grade usage, CHI St. Vincent Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gerry Jones was brought in to approve the prototype. Now how to print? Little Rock Superintendent of Schools, Michael Poore agreed to share the district’s 3-D printers that weren’t being used during school closure. Local plastic company Mr. Plastic provided plastic sheeting to fit into the headband prototype. An ingenious local solution was forged, but couldn’t be scaled up to meet the total need.
Local firm, Schueck Steel stepped in to make the headbands in mass quantities out of aluminum, and supplemented much of the cost of the total effort with its own funds. Over 500 sheets of plastic were found for sale in Houston, then shipped to Kansas City to be die cut. Arkansas-based Sage V Foods was looking for a way to give back to the community, and made a generous donation to help cover the cost.
Within four days of the issue being raised, 200 3-D printed face shields were in use locally. Within 10 days, more than 4,000 aluminum face shields will be distributed. Five hundred will go to each of the six hospitals in the area and the rest to first responders.
Who facilitated each step in this local effort? Not government. Not a national health foundation. The Little Rock Regional Chamber.
There are more than 6,500 chambers of commerce across the U.S. Most people associate chambers with small business support. And chambers are a dependable local lifeline for small businesses fighting to keep their doors open through COVID-19. Chambers nationwide have set up small business hotlines; there have been thousands of chamber-led webinars on how to navigate CARES Act resources and SBA loans; and some chambers have procured and administered gap loans and grants to infuse cash into local businesses. Among countless other innovative initiatives.
To date, over one million small businesses have been approved for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the recent CARES Act. This highly beneficial loan can be forgiven if the organization meets certain criteria. This is a much-needed resource helping to keep businesses afloat.
While chambers are front and center serving their communities through this crisis, they are left out of receiving PPP funds. Other nonprofits are eligible, but those registered with the IRS as 501(c)(6) groups—which most chambers of commerce are—were excluded.
This puts chambers of commerce in the position of fighting for their communities and providing critical support in the fight against COVID-19, while facing business-threatening financial impacts of their own, due to shrunken membership dues and canceled events that have cleared calendars and undermined critical sources of revenue.
America’s chambers of commerce are locating the lifeboats so their members can navigate the way forward for their employees, customers and business partners, but they can’t climb in.
This needs to change—and it can.
Our members across the U.S. are imploring the administration and congressional leaders to include chambers and other non-profit 501(c)(6) organizations in the next COVID-19 aid package so they/we are eligible for federal stimulus dollars.
That way, your own local chamber of commerce can connect and empower the arsenal of recovery in ways large and small, just like they did in Little Rock.
Sheree Anne Kelly is President & CEO of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) based in Alexandria, Va. ACCE represents and supports the work of chambers of commerce across the U.S. and around the world. More than 10,000 chamber executives are part of their membership, who deliver community leadership in areas like talent and workforce, education attainment, and equitable economic development. www.acce.org
#ChamberStrong Response to COVID-19
Chambers of commerce continue to showcase creativity and catalytic leadership as they help organize and lead their communities through the COVID-19 crisis. Chambers are leading efforts to assist companies seeking financial support, coordinate the sourcing and manufacture of personal protective equipment, support businesses by promoting carry-out and online sales and keeping their communities informed.
Here are a few more innovative examples we’ve come across this week. Share your examples online using the hashtag #ChamberStrong and continue to send them to Will Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Orlando Economic Partnership launched the OEP Marketplace to support the region by creating a platform to match companies with needs with companies that can help. Companies who are hiring can also use the marketplace to post jobs.
- The Sacramento Metro Chamber partnered with the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber to launch a Rapid Response Business Triage Hotline to provide a go-to place for any business to navigate the local, state, and federal resources available to businesses to address critical needs brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
- The Quad Cities Chamber reached out to businesses encouraging them to donate their extra personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Salvation Army amid critical supply shortages created by the pandemic. So far, the Salvation Army has received about 7,000 surgical masks, 5,000 latex gloves, 70 surgical gowns and 15 Tyvek coveralls from area businesses.
- The Springfield Area Chamber took its monthly Good Morning Springfield program only by hosting the monthly mixer via zoom and Facebook Live simulcast. Watch the recording here.
- The Indy Chamber’s Rapid Response Loan Fund was featured in a new report by Bruce Katz: Setting up a local small business emergency relief fund: Lessons from three first movers
- The Oklahoma City Chamber worked with local partners to launch the Oklahoma City Small Business Continuity Program to quickly put funding into the hands of small business owners to help retain jobs during this unstable time.
- The Los Angeles Area Chamber is leveraging its incubator, the Bixel Exchange, to provide one-on-one advising for regional entrepreneurs in areas like supply chain disruption, credit and finance issues, customer engagement, technology plans for enabling remote work and more.
- The Jefferson Chamber released a Voice of Business PSA to keep the community informed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- South Bend Regional Chamber President & CEO Jeff Rea, CCE was selected by St. Joseph County and the City of South Bend to serve as COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a new role to aid intergovernmental communication and coordination as the community navigates its response to the COVID-19 crisis. This move highlights how the city and county recognize the chamber as a valuable community resource, as Rea will remain employed by the chamber as he leads the coordination of the public and private sector response.
- The Dallas Regional Chamber turned its talent attraction website into a source for job leads for displaced workers. The chamber built the site in conjunction with Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas and Indeed.com.
- The Iowa City Area Business Partnership partners with other stakeholders to launch the We’re In This Together collaboration to serve as a one-stop hub for information and updates, including a weekly “State of the Community” webinar that provides regular updates from different government agencies and industry sectors.
- The Greater Memphis Chamber launched several new initiatives including a list of immediate job opening in the Memphis region and the Open 901 directory for local businesses to promote their to-go, online or modified business hours to the greater community.
- TYPROS, Tulsa’s Young Professionals, is hosting “Take Out Nights” to support local businesses by dining out at a local restaurant on the same night of the week. They are also offering virtual “community hours” where they livestream conversations with local city, business and community leaders on how they are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The TYPROS Foundation is also providing micro-grants up to $500 to individuals or organizations who have innovative ideas to support the community during this time.
- The St. Joseph Chamber partnered with a local web designer to launch Couch & Click, a website that highlights ways that residents and companies can continue to support local businesses.
- The Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership launched a marketing blitz, Get. Gather. Go., to encourage businesses to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. The goal is to GET businesses informed on the Paycheck Protection Program, have them GATHER the necessary information, and GO apply.
- The Des Moines Downtown Chamber is organizing weekly virtual roundtables to support local businesses from the hardest-hit industries.
Economic Recovery Reading List
Our communities need chambers of commerce now more than ever. Your mission-driven approach to community prosperity will help guide the recovery efforts. Chambers excel at convening the right stakeholders at the right time to address their community’s greatest challenges.
ACCE will continue to support chambers just as you support the communities you serve. As you start to think about what recovery looks like in your region, here is a reading list of helpful recovery resources that have been mentioned during our peer calls.
- McKinsey & Company – COVID-19 Implications for Business: Summary | Full Report
- U.S. Chamber: Implementing a National Return to Work Plan
- Business Roundtable: Principles for Safe Recovery
- American Enterprise Institute: A Roadmap to Reopening
- Brookings: When will your city feel the fiscal impact of COVID-19?
- Brookings: How our cities can reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic
- American Enterprise Institute: National coronavirus response: A road map to reopening
- Forward Cities: Developing rapid-response plans for cities to help entrepreneurs and small businesses in this time of economic crisis
- Bob Harris & Bill Pawlucy, CAE: Plan to Recovery – Association Strong
What steps is your chamber taking to plan for recovery? We’d love to learn more. Share your stories with Will Burns at email@example.com.
ACCE is working to support chambers with an economic recovery framework. We know recovery will look different in every community, based on industry makeup and community dynamics. But one thing that remains constant is that chambers of commerce have a vital leadership role to play.
ACCE Partners Continue to Support Chambers
During the past few week’s we’ve highlighted innovative chamber programs in the midst of a crisis. Just like our chamber members, ACCE’s corporate partners have showcased great leadership and the ability to adjust on a dime to assist the chamber community with thought leadership and other resources during challenging times. Here are some highlights:
- The Comcast Business Community page features lots of helpful content for businesses of all sizes. They also recently launched partnerships with several companies that provide small business tools along with a series of webinars to support businesses of all sizes.
- Facebook launched its Small Business Grants Program, offering cash grants and ad credits to help small businesses during challenging times. The company also launched its Business Resource Hub, which features tips and guides tailored to impacted industries.
- Constant Contact launched its Small Business Support Kit, which includes industry-specific action plans, live marketing advice and enhanced email packages that include free e-commerce and website builder tools.
- Power 10 shared guidance for chambers on how to proceed with ongoing fundraising campaigns. They also shared tips for managing remote work based on more than ten years of experience.
- MemberClicks is sharing practical tips to help chambers plan and execute effective virtual events and conferences.
- Grow with Google is hosting a livestream on May 6 to help small businesses discusover tools, tips and resources to help them manage their business remotely.
- Insperity’s blog is filled with HR advice and tips for supporting your chamber employees and member businesses during the crisis.
- Times are tough for the travel and tourism industry, but Collette shared eight ways to support tourism from home.
Advocacy to Help Chambers – ACT NOW
You serve as vital resources and champions for your region. And, you're making a huge difference during these challenging times.
Chambers deserve support for all you're doing during the COVID-19 crisis. These are the final days of drafting stimulus package #4. We need your help to get much-needed relief for chambers.
You can help RIGHT NOW in three ways:
- Reach out to your federal legislators. Let them know that the more than 6,500 chambers in the U.S. are serving as critical support systems in their communities. Most importantly, share with them specific stories of how your chamber is helping your community during this crisis. Stories show action, and we need to showcase the critical role you play, and the impact that chambers are having right now.
- Share those stories on social media about how you're making a difference during this pandemic. Use #ChamberStrong and tag your Members of Congress. To see a list of Twitter handles for Members of Congress, click here.
- If you haven't already, join thousands of association executives who've signed on to a letter going to the Hill. We've partnered with the American Society of Association Executives to show the power of all 501(c)(6) associations. This isour sign on letter asking that associations be included in the Paycheck Protection Program. Add your chamber's name here.
We'll keep fighting for chamber support while you fight for your communities. Let us know how we can help, and check our blog for the latest innovations we're hearing. Keep up the fight!
All my best,
ACCE Weekly Update - Chambers Response to COVID-19
Chambers Being Told they are Ineligible for EIDL Program
We are hearing reports of the Small Business Administration telling chambers of commerce that they are not eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program because chambers are considered “marketing cooperatives.” ACCE believes this designation is a mistake, and we are working with the U.S. Chamber to seek clarity from SBA. We will bring you updates as we get them.
U.S. Chamber Releases Guides to Federal Relief Programs
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released new guides for businesses of all sizes to secure relief under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
- Paycheck Protection Program: New emergency loans for small businesses and 501(c)(3) organizations.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program: The CARES Act expands the Small Business Administration’s long-standing Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). The EIDL program was created to assist businesses, renters, and homeowners located in regions affected by declared disasters. Chambers and other 501(c)(6) organizations are eligible for this program.
- Employee Retention Tax Credit: A new tax credit for employers who are closed, partially closed, or experiencing significant revenue losses as a result of COVID-19.
View all U.S. Chamber COVID-19 resources and updates.
Coordinating the Sourcing and Manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment
- The York County Economic Alliance, Hanover Chamber of Commerce, MANTEC, The Manufacturers' Association and many local partners are compiling information on available resources that can be donated, loaned out, or manufactured to meet the demands for critical supplies and expertise.
- The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber is coordinating with local hospitals to identify their needs and working with area businesses and manufacturers to coordinate donations of critical supplies.
Examples of Chambers Providing Access to Bridge Grants and Loans
- The Indy Chamber established its Rapid Response Loan Fund to provide fast and affordable bridge loans of $1k to $25k to help businesses until they can get additional funding from their bank or the SBA.
- The Greater Grand Rapids Chamber Foundation launched its Rapid Response Economic Relief Fund to deliver short-term financial support to small businesses in need.
- The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama worked with the Community Foundation of West Alabama to establish the Small Business Relief Fund to assist small businesses that have experienced a financial hardship as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce worked with regional partners to create the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Small Business Resilience Grant to help small businesses.
Additional Chamber Outreach Examples
- We’re all in this together … six feet apart: The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber launched a community outreach campaign to promote social distancing and allow anyone in the community to receive chamber updates during the crisis.
- Business Response Helpline: The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber launched a business response helpline to help businesses navigate the COVID-19 outbreak and its aftermath, by providing access to resources and relevant information.
- Digital Signage: The Carroll County Chamber in Maryland is using the dip in inquiries for advertising on its local digital billboards to repurpose the signage to promote shopping local and share positive local business stories.
- Central Oregon SOS: The Bend Chamber partnered with several other chambers, local governments and other partners to launch a new website to serve as a one-stop resource hub for employers, employees, and the community in this time of unprecedented uncertainty.
- Virtual Tip Jar: The Greater West Chester Chamber launched a “Virtual Tip Jar” to collect tips for working in the local service industry, including bartenders, servers, aestheticians, stylists, barbers, retailer sand others.
- Corporate Catering Matters: The Spartanburg Chamber is challenging employers who must have employees on-site to consider placing multiple, in-advance catering orders. Corporate catering greatly reduces potential exposure by limiting the number of people team members come into contact with on a daily basis. A local restaurant gains badly needed business and morale is listed for the team.
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.