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
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 email@example.com.
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!