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Business Emergency Relief Program Campaign - Champaign County Chamber of Commerce

2014 ACE: Best in Show & Grand Award

On November 18, 2013, Central Illinois made national news. Unfortunately, it was due to the disaster that hit towns like Gifford and Washington, where residents and businesses lost everything. In partnership with the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce established a Business Emergency Relief Grant Program. The goal of this program was to prevent businesses in our community from becoming part of the following staggering statistics. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), forty percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another twenty-five percent fail within the first year after a disaster. The US Small Business Administration indicates that it increases to ninety percent failure by the second year after a disaster.


Date: February 7, 2015
Organization: Champaign County Chamber of Commerce
Chamber Website: http://www.champaigncounty.org
City: Champaign, IL
Community Peer Group: Emerging Cities
Revenue Category: $450,001-900,000

Business Emergency Relief Program Campaign - Champaign County Chamber of Commerce

SYNOPSIS:

Fundraising started on Monday, November 18, 2013, and donations were accepted until Friday, December 5, 2013. The process was stress-free for affected businesses to access the grant funds; they simply had to fill out a one-page application, which was available on the Chamber’s website. Affected businesses could use the funds for building materials; labor costs associated with rebuilding; direct costs related to operation of their business; lost revenue; replacing inventory; payroll; paying bills; new equipment such as computers, printers, office supplies; and any other approved uses on a case-by-case basis. We urged members to ask themselves if they would want this available to their company if there was ever a need. A committee made up of three Chamber board members, the Chamber and the Community Foundation president and CEOs reviewed applications and determined how the funds would be dispersed. Businesses of the Gifford community were also offered complimentary membership for one year, exposure in the Commerce Connection and complimentary admission to a spring breakfast.

Our main goal was to create a program that assisted businesses in neighboring counties that were negatively impacted by this disaster, regardless of whether or not they were members of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. We also worked to:

  • Quickly raise as much money as possible to help impact businesses
  • Increase awareness about the severity of the event
  • Show other communities what can be accomplished when we all work together to reach a common goal

Marketing:

  • November 18, 2013 – Press release and email to membership announcing the establishment of the program
  • November 19, 2013 – Email to membership
  • November 25, 2013 – Information in the weekly newsletter, e-Connection
  • December 2, 2013 – Information in the weekly newsletter, e-Connection
  • December 2, 2013 – Exposure on local TV station promoting the progress we had made at that point ("Chamber of Commerce offers help to damaged businesses")
  • December 5, 2013 – Press release announcing total amount raised and thanking those who donated to the fund
  • December 6, 2013 – Press release to announce details about the funds being awarded and when the next round of funds distribution would be
  • December 7, 2013 – Exposure in the local newspaper discussing the amount raised and who the first round of funds were given to ("Relief funds collecting, giving money")
  • December 2013 – One page spread printed in the Commerce Connection (bi-monthly publication) thanking all those who donated to the program
  • December 2013 - Businesses were notified of the funds they were granted

Results:

  1. Over 40 different businesses and community members donated $16,859.50 in less than 20 days
  2. We were able to distribute funds to nearly 15 businesses in the town of Gifford.
  3. Assist in keeping business doors open in Gifford
  4. Create awareness that the commercial core of a community is instrumental to the success of any thriving community
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