Bonuses and Commissions

Many chambers have commission structures in place for their staff, particularly membership and sponsorship positions, Alternately, some pay a straight salary for these positions. For those that do use a commission-based salary, the structure and percentages vary and commissions are most common for membership sales positions. Rather than detailing a formal overall commission structure, some chambers opt to include the details in an employee offer letter or job description.

The majority of chambers do not offer a commission structure for events positions - of a sampling of ACCE members, approximately 20% offer a commission for events. These commissions were more often than not event specific or associated with event sponsorship rather than being associated with an event-specific staff position.

Some chambers choose to forgo a commission structure in favor of a straight salary. For example:

Anonymous, VP Membership & Events, Major Cities Chamber
We not utilize a commission structure for the either our Events Director or our Director of Membership.  The rationale for a establishing a straight salary for these positions is to focus on the development of long-term relationships with our members. In the past we had used a salary plus commission pay structure.  We found the structure difficult to administer and demotivating to the Director of Membership.  Additionally, we found the salary/commission structure lead to a higher propensity of churn in the sales process. Our focus is on retention of our customers by improving the customer experience.

This chamber professional backs up the assertion of this philosophy by referencing a blog post by Jay Handler: How to Boost your Retention by Flipping Your Sales Structure Upside Down (Oct 2017).


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Member Input

FAQ I need some incentive models and best practices for member retention.

See all Member Comments on Bonus and Commission Structure
Nancy F. Creed, IOM, President at Springfield Regional Chamber
Member Accounts growth - 20% on dues of each new member solicited and closed by Member Services Director and paid in full (7.5% will be paid out on a quarterly basis with the remainder paid out on an annual basis; contingent upon the Chamber meeting its net goal)
Dollars retention - If retention goal is exceeded by > 2% points: 7.5% (of the base salary amount) one-time, year-end commission will be paid  
1st year retention - 20% on dues of renewals of year one (1) members solicited and closed by Member Services Director sold and paid in full (paid out on an annual basis)
Sponsorships - 10% on all new sponsorships solicited and closed by Member Services Director and paid in full (paid out on a quarterly basis)
Bonuses depend on the amount of net income but the “pool” usually averages about 70% of the net income. Of that total pool, the Board determines the President's bonus and the remainder is split among the staff based on their individual performance goals (which are weighted). For example, if Staff Member A only achieved 40% of their individual goals, they only received $40% of the allotment, etc.

Whitney Schieber, Director of Membership Engagement, Columbia Chamber of Commerce
We do not offer any commission to staff for selling sponsorships.  I am the events person for our chamber and I also oversee the Total Resource Campaign, where we have a group of volunteers who sell sponsorships for us.  If a sponsorship does not sell in the campaign, then staff members (with the help of their committees) are responsible for either finding a sponsor or taking the cost of the expense out of their event/program’s budget.  

Roy H. Williams, CCE, President & CEO, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
We have an extensive Core Competency Evaluation for each employee. This could include up to 10 categories with up to 10 items in each category. (categories include things like Professionalism, Communication Skills, Job/Time Management, Values, Teamwork, etc.) As well, we then have Individual Performance Objectives for each employee. This is very specific to each person and their respective position. So they are then rated by their supervisor on about ½ dozen objectives specific to their job. All of this is in a software package that then provides a Rating, a Weight and then a Weighted Rating for that person. We also input Actual goals to Target goals to get a percent of their plan which is weighted to the overall performance. There is also a minimum weighted average each person has to achieve in order to be eligible for their incentive. So if they reach that rating, they are eligible for Incentive Compensation. Incentive pay ranges are from 5% to 25% of their annual salary. So if eligible, a mathematical formula calculates their incentive compensation based on their weighted rating. This all amounts to about 10 pages of information for each employee. In our structure, a membership person having an “X” percent of incentive opportunity is only a small part of the story. We have a lot of expectations of people that go far beyond just meeting a numerical goal.

Laurie Nelson, VP of Easton Area Initiatives, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce
Our Commission structure is any sponsorship we sell we can make 10% of that sponsorship (as long as it’s a returning sponsor). If someone is able to get a sponsorship from a business who has never sponsored that specific event before- they can earn 20%.  Since we are all in charge of our own individual budgets- people can sometimes choose not to take their commission and have all the $$ go to the budget.

Anonymous, Director of Membership and Events, Major Cities Chamber
Sponsorships commission is most important. 20-25% percent is standard on new sales, raise their goal to cover the commission. In this case, the $200k now becomes $250k and your employee loves their job even more! I would definitely offer a renewal commission of 5-10% of renewals sponsors from previous years. All sales for all chambers should be rewarded with a commission, it’s motivation…period.

Anonymous, CFO, Major Cities Chamber
We do not currently have any commissioned positions. We have a potential bonus for all staff, which is based on the overall performance of the organization, plus meeting any individual goals for those who are responsible for selling sponsorships and/or memberships. Annually, we decide a total dollar amount to distribute. Each employee’s bonus is based on his or her salary as a % of total payroll; we then give additional amounts to those who have performed exceptionally (exceeding sales goals would be a factor we would consider). If a staff member who is responsible for sales does not meet goal, there is the possibility that there could be a deduction rather than an additional amount.
In the past, we did have an individual, whose primary responsibility was bringing in new members, who could earn commission on sponsorship sales. We paid her 10% of the amount of the sale for new sales, which meant that the sponsor had not sponsored anything in the past. We did not consider renewing sponsorships a sale.

Anonymous, Chief Growth Officer, Metro Cities Chamber
Our sponsorship director has an incentive plan that breaks out renewals vs. new revenue. The position gets a specified amount ($1,500, $1,000 or $500) for meeting 100%, 90% or 80% of renewals, respectively, and receives 5% of all new revenue. The total annual goal is around $1,000,000. Incentive payment is made quarterly.

Anonymous, COO, Metro Cities Chamber
We do not pay commission for sponsorship sales, nor to our Events Director. Only our sales staff is commissioned. Our bonus structure is not really “structured,” meaning it’s not easy to replicate or calculate. Each department head receives a certain amount as decided by our CEO, and it is up to them to distribute to their subordinates as desired/earned. It is somewhat unrelated to salary (meaning we don’t pay a flat amount of X% of salary).

Anonymous, Event Services & Sponsorships Manager, Emerging Cities Chamber
All of our sponsorships are event-based. The commission structure is based on overall profit of the events, taking into account all revenue and all expenses – not just sponsorships alone. The first time they’ve offered this is when I came on board with our Chamber, and in all honesty hasn’t been as fruitful as we thought because it is very risky, and there is so much weighted on the actual payout – meaning there is no reward for every sponsorship sold. It's an “If” the event makes budgeted profit amount, then payouts will begin.

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Last Updated: 8/27/2018

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