This article was originally published in the November 2020 issue of ACCE’s Chamber Executive Magazine.
With the coronavirus and public health actions to slow its spread creating economic challenges for workers and industries, many are looking to chambers to lead and rally their communities around an accelerated recovery. This will take financial resources.
During the past eight months, we’ve walked side-by-side with our clients, learned a few things, and reached a few conclusions along the way.
Lean Forward and Don’t Be Timid with Prospective Investors
Especially during tough times, it’s natural to make assumptions about what your prospects will and will not invest. These assumptions are often incorrect. In our experience, the money is out there. A variety of industries – manufacturing, technology, and medical supplies to name a few – have seen increased revenue during the pandemic.
Do share your awareness of how these uncertain times are impacting the members and communities you serve. But then share your positive vision for your community’s economic future and how your chamber continues to pivot / adapt to support business and community recovery.
DO make aggressive funding Asks so that you will have the resources you need to lead.
During the darkest days of the pandemic last spring, we made a six-figure Ask of a law firm in Seattle that had never invested in chambers or economic development organizations. Our pitch focused on how our client would bring the region together and streamline the recovery.
The partner responded, “It fills me with joy that there are people like you working to solve our problems. I had no idea all of this was happening.” She immediately recommended to the COO that they invest $150,000 in the organization. And we have seen more of the same over these many months.
Investors / members WILL step up to invest in muscular economic and community development efforts IF called to action.
Continue with Fundraising Plans BUT Look Before You Leap!
If you’ve been planning a campaign or other major fundraising effort, stay the course. After all, the need for your campaign has not evaporated simply because of current events. In fact, it may be that your campaign and program to be funded are needed now more than ever.
That said, we always advise conducting “look before you leap” due diligence before commencing a major fundraising effort. Such an effort conducted as a prelude to a major campaign is often called a “Funding Feasibility Study.” Given these more-uncertain-than-usual economic times – some effort to see “how much water is in the pool” is vitally important.
A pre campaign Feasibility Study should include about 40 – 60 interviews with top prospects to secure their input on: the need for your program of work and support and enthusiasm for its details, a realistic campaign goal, best funding prospects, best leader prospects, most compelling message, and more. This effort will engage and cultivate interviewees (investor prospects) with an eye toward facilitating a future successful funding Ask.
Make a Great Case
As author Seth Godin says, “Solving perceived, urgent problems is a surefire way to get the world to beat a path to your door.”
A well-articulated “Case for Support” describing the urgent problems your community faces, your planned programmatic response, and the measurable outcomes you will achieve, is an excellent way to increase your total organizational engagement and secure the resources you need to achieve wild success.
Channel your inner Winston Churchill – stay calm, share your chamber’s ongoing and post-pandemic vision and plans for 2021 and beyond – and ask for the resources you need to succeed.
We are STILL in a “moment” – a special opportunity for your chamber to rise to the occasion. Take it.