This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 edition of ACCE’s Chamber Executive Magazine.
Our alternate title for this article was, “Hold On to Your Hat!” Because A – who doesn’t love a 100-year-old reference? And B – what I’m about to say may initially surprise you in light of the times we’re in: without a doubt, businesses actively want to invest in your chamber and they want to participate financially in your community’s recovery. The trick is – you have to give them a compelling reason to invest in you and you have to make it easy for them to do so.
DO: Pivot and Deliver New Value Now. I recently had a conversation with the CEO of a regional economic development organization who said, “Business attraction normally dominates our day-to-day agenda, but we have pivoted to help small businesses secure PPP loans and we’re developing upskilling programs targeted to service sector workers. We may later develop upskilling programs targeted to other challenged industries.” This CEO is on to something – this is a time for chambers to pivot their programs – perhaps repeatedly. Have you done so and provided fresh value to the community? What’s next?
PLAN: Strategically Plan for Next Phase / New $ Asks. We may well be “in the soup” for the next few months, but the time is now to tee things up for successful fundraising in late Summer / early Fall. We recommend chambers seek business community input now to: identify and properly resource the three big block strategies that will best accelerate the area economic recovery (don’t try to be all things to all people); conduct industry sector by sector analysis of needs and opportunities; ensure the continuing relevance of the metrics they employ (businesses saved and jobs retained are likely to have new relevancy); and begin reallocating staff and developing new structures (councils, task forces, etc.) that might be needed to drive strategic action.
COMMUNICATE: Be an Authoritative Voice on the Economic Recovery. There is a lot of communications “noise” out there right now – with tips and links everywhere. For fundraising purposes, stick to the fundamentals. We like this methodology for speaking to your constituency – address: the NEED (problem to be solved), the PLAN, the OUTCOMES, and the BUDGET. Chambers should also exercise video leadership and embrace / become experts on the use of video conferences. Lastly, there will be a story behind every saved business – learn it and tell it. (Click here to read more and to download a sample investor relations email template.)
FIND THE MONEY: Scrub Your Prospect List and Find / Chase New Money. We recommend chambers monitor the economic winners and losers and scrub their investor / member lists to identify new money opportunities. At the macro level, the stock market is a good place to look to see which industries are rising and which are falling. Technology has been rising – if your chamber helps a tech businesses find new talent, look to take their financial commitment to the next level. Also, be aware of negatively impacted industries and businesses and work to reduce your reliance on them. If a large portion of your budget comes from public sector entities, it’s probably time to seek increased private sector funding. Lastly, always consider the full range of stakeholders – WHEN you are successful, who wins? Creative examples of nontraditional investors include churches and workforce development boards.
In this Age of COVID, chambers can close their doors, board up the windows and anxiously wait on someone to call the “all clear,” OR they can keep moving forward, deliver value that matters and find businesses and other funders willing to invest in it. We like Option B.
Author: Sean Mikula, POWER 10 CEO