Idea Exchanges Inspire Chambers to Tackle Programs that Build Community Diversity

Jessica Welch, ACE, IOM
Jessica Welch, ACE, IOM

What the godfather of chambers (Dave Kilby, W.A.C.E. president emeritus) always said is true: “When you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one chamber.”

We adapt to our diverse demographics, industry clusters, and the needs of our evolving communities. But in an age of digital advancement, more access to capital, and time poverty, our individual chambers can benefit from idea sharing and collaboration.

I had the honor of doing just that with Grand Junction (CO) Chamber President and CEO Candace Carnahan, ACE. What started as a pick-your-brain text thread evolved into 60-minute Zooms with screen sharing, and resulted in brand-new programming for both the Grand Junction and Greater Irvine chambers.

Total Resources Campaign

Looking for a way to enhance and solidify revenue streams, as well as future-proof the Greater Irvine (CA) Chamber, we adopted a Total Resource Campaign, much of the structure mirroring Grand Junction’s. The program enlists hand-picked volunteers, board members and professional staff on a 10-week campaign that matches potential members, partners and investors, with chamber programming.

Participants are provided an instructional handbook that outlines the role of the volunteers, responses to frequently asked questions, and incentive structure. Our incentive structure was based on generated revenue thresholds, paid in cash, or applied as a chamber credit for membership or events.

Participants were also given a menu detailing available opportunities, including event sponsorships, advertising, chamber group trips, committee sponsorships, advocacy trips, and more. Our hand-picked volunteers and board members were enthusiastic about this never-been-done opportunity.

Young Professionals

Meanwhile, just a couple of states over, the Grand Junction team was in event planning mode for their inaugural Young Professionals Summit. This event, a one-day conference that centers around empowering young professionals to ignite their curiosity, also included the Bestslope NEXTGen Awards program — modeled after Greater Irvine Chamber’s 40 Under 40 event.

These awards programs help to bridge age gaps, providing the opportunity for companies and organizations to showcase their best and brightest, as well as highlight the chamber as they recognize community excellence.

Candace shared, “Through these collaborative efforts, we have not only nurtured a profound bond with our chamber partners at the Greater Irvine Chamber, but have also harnessed a transformative opportunity for the growth and prosperity of young professionals in our business community.”

More Collaboration

Additionally, in just two weeks’ time, the Chino Valley (CA) Chamber will visit our chamber for a half-day to exchange ideas, share best practices, and identify opportunities to collaborate.

Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce President Zeb Welborn, ACE, said, “The Chino Valley Chamber is excited to visit the Greater Irvine Chamber later this month. It’s not just a visit, but an intentional effort to bridge our staff with their Irvine counterparts. By aligning roles and expertise, we aspire to foster deeper collaboration, exchange innovative ideas, and refine our understanding, ensuring we continually evolve to best serve our members. Engaging with such distinguished peers is our strategic step away from the confines of conventional thinking, opening doors to fresh perspectives and invigorating strategies. Our goal is to share knowledge and cultivate a chamber environment that is both dynamic and forward-thinking.”

With more than 800 W.A.C.E. chamber members, we hope to encourage others to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge, expertise, and often sheer brilliance of the professional teams serving neighboring chambers.

Jessica Welch, ACE, IOM, is the executive vice president of the Greater Irvine (CA) Chamber and executive director of the Irvine Forward Foundation.