Leadership Program, Face-to-Face Contacts Help Attract, Keep Members Involved

Mary Guardiola, ACE

Engaging members of any size can be a struggle; you constantly get the “what’s in it for me” thoughts.

In our small chamber (Oakdale, CA), two things that have worked very effectively for us are Leadership Oakdale and communicating benefits face to face with members.

Our Leadership Oakdale program, like those in many other communities, was developed to give participants an overview of the various inner workings of business, government, agriculture, health services, education, social/cultural, and communication in our area. The program gives potential leaders a well-rounded educational and networking experience through a process that will identify and help develop informed, civic-oriented leaders who will help direct the future of Oakdale.

The friendships and contacts made from the participants, speakers and guests each month help the potential leaders in business and in the groups with which they volunteer. The leaders who have participated in the program are all current members and are some of the best referrals to membership we have. We have had many go through the program first, then join our board and even a couple run for local office.

In-Person Dues Review

We recently (last two years) changed to a tiered dues structure. This allows us an opportunity to talk one-on-one with all members and see what fits their needs. In the prior structure, we had our benefits sheet that we went over, but the fees were by number of employees. The members currently pay for what they use.

Now this took me a long while to wrap my head around how to switch everyone over and what it would look like. I have a great Membership Director who put an amazing program together that is easy to understand. The entire board supported the program and said the added value to membership was easy to share.

We schedule a meeting with members in our office or theirs, listening to their needs and going over the benefits of being a chamber member. We go over every benefit and how it fits or can fit with their business. This has increased membership investments in the past year by 15%.

You have to give value to all benefits and show the members the value. So many times, with computers, we email information and hope it gets read. But you never know if they receive it, open it or understand it.

Showing Value

All businesses have time poverty and we can show business people the value without involvement as being part of a chamber.

So, when you are talking to members and potential members, always remember to listen to the needs and types of marketing they are doing.

We learn in the chamber business from others. I feel it is beneficial to always keep professional development in your budgets. Even in lean years, with no staff increases, professional development will take your team farther and give team members the boost they need to keep forward momentum with increasing membership.

A few other tips:

• Go to all the W.A.C.E. workshops, conferences, webinars, local trainings for social media, marketing, etc.

• Also get to know the staff of the chambers within 20 miles of your office, even if you meet only a couple times a year to share ideas.

•Support events of other local chambers and community service organizations. We are all business organizations dedicated to uniting the business community by enhancing business and economic growth.

Mary Guardiola, ACE, is the CEO of the Oakdale (CA) Chamber of Commerce.