On a fairly regular basis I see social media posts or other questions from chamber executives wondering about or debating the merits of employment contracts.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have one for a long time and I’ve been a professional chamber executive for 25-plus years. Then, maybe a decade or so back, I had that one board member who made me realize that I needed some protection.
Seasoned executives know to whom I’m referring. It’s that board member who rarely reviews the financials, and spends most of the board meeting texting; also the one who asks: “Just why would we pay a nonprofit leader this much money? Don’t they do this because they love the organization?”
This is the same board member who thinks second-hand furniture and re-purposed technology is good enough for your chamber. These are the ones that leave us shaking our heads and questioning why we ever allowed them to be elected to the board to begin with.
Protect Our Positions
In our role as leader of the chamber and regardless of the size or location, it is important that we protect our positions. Having a contract, plus a solid annual review process and an incentive plan is the best option to protect our job, our livelihood and our personal financial situation regardless of how much you “love” your job and the work you do for your chamber and your community.
Don’t get me wrong — I am passionate about my role at the Lake Havasu Chamber and every day I am thankful I can do something that helps my member-investors or the community.
But my contract ensures that if the occasional rogue board member comes along who doesn’t like me or my style or if something else happens that jeopardizes my employment, I’ve got a back-up plan. It wasn’t easy for me to ask for a contract back then, but I’m so glad I did. I’m generally a people-pleaser, but realized it was time to put myself first.
Items to Include
Chamber CEO agreements usually include: term of the agreement and renewal options, duties and responsibilities, salary and bonus performance reviews, benefits, paid time off (PTO) and other items that relate to your employment.
One thing I added to mine, based on something I learned from another chamber CEO at a W.A.C.E. conference — I receive one additional day of vacation for every year I’ve been employed by the chamber. My contract also helps if I am terminated by providing me severance pay of my current salary and health insurance benefits for a pre-determined number of months.
For all those executives wondering if it’s the right thing to do — it is. Sometimes we get so busy taking care of our members, projects, events and everything else that goes into our jobs that we forget to take care of ourselves. There are plenty of executives who can share their contract information and examples are posted in the W.A.C.E. Resource Library. Take some time for self-care and protect your greatest investment — yourself.
Lisa Krueger, ACE, is the president/CEO of the Lake Havasu Area (AZ) Chamber.