Boards Need to Understand: Need for Trust, Sustainability, Being Respectful Business Voice

What is the No. 1 message more board members need to hear and understand? And why?

Gary Plummer
Jefferson City Area (MO) Chamber

Over my career in chamber work, I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the boards of other nonprofit organizations. One thing that has struck me was the level of importance they put on their board members being engaged in fundraising. Of course, some were much smaller groups with limited staff, so you would expect the board to be “hands on” with funding challenges. But it would occur to me how little we have expected from the members who join the chamber’s board of directors.

In recent years, I’ve made sure to include “sustainability” as one of the chamber’s key pillars in our strategic plan. I think that helped raise awareness that if the board owns the plan, they also have a huge stake in our financial stability. As we all know, without financial sustainability, any chamber will struggle and lose its effectiveness in the community and region.

Lynnette Buffington
Greater Grays Harbor Inc. (WA)

Let your chamber executive lead. A simple directive, yet we all can point to examples when it hasn’t been followed and the subsequent consequences. Good boards focus on governance and policy while empowering the executive to be the industry expert.

Chambers are transforming at a rapid pace, primarily in response to pandemic-related economic impact, and because a new way of offering services and addressing member needs presented itself and demanded nothing less than a swift response.

Whether a chamber’s response to this forced change is graceful or clumsy, boards should courageously and enthusiastically support a chamber executive’s informed and thoughtful leadership through the evolution.

Jake Mangas
Redding (CA) Chamber

I think the most important message a chamber board needs to hear and understand is that trust is earned and rare these days. We are living in a time of division, passion and emotion. People are worn thin due to the disruptions in their lives from current events and politics at all levels. We live out our value as a chamber in our ability to execute our “C.I.T.Y. Plan” — leading with credibility, integrity, transparency, and you — the voice of our members. Trust begins with the board’s understanding that optics are more important than ever.

Candace Carr Strauss
Sedona (AZ) Chamber & Tourism Bureau

Chambers are the voice of business. We represent the interests of private industry and their thousands of employees with whom we have deep relationships. In convening community dialogue with our public partners and residents, we are a catalyst for business growth and a champion for thriving communities; however, there will be times when we disagree. This is not a popularity contest.

As a board member, understand that respectful discourse will occur, but that our voice cannot stay quiet or simply play lip service to the oftentimes vocal minority when it negatively impacts the position of our business community. Chambers are where policy, people and place come together to create community. How is your organization showing up in the conversation?

Paul Holden
Burnaby (BC) Board of Trade

I think it’s really important that board members fully understand the unique and crucial role that chambers of commerce play and which has never been as clear, and vital, as during the pandemic. Our transition to becoming a 3C Chamber, with the messaging and positioning that comes from that, enabled us to move swiftly away from any perception that we’re an “events business” toward the reality that we are the resource and support that all businesses, and the communities in which they operate, both need and rely upon.